Frequent Practitioner Responses to Strengths Working

Working-with-StrengthsI have facilitated more sessions than I care to enumerate over the years in the form of presenting a coherent set of principles to underpin the necessary attitudes and behaviours required to develop good practice in working with peoples’ strengths. They meet most frequently with positive reactions, but… not always!

Negative reactions include:

  • I/we already do it
  • It represents nothing new.
  • It is all too obvious.
  • It is far too simple.
  • It is just positive re-framing, without any change in the fundamental delivery of services.

It is difficult to challenge deep-rooted attitudes with only a few words. The real test of these challenges is for an experienced ‘strengths’ practitioner to spend a longer spell of time working alongside the doubters to demonstrate the differences of approach; or to closely monitor and constructively critique the practice of those who believe they already do it in their work. I felt this way in my own practice, when Charlie Rapp and Wally Kisthardt first introduced it to the service I worked for in 1991. My suggestion to those who feel they already practice a strengths approach to their work is: You might think you do… I thought I did, until I did… then I realised I wasn’t… so you aren’t either!

Furthermore, I have also co-hosted strengths workshops with an experienced service user consultant trainer, where the audiences were encouraged to be equal numbers of service users and their care coordinators. A number of practitioners alluded to practicing this way early on in the workshop, only to have the claims unanimously refuted by the service users. One outcome of the workshops was a much stronger mutual understanding of how to take the ideas forward in the working relationships.

Positive reactions include:

  • This is how I like to think I should work, but how can I work with this approach more completely?
  • How can these principles become more integrated into the wider team/service?I essentially consider the ‘principles’ to be a set of rules governing the consistency by which a range of practitioners may apply a strengths approach to their work. These would include attention to the quality of the working relationship, through acceptance of ‘difference’, commitment to individual needs and wants, collaborative and friendly styles of working that cross the artificial boundaries commonly favoured by most mental health services; patience to work with the often slow incremental pace of change, creativity and optimism.

‘These are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.” [Groucho Marks].

Podcast Episode 065: Puncturing pomposity

Person-centred (2009)
Person-centred (2009)

Why are we so enamoured with our impenetrable jargon and gobbledegook? All professions adopt it, seemingly as a badge of membership, and as an illustration of their special exclusivity. For the outsider, having the unfortunate need of the services of a professional, the langauage is often likely to be the first insurmountable barrier.

In this episode aI briefly explore how meetings can be fun experiences. In the undignified way you might want to adopt a game of ‘bullshit bingo’. In a more dignified way, it is a chairperson’s role to give permission for the use of the more humourous examples and anecdotes, even when the overall subject matter is heavy and serious. It should be more about encouraging lateral or creative thinking, but do it in simple and accessible language.

For the full content of this episode click on the links to iTunes and Sound Cloud (or go to Stitcher Radio):

“I think there needs to be a meeting to set an agenda for more meetings about meetings.” [Jonah Goldberg].

Podcast Episode 064: Control freaks need not apply

Person-centred (2009)
Person-centred (2009)

Can the chairing of meetings, the very thing we often want to avoid, actually be fun? In this episode I discuss how the overall effectiveness of meetings can be directly proportional to the effectiveness of the chairperson.

Those who operate as control freaks with an over-inflated sense of self-importance, or those who are democratic to the point of becoming all talk and no action, are equally ineffective. The concept of the ‘revolving chair’ should just be left spinning.

I outline an approach to meetings that views them akin to a 3-act play, with several practical tips for fulfilling the role. I also outline the need for preparation and skilled facilitation as a pre-requisite for an effective chairperson. What does a strengths approach to managing the ebb and flow of meetings look like?

For the full content of this episode click on the links to iTunes and Sound Cloud (or go to Stitcher Radio):

“If you want to kill any idea in the world, get a committee working on it.” [Charles Kettering].

Podcast Episode 063: Truly meeting the need

Person-centred (2009)
Person-centred (2009)

Within the context of service-centred working can a meeting ever be person-centred?

In this episode I outline experiences of ward rounds and community reviews that are frequently presented by the services as being person-centred, but are clearly service-centred.

Our use and misuse of language is more often than not a reflection of our values and ultimately a reflection of what we deliver as a service, so it needs careful attention.

Attendance at meetings does not equate to involvement in meetings. So what will it take to make service meetings, particularly client reviews more genuinely person-centred? I present four messages to guide us towards this aim.

For the full content of this episode click the links to iTunes and Sound Cloud (or go to Stitcher Radio):

“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings’.” [Dave Barry].

Podcast Episode 062: Problems with Meetings

TheStrengthsRevolution_albumart_2-2How effective are all of the meetings you attend? It’s very likely that whatever business you are working in you will have to attend meetings either occasionally or frequently. They take up an inordinate amount of time, but the question is just how much time are they wasting?

In this episode I will take a formal definition of meetings, but add my twist with several reflections on how I have experienced meetings on occasions. Hot-air, self-importance, shared insecurities, ineffective time-wasting… but enough of me!

How can we attempt to make this precious time as effective and engaging as possible? I set out seven pointers that can help achieve these goals in ways that either reflect the good practice you are already doing, or will transform the experience of all who need to be attending.

For the full content of this episode click on iTunes and Sound Cloud (or go to Stitcher Radio):

“Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.” [J.K. Galbraith].