My brilliant guest hails from Toronto, Canada. Maureen McKenna, affectionately known as Mo, is a woman of huge talent, energy, dynamism. She is highly acclaimed in her field of organization, community development and coaching, and is a leader in Appreciative inquiry not only in Canada, but globally.
In this show, Mo shares stories about how she started in this field, where it’s taken her and where she’s headed, living to her strengths of curiosity and openness daily. Mo has worked in just about all sectors: corporate, government agencies in education and healthcare. Mo shares many of her inspirations in the links section below.
I was keen to interview Mo Mckenna, as in my last few shows, her name kept entering into the conversation. She was praised by Deacon Richard Manley-Tannis,as his mentor, episode PS 65 How an Intimate Conversation can Strengthen the Collective. The show preceeding this one, PS 70, Say Yes to Everything Results in Fun and Meaning with Wick van der Vaart from the Netherlands refers to Mo as great asset to AI Practitioner and an inspiration.
Fortuitously, Mo and I finally met in person a couple of months ago in Cleveland, OH at Case Western Reserve University. We were co-facilitators at the Fourth Global Forum – also a podcast episode – Ps68, Business leaders, Professors and Students Expose Flourishing Enterprises
And it doesn’t stop there. These synchronicities keep amplifying. We are both members of the Council of Practice with the David L.Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry at Champlain college in Burlington VT. in the capacity of Field Practitioners.
Come up for Air
Mo is highly creative and innovative. One of her creations is the AIR framework. As she tells a story of its successful application in a hospital setting, I see it as framework for a conversation that guides people to a mutual appreciation of their past and helps them envision and plan an ideal future. The relational aspect of this framework facilitates understanding and generates new energy that is akin to when you come up for air and feel a huge relief, especially if you’ve felt silenced, misunderstood or not acknowledged for too long.
Concepts we Explore in this Episode
Appreciative Inquiry High Point Experience
In following the structure of an Appreciative Inquiry interview, I invite Mo to tell a high point story when she was fully engaged and delighted with her work. She tells the story of working with The Toronto District School Board (TDSB). It’s a terrific example of applying AI in a large system that invited all stakeholders to inquiry into “Student Success” while providing the Board members the opportunity to work on a real issue of strategic importance and learn about the process of AI at the same time.
High Performing Teams
Mo's own story harking back to her days at Xerox, and her reference to a study by Google finds that psychological safety is an enabler of high performing teams. With Appreciative Inquiry, we invest time up front on inquiry – we don’t go straight to task. We go back and learn from the past and get to know each other more deeply, becoming aware of each other’s needs. That relational process creates psychological safety.
We talk about the difference between being an “expert” and a “learning partner.” As an outsider to a client system, we come in to be a learning partner, not an expert consultant. The client system has the expertise which is local knowledge of their own context and content. We, as outsiders come with a process and a structure to guide the client to outcomes they want to accomplish.
Leadership Rises Up from the Quiet Corners of an Organization
Mo and I share examples of how Appreciative Inquiry brings out the leadership is us all. The psychological safety that an appreciative inquiry provides opens people up to each other's stories to listen more deeply, trust more openly and take risks. People are encouraged to be more courageous, and Mo quotes her mentor, Jane Magruder Watkins:
You do no harm asking for what's working.
Links to Other Resources Mentioned in this Show
The newly designed, Appreciative Inquiry Commons
New York Times Article, What Google Learned from its Quest to Build the Perfect Team
Bliss Brown Seminal Appreciative Inquiry Summit, Imagine Chicago
Professor Amy Edmondson TEDx Talk, Building a psychologically safe workplace
Gervase Bushe Article, Appreciative Inquiry with Teams
Angela Ahrendts TEDx Talk, The Power of Human Energy
“Passionate, positive human energy can provide a counterbalance to the disruptive negative forces of an age of unprecedented change. Through it comes confidence, inspiration and the power to transform things for the better.”
Connect with Mo McKenna
Mo’s website http://www.returnonenergy.ca
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