Imagine the impact of transforming your team’s mindset from problems to possibilities, from blame to empathy, from opposition to collaboration; it is possible to transform your team through the power of positive questions using the principles and practices of Appreciative Inquiry.

The power of positive questionsI have been using this technique with a team who I have been working with as an action learning set facilitator. Faced with an aggressive change agenda riddled with complex organisational issues, lost in the land of uncertainty, they had drifted into mediocrity.

The initial issues they brought to the action learning sets described mutual distrust, they awfulized  about catastrophic events that could happen, what might go wrong instead of what can go right. They described their team’s behaviour as storming and considered storming as a perfectly acceptable stage of team development to be stuck in….to be expected…”all the text books say so”! Their focus on storming had become a self fulfilling prophecy.

Clearly the six action learning sets were unlikely to produce much positive action because the team had effectively become victims of their environment. They were continually reinforcing the notion that they were restricted and that closed off possibilities for action.

It’s my last action learning set with this team tomorrow. A team who have transformed their thinking ,

All it took was a set of positive questions that engaged them in surfacing strengths; best practices a discovery process that connected them to states in which they had previously experienced great satisfaction from team working.

A process that produced ideas that allowed them to dream about how those practices would benefit them, the positive results they would enjoy and into the design phase which involved collaboratively identifying those practices they would commit to deliver a sustainable change.

The power of positive questions

So what questions did I ask to funnel their focus over the course of the action learning sets?
Here are just a few:

Think back to a time when your team experienced a shift from confusion to sharply focused goals and purpose:

  • Think back to the moment when everything changed, what specific elements facilitated this shift?
  • Who was involved and how?

It’s a week from now, a current goal that was surrounded by confusion has suddenly snapped sharply into focus this has created lots of energy and activity.

  • What has been resolved?
  • How?

Describe a time when you were part of a team that worked to make a difference to a disadvantaged/vulnerable group in society.

  • Describe the positive effects that this project had on individual team members and on overall team performance
  • How were people’s attitudes, approaches, and relationships different from business as usual?
  • What long term impact did the project have on individuals and what did the team gain from this act of service?

Identify a time when you and others combined your talents in ways that enhanced everyone’s effectiveness.

  • What talents did you and others bring to the table?
  • What enabled you to build on one another’s strengths?
  • What did the team achieve that it could not have done if these strengths were operating independently?


Remember a time in your work with this team when your passion for a project was ignited. You moved out of neutral and got into gear and moved with great enthusiasm towards a goal.

  • What was the situation?
  • What drove you towards that goal?
  • As you look at this team’s future what images or possibilities most excite you?

Learn more about Appreciative Inquiry

How Could Action Learning Get These Results For You? Contact Spectrain

Comments from an Action Learning Set, National Crime Agency

The trainer, Joy Wilson demonstrated a wide knowledge of the subject and facilitated a series of excellent events
Joy was as ever great at encouraging discussion in our action learning set. Not fazed by the initial lack of interaction or cooperation she turned us around from passengers to collaborators. Joy has been fantastic, informative, good listener, and provides encouragement, an excellent ALS
Overall I will be more effective at work as a result of this experience.

Thanks to Joy very good trainer
Excellent Joy Thank You!