abstract painting by Britt Bravo

New Year Planning with 3 Strengths-Based Questions

Are you starting your New Year planning? When you make your work goals for 2022, why not focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses?

I’ve been taking a fabulous class through Coursera called, Leading Positive Change Through Appreciative Inquiry. Appreciative Inquiry is an organizational development framework that uses a strengths-based approach to change management. From what I can tell so far (I haven’t finished the class yet), it can be applied to a lot of things, not just organizational development.

For example, instead of thinking about all of the things you need to improve, or fix in the New Year, what if you focused on what went well and built off of that? Here are three questions (based on three “generative conversation questions” from the course) to get you started.

3 Strengths-Based New Year Planning Questions

1. What was a high point moment in your work life in 2021? Write down or tell a friend a story about one of your high point work experiences this year. What strengths did you use? How did other people contribute to making this a high point? What other factors contributed to its success?

2. When in your work are you the most passionate, engaged, and effective? Write down or tell a friend a story about when you’ve felt this way. What do you want to keep doing in 2022?

3. Imagine that it’s December 2022. You had your best year ever in your work life. What images do you see? How is your work life different than it is now? What are some actions you can take to make your Big Vision for 2022 real?

The idea behind appreciative inquiry isn’t that you only focus on the positive and deny or ignore challenges. Rather, the idea is that focusing on your strengths, rather than your deficits is a more effective approach to creating change. You still may have to overcome challenges to create the change you want, but you’re not using problems as the foundation for your plans.

A New Year Planning Example

The appreciative inquiry framework poses that “human systems move in the direction we talk about them.” So, for example, this is the way we often talk when we want something to change:

I don’t have enough participants in my workshops. How do I get more students in 2022?

But what if you asked:

What’s a story from a time I had the most students in a workshop?
What strengths did I use? How did other people contribute to the higher attendance? What other factors contributed to the higher attendance?

What am I already doing that is bringing in students?

If I imagine that it’s December 2022 and I have more than enough students in my workshops, what images do I see?
How is December 2022 different, or changed from December 2021? What are some actions I can take to make this Big Vision real?

As I’ve experimented with these kinds of questions for myself and with clients, I’ve discovered two things:

• These kinds of questions often lead to totally new ideas.

These kinds of questions generate more energy to take action and make the ideas real.

Start your New Year planning by revisiting stories about what worked in the past and is still working, create a vision of an ideal future, and then create a plan to make the necessary changes to reach that vision.

Photo of Britt Bravo with the text, New Year Planning with 3 Strengths-Based Questions.

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