Sharing great questions for great conversations round the kitchen table

 In Blog

By Suzanne Quinney

In February 2017, Appreciating People facilitated a two-day Appreciative Inquiry (AI) training for NHS staff on behalf of the Patient Safety Collaborative of the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network (WMAHSN).

My focus was supporting people to establish Learning from Excellence (LfE) in their workplace.  Put simply, this is a way to appreciate staff and colleagues when you have seen something go well; AI really supports this to happen.  It gives people a framework and some templates to ask deeply curious and appreciative questions about things that are going well, and about people’s strengths.

LfE has been developed by Adrian and Emma Plunkett, with the support of the WMAHSN – which sees a great deal of value in supporting all these different links that ultimately lead to better patient safety. It originated in Birmingham Children’s Hospital but must now be in nearly 100 hospitals. It is also about supporting a Safety II culture by improving resilience, confidence and communication.

Caroline Maries-Tillott, Quality Improvement Lead at Walsall Health Trust, was one of the participants on this AI course – little did I know then what a dynamo she was!!!  So immediately after doing the two days with me she went out and set up her National Kitchen Table Week events drawing on some of her AI skills.

National Kitchen Table Week is all about bringing people together to talk about patient safety, in a way in which they can talk openly and honestly, without judgement and, above all, be listened to – ‘Conversations rooted in kindness playing out across the country in a joyous way’ as one of the Sign up to Safety team recently put it. Caroline recognised this as a chance to celebrate excellence and focus on the positive.

She is sharing her own blog about her Kitchen Table conversations, but for those who may be planning their own tables over National Kitchen Table Week this year, or at any other time, I wanted to share with you the sorts of questions that helped her conversations to flow wonderfully:

  1. Tell me about a time when you were pleased with the care that you gave?
  2. Tell me about some positive feedback that you had and how it made you feel?
  3. Give me an example about a time when you supported an improvement at work?
  4. Think about a colleague at work that you admire or respect- what is it about them that makes you feel this way?
  5. Tell me about the group strengths of the staff in your care home?
  6. Give an example at work when you felt valued / supported- what impact does this have on residents?
  7. Tell me about an opportunity at work when you had an opportunity to shine?
  8. Can you give an example at work when you gave great care in challenging circumstances- what was it about this shift that made it a positive experience?
  9. Can you think of a time when you tried something different at work and enjoyed it?
  10. Imagine that you are a year on from now and things are working really well at this nursing home- what would that look / feel like?
  11. What one small action and one innovative action could we make to build excellence here?
  12. What one small action and one innovative action could we make today to make staff feel more valued/ supported?

AI also helps people build their skills of ‘reframing’- helping people focus on what they want more of and what energises them rather than on the demoralising and upsetting. So if conversations become negative you can try these reframing ideas below to build your own skills at supporting positive Kitchen Table conversations:

Issues and Concerns Reframe
Poor leadership What does great leadership look/ feel like?
Staff don’t feel listened to Tell me about a time when you did feel listened to

How might we improve staff voice

Working in silos  (poor team work) What does great teamwork look like?

How might we improve team performance?

Low staff morale What would make staff feel valued in their work?
Poor staff engagement  What would make people know that they matter?

What happens on a great day?

Not enough training Can you think of some innovative ways that staff training could be incorporated into daily work?

What opportunities are there to develop our learning environment?

Not enough staff Can you give an example of when you delivered great care when you were short staffed-how did you manage to work differently?
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