In addition to my 15 years as an OD consultant using the Ai and 4-D model, I have spent an equal amount of time – 15 years – teaching in and helping to build a global leadership development program that has served more than 1200 higher education faculty from 40 developing countries. Since 2001, FAIMER® – with nine centers across the globe in Philadelphia, India (4), China (2), Brazil, and sub-Saharan Africa – has worked to create positive change agents through transformational learning experiences.
The FAIMER Institute is a highly competitive two-year fellowship program for international health professions educators from schools of medicine, dentistry, nursing and public health who have demonstrated that they can play a key role in improving health professions education (HPE) at their institution and in their country. The program, with 27 days of face-to-face contact in the Philadelphia “home” Institute, plays an important role in answering the call for training positive, appreciative, strengths-based, collaborative leaders – who embrace the need for high quality equitable healthcare around the globe.
The program is built around each program participant – we call them FAIMER Fellows – having a change project for their institution, and the principles of positive change are woven throughout the program, but especially in the leadership and management curriculum. Over the two-year span Fellows experience appreciative inquiry, appreciative leadership, appreciative coaching, strengths-based and assets-based leadership, positive leadership, positive deviance, and learn about the outcomes of positivity research (for specific references, see page 73 of the Global Leadership Model paper published in the Journal of Leadership Education).
To offer a few examples, in year one….
- We use short appreciative interviews in our session about Building High Performing Teams, and more extensive appreciative interviews in our multi-day, small group community-building sessions where we build an intentional community of practice. We call this session Learning Circles.
- In our Myers-Briggs Type Indicator session – Understanding Your Leadership Style – we teach the MBTI using a positive lens.
- In Leadership for the 21st Century, we offer many tools for practicing appreciative, positive leadership, including the Fellows taking the Practicing Positive Leadership Self-Assessment
- Four of the eight principles of our Skills for Change Agent success model that we teach are:
- Take advantage of your strengths; complement your weaknesses,
- Using a positive lens, understand the system you are working within,
- Follow the shining spots, what is working well, and
- Use your institutional and personal network strengths to overcome difficulties.
After the Fellows have spent 11 months back in their home countries working on their projects, they present them in a poster session at the year two residential session. Then …
- We teach them about Sustaining Change with their change projects by going step-by-step through the 4-D (Discovery, Dream, Design, Delivery) model so that they can produce a plan that will take them through the second year and beyond.
- We build on the work from the first year’s MBTI work, using the VIA Survey of Character Strengths. The session offers a Strengths-Based Leadership lens for the Fellows about who they are at their best, and then we encourage them to go back to their own campuses and use the free version of the VIA to work with their faculty colleagues.
- In the second year of the Learning Circles, we draw on the five core strategies of Appreciative Leadership. The Fellows describe “When I am at my best, I…” and create a visual image of their future, integrating insights gained from the previous year, the VIA, the MBTI, what others envision for them, and the aspirations, hopes and dreams that “reside in your heart right now.”
So what good is there in teaching positive, appreciative, strengths-based leadership development to people we are training to be positive change agents in more than 40 different countries?
Fellows tell us that the process is powerful and transformative. Here is what four Fellows from the 2012 and 2013 Philadelphia-based cohorts said (see pages76-79 of the of the Global Leadership Model paper), noting the positive transformative impacts of newfound leadership skills: “My approach to a team has drastically changed. We weren’t aware of MBTI and personality type and we had this wonderful session the other day on strengths-based leadership and how you need to look at people differently. I think that’s a fantastic skill.”
“Because I work in the field of public health, I receive a lot of leadership and management training, but (FAIMER) presents something different from the other training I have received. In looking at the positive things, it’s really a different approach. We used to read in these books how to do that, but we have started here to practice them. That’s really new for me, not new, but a new horizon.”
“Appreciative inquiry changes the way you do things. It comes into teaching classes, it comes into the faculty board meetings and the department meetings and so all over, people recognize you as someone who asks an appreciative question.”
“I know now that using my appreciative eye, I can see the whole picture and I can improve and be responsible for my work in a positive way. That makes a lot of impact in my life, not only the professional but the family, personal life. That has really transformed me.”