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"Better Aged Care" Pages

    Are You an 'Asker' or a 'Teller'?

    14 February 2013 in Better Aged Care |  Leave the first comment

    Are you an 'Asker' or a 'Teller'?


    As human beings we typically tell too much! We are very quick to jump in with advice, opinions and suggestions.

    Take our quick quiz to download your FREE ebook and discover the limitations of a natural ‘telling communication style’ versus an ‘asking communication style’.

    If you score 4 or more 'Yes' or 'Sometimes' there is definitely room for improvement ..but EVERYONE will benefit from reading our FREE Ebook no matter what they score.

    Learn how becoming more of an ‘Asker’ can improve your relationships and bring out more responsibility, wisdom , creativity and so much more in others!!

    When someone has a problem:

    Aged Care Professionals - The Person Centred Approach

    18 October 2012 in Better Aged Care |  Leave the first comment

    In a workshop I ran recently that focussed on applying the 'Person Centred Approach' by asking Better Questions, a community nurse advised me that he had found it to be quite confronting to take a look at how much of a teller he was with in his role. He primarily worked with elderly clients and had always assumed that it was his role to be more of a ‘fixer’ or ‘teller’ with clients as that was what was expected of him.

    In our workshop we invite aged care professionals to reflect on their more habitual or natural responses in situations where they are asked for advice or expected to give an answer. Of course what is important in this reflection is the need for absolute honesty, and clearly in this instance the gentleman had been honest and not liked what he then realised about himself.

    It is good to acknowledge that when we recognise something about ourselves that we don’t like it doesn’t feel very nice initially and it is easy to choose to bury or ignore what we now know on the basis that we hope it will go away, which of course it doesn’t. Once you are aware it is impossible to not now be aware, albeit we can choose to ignore it, which often feels like a more easy or comfortable option.

    I would like to suggest that awareness is a good thing and invite you to consider it from a different perspective. The reality is that no one is perfect and being human actually means we are all fallible. So when we have the opportunity for some honest self reflection and realise something that isn’t ideal about ourselves my suggestion is to actually feel good about it!

    The good news is that when you are aware of the issue and you can actually choose to do something about it otherwise, given that we are creatures of habit, we have a tendency to keep doing the same things in an unconscious repetitive way. The good thing about having a realisation about ourselves is that we can choose different ways of doing things that will give us different results. Without the awareness there would be no opportunity or choice to change.

    So rather than feeling bad about what you learn about yourself in the process of doing some honest reflection, my suggestion is to celebrate knowing what you now know because there is an opportunity for you to do something about it. In the instance with the gentleman on my workshop I encouraged him to let go of feeling confronted and embrace what he had learnt on the basis that this initial feeling is as an enabler of change and him being able to be an even better aged care professional. In addition with the awareness he now had, he could start to consciously choose to be more of an ‘asker,  meaning he could now tap into and release the potential in his clients going forward.

    Being prepared to handle the initial adverse reaction from honest self reflection becomes paramount to being a better practitioner on the basis that knowing the things that we aren’t doing as well as we could be enables us all to learn, grow and change to be even better aged care professionals than we are already!

    Aged Care Professionals - When Should I Tell?

    06 November 2012 in Better Aged Care |  Leave the first comment

    For those of you that have undertaken our training that work in the Aged Care sector, you will know that we advocate to do more asking and not so much ‘telling’ when we are working with our clients. Most of us recognise the serious adverse consequences of doing too much ‘telling’ and in the desire to be more of an asker it can sometimes be tricky to identify when it is appropriate or indeed beneficial to revert more to a ‘telling’ space.

    As with all situations involving people there is never a one size fits all answer and so we always advocate that you bring your professional judgment to the table as this in most instances will give you the best guidance. That said we are happy to share the following suggestions on the basis that it may add to your clarity when making the choice to ask or tell:

    •    Time pressures – whilst we are clear that lack of time should not be used as an excuse to not ask questions we are realistic and know that sometimes this will impact on your choice to ask or tell. However, before you do jump in and tell please consider whether there is an opportunity to do any sort of follow up with your client, whether it be face to face or over the phone and extend the time you have with the client so that you can ask more questions.

    •    Information required – there will be times when you can ask the client for their ideas to achieve the outcomes they are looking for, recognising that there will also be times when they are in need of the provision of information as they are simply not aware of the options available to them. It should be noted though that in these situations the information should be provided by way of ideas and suggestions so that they can assimilate the ideas for consideration, rather than be presented to the client as solutions.

    •    Intention to inform or ‘draw out’ – at a high level, during conversations we need to be conscious of what our intention with our responses is. By being conscious, we can think about our best response and choose to respond with a question or information, whichever we feel is best. If we are not conscious it is likely that our response will be to tell as most of us habitually do that. If you do not know whether they have any ideas about the subject,  it is much better to start with a question on the basis that you can revert to a more telling approach if needed. Remember that if you start by telling it is very difficult to then revert to an asking space. So please don’t tell on the basis that you’re not sure if they have an answer – ask first and see!

    •    When asked – there will be instances when ‘telling’ (or making it be more about you) is a good thing to do especially when you are building trust, connection and rapport. Indeed if they ask a question about you it can appear rude if you don’t respond, being mindful of respecting those professional boundaries of course. If they ask for ideas from you we suggest that you still try to question them to try to draw on their wisdom before providing advice. Remember that often they do have ideas – it is often their lack of confidence that makes them reluctant to share them. By you telling, you can exacerbate this.

    I hope that this gives you more food for thought when deciding whether to ask or tell – remember there is never that one size fits all approach and being flexible and consciously choosing your response is what Potentialising is all about!

    Better Questions - Using the Best Language

    17 April 2013 in Aged Care |  Leave the first comment

    I was chatting to a lady this week who had been trying out her new found questioning skills with mixed results. She had found that when she used Better Questions with her brother in the context of encouraging him to get clearer about his ideal career direction that she got a response where he said he didn’t know what he really wanted.

    Her reaction to this was to revert to a more telling and advising stance because she honestly felt that she had tried to question and be a Potentialiser and found that it didn’t work in this instance. I can understand that this would be a natural choice to make as I think when we try new things and find they don’t work we go back to using a tried and tested approach that has worked for us in the past. Whilst I am not saying her approach was wrong, I did encourage her to reflect on the experience to see if there was any other way that she could have approached it.

    In this discussion it was interesting to note the language that she used in her questioning, particularly when she was encouraging him to say what his ideas were. We determined that the question asked was something like “What would you like to do?”, which on the face of it seems to be a good question – it’s open and is inviting an opportunity for him to express his ideas. However as we discussed the question, particularly given that this ladies' brother was often reluctant to take responsibility, it became clear that there was too much pressure being applied by the language she had used. What I mean by this can be demonstrated best by me comparing two questions that appear on one level to be the same:

    •    “What would you like to do?”
    •    “What are some ideas about what you could do?”

    I hope that you can see immediately that one question asks for a definitive answer, the other question asks for ideas or possibilities. In the mind of the person being asked the question, the first of the questions almost suggests 'you have to know the right answer' whereas the second question gives permission to ‘play’ with ideas. Given that in this instance the brother was not used to having to make choices the softer version of the question was far more likely to get a response than the more direct version.

    Whllst I cannot guarantee that even if she had have asked the other version of the question she would have gotten a response, I would like to suggest that the likelihood would have increased because of the language used.

    Another option we discussed, was to allow her brother a little time to think about his response rather than immediately jumping into ‘teller’ mode and the lady acknowledged that both of these options were definitely worth exploring.

    So my advice here is to not give up too easily when you try using Better Questions – it is always good practice to think about the language you have used and have a go at rewording the question as you will be surprised how powerful this can be in encouraging an answer.

    Using Questions To Engage and Motivate

    09 May 2013 in Better Aged Care |  Leave the first comment

    I was reminded of an article I had read several years ago recently when I was discussing one of the key reasons why we should be using a more Questioning approach to engage and motivate people. In the article, which was written by a neuroscientist and talked about how the brain works, it advised that when we solve a problem for ourselves it is clear that at the moment of insight various neurotransmitters like adrenaline are released as well as possibly serotonin and dopamine. What this means in reality is that when you enable someone to have their own idea through asking a Better Question they will feel far more motivated about that idea than if they have simply been told what to do.

    As I am quite a visual person I thought it would be nice to try to represent the event of the insight triggering positive feelings in a picture and the following is what I came up with:

    Questions Engage and Motivate


    I love this simple little diagram that so beautifully represents what happens when a question enables the person to think about something and then get their own idea. I know myself that there are many times when I have been enabled through being asked a Better Question to get my own idea and actually consciously felt that rush of adrenaline and feel good hormones into my system. I am sure that you have heard of the eureka moment when people have an unexpected breakthrough idea or discovery and I’d like to suggest that this is something very similar that can happen when we use Better Questions.

    So my advice to you on this blog is to please be aware of the power of the question in terms of gaining engagement, buy in and motivation. If we want to support people to change, they need to come to an idea themselves, to give their brain the best chance of being energised by the creation of a wide scale new map. The best way to bring about this insight is not to think about people’s issues for them, but to help people reflect more deeply and support them in their ability to generate ideas by asking Better Questions. Telling clearly does not have the same powerful impact.

    Removing Limitations By Asking Better Questions

    17 May 2013 in Better Aged Care |  Leave the first comment

    Magic WandI will often say that Better Questions are a real gift and that in everyday situations very rarely do people bring a question to conversations that enable you to really stop and think. Thinking is critical to our success in life and work and having such a simple technique to change/prompt/challenge/generate new thought is really powerful. I recall that Wayne Dyer published a book called Change Your Thinking, Change your Life and this title, I feel, very aptly tells us why we need to pay attention to our thinking.

    In this blog I thought I would explore the idea of using what I call ‘magic wand’ questions in the hope that when you are more familiar with them you can start using them more often. Not surprisingly a ‘magic wand’ question is one that enables a more creative and less restricted space in your mind to find new thoughts that your routine and restricted thinking doesn’t allow. 

    One of the best examples of a ‘magic wand’ question is where a care worker was talking with an elderly gentleman who made a comment to her that he’d always dreamed of going on one of Australia’s great train journeys, but that he was now too old to undertake such a journey. Ordinarily the lady admitted that she would empathise with the gentleman and reply that it was a shame that he was now too old.

    However, given that she had undertaken our training on asking Better Questions, she thought for a while and came up with a 'magic wand' question to ask: “I know you think you are too old, but if you thought it was possible to still go on this train journey what would you do?” I hope that you can see that this question acts like a ‘magic wand’ because it takes away the limitation and enables the person to be freed up to think of possible solutions. In this instance it had a profound effect as the gentleman suddenly realised that there was a way he could go on this journey, and whilst it would take a bit of planning and collaboration it was indeed possible. 

    The end result of this question being asked was that the gentleman fulfilled his dream of going on one of Australia’s great train journeys two months after this initial conversation. He worked out that he could indeed undertake the travel with the support of a good neighbour and the tour company. 

    This magical result all started with the Better Question unlocking his routine thinking. No wonder I get excited about asking Better Questions!!!

    Being Open Minded Makes for a Better Questioner!

    13 August 2013 in Better Aged Care |  Leave the first comment

    This week I was reminded of the importance and challenges of being open minded when you wish to be a successful Potentialiser. I personally find that many people say that they are open minded but when it comes to the practice of it; they don’t demonstrate the skill very well. This is particularly evident I believe, if your role in some way suggests that you are an expert or adviser as there is enormous pressure for you to conform and oblige by providing a lot of advice giving, suggestions or answers.

    I was interested to hear from a lady that works at a school that she was impressed that one of her teacher colleagues was open minded because she was willing to acknowledge that her students knew more about technology than she did. In fact she was often seen acknowledging her students for helping her own learning, which of course is a great thing to do. Indeed, being prepared for someone to know more or should I say better than you is a great trait to bring to your role as a Potentialiser.

    What intrigued me after this conversation was my own reflection around wondering whether this teacher would be so willing to hear what her students had to contribute or offer in response to question on a topic that she wasn’t so lacking in knowledge on. An interesting thought!
    I usually find that when people (myself included) are confident and knowledgeable on a topic they easily skip into teacher/adviser mode on the basis that they believe that they know best. How challenging, then is it to acknowledge in these instances that the student (or whomever you are speaking with) could indeed know better/more/different to you and by asking Better Questions you can tap into and release this wisdom. It is all too easy to assume that you are the expert and to offer up your own ideas without even attempting to find out what the other person knows.

    I had a great example of this recently when a Maternal & Child Health nurse was visiting a new Mum in her community and was ready to relay information to her on SIDS. However, before she started relaying the ‘script’ she stopped and thought about how she could approach her role by bringing the skills of a Potentialiser to the table. So she asked the Mum what she knew about SIDS and was quite surprised to hear the Mum reply that she was very well read on the topic and subsequently was able to relay the key points that ordinarily the nurse would articulate. Not only did this save time it also validated the Mum and made her feel more confident and respected.

    So next time you are about to launch into ‘telling’, maybe check on what the other person already knows first, you may be very pleasantly surprised and indeed may learn something yourself in the process.

    Better Question to Generate Ideas and ACTION!

    13 August 2013 in Better Aged Care |  Leave the first comment

    In our training programs we often give participants an opportunity to practice the skills that they learn, which of course helps to consolidate the learning.  During the debrief with one of the groups I heard them say how good the asking of Better Questions had been as it had helped the participant to come up with ideas about what she could do. As soon as I heard the word ‘could’ I jumped in to ask some more questions as I was curious about what the outcomes from the session had been.

    It transpired that the person being asked the Better Questions was really happy that the session had enabled her to generate a few new ideas that she hadn’t thought of before. Whilst this in itself is a great outcome as Better Questions do generate new ideas and thoughts, I challenged the group to think about what else they could have done to take the ideas to the next step and turn them into real action.

    All too often people have ideas but that is exactly what they stay – ideas! If we don’t use questions to enable people to make a decision and commit to action then the conversation is just left ‘hanging’, and the ideas don’t get actioned and nothing moves forward.

    So when you are practicing being a Better Questioner it is good to have in mind the question “What will they do as a result of this conversation?” and if that isn’t clear then I would humbly suggest that there most likely is room for improvement in your practice.

    Let me share some good questions that enable a strong outcome to be achieved:
    •    So of all the options we have discussed what do you think is going to work best?
    •    What are the first steps that you need to take to move this forward?
    •    When will you do this?
    •    When should I check in with you to see how you have gone with that?

    I hope that you can immediately see the power in these questions in terms of moving from ideas to action – good luck in giving these a go and let me know how you progress using them!

    Better Questions are the Best Way to 'HELP' Your Clients

    13 August 2013 in Better Aged Care |  Leave the first comment

    I have been privileged recently to work with a number of Maternal & Child Health nurses who are being encouraged by new philosophical guidelines to work more collaboratively with clients rather than to go in and fix the problem for them.
    Of course this is challenging for two reasons:

    1.    The nurses aren’t used to a more empowered approach as the traditional way was to ‘fix’
    2.    The clients expect the nurses to be the experts and to go in and ‘fix’

    Whilst neither of these issues will be easily changed I do want to suggest that the starting point has to be a change in mindset by the practitioner to create a desire to want to operate in a different way. The model below shows us why this mindset plays such an important part:


    Create FEELINGS



    Whatever you are thinking will ultimately drive your behaviours and so if you have a belief that it is your role to support people by fixing things for them ultimately that is what you will do. If however, you truly believe in empowering others and engage them in your communication to help them to take responsibility themselves then this will drive you ability to be a Potentialiser and release untapped potential in human beings.

    I know from my own experience that once I changed my mind set about how to truly ‘help’ people (ie letting go of telling and advising as often as I could) that it was easy for me to adopt the behaviours of a Potentialiser. I know that unless you choose to buy into the belief about your role, you will continue to fulfil it in a more traditional way.

    One of the nurses in the group that I was working with suggested that this should be taught at University as a starting point and indeed, I am sure this will help. However, the challenge for Health Professionals generally is to honestly review their roles and how they wish to fulfil them, in the hope that this will be the catalyst in their own change of mind set, which will be the start of changing the way that their clients also behave too. When people are treated differently they start to respond differently and you will be surprised by just how capable people really are.

    Better Questions - A Better Way to Support Your Clients

    13 August 2013 in Better Aged Care |  Leave the first comment

    This week I was chatting to a friend of mine who is receiving visits from a District Nursing service to help them to manage a current health challenge. My friend is generally extremely complimentary of the service they receive and very grateful for the care and support that they provide.

    Apparently one of the requirements for the ongoing provision of this service is that the recipient has showered prior to the visit which then enables the treatment by the nurse to be more efficient and ultimately pleasant! Due to some challenges circumstances for the last few visits it has not been possible for my friend to have a shower and this had been explained to the service provider and noted on my friends file. The nurses that then visited were aware of the issue and readily accepted the position, knowing that it was temporary and all that could be done in terms of ongoing cleanliness/hygiene was being done.

    On a recent visit however, it became apparent that the file note had not been read by the nurse as she asked my friend if he had showered as required and his advice that he hadn’t been able to prompted a very negative response from the nurse. In fact my friend said that he felt like he was being lectured at because the nurse went on to say how this was unacceptable, that he should know better and then reiterated all of the reasons why patents/clients are required to shower prior to visits – all of which my friend already knew and appreciated.

    Not once did the nurse adopt a more curious approach to find out why my friend hadn’t been able to shower – it was clear that she has assumed it was recalcitrant behaviour being displayed and went into what I call ‘critical parent’ mode which makes the other person feel like they are being told off. My friend reported to me that the best way they could think of to deal with at the time was simply to apologise because it was clear that the nurse wasn’t interested in hearing my friends side of the story. In fact when someone is talking at you like this, unless you are comfortable with asserting yourself (which many people aren’t) it is often natural behaviour to acquiesce and comply with the wishes of the person giving the lecture.

    Stepping back from this situation I hope you can see two obvious things:
    1)    The nurse did not bring the mindset of wanting to understand to the table which means that she wouldn’t then ask Better Questions
    2)    If she had asked Biter Questions not only would that have changed her understanding of the situation and behaviour, my friend would not have walked away from the encounter feeling belittle like a naughty schoolchild, which is clearly not a good outcome.

    Whilst not a pleasant thing for my friend, I am grateful to them for sharing the situation with me as it has give me a good example to write about to demonstrate how in so many everyday situations Better Questions provide better answers and outcomes.

    Better Questions - Time

    30 August 2013 in Better Aged Care |  Leave the first comment

    TimeIt is interesting for me that without exception when I explain the concept of asking Better Questions one of the most common objections to using the approach is that it will take too much time. I do acknowledge that asking questions instead of providing answers will usually take longer and so understand this reaction.

    What I ask people to consider though is that it will take more time initially but that there are longer term benefits that actually mean you will save time.  Let’s work this through so that it is clear what I mean. Let’s imagine that a person that works with you has gotten used to you always being there and providing answers for them. Their first thought when they are stuck will be to ask you a question, which you have always readily answered for them, and so this becomes an unconscious habit by both parties.

    If we imagine that you now become aware of the benefits of asking Better Questions and start to apply the technique in practice. This means that when the person comes to you for an answer you no longer simply provide a response and ask them a question.. After a while the person starts to realise that when they come to you for help you will only ask them for their own ideas, as it is clear that you are inviting them to think for themselves and take responsibility.

    Of course, as they build their confidence and start to get used to thinking for themselves they will come to realise that they don’t need to come to you at all because they have worked the answer out for themself. I do recognise that in some instances this may take a little time to play out in practice – indeed they may still choose to come to you if they wish to run certain things by you, and also you may ask them still to ensure that certain things are run by you if that level of authority is required.

    Ultimately though I hope that you can see that the frequency of the requests for help will reduce which means in the long run you will actually be saving time by practicing the skill of asking Better Questions. Imagine if you are working with a number of people and that you put this into practice with everyone – the multiplier effect of this time saved can be quite significant, which is an exciting prospect as you can now choose how best to maximise this bonus of available time. Something that doesn’t happen very often in our busy lives and a wonderful positive outcome of asking Better Questions!

    Better Questions for a Better You

    10 September 2013 in Better Aged Care |  Leave the first comment

    As human beings we often get stuck in patterns of thinking because of our daily routines and habits. Some research suggests that we typically we have 95% of the same thoughts again tomorrow as what we had today, which suggest that there is very little room for new thought or indeed change. In this article I’d like to highlight why we should be concerned about our thinking and most importantly will provide some thoughts as to what we can do about it.

    Our thinking is absolutely paramount to our success, yet very few people realise the significance of our daily thoughts and how they are influencing our lives. The diagram below, I hope, will demonstrate to you why this is something we must give our attention to:

    Thoughts to Behaviour

    I personally think that this diagram is quite profound in that it shows us how our thoughts influence everything about what we feel and do and ultimately determines the results that we get in oir lives and work. Quite simply – everything starts with a thought!

    So immediately I hope that you will recognise that being stuck in patterms of routine thinking will mean that we are most likley to keep getting the same reaults that we have always gotten. Of course you can say there may be nothing wrong with this, but if you are on a journey of wanting to be the best that you can be I’d like to humbly suggest that this simply isn’t good enough!

    So what can we do about it? The topic that I am most passionate about in the world is that of asking Better Questions in the knowledge that when I ask people Better Questions I am giving them the gift of some new thought. Maybe prior to reading this article you might not quite have seen the idea of new thought as a ‘gift’ but I hope that you can now see that it is indeed a gift given that new thoughts open up possibilities for change.

    One of the most wonderful examples of how life changing this can be came from a lady that I was working with to teach her the skill of asking Better Questions in the context of a caring role. She was having a conversation with a gentleman who shared that he had always had a dream of going on one of Australia’s great train journeys, but that he knew he was now too old to fulfil that dream. The lady was tempted to empathise and say it was a shame that he wouldn’t now be able to that, but decided instead to ask a Better Question. She said, “I know that you think you are too old to go on that journey, but if you did think it might still be possible what would you do?”

    The impact of the question was immediate. The gentleman sat up, looked excited and advised the lady that he had just thought that a neighbour of his was interested in trains and that he may well be interested in doing something with him. The end result of this inspiring true story was that the gentleman fulfilled his dream of going on one of Australia’s great train journeys two months later.

    I often get quite teary when I recall that story as it beautifully demonstrates how Better Questions can unlock thinking and when our thinking changes THINGS change. So my invitation to you as the reader then is to start to become more conscious of your own thinking and what you can do to create new thought. One option is to simply ask yourself some Better Questions particularly in relation to areas of our lives where we are stuck. Asking ‘how can I’ rather than ‘why’ is a great first step and challenging beliefs can also be powerful eg ‘If I believed I could what would I do?”

    Please remember that bringing the gift of Better Questions to conversations with others as well as your own internal dialogue can be life changing!