Meet Jo – a police sergeant who manages a community policing team.
Over the past couple of years the demands of Jo’s work have changed significantly. She finds that she has an ‘increasing number of jobs half finished’, which leaves her feeling very stressed. Whilst many of the changes that have taken place are beyond her control, she believes that her stress levels aren’t helped by the fact that she is ‘not a good closer’.
At a recent management training event she learnt how to use Clean questions to create a Listening Space for the people she manages to help them explore what is on their mind. She creates a separate ‘tethering post’ for each issue that is raised, bringing them back to the issue in question repeatedly until they have explored it fully. This means she is able to get closure on one issue before moving on to the next, making it easier to form an agreed action plan where necessary. Jo has also noticed that Clean questions seem to encourage people to find solutions that are a best fit for them – solutions they are more likely to stick to.
I asked her to tell me more about the impact of applying these principles at work:
‘It’s given me more structure to the way I listen to the staff that I manage by separating out the issues that are raised.
One at a time, I create a tethering post for the issues that we need to explore.
Actually, it’s like there are two levels of tethering post needed.
First, I need to let the person talk around the issue from their perspective. I was already using a mix of echoing back and open questions. But learning about Clean questions has helped me to become more aware of the fact that I was going in to these conversations with assumptions about how things were for them. I probably had too strong a desire to rescue them. I wasn’t really giving them the opportunity to speak for themselves.
Second, I need to put my own tethering post in place around the conversation. This post is about making sure that we leave with some kind of agreed plan at the end of it. However, formulating a plan that is going to work for both of us can only happen once they’ve had a chance to explore the problem sufficiently. My level is built on the level they’ve given.’
Using this new way of listening has had a knock on effect for other areas of Jo’s work – in particular when it comes to managing neighbour disputes. It is easy in these situations to end up in rescuer role, with people becoming dependent on her support. But asking Clean questions means she is able to encourage people to find their own solutions to their situation. And separating out the issues using different tethering posts has made it easier for Jo to identify whether an issue is a police matter or whether the person needs to be signposted to other agencies.
The consequence of this for Jo is that her stress levels have reduced significantly:
‘I’m finding that I don’t have those lingering jobs that aren’t resolved.
I haven’t got that constant feeling of juggling several balls at once, knowing that I’m bound to drop one of them at some point because I’ve left things unresolved.’