By Lorraine Madden

Is the glass half empty or half full? What would you say? This well-known saying requires little explanation. Typically, even when we are looking at the same situation, we can see it or make sense of it in very different ways. These different ways of thinking, about problems, challenges and even people can all be described as examples of reframing.

Reframing is a useful technique that is used in social work (McCashen, 2005) and in coaching (Greene & Grant, 2003). McCashen (2005) defines reframing as follows:

‘Reframing helps people think differently about themselves and the problems they are facing. It involves exploring alternative perspectives on the same event, story or experience and enabling genuine choice of a preferred description. Reframing is aimed at creating possible positive descriptions’ (p. 63).

Greene and Grant (2003) describe it in the following way:

‘Reframing is about changing the meaning we give to events, not necessarily changing the events themselves’ (p. 41).

Both definitions highlight the potential of reframing in thinking about a current perspective in a new and different way. Reframing is also an opportunity to rethink the event or story in a more positive light. This is important because how we see a person, situation or challenge impacts on how we respond. With people we can either damage or strengthen the relationship, depending on the viewpoint we take. With situations, our perspective can stop us from taking action or alternatively, inspire us to take the first step towards reaching a goal.

Regardless of whether we are ‘coaching’ ourselves or someone else, reframing is a useful tool for thinking about and understanding people and situations in a different way or from a previously unconsidered perspective. For example:

  • Do we describe parents as ‘demanding’ or an advocate for their child?
  • Do we label children as challenging or having unmet emotional needs?
  • Do we see our peers and colleagues as not motivated, or motivated by something different to us?
  • Do we describe a relapse in making a change as a failure or an opportunity to celebrate progress to date and make some adjustments to the plan?
  • Do we reprimand ourselves for being nervous, or remind ourselves that being nervous might be a very normal response in a given situation?

Below is a list of statements with some possible reframing responses. Reframing responses can be statements, questions or a combination of both. You might also like to consider some different ways to respond.


Statement Reframe
“We have tried that already…” So we have a good idea about what doesn’t work. What can we do differently this time?
“It has been an absolute failure.” An absolute failure? Which bits did work? What can we learn from what happened? What might we do next time?
“We don’t have the time to do any of that.” What can we stop doing in order to make time? Which bits do we have time for?
“Just ignore it. That child is just doing that to get attention?” I wonder what the child is trying to tell us that we just aren’t getting? What do we need to do to better understand them?
“That parent isn’t interested in being involved. That’s just the way they are!” I wonder what barriers exist that might disable parents from participating fully?

Adapted from Greene & Grant (2003)

Why not brainstorm some of the labels, statements or perspectives that are creating barriers to successful relationships, positive changes or goal attainment, and think about what other understandings or viewpoints might be possible. Try to suspend judgments and remain curious about different ways to understand the person, event or challenge. You might also like to brainstorm ideas with colleagues or friends, before deciding on a new way of thinking, and potentially a new course of action.

And finally, back to the question of whether the glass is half empty or half full…. perhaps the glass is always full!


Greene, J. & Grant, A. M. (2003). Solution-Focused Coaching: Managing people in a complex world. Harlow:Pearson Educated Limited.

McCashen, W. (2005). The Strengths Approach. Bendigo: St Luke’s Innovative Resources.

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This blog is the third in a series of five that explores the art of asking the proper question. In the last blog I looked at closed and open questions. In this blog, I will focus more specifically on asking solution-focused questions.

Solution-focused questions

Open questions that help us keep up moving forward in the direction of our goals are sometimes referred to as solution-focused questions. A study by Grant and O’Connor (2010) examined the effects of solution-focused and problem-focused coaching questions using an exploratory pilot study. The study found both problem-focused and solution-focused questions helped participants make progress towards a desired outcome. However, this was more so for participants who were asked solution-focused questions. In addition, solution-focused questions were found to have a greater impact on increasing positive emotions and self-efficacy, and helped participants to have a better understanding of the nature of the problem.

Solution-focused questions can be used in a number of ways. They can help us to:

–       Explore our uncertainty or ambivalence about making a change

–       Articulate our thoughts and feelings about a given situation

–       Raise awareness about our strengths, successes and achievements

–       Rethink our current way of thinking from another perspective

–       Imagine (or reimagine) a desired or best possible future

–       Gain clarity about a goal or goals

–       Build confidence, generate hope, and create a more positive mindset

–       Identify a range of options, strategies and action steps to achieve a goal

–       Evaluate progress towards our goals.

So what are some examples of these better, powerful, ‘magic’, solution-focused questions? To begin with, there is no ultimate list, although Bannink (2006) did come up with 1,001 of them! The best solution-focused questions need to be considered in the context of the current situation, the people involved in the conversation, the issues at hand, and the desired outcome.


Bannink, F. (2006). 1001 Solution-focused Questions. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Grant, A. M. & O’Connor, S. A. (2010). The differential effects of solution-focused and problem-focused coaching questions: a pilot study with implications for practice. Industrial and Commercial Training, 41(2), 102-111. read more →


Have you felt entrapped by the surge of frustration coursing through your body?

It can pounce without notice!

Sometimes it builds from small things turning into deep murmurings. If it is left to fester it drives varying size wedges between us. To avoid this potential disaster at work we have to be ready with a suite of commanding tools so that we are not derailed by surprises or methodical degradation of relatedness.

The following three steps will potentially help you stay connected and frustration free at work.

1. Stop with the stories in your head

One of the most powerful keys to successfully overcoming frustration is to stop making the problem more complicated by creating stories in our head. The best way forward is to create a list of the facts, which are causing the frustrating and take only these to the people involved, bravely and mindfully.


 2. Pull the facts apart to understand another perspective

During these times of frustration we often feel like pulling something apart. Sometimes it’s the boss, other times it’s the organisation and still others it’s the person we feel has created the frustration for us. While this may help us ‘feel’ better the end result often complicates future relatedness.

Therefore stick to the facts! Analyse, pull apart, these and these only. By unpacking the facts relationship have a better chance of staying in tack or even strengthening. Facts are facts. They don’t change and they are not personal. Therefore by focusing on the unique parts of a fact and exploring another’s understanding enables collaborative perspectives to be developed. This open space potentially creates room for true innovation.


3.Focus on the innovation

When the facts have been analysed and a new collaborative understanding has been arrived at, true innovation can begin. As Albert Einstein said, you can’t solve a problem with the same mindset that it created. As you look at the unique parts of the facts and discover a new way of looking at them, potentially you will be able to move beyond the frustration. The impact of this mindfulness often results in the disempowerment of frustration. It also frees us up to think cohesively about the problem rather than remaining stuck in the frustration.


Above all, keep your thoughts on the facts and not on the person. This will enable you to move forward through the entrapment of frustration and discover the freedom offered by a new and collaborative perspectives. read more →

In this blog we will introduce the concept of positive psychological capital and the four key theories that build positive psychological capital (PsyCap). In coming blogs we will expand on each of these theories with practical activities that you can do to boost your PsyCap overall.

What is PsyCap?

Psychological Capital can be defined as:

“An individual’s positive psychological state of development that is characterised by:

  1. having confidence (self-efficacy) to take on and put in the necessary effort to succeed at challenging tasks;
  2. making a positive attribution (optimism) about succeeding now and in the future;
  3. persevering toward goals, and when necessary, redirecting paths to goals (hope) in order to succeed; and
  4. when beset by problems and adversity, sustaining and bouncing back and even beyond (resiliency) to attain success” (Luthans, Youssef, & Avolio, 2007 p. 3)

Each of these components of PsyCap have a background in theory and research; can be measured; can be developed over time and has a positive impact on performance (see Luthans, 2002; Luthans & Youssef, 2004).

Why is PsyCap important?

Research into PsyCap has demonstrated the following:

  • Higher levels of PsyCap is associated with higher levels of job satisfaction, organisational commitment and well-being at work
  • It is negatively related to cynicism toward change – people are more open and less cynical about change in their organisations
  • People with higher levels of psychological capital are likely to be energised that it is exhibited as higher performance over longer periods of time
  • People with higher levels of PsyCap are able to generate multiple solutions problems, have positive expectations about results and respond positively to setbacks

We can see that developing and building our PsyCap has real benefits for both individuals and organisations in enhancing workplace well-being and developing ongoing resilience.

How do I measure my PsyCap?

You can measure your own PsyCap by completing the PsyCap questionnaire, which can be found at

The questionnaire will give you an indication of your overall Psychological Capital as well as for Hope, Optimism, Self-efficacy and resilience.

In the next blog….

In my next blog contribution, I will discuss the role of Hope in Psychological Capital in detail. read more →

Written by: Lorraine Madden, Associate @ Semann & Slattery

There is a strong evidence base about the benefits of using strengths at work. Discovering and using strengths has been found to help people achieve their goals, increase positive emotions and wellbeing, and enhance workplace performance (Linely, Willars & Biswas-Diener, 2010). Click on the following links to read more about the evidence base for using strengths:

Linely (2008) defines a strength as ‘a preexisting capacity for a particular way of behaving, thinking, or feeling that is authentic and energising to the user, and enables optimal functioning, development and performance’ (p. 9). He also argues that ‘realising our strengths is the smallest thing we can do to make the biggest difference’ (2008, p. 47)

Clearly, the research is compelling. However, we can’t utilise our strengths if we don’t know what they are! All to often, when people are asked to name their strengths, they struggle to do so. Interestingly, they can be quick to name the things they are not good at, or their so-called weaknesses.

Don’t despair! There are a number of resources available to help you identify your strengths. One that is well utilised is the Values in Action (VIA) Survey of Character Strengths (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). The survey measures a person’s twenty-four character strengths. The results provide, in rank order, a person’s character strengths from 1-24, including their top five ‘signature strengths’. To complete the survey, go to Click on register and complete the free registration, prior to completing the survey itself. Allow yourself about 30 minutes to complete the survey.

When you get your results, some of you may be tempted to focus on those ‘strengths’ at the bottom of the list. Certainly, there may be some instances in which you may want to develop strengths lower down the order. However, where possible, look for opportunities to maximise the use of your signature strengths. Linely and his colleagues argue that in some instances it can be helpful to pair a top strength with a lesser one, in order to reach a goal. They also propose using a team approach, working with colleagues to utilise their strengths, together with your own, to achieve a desired result.

As a word of caution, Linely and his colleagues advise you take care not to overplay your strengths. Of course it is appealing to use what comes naturally to you, you are good at, and find energising. However, take care to ensure they are appropriate to the situation, context and people involved.

Why not make an appointment with yourself today (or this week) to complete the VIA Survey of Character Strengths. Suggest your colleagues to do the same so you can compare your results, remembering this is not a competition, as all strengths have value. Reflect on how you are currently using your signature strengths, both individually and collectively, and look for opportunities to ultilise them more frequently.

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Written by Lorraine Madden. Associate, Semann & Slattery

Everything you always wanted to know about coaching and were too afraid to ask!

What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘coaching’? Most probably the answer is sport! Certainly, coaching has connections with sport, and draws on theories and research from sports psychology. It also draws on business consulting and management training, education and psychology (Grant & Greene, 2001). In recent years there has been increasing interest in the potential of coaching to enhance learning, performance and personal growth, and promote positive change personally and professionally. Increasingly, coaching is seen as a viable alternative or complement to professional development programs.

So what exactly is coaching?

Coaching has been defined in various ways in the professional literature. A study by Hamlin, Ellinger and Beattie (2009) investigated 36 definitions of coaching as part of a study to examine the range of meanings and understandings given to coaching. More recently, coaching has been defined as:

A collaborative endeavour between a coach and a client (an individual or group) for the purpose of enhancing life experience, skills, performance, capacities or wellbeing of the client. This is achieved through the systemic application of theory and practice to facilitate the attainment of the coachee’s goals in the coachee’s context (Standards Australia, 2011, p.10).

Put simply, coaching is a goal-oriented, solution-focused conversation between a coachee and coach, which promotes the learning and development of the coachee and supports them to create positive changes in their lives.

Coaching and mentoring – what’s the difference?

Sometimes the terms ‘coaching’ and ‘mentoring’ are used interchangeably. This can create confusion as to how they are different and when you might use one over the other. Typically, at the beginning of a coaching engagement, the coach will give an overview of the way they will work with the coachee. This provides an opportunity to define such terms, ensure there is a common understanding about what will happen in the coaching sessions, and clarify the roles and responsibilities of the coachee and the coach.

Mentoring typically involves someone with greater experience and expertise supporting a mentee to gain the skills, knowledge and expertise required in their new position. This is done through a combination of showing, telling and guiding. In coaching, the coachee sets the agenda, according to their purpose or intention in seeking coaching. In addition, while the coach will bring a particular set of skills, experience and expertise to the coaching relationship, this does not need to be related to the occupation or experience of the coachee (Greene & Grant, 2003).

Why coaching?

There is a growing body of evidence of the benefits of coaching for individuals, teams and organisations. This includes greater commitment to the goals set in coaching, and increased success in attaining those goals. It also includes increased well-being, hope and resilience (See Grant, 2003; Green, Oades & Grant, 2006; Spence & Grant, 2007; Greene, Grant & Rynsaardt, 2007; Grant, Curtayne & Burton, 2009).

These findings are supported in the outcomes of a project conducted by Semann & Slattery in 2011 with leaders and aspiring leaders in the early and middle education sector in Western Australia and the Northern Territory (Slattery, 2012). Participation in the project involved attendance at three professional development workshops and engagement in three individual coaching sessions. The focus of the program was to equip leaders to increase positivity in the workplace through increasing their own levels of hope and optimism. Results demonstrated increased levels of hope, optimism, work engagement and workplace wellbeing and reduced levels of stress. In addition, the majority of participants (89%) reported that they had very positive experiences of coaching.

Why not coaching?

Do you have a commitment to ongoing learning, enjoy challenging yourself, and are ready to create positive change? If the answer is yes, coaching might provide an alternative or addition to more traditional methods of learning and development such as conferences, workshops and/or professional reading.

Coaching is one of a suite of professional services available at Semann & Slattery. Contact our office for more information and a professional quote by phone (02 95571460) or email (

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14 Aug 2013
August 14, 2013

Goal Setting

Coaching, Featured, Leadership, Positivity 0 Comment

Written by Lorraine Madden. Associate at Semann & Slattery

Setting goals is a very important part of achieving in our personal lives and at work. This video is a great summary on how goals can work for you and your team. Watch it and be inspired to set some goals today.

You may also be interested in our other informative videos:

1. Redefining Leadership by Anthony Semann

2. Motivation by Colin Slattery

3. Goal Settings Video by Lorraine Madden read more →

We have past middle of the year, the winter solstice has come and gone, and we anticipate warmer days ahead. While you might not be quite ready for your annual spring clean, perhaps it’s time to give yourself a bit of a lift, to reenergise and reinvigorate yourself so you are at your best for the days, weeks and months ahead.

Often, in the busyness of the everyday, taking time out for the things that bring us alive are moved to the bottom of our ‘to do’ list, or taken off completely. This can be especially so in the cooler winter months, where many of us go into hibernation, and just getting out from under the doona takes all of the energy we can muster.

Barbara Frederickson is a world-renowned psychologist, positive psychology expert and author of the book, Positivity. She argues that while we can all name a number of things that bring us joy, many of us rarely give ourselves permission to do these things.

As part of your mid year rev up, why not generate a list of the things that energise you or bring you joy, and slot them in to your daily schedule just as you would brushing your teeth or attending an important meeting. To get you started, here are some of Fredrickson’s (2009) ideas for boosting positivity:

  • Be open in the present moment
  • Create high quality connections with others
  • Cultivate kindness
  • Develop healthy distractions
  • Dispute negative thinking
  • Find and connect with nature
  • Learn and apply your strengths
  • Mediate mindfully
  • Dream about your best possible future
  • Practice gratitude
  • Savour positivity – in the past, present and/or future
  • Follow your passions.

To watch Fredrickson’s talk on positivity and how to boost your positive emotions, go Positive Emotions



Fredrickson, B. L. (2009). Positivity. New York: Three Rivers Press. read more →