In Transforming Complaints Toward Solutions & Understanding Complaints May Point to Solutions, I introduced 12 General Areas of complaints & 10 Skeleton Keys that may open the door to solutions from the complaints.

Solutions through past successes Team Problem Solving and Coaching Create Learning Team Building and Leadership


10 Skeleton Keys

Imagine that you have a key ring of 10 Skeleton Keys. As you hear the complaint a co-discovery process of ‘what does better looks like’  happens. From this Skeleton Key ring you are able to hand the best Skeleton Key to the person.

The Skelton Keys are:

Each Skelton Key may work best depending on how the person frames the complaint.

“If we say something  fits, we have in mind a different relation. A key fits if it opens the lock. The fit describes a capacity of the key, NOT of the lock.” – Steve de Shazer


Finding solutions through past successes Skeleton Keys Create Learning team buildind and leadership

Skeleton Key – Past Successes

What does the workplace complaint look like?
The past
  • I learned my lesson three years ago… and I will never be able to change how things get done. In the past at the safety meeting I brought up the idea of involving the people who are with the customers daily into the prevention plan and I was told, “that is the stupidest idea possible – how could they understand the complexity of our operation.” This company  doesn’t forget and I know that new ideas are not welcomed. I heard that loud and clear in that meeting 3 years ago.
  • Remember 2 years ago when we tried that idea and it didn’t work. OR No way 10 years ago we called them for funding and they rejected our idea with prejudice. I would never reach out to them again.
Dire predications of the future
  • This new process is never going to work!  If I try it and it fails my future is ruined and they will fire me. If I get fired my life is over and my family will starve. I am going to continue doing what I’ve always done, keeping my future safe.
  • The State Inspector is coming! We are ruined … Our team is F-ed! This is too much for me to deal with and I am going to cause the department to be closed down.
  • If I call him and let him know that his work is not-satisfactory he will leave the department and then the work that he is doing will never get done. I guess I just have to deal with a poor-performing employee.
What would the Past Successes – Skelton Key – Look Like?

Past Successes: Asking the person / team to look into their past and identify successes. These successes may be work related and / or personal. By finding how, when, what happened, the steps that took place, and how they are in the present may help the person / team identify what worked in the past and use that knowledge in the present.

In the past how have you gotten things done …
  • You have done a nice job of sharing the concerns and from our discussion and my knowledge of your work you have still managed to move things forward and make a positive change in the company, the team, and your work. Share an example of something you accomplished that you are proud of. Walk through, in as much detail as you can remember, how you made that happen? What challenges did you run into? How did you navigate around them? What are you now doing that you were not doing them?
Alternative futures / miracle question / noticeable future change …
  • Between now and next time we meet be observant, so that you can describe in detail, what items about the work you wish to remain the same and what is better and what changed…. Next Meeting: From the things that changed, if you had to guess, how many of those things did you know were going to change?  How did you manage to keep doing your work in spite of the changes?
  • You have gotten this far on purpose. You made many wise choices and perhaps some un-wise choices. What is it about you that keeps you in the fight? Share an example, from your past, when you were against challenging odds and still persevered. What about that can you apply to what you just described?

All Skeleton Keys are meant to find Cooperation and be close enough to create progress. If looking for and finding past successes does not work that’s  OK. Spend time talking and try something else.

What do you think?

Can you think of a time when you used your past successes to make positive change?

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