Solution-focused Coaching

I went to a seminar last week on this topic given by Harvey Ratner from the Brief Consultancy.

Solution-focused Coaching is the application of the Solution-focused Brief Therapy approach to coaching. In outline the approach seems to be:

  • Elicit client’s “best hopes” for the meeting

  • Elicit client’s ideal future

  • Identify signs that progress has been made already

  • Calibrate where the client thinks he/she is and what would be needed to make an incremental improvement

the whole thing infused with lots of positive feedback about what is working, a constant drawing-out of sensory descriptions of the desired state, an exploration of different perceptual positions and an underlying assumption that the client will develop his/her own detailed action plans…

One of the key differences from other approaches seems to be the future bias – in NLP terms a lot of focus on helping the client build a really strong representation of the “Desired State” (DS), combined with “ecology” checks, exploration of different perceptual positions and lots of reinforcement of the client’s resources.

I would tend to do most of that in my normal coaching approach but I would also spend time exploring the current state (CS) and why it was persistent – looking for ways to loosen the “stuckness”. When another participant asked about this Harvey’s response was that from a solution-focused point of view any time spent talking about “now” rather than “then” tended to strengthen the hold of the past/present…

During the seminar we did a couple of exercises, one of which was related to the “calibration” stage – a very simple question “thinking about your job, and your ideal situation, where would you say you had got to on a scale of 0 – 10” […] “and what tells you that you are that point and not a 0?” […] “and what do others see you doing that contributes to you being at that point?” (of course the skill is in the way the questioner asks the questions and especially in the way they keep going to elicit more and more…)

Being on the receiving end of that questioning (even though I “knew” it was “just” an exercise) I was surprised by the sense of momentum and energy that was created in me by an in-depth appraisal of all the good things I have already achieved.

I can see how that energy focuses the mind so that the “and what would you have to do to just add one point on the scale?” questions trigger “it’s obvious…” answers from the client, perhaps also how that energy combined with the “pull” of a clear desired future would be enough to unstick from the power of the past. I’m very tempted to take a training in the approach, certainly I shall spend some time reflecting how I can usefully strengthen my coaching with what I’ve learned.

Whilst musing about that sudden rush of energy I was also reminded of the Appreciative Inquiry approach to organisational change – again that focuses on what already works with a team, in an organisation, as a prelude to moving on to even better things – on the surface the parallels seem obvious, but I need to think a bit more about whether there might be an underlying model that could explain both…

Julian Elve
Proactive application of technology to business

My interests include technology, personal knowledge management, social change

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