Solution Focus coaching is a positive approach to change that focuses on what can be done rather than focusing on what is wrong.
Some years ago, I was having breakfast while scrolling through my twitter I came across a tweet from a well-known consultant that caught my attention.
“So you want to fix your current situation, but you don’t want to understand what you did to reach this point… :-\”
I answered, “No, you don’t need to understand what you did to reach this point”. We engaged in a conversation, another guy joined our discussion and asked me to propose a paper for CAS 2016. So, I decided to send it. I thought to myself “well, I guess it is not that obvious for many people”. And here we are.
If we look at the tweet, it summarizes perfectly conventional wisdom coming from the engineering and therapeutic background. Something is broken, fix it!
This approach never worked for me personally. In my life, whenever I had a problem, looking for the root cause or analyzing possible causes always felt painful, slow and it drained my mental energy.
Until I discovered this approach. I’m not saying this is the right approach or the only approach. Solution Focus Coaching is a powerful alternative to our typical way of working with complex systems.
Problems vs Solutions
Focusing on problems leads us to the past. It leads us to try to change what can’t be changed. Focusing on problems leads to blame, excuses and justifications. It’s complicated, slow, and often drains our mental energy.
Focusing on solutions, however, immediately creates energy in our minds. We open up ideas and possibilities.
This doesn’t mean we don’t address problems, it means we address them by analyzing the way forward, instead of their causes.
If people were cars, fixing people problems would be easy. Check the engine, find the cause of the trouble replace the faulty part and move on. But people, and social systems, are not machines. Focusing on problems and their causes is a great way of getting cars back on the road, but it’s not much use when you are trying to help people move forward.
John wants a new job
John wants to step into a new role in his organization, but he lacks confidence. Some people might try to help John by asking WHY he feels this way.
Perhaps the answer lies in this past: “When I was a child a teacher humiliated me in front of the class”.
But, concentrating on the causes of his problem soon leaves John buried under an avalanche of painful memories. He knows why he lacks confidence but nothing in his life has changed. He still feels just the same.
Focusing in problems turns you into an expert on what is wrong. To become an expert in what is right you have to start thinking about solutions.
A helpful question to John would be “let’s just suppose that something happened and you had all the confidence you needed, what would you be doing differently?”
- “I’d have the courage to be honest with my team”
- “I’d be able to say what I really think in meetings”
- “I’d be speaking at conferences and enjoying it”
Now that John has a picture of how he’d like to be, he has something to work towards.
This is what Solution Focus Coaching is about. Instead of emphasizing what’s wrong, we encourage people to think about what is right, we encourage people to look at the resources they already have, at their strengths.