Thursday, May 21, 2015

12 Solution Focused Coaching Takeaways

At the end of last week I attended a Solutions Focus Master Coaching class.  It was two days of jam packed coaching goodness, where we were taken through the process of how to incorporate the  Solutions Focus approach into our coaching.

It was enlightening and it gave me additional skills that I can use as a Coach.  Most importantly, it taught me that the more I learn, the less I know.  I am fairly new to the coaching revolution (in the big scheme of things) and despite being an accredited coach who has led the whole school development of educational coaching at our place (with the fantastic support of my Deputy Principal) I still feel like I have plenty to learn.  

At the moment I am grappling (which is perhaps not the best descriptor when in reality its more of a swirling of wonderings) with how the GROWTH model, Solutions Focus and Instructional Coaching flow together.  The more I reflect on that, the more inclined I am to go with the notion that it is going to be dependent on the Coachee, and their needs, the actual situation and what the coaching focus is.  

During the two days, we were introduced to a number of new tools and a new spin on some known coaching tools.  What was great was that I came away with a number of 'takeaways', not the fish and chip or hamburger variety, but rather the kind of takeaway that will improve my own capabilities.   

Todays post is about sharing with you the top 12.   

12 Solution Focus Coaching Takeaways: 

1. Focus on the Wanted

Strengths Focus Coaching uses questions to assist the Coachee to focus on the things that they want, rather than rehash all the things that may have gone wrong or that they don't want.

2. The Language of the Coachee 

Use the language of the person you are coaching and refrain from using big and verbose words.  Think of it like $5 words rather than using $50,000.  The less complicated it is, the better it is for the person you are coaching.  In short, keep it simple. 

3. Resource not deficit based

When you are coaching look for the resources someone has, try and find the evidence of what someone has used previously to make progress.  Finding someones strengths' is more helpful than focussing on a person deficits.  

4. Butterfly Approach 

Sometimes it is the small, gentle changes that incrementally add up over time that have the potential to have the biggest impact on ensuring success.  What small steps can you make towards your desired future reality?  What small steps will help you achieve your goal?  

5.  Amplify useful change 

Useful change is when someone is prepared to do something differently and to start or stop doing something.  Nothing will shift if the person is not prepared to act on it or do anything about it themselves.  For the Coach, it is about discovering what, if anything, the Coachee is prepared to do, then amplifying that. 

 6.  Whats working?

One of the tools the Coach can use is to examine what is already working.  These include the Coachee's skills, resources and examples from the past where the solution has happened already.   It is not about examining what went wrong, but in what went right!

7. DSA

Sometimes a very useful tool is to sit quietly and say nothing.  One of the exercises we did involved working with a partner - one person talked for 7 minutes and the other simply affirmed with eye contact, quiet murmurings and body language.   It was hard - very hard - but there were insights to be had by allowing the Coachee to just talk.  By allowing them to talk they were able to find the head space to articulate solutions, and I found that as they continued, the questions I had were answered.  It was interesting because I realised that too often we butt in with our question or comment before giving the Coachee enough time to reflect and think for themselves.  It will be a work in progress for me! 

8.  Be a 'Noticer' 

Be on the look out for signs of strengths from what your Coachee says.  Notice what they say with their words and more importantly notice what they don't say with their body language.  Affirm them and notice what effect this have.  Ask 'what would you notice if X was happening for you?", or 'what would others notice about you if X was in place?".  Notice, notice and notice! 


9.  Build and unpack what you have

Look for what is going well, look for times in their past, and present, where they have been successful.  Take that just that little bit further by unpacking how they got there, what was going on and what they (and others) would notice if it was happening again.  Build upon what they have. 

10.  Take people to a place of resourcefulness 

It is very easy to take people into a place of 'woe is me', by using problem-focused words,  but this is not useful to finding solutions for the here and now.  To remain in a solutions focused place, look at the resources someone has and use 'resourceful talk'.   Using words like "wise", "focused" etc will help people find a place of resourcefulness to build strengths upon. 

11.  Find the resources from the past, present and the future

To find the strengths and resources that are within your Coachee, use questions that help them investigate the past,  the present and the possibilities of the future.  These may be examples of success from the past or elements of things that are already working well.  It may be something they have done or someone they can think of that is an example of something working well. 

12. What else?

One can not finish a list of takeaways without adding the 'What else'.  This tool is one of the most useful in a coaching situation - it is the tool that probes the Coachee for more detail.  As a tool it can feel like you are constantly badgering your Coachee, but interestingly, you can use the 'and what else' statement quite a few times before the Coachee runs out of other ideas and tells you that there is nothing more to add.  Even then, you can use 'can you think of someone else who does X', which often gives the Coachee some more thinking space - and at that point you can use - 'what else' all over again! 

If you are a coach and you get an opportunity to attend a workshop on Solutions Focus, I would highly recommend it, and more importantly, I suspect it will totally change the way you interact with your Coachee. 

Finally, is there any particular takeaway that resonates with you?  

NB: Each of the takeaways have been written onto pictures that I took over the two days we were on the course.  The photos of the city, bridge and sunrise were all taken outside the venue.   I decided to use these pictures because they embody the potential that solutions focused coaching has when you unlock the strengths and potential within your Coachee! 


  1. Love how you have used your own images to make your top 12 take outs from the 2 days. A great summary to refer back to also!

  2. Thank you. It easily could have been 24 takeaways! Already the course has been hugely valuable. So much to reflect upon.