What Solution Focus is and when / where to use it:
Solution Focus is about:
- focusing on solutions rather than on problems,
- seeing resources and strengths rather than weaknesses,
- finding out what is working already rather than what is going wrong,
- looking into the future and working with a vision rather than looking back and analyzing the past
- accepting that things and people are never the same and that there will always be changes.
Solution-Focused Brief Therapy was developed by Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg in the late 1970s. Today, Solution Focus is widely used in coaching and consulting. However, it is more than a coaching and consulting tool, it is a mindset that can be used in any context when working with people: sales, HR, education, project management,…
I offer workshops with Solution Focus and “Solution Walks”, Solution Focused coaching sessions while walking, for individuals, groups and teams. Furthermore, I apply the concept of Solution Focus when working as a consultant and (interim) finance and project manager.
How Solution Focus makes a difference:
When something is wrong, we normally try to find out what is wrong and then make a plan to fix it by:
- Diagnosing the problem
- Discovering the causes and addressing the weaknesses
- Making detailed action plans
This works very well in a technical context, e.g. the heating does not work. When working with people, analyzing can easily lead to blame.
Solution Focus takes the following approach:
“To open a door, you don’t need to analyze the lock, you just need the key.”*
- Describe what’s wanted instead
- Discover what’s working already and find strengths
- Take small steps
Tools we use in Solution Focus:
Change of perspective:
“What do you want instead?” is a very useful question to move from a problem focus to a Solution Focus.
Bringing other people and stakeholders into the discussions helps to see things from other perspectives.
Moving in a room or even better taking a walk also helps.
“Where you stand determines what you see and what you don’t see, it even determines the angle from where you see it. A change in where you stand, changes everything.”*
Scale & working with differences:
I use scales to show progress, e.g. during a workshop or at the end of a workshop.
Scales can also be used to discover all the things that are working already or useful things an employee is doing.
“On a scale from 0 to 10 when 0 means very very bad and 10 means the problem is solved or everything is perfect where are you now?
How is X different from 0? (e.g. What do you do differently, how do you feel differently, what would other people say is different,…)?
What did you do to get there?”
After finding out where people are on a scale and all the things they have done I ask them to take one further step and what this would be.
In Solution Focus coaching the coachee is the expert. And although the coach’s solution might be very good it might not be the right solution for the coachee.
In the sales process the customer is the expert, in consulting the client,…
Therefore I do not provide answers but ask a lot of question that support the coachee, customer or client in finding their solutions.
All of my questions are open questions and my favorite one is “What else?“.
Miracle question – future jump:
The miracle question was first used by Steve de Shazer or actually by one of his clients and has since then been part of (almost) every coaching session with Solution Focus.
I prefer the terms “future jump” or “perfect future”. The idea is the same: Together with the coachee or team I move to the future where the problem is solved, the solution is found,…
There the client can describe his / her vision and once this is very clear I ask the question: “What did you do in order to get there?”
This helps to plan the next step(s).
Positive Feedback – appreciation:
In our society we rarely get positive feedback or appreciation when we do things right. It starts at school when teachers tell pupils about all their mistakes but never about their achievements.
Therefore, some clients are not aware of all the things they are already doing well.
Working with Solution Focus implies carefully listening to all the client’s resources and strengths as well as all the things that are working and providing positive feedback.
When working with groups or teams I encourage them to use “positive gossiping”, it is quite strange at the beginning but makes a big difference.
Tetralemma is a very useful tool for decision making and can also be used when a person / a team is stuck and can only see “the one” and “the other”. When working with Tetralemma there is more: “both”, “neither nor” and even a “joker”.
All of these tools have many variations and of course there are other Solution Focus tools as well.
In order to find out more and see how it works, I recommend participating in a coaching session, a Solution Walk or a workshop with Solution Focus.
* by Steve de Shazer