What is Solution-Focused Coaching and Leadership?

The approach values simplicity in philosophy and language and aims to discover “what works” in a given situation, simply and practically. The focus on what’s wanted (not what’s wrong), what’s going well (rather than what’s gone badly) and useful progress (rather than explanatory theory) leads to a positive and pragmatic way to work with organizations and individuals. (Cited from http://www.solworld.org)

Basic assumptions:

• Problems don’t equal solutions
• Solutions equal solutions
• If something is working, do more of it
• If something isn’t working, stop it
• The client is the expert
• There is a time when this was not a problem
• Focus on the present into the future
• Organizations, teams, and people operate within systems; small changes in one part yield unexpected changes in others.
• It is important that the solution to the problem be your own because my solution won’t work for you

The value in this method is that by focusing on what you want the solution to be as opposed to an emphasis on the problem, your energy and focus is on developing action steps towards the solution. The problem is known and acknowledged, AND the solution is found in examining what you know, what resources you have and need to solve your problems in your context and in learning how to improve continually.


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How is solution focused leadership useful?

This leadership development process offers a solution-focused, evidence- based methodology. Solution-focused management and supervision are being used in government, education, for-profit, non-profit organizations.

Emerging empirical studies continue to support the active and brief approach of solution-focused practice.

The solution-focused leadership approach simply and easily integrates into existing management structure. The process empowers leaders to increase employees’ decision making and judgment. The process also creates a culture of motivation focusing on what is working, and how to do more of it. Solution-focused leadership develops organizations, teams, and leaders into experts in what works.

What are the outcomes?

  • Enhanced problem-solving
  • Problems solved quickly and solutions lasting for a longer duration
  • The creation of shared solutions in line with the goals of the organization
  • Enhanced decision making, judgment and solution finding for leaders and employees
  • Increased retention of talent and knowledge within the organization.

What are the areas of focus?

While every leadership development process changes to meet your leaders where they are, the following areas of focus are meant to share what will be accomplished and developed

Solution-Focused Leadership as Distinct from Traditional Leadership

Where does much of our current thinking on leadership come from? In what ways are these foundational theories that we all take for granted as “just how we do things around here” affecting our relationships with customers and employees?

In this workshop, we will explore early foundations of leadership. By uncovering some of the true and false assumptions we have about leadership, we can determine what is working, what to do more of, and what to stop doing. We can determine when it is best to use either style for leadership decisions and actions by contrasting traditional leadership with solution-focused leadership.

Solution-Focused Goal Setting

Everything a leader does starts with setting goals. Goals determine what you are working towards; they create the focus for what you want to have happen. Goals are the precipice for finding what works and doing more of it. The leader must set the proper context for the work, explain what the goal will look like when it is completed, and be able to cooperate with the employee to create his or her path to achieving the goal.

Learning will focus on:
  • The basic building blocks of a goal
  • Developing this goal into small actionable steps that the leaders and staff can see
  • Achieving the goal
  • Determining what worked and how to take that knowledge to the next phase of the work.

Solution-Focused Leadership 1-on-1

Leaders are most effective when they are working 1-on-1, developing and coaching employees. To do this effectively, they must have the necessary tools and processes to increase the judgment and decision-making capacity of those they lead.

Learning will focus on
  • Practical managerial tools that allow staff to find solutions to enhance their work and performance
  • Steps to free up time for you, as the leader, to focus more on your work and goals
  • During the session, participants will coach each other and observe others being coached to determine what they are currently doing to enhance the judgment and decision making of employees, and what steps they can take to implement solution-focused tools into their everyday work

Solution-Focused Coaching for Performance

Every employee is entitled to have a competent manager with the capability of bringing value to their problem solving and decision making. Every manager has the right to have staff that can work at their maximum effectiveness within their roles. Effective coaching is supporting people to work to their full potential.

Learning will focus on:
  • Understanding the four requirements for success,
  • Measuring and testing capability,
  • Identifying interest and passion,
  • Understanding the two components of skill development,
  • Developing repeated behaviors into habits.

Solution-Focused Team Leadership

All leaders manage and work with teams. Using a solution-focused approach will move a team from dysfunction to high performance. Understanding that teams have internal politics and many different personalities that can derail work, this workshop will teach leaders how to use solution-focused tools to diminish dysfunction.

Learning will focus on:
  • Techniques and tools to keep the team focused on solutions and strengths
  • Ways to deal with possible behaviors that may derail the progress of a team project
  • The application of solution-focused coaching to move the team to find what is already working and develop growth steps to achieve the goal
  • How, as a team leader, you control the outcomes and steps for the team, framing the goals, objectives, and expectations to increase the morale and effectiveness of everyone on the team.

Solution-Focused Delegation

The most powerful leadership technique is delegation. Working with an employee to determine how they have received delegated work and completed work successfully in the past, and how to ensure that as their leader you delegate in the right way, at the right time will lead to success for both of you.

Learning will focus on:
  • Benefits of delegation
  • Motivational aspects of delegation
  • Understanding what stops managers from delegating
  • Working with a model that helps managers get over delegation-stoppers.

Solution-Focused Performance Appraisal

Every leader has to do them,  and almost every leader and employee dreads them – Performance Appraisals. As a leader, you are responsible for developing metrics and performance indicators for staff. This can be challenging and is often focused on what people are doing wrong, on weaknesses that need to be developed.

Focusing on problems will make you an expert on what employees are doing wrong. To develop skills and learning, you have to become a solution-focused appraisal expert.

Learning will focus on:
  • Understanding why most performance appraisal/performance management systems don’t work
  • Creating a positive system to provide performance feedback
  • Understanding managerial decisions related to the effectiveness of team members.

Using Solution-Focused Leadership for Underperforming Employees

Handling underperformance is a tricky part of a leader’s job. Solution-focused leadership can be used for tough discussions with an underperforming employee. Through discussions of what has worked, even just a little bit, active steps for improvement can be developed. This method acknowledges that problems exist and then takes the next step to determine what the solution is and how the employee and leader can work together to increase performance.

Learning will focus on:
  • Understanding the employee contract
  • Understanding the ground rules of the accountability conversation
  • Experience in conducting accountability discussions.

Solution-Focused Leadership in Action

Participants will put their knowledge to use with each other. Using the SOLVED solution finding method participants will coach their peers to determine how they can increase their skills as solution-focused leaders, what implications this will have on their organizations, staff and life, and how they can be held accountable for their next steps. The information will be captured, shared and followed up on to measure the effectiveness of the effect of the solution-focused approach.

Learning will focus on:
  • How to use what we have learned in practice with employees and peers
  • Developing internal solution-focused coaching groups
  • Steps to follow up on what is working, and how to continue your development.