Solutions-Focus Coaching

Check and Affirm

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Check and Affirm Progress

Solutions-focused leaders are good at Affirming, and Keeping People Feeling Empowered. 

The traditional way of giving feedback is for the coach to tell the coachee what he or she thinks the coachee is doing well. "You are doing a fabulous job in customer service." Nice, but not particularly meaningful. 

Stronger is, "The way you said that customer's name, your eye contact, and listening carefully and repeating back what she said, was great customer service. Your customer walked away feeling good about dealing  with you." Better than the first example, but not really empowering. 

Sure the coachee feels good, but the power in that situation rests solely with the coach. The coachee has to 'wait' until the coach provides the feedback to get a positive stroke.

Wrap the positive feedback in a question

To really empower people, so that they become their own solutions finder is to wrap the positive feedback in a question ... "How are you doing this so well?" 

It's a way of coaching the person into thinking about the resources, the behaviors, the solutions that he or she has discovered to help him or her be successful. The power rests with the coachee to acknowledge that they have a high locus of control over their success.

There is still praise implicit in the question, "How are you doing so well?" However, the power rests fully with the coachee and helps them to focus on what they are doing that works. 

Having said that, during a coaching conversation, affirming a person's positive attributes or qualities, can be useful to help build their resilience and belief in their ability to make progress.  

For example, 

  • It sounds like you really care for the success of this team member?
  • From what you've said, it seems like you have a lot of courage and tenacity
  • It seems that your ability to pinpoint next small steps, will help you reach the goal you're after

Affirm under-performers

Affirming can be a very powerful tool when you have someone who is under-performing. Instead of focusing on what they are getting wrong, affirm the parts they are getting right. Reinforce what you do like and hope to see more of. 

Checking Back in After a Coaching Session

When you are checking back in with someone, the first question is, "What's better?"

Not if the person took action. For a whole bunch of reasons they may have not done what you agreed upon. 

So your immediate focus is about what is moving in the right direction.

Get them to describe the actions he or she took (it might be different from what you agreed for a whole bunch of reasons, it doesn't matter) you just want to find out what worked well and ask the individual to describe what actions he or she took. Get them thinking about what they’ll do next. 

Stay focused on solutions to take to move them toward where they want to go - not focused on the problems and challenges they encountered.

If they found problems/challenges, ask them which parts worked well and then move forward from that point.

If they say nothing has improved, be empathetic (“Sounds like you've had a tough week”), and then circle back to find out which things did go well and what they did differently, or get them to recall those things they said that they've done in the past that have helped them to be successful.

Be very wary of getting into problem talk (all the things that didn't go well). Instead keep them focused on what they are doing that is heading them in the right direction. 

 You could even use scaling to get them back into resourcefulness mode. 

If they are really struggling to find something positive, you could affirm the attempts they did make and or provide examples of how yourself/others have approached similar situations. 

In Conclusion

Certainly creating a high performance organization has many more elements than coaching. However, this one small tool can easily be used by any leader, in any culture, and it does have an immediate and transforming impact on the mindset and resilience of your team and focuses them on moving forward toward your goals.

Try it yourself over the next few days - when you're challenged by a problem - instead of focusing on the problem - start getting people focused on what they've done that's worked and how they can build on that to move toward the end goal. See how much more energy and creativity flow.


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