A great coach will work with different people in different ways. The approach taken will vary depending on the coach’s experience and the way they have been trained. Furthermore this also hinges on the client; in light of what they bring to the session and what they want to get out of the coaching relationship. 

One approach that I personally find exceptionally useful is to support a client focus more on the solution rather than the problem that they’ve come to coaching for. This might sound easy however it can be quite tricky.

For a moment, imagine that you are in front of your coach ready for the first session following an initial consultation. Typically you might expect that the coach will want to hear all about what brought you to coaching, what the issues are and to break these down for them. This, to a degree can be useful, however, this type of dialogue might end up taking most, if not all of a session! Can you see how this can be an issue, particularly if you’re only having one session? 

This is where the brilliance of Solutions-Focused Coaching comes in.  A core belief held here is that individuals are experts in themselves when it comes to their problems and that the coach essentially does not need to know the ins and outs of them.  Therefore, exploring a client’s current reality and going over information that the coachee already is consciously aware of could be limiting the potential of the coaching session. 

What I do in this situation is to specifically focus on ‘solution talk’ rather than ‘problem talk’.

One way I do this is by ensuring that the majority, if not all, of the questions I ask are future-focused and oriented towards the client discussing solutions rather than reality. These questions will assist clients focus on their strengths and areas in their life that are ‘problem free’. Through this dialogue pattern I also help coachees explore transferable skills and ways how they could overcome and cope with obstacles. I also regulalry ask the client to ‘play’ with preferred futures states and potentional outcomes.

So give it a try whether you are coaching, having a supervision session or having a 1-1. Here are some quick steps you can follow:

  1. Following the identification of a problem, immediately focus the client to explore potential future solutions

  2. Consider each of the solutions that the client creates one by one in terms of possible consequences (both negative and positive)

  3. You can also use a rating scale to help the client prioritise different solutions. Allow the client to come up with the scales (e.g. confidence in implementing a solution, feasibility, how much it addresses the underlying problem)

  4. You might also ask the client what would happen if they implemented those possible solutions. How would things be different?

  5. Finally, ask the client whether they would see themselves actively pursuing one or more of those solutions.

As with other coaching approaches we should remain cognisant that supporting the client change their ‘problem talk’ to ‘solution talk’ might necessitate unlocking some psychological barriers. These could be preventing someone from moving forward. 

Have you ever used this type of coaching before and has it worked for you? Let us know!