Solution Focus is a coaching technique (and in more general a mindset) where you set your focus on solutions and solving problems when coaching and talking to people.
Solution Focus Matrix
One of the tools helpful to understand Solution Focus is the SF Matrix. The vertical axis represents the degree of happyness, the horizontal axis time.
|Solution Focus Matrix|
This leads to 4 quadrants:
- On the upper left are things from the past that we're feeling happy about
- On the lower left are things from the past that we're feeling sad or angry about
- On the upper right are things in the future that we're looking forward to full of expectation
- On the lower right are things in the future that we're worried about
The goal of Solution Focus is to reach the upper right quadrant, we wanna be optimistic about the future. In order to do that we first need to identify in what quadrant sentences said lie. Some examples:
Before Scrum we had no problems. Now everything is bad!
The way management talked to us a few years back was absolutely horrible.
Hey, we want to start with Kanban. Could you help us please?As you may have realized while reading the examples the real world isn't always as easy as a model and words and sentences can easily fit in more than one quadrant. The whole point of Solution Focus is to lead the coachee / dialog partner to focus on an optimistic future and we can reach that by asking the right questions.
- If you realize your coachee is happy about the past your questions should be about how the past experience could be repeated
- If you realize your coachee is unhappy about the past your questions should be about how she survived and what she learned from that experience
- If you realize your coachee is worried about the future your questions should be about what she would like instead or how she would want to do things differently
- If you realize your coachee is already optimistic about the future your questions should make her want to kick off right away
Naturally asking the right questions isn't that easy and additionally questions like "What did you learn from that experience?" feel rather odd to the coachee (as they would to everyone), meaning your focus is on getting that questions answered but not necessarily asking it directly. One possible way would be to ask about the feelings and go on from there. But that is only one possibility.
Solution Focus Scaling
A second tool for Solution Focus is a ladder / scaling technique:
|Solution Focus Scaling|
SF Scaling is used to show where you are right now. You could use a flipchart, draw a ladder and ask your coachee to draw where he thinks he stands. However using a room (or similar) as Klaus did with us in his session seemed more impressive to me. The length of your room represents the scale from 0 to 10.
- Ask your coachee to stand where she thinks she is with her problem right now, her sight towards 10.
- Ask her to turn around and ask how she feels (this will most likely be something like "I can see that I'm not still at the beginning", "I'm farther than I thought", etc.)
- Ask her to stand at 10, sight towards 0 and ask how she feels now (answers will be most likely something like "this is really far away" or "I feel uncomfortable standing here").
- Ask her to stand where "good enough" would be and ask her how she feels
- Ask her to return to the original position and ask her how she feels now (the answer will probably include that she's seen the "perfect state" and that things look differently for her now)
- As a last thing ask her to take a step forward and then turn around. Ask her how it feels like to have taken a step forward.
When we did this excercise Klaus asked us to pick something that we care about and want to improve for ourselves, I chose my rhetorical skills. Seeing where I am right now and where I can be with only one step forward got me inspired to finally take that rhetoric workshop I've been wanting to do for 2 years now. Thank you Klaus for that!