For an intervention to successfully fit, it is not necessary to have detailed knowledge of the complaint. It is not necessary even to be able to construct with any rigor how the trouble is maintained in order to prompt a solution. [ ] All that is necessary is that the person involved in a troublesome situation does something different, even if that behavior is seemingly irrational, certainly irrelevant, obviously bizarre, or humorous. – Steve de Shazer. Keys pg 6
Solution-Focused leadership development is framed through:
- Identifying what you want to happen
- Finding what works to make progress
- Finding what does not work to slow regress
- Using the resources you currently have
- Doing something different
The simplicity above is deceptive, the doing something different is tough.
I am reminded of a partner in a law firm I was coaching, Aarav. The partner wanted to gain more confidence in his communication and argumentation with the managing partner, Nancy.
Aarav is a skilled lawyer as well as a partner in the firm, there were several areas he wanted to enhance. From the 360-feedback one area to strengthen was Aarav’s ability to speak up and challenge others.
In our coaching meetings, Aarav brought up how when Nancy walks into his office she unloads a string of tasks, questions, and expectations. When Arav asks Nancy a question or tries to interupt Nancy become frustrated, and Aarav gets quieter.
I asked Aarav,
- What do you want to have happen when Nancy walks into your office? His response, I would like to greet her, then be able to slow down the discussion so I can better understand what is happening.
- When have you already done this even a little bit? His response, It is tough, she walks in and immediately starts talking, Nancy is very busy, and others have a similar challenge.
- When have you been able to slow things down? His response, One time when I put a new painting on my wall. Nancy walked in looked at the picture, smiled, asked me about it, and we had a nice conversation.
The small difference of new painting on my wall was enough to disrupt a pattern!
I made the following, somewhat bizarre suggestion.
- The difference in your office may work. Here is one thing I would like you to try. Switch from one side to the other everything in your office. Your desk is on the left as you enter the room, move it to the right; your coat rack is on the right, move it left; your painting in the southwest corner, move it to the northeast. I know this is extreme… and we need to do something different for you to talk with Nancy.
Aarav was skeptical and agreed to try 🙂 In our next meeting I asked, what is better since our last meeting?
- Aarav, I did not move everything, but I did move several essential items. When Nancy walked in and was about to start talking, she became quiet and walked into my office. She sat down and said, something is different. That gave me an opportunity to talk with her, let her know about our coaching and what I need from her to continue supporting the firm’s success. Nancy listened, acknowledged that she does that, and we agreed to several changes in how we speak and share information in the future. Nancy is sticking to the changes, and I feel less stress.
The idea to do something different to break a pattern works when it is something different, as opposed to more of the same done differently.
Through solution-focused leaderhip coaching, you and I co-construct a solution to amplify what is working, even when that solution is weird, different, irrelevent, and humorous.