July 6, 2007

The seven steps approach (step 3): Seeing what is already there

The third step usually is to see what is already there. I usually call this the platform, the current situation, the place from which we will start to make progress in the direction of the desired state. Key to establishing the platform is asking and answering are questions like: ‘What have we already achieved?’, ‘What is already there?’, ‘What has helped to bring us to our current position?’ As you see, these questions are very positively and constructively formulated. You know the saying that you can see a glass as half empty or half full? Well, in this step of the solution-focused change process, we ask how full the glass is and how it became that full. By focusing on this, people usually become aware that change in the desired direction has already begun. By focusing on what has already been achieved, people get a completely different perspective both on their current situation (it is not all bad!) and on their future. Once they start looking at the glass as half full instead of half empty, they become more hopeful that they will be able to achieve their change goals. Establishing the platform helps to recognize that some good things have already been achieved and how that happened. It helps to build confidence, optimism and trust.

A great way to help people see what is already there is through scales. Here is a basic explanation of the use of scales:

  1. Explanation of the scale: the coach explains that the scale goes from 0 to 10. 0 stands for the situation in which the problem is at its worst and 10 stands for the situation in which the problem is completely gone and the desired state has been achieved.
  2. Ask for the score: the coach then asks the coachee what his current position on that scale is. The coach has does not judge whether this score is ‘right’ or not.
  3. Focus on what is already there: then the coach asks how the person has already come to this position. What made this possible? Thus, the coach focuses strongly on what is already there, instead of on what has yet to be done.
  4. Visualize the desired state: then, the coach invites the coachee to describe higher points on the scale. For instance, the 10 position, in which the desired state will be completely achieved.
  5. Invite to take 1 step forward: then, the coach invites the coachee to take one small step forward.

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