Anthony M. Grant and Sean A. O’Connor
Full reference: Grant, A.M. & O'Connor, S.A. (2010). The differential effects of solution-focused and problem-focused coaching questions: a pilot study with implications for practice. Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 42 No. 2, pp. 102-111.
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the differential effects of problem-focused and solution-focused coaching questions by means of a literature overview and results of an exploratory pilot study.
Design/methodology/approach – In a problem-focused coaching session 39 participants complete a range of measures assessing self-efficacy, their understanding of a problem, positive and negative affect, and goal approach. They then respond to a number of problem-focused coaching questions, and then complete a second set of measures. The 35 participants in a solution-focused session complete a mirror image of the problem-focused condition, responding to solution-focused coaching questions, including the ‘‘Miracle Question’’.
Findings – Both the problem-focused and the solution-focused conditions are effective at enhancing goal approach. However, the solution-focused group experience significantly greater increases in goal approach compared with the problem-focused group. Problem-focused questions reduce negative affect and increase self-efficacy but do not increase understanding of the nature of the problem or enhance positive affect. The solution-focused approach increases positive affect, decreases negative affect, increases self-efficacy as well as increasing participants’ insight and understanding of the nature of the problem.
Practical implications – Solution-focused coaching questions appear to be more effective than problem-focused questions. Although real-life coaching conversations are not solely solution-focused or solely problem-focused, coaches should aim for a solution-focused theme in their coaching work, if they wish to conduct effective goal-focused coaching sessions that develop a depth of understanding, build self-efficacy, reduce negative affect, increase positive affect and support the process of goal attainment.