January 27, 2012

Written solution-focused coaching conversation

Today, in a training of solution-focused coaches, I invited them to do an exercise in which they did a written solution-focused coaching conversation. The idea behind this exercise was to focus on two things which help make solution-focused coaching conversations effective:
  1. Text-focus: solution-focused coaches listen carefully to their clients and use their key words. They don't change the words of their clients and don't read between the lines. 
  2. Go-slow: solution-focused coaches make sure that clients are never rushed and have all the time they need to think and to express their thoughts. 
The exercise went as follows: The participants form couples. One of them is the coach, the other one the client. Both the coach and the client are completely silent throughout the conversation and only communicate in written form with each other. They use a piece of paper. The coach writes down a question and the client answers. The coach can only continue when the client returns the paper to the coach. Interruptions are therefore impossible. The coach can, of course, apply whatever solution-focused principle and technique he or she wants. Time: 30 minutes. 

Reflection: overall, the participants like the exercise and found it useful. They said the fact that the conversation was done in written form brought certain advantages but also a few disadvantages. Here are a few things they mentioned.

Some advantages:
  1. A useful slowness emerged which helped to keep the interaction useful a goal-focused. 
  2. The calmness of the process helped to focus on small steps and made it easier to remain client-led. 
  3. The slowness of the process made it easier to think carefully about which question to ask next.
  4. Language matching became easier because the words of the client are right there on the piece of paper. 
  5. When the coaches were reading clients' answers and thinking about a next question and writing down the next question, clients could continue to think about what they had said which helped them to think in the direction of a solution. 
Some disadvantages:
  1. A few coaches said they missed nonverbal communication which sometimes made it a bit harder to understand how something was meant.  
  2. Repeating the clients' words in some cases came across as a bit artificial. 
  3. The direction of the questions becomes even more important in written conversations because you get only one chance. 

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