It is fairly obvious that we all want our conversations to be constructive. Our meetings would be shorter and more pleasant and efficient, we would come out of our short dialogues with colleagues feeling energised and proud of the team we are part of. Constructive conversations, strong and pleasant, I imagine this might be how it feels  to surf perfect waves.

How to initiate such conversations as a manager? How can you create the conditions so that, even when your are not there, your team would continue to have conversations that are more often constructive than conflictual.

I asked Vasile Ecobici, a few questions about his coaching skills in a managerial context.

Vasile is a Plant Manager at Villeroy & Bosch, certified SF coach  – as he often explaint to us, his coaching training colleagues, he remains a manager and coaching is, to him, just a tool for a better manager

What elements of the Solution Focused approach were most useful to you, as a manager?

From the coaching training, my biggest revelation was that I learned to stop and listen more to what others are saying. I already knew that was important, but I was not finding the way to do it. I always had my own vision and I was trying to get it through. What SF did for me was help me see the positive part in my counterpart’s opposition: maybe they have different information, maybe they think differently. Instead of moving on to my vision, which could be influenced by other factors, I allor the time to see what we can use from what he sees. So, I tell myself: however different the other is thinking, there must be something good in that, something we can use. I give them trust, from the start and I let them see it. The other person is here because they know something and because they have done something right. So I listen.

Doesn’t everything take more time this way? If, instead of doing what you know is right, you wait and talk?

No. I can quickly tell if there is something that is helpful to us both. And it is good to allow some air to circulate between us, new things appear, things I wouldn’t have thought of by myself.

How can you tell when your people think you are a good listener?

It is when I see they really say what they think and not what they think I want to hear. Its not always easy to hear, but I always appreciate it.

From the techniques we learned in the coaching training, what do you use most frequently?

The simplest one. The ”What else?” question. I realized that, when I repeatedly ask  ”What else?”  ”What else?” , it gets people out of their box.

What else?

I always start by listening. I draw a direction, then i let them develop it. I have a very diverse team, each with their own perspective. I help them be more flexible, understand that all the others want the same thing, in the end – that the factory be successful. So now, my production manager can understand that maintenance needs time to do their job well and, if maintenance do their job well, we all do our job well.

Then, there is the perpetual „war” between production and quality. I had them listen to each other, and, to an extent, they manage to think each from the other’s perspective.

What do you see changed in your team since you are an undercover coach?

They cooperate more, even if they all say more uncomfortable things more often to each other. There is conflict, but it is constructive. We no longer have the „It’s not your business” type of attitude. Everyone says what they think and we see if we can use it. We managed to have both formal and non formal talks.

And how can you get them to listen to each other?

I set up the rules, then I shut up myself and respect the rule. For example, we went, the six of us, to a restaurant. I said „we have two hours to get out of here with a solution”. No phones. No laptops. There is no bad idea, we do not make fun at anything and anyone.

For an entire hour we were actually focused on one thing, all of us. And we found a solution.

We had a complaint and we really needed to find a way to save the products we had on stock. If we were to throw them away, the costs would have been huge.

So I stated the rules and let things run, intervening only when I had to stop someone from saying things like „Oh, man! how can you think like that!”. There were some really science-fiction ideas, but there were also the „how could we not see that before” type of ideas. We filtered them according to how doable they were. We had 12 ideas, the first 4 or 5 were quickly filtered out, the last three were a tie and we decided to run tests for the last 2.

Then we were left with one hour to discuss politics, football and other stuff.

This success gave way to other meetings and talks between them and everything is a little different in the factory now.

Obviously, we think that while not every coach will need to be a manager, any manager could use some undercover coaching skills. At Solution Surfers we have transformed this conviction in short trainings for managers – to offer them instruments and time to practice.

If you think you yourself would like to gain this undercover skill, Solution Building might be the program for you..