By: Robert Blaga (Robert’s Website)
When I learned that I was accepted into college, the Psychology department, about 12 years ago, my mind was set on becoming a psychotherapist. I was eager to learn the craft and start helping people work on their challenges. After only six months, I gave up. The first rule of the game was to keep your mouth shut and don’t offer solutions to the client. It was not my kind of business.
What if I know what the client should do? What if his own solutions are stupid or, worse, they are dangerous?
“I can’t shut up and I won’t!” my 20-year old self decided.
So I became a trainer and a consultant, something that was much closer to my personality at the time.
Forward eight years to 2011.
It was the year I started working for a large corporation as a management trainer. I loved the job, but I found myself worried about the effectiveness of the sessions I conducted. Feedback was great, people loved the concepts and they loved me, but when they went back to their jobs, the session was forgotten and so was everything else they wanted to implement.
So I adapted, I experimented and I changed everything about the way I behaved during training. Instead of telling people about some slick new study on how the brain works, I asked them questions about how their own brain is working. Instead of pushing concepts, I started challenging and probing. Finally, instead of training I started facilitating interactions between them.
Seeing positive signs on this approach, I wanted to develop myself even more in this direction and so I started to learn and to experiment with coaching. I took almost all major coaching schools to a test drive, trying to figure out what is valuable and what is not, what can I steel and what can I dismiss.
But I never lost the trainer in me. When I actually started to work with some private clients, my biggest struggle was to shut up and let the client do the work. I was stressed and unhappy after sessions in which the solution the client found was too different than the one I thought appropriate (even if the client was happy with it).
But I kept my mouth shut and I focused on not telling the client what I thought he should do, even if I thought I knew exactly the right approach. I was there to perform coaching and coaching meant asking questions. That’s it.
Forward another three years.
It is now 2014 and I dedicate this year to becoming a better coach. I am now a student of Solution Focus Brief Coaching. This is a counterintuitive approach that made my brain scream “Get out!” when I learned that the philosophy is to focus on what works, on what the client is doing right, and not on fixing weaknesses and problems. It took me one full year to master the art of ignoring the problem but I finally got it.
Brief Coaching changed the way I see the world in such and extent that I sometimes marvel at my own ability to see solutions where in the past I only saw problems.
And it did something else for me: it made me realise that I got everything wrong about coaching and psychotherapy. Because you see, keeping your mouth shut, asking questions, not offering solutions… yes, this is coaching. But you never (and I mean NEVER) meet a client because of coaching. Coaching is NOT the purpose. Helping the client is the purpose. And when you realise that, you also realise that it’s OK to break the rules from time to time. You just have to focus on what works and ignore what doesn’t.
And if coaching doesn’t work… then do something else. Help the client in any way you can. And if you can’t help… that is also fine.
This is what being Solution Focused actually means.