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Solution Focused Coaching in Practice

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Abstract

Solution Focused Coaching in Practice is a practical ‘how-to’ guide that provides an invaluable overview of Solution Focused Coaching skills and techniques. Reflecting upon published research on the solution focused approach, Bill O’Connell, Stephen Palmer and Helen Williams bring their own experiences of Solution Focused Coaching together with others in the field to cover topics such as: the coach-coachee relationship the role of technology in coaching inclusive coaching group and team coaching practical issues and skills. Incorporating coachee case studies, worksheets, practice tips and discussion points, the skills, strategies and techniques in this book are straightforward to apply and can be used in most coaching settings. This practical book is essential reading for experienced personal or executive coaches, managers considering introducing a new and better coaching culture for their staff, and for those just starting out on their coaching journey. Details: https://www.routledge.com/Solution-Focused-Coaching-in-Practice/OConnell-Palmer-Williams/p/book/9780415447072
ESSENTIAL
COACHING
SKILLS AND
KNOWLEDGE
Bill O’Connell, Stephen Palmer
and Helen Williams
Solution
Focused
Coaching
in Practice
Solution Focused Coaching in Practice is a practical ‘how-to’ guide
that provides an invaluable overview of Solution Focused Coaching
skills and techniques.
Refl ecting upon published research on the solution focused
approach, Bill O’Connell, Stephen Palmer and Helen Williams
bring their own experiences of Solution Focused Coaching together
with others in the fi eld to cover topics such as:
the coach–coachee relationship
the role of technology in coaching
inclusive coaching
group and team coaching
practical issues and skills.
Incorporating coachee case studies, worksheets, practice tips and
discussion points, the skills, strategies and techniques in this book
are straightforward to apply and can be used in most coaching
settings. This practical book is essential reading for experienced
personal or executive coaches, managers considering introducing a
new and better coaching culture for their staff, and for those just
starting out on their coaching journey.
Bill O’Connell is Director of Training at Focus on Solutions and a
Fellow of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy.
Stephen Palmer is Honorary Professor of Psychology at City
University and Director of its Coaching Psychology Unit, UK. He
is Founder Director of the Centre for Coaching, London, UK.
Helen Williams is a coaching psychologist and associate
consultant at the Centre for Coaching, London. She is a faculty
member of the International Academy for Professional Development,
London, UK.
Solution Focused
Coaching in Practice
Essential Coaching Skills and Knowledge
Series Editors: Gladeana McMahon,
Stephen Palmer and Averil Leimon
The Essential Coaching Skills and Knowledge series provides
an accessible and lively introduction to key areas in the developing
eld of coaching. Each title in the series is written by leading
coaches with extensive experience and has a strong practical
emphasis, including illustrative vignettes, summary boxes, exer-
cises and activities. Assuming no prior knowledge, these books will
appeal to professionals in business, management, human resources,
psychology, counselling and psychotherapy, as well as students
and tutors of coaching and coaching psychology.
www.routledgementalhealth.com/essential-coaching-skills
Titles in the series:
Essential Business Coaching
Averil Leimon, François Moscovici and Gladeana McMahon
Achieving Excellence in Your Coaching Practice:
How to Run a Highly Successful Coaching Business
Gladeana McMahon, Stephen Palmer and Christine Wilding
A Guide to Coaching and Mental Health: The Recognition
and Management of Psychological Issues
Andrew Buckley and Carole Buckley
Essential Life Coaching Skills
Angela Dunbar
101 Coaching Strategies
Edited By Gladeana McMahon and Anne Archer
Group and Team Coaching
Christine Thornton
Coaching Women to Lead
Averil Leimon, François Moscovici and Helen Goodier
Developmental Coaching: Life Transitions and Generational
Perspectives
Edited by Stephen Palmer and Sheila Panchal
Cognitive Behavioural Coaching in Practice: An Evidence
Based Approach
Edited by Michael Neenan and Stephen Palmer
Brief Coaching: A Solution Focused Approach
Chris Iveson, Evan George and Harvey Ratner
Solution Focused
Coaching in Practice
Bill O’Connell, Stephen Palmer
and Helen Williams
First published 2012
by Routledge
27 Church Road, Hove, East Sussex BN3 2FA
Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada
by Routledge
711 Third Avenue, New York NY 10017
Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business
© 2012 Bill O’Connell, Stephen Palmer, Helen Williams
The right of Bill O’Connell, Stephen Palmer and Helen Williams to be identifi ed
as authors of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with sections
77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in
any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter
invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or
retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.
Trademark notice : Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered
trademarks, and are used only for identifi cation and explanation without intent to
infringe.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
O‘Connell, Bill, 1946–
Solution focused coaching in practice / Bill O‘Connell, Stephen Palmer, Helen Williams.
p. cm.—(The essential coaching skills and knowledge)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Employees—Coaching of. 2. Executive coaching. 3. Personal coaching.
4. Solution-focused therapy. I. Palmer, Stephen, 1955– II. Williams, Helen,
1975– III. Title.
HF5549.5.C53O36 2012
658.3'124—dc23
2011052603
ISBN: 978-0-415-44706-5 (hbk)
ISBN: 978-0-415-44707-2 (pbk)
ISBN: 978-0-203-11173-4 (ebk)
Typeset in Century Schoolbook MT
by Refi neCatch Limited, Bungay, Suffolk, UK
For Ella, Clara and George, whose grandpa I am honoured
to be, wishing you solutions for the next generation (BO’C)
For my mother, Cecila Palmer (SP)
For my husband Ben and son Ry, and for my Mum, Dad and
sisters Lisa and Lorna, with love and thanks for making this
possible (HW)
Dedications
List of illustrations xi
About the authors xii
Foreword xiv
Preface xvii
Acknowledgements xix
1 What is coaching? 1
2 An overview of solution focused coaching 13
3 Solution focused skills for coaches 37
4 More solution focused skills for coaches 63
5 The solution focused coach 87
6 Group and team coaching 105
7 Professional, ethical and practice issues 129
8 The inclusive coach 141
9 Solution focused coaching exercises 169
Final refl ections 183
Appendix 1 Solution seeking worksheet 185
Appendix 2 The practice solutions form 187
References 191
Web resources 203
Index 207
Contents
Tables
1.1 Counselling and coaching
1.2 Mentoring and coaching
1.3 Training and coaching
6.1 Example group coaching agenda
6.2 Example team coaching agenda
8.1 Integrating solution focused coaching
Figures
2.1 The SOLUTION coaching model
2.2 Problem Island
2.3 Solution Island
8.1 Transtheoretical model or stages of change
model (after Prochaska & DiClemente, 1982)
Illustrations
2
3
3
113
120
143
20
34
35
153
Bill O’Connell is the Director of Training at Focus on
Solutions, an independent training agency specialising in
Solution Focused training. He was formerly the Programme
Leader for the Masters programme at Birmingham
University and is a Fellow and a Senior Accredited
Counsellor of BACP. He has written extensively on the
Solution Focused approach, and is the author of Solution
Focused Therapy (1998/2005) and Solution Focused Stress
Counselling (2001). He co-edited The Handbook of Solution
Focused Therapy (2003) with Professor Stephen Palmer.
When he’s not working Bill enjoys looking after and having
fun with his grandchildren, playing golf enthusiastically but
badly, and supporting Glasgow Celtic. Bill can be contacted
at bill@focusonsolutions.co.uk and through www.focuson-
solutions.co.uk .
Stephen Palmer PhD is Founder Director of the Centre
for Coaching, London UK and Managing Director of the
International Academy for Professional Development Ltd.
He is an Honorary Professor of Psychology at City University
London and Founder Director of their Coaching Psychology
Unit. He is Honorary President of the International Society
for Coaching Psychology, was the fi rst Honorary President
of the Association for Coaching, and the fi rst Chair of the
British Psychological Society Special Group in Coaching
Psychology. He is the UK Coordinating Co-Editor of the
International Coaching Psychology Review , and Executive
Editor of Coaching: An International Journal of Theory,
About the authors
ABOUT THE AUTHORS xiii
Research and Practice . He has authored or edited over
35 books including The Handbook of Solution Focused
Therapy (with O’Connell, 2003), the Handbook of Coaching
Psychology (with Whybrow, 2007), The Coaching Relationship:
Putting People First (with McDowall, 2010), Developmental
Coaching: Life Transitions and Generational Perspectives
(with Panchal, 2011) and Cognitive Behavioural Coaching in
Practice: An Evidence Based Approach (with Neenan, 2012).
In 2008 the British Psychological Society, Special Group in
Coaching Psychology gave him the ‘Lifetime Achievement
Award in recognition of distinguished contribution to
coaching psychology’.
Helen Williams is a qualifi ed coaching psychologist and
Associate Consultant at the Centre for Coaching. She is a
Faculty member of the International Academy for
Professional Development, specialising in solution focused
cognitive behavioural coaching. She is registered with the
Health Professions Council and Chartered with the British
Psychological Society (BPS), and is a member of the
Association for Coaching (MAC), International Society for
Coaching Psychologists (MISCP) and BPS Special Group in
Coaching Psychology (SGCP). Initially qualifi ed as an occu-
pational psychologist, Helen gained over ten years’ commer-
cial experience working with SHL. Helen and Stephen
Palmer developed the CLARITY coaching model and have
co-authored articles and chapters on coaching in organisa-
tions, solution focused coaching, cognitive behavioural
coaching, self-acceptance and stress management.
After 22 years in solution focused work in the UK and
abroad, I was most interested to hear that this book was on
its way. I am honoured to be asked to write a Foreword.
Around the world in recent years there have been a large
number of books published on coaching in general. There
have been some texts on solution focused and cognitive-
behavioural approaches to coaching. However, this is one of
the fi rst UK publications addressing the specifi c details
of how to carry out solution focused coaching. The discovery
of the solution focused model was fi rst made in the fi eld of
individual and family therapy, so many of the original
concepts arise from the therapy setting. However, as this
book shows, this new learning has been adapted and
extended within the organisational and coaching fi eld.
The three authors are an eminent group. Bill O’Connell
is the Director of Training at Focus on Solutions and was
the originator of the fi rst master’s degree in Solution Focused
Therapy (formerly at the University of Birmingham). I have
known Bill for many years and never failed to be impressed
by his erudition and his humanity. Stephen Palmer is an
established academic with a wide range of publications and
interests. I admire his ability to see at once to the essence of
a problem. The third author, Helen Williams, has an impres-
sive track record. Having provided psychological services
within a large organisation for ten years, she is well-
qualifi ed to comment on the real-world applications of
coaching in such settings. She and Stephen Palmer have
been close colleagues on a number of projects.
Foreword
Dr Alasdair J. Macdonald, Consultant
Psychiatrist and Family Therapist
FOREWORD xv
As one would expect, the book is laid out in a logical
progression, starting with coaching as a concept and then
moving to the specifi cs of solution focused coaching prac-
tice. Applications in group and team settings are considered,
followed by an examination of ways to integrate solution
focused practice with other forms of coaching methodology.
This includes suggestions to coaches who use other models
about how they might usefully introduce some solution
focused ideas and techniques into their current work. The
nal chapter presents 14 exercises to use with individuals
and groups within the solution focused model. These are
drawn with acknowledgement from a wide variety of practi-
tioners and models and are then adapted to the solution
focused context. The text is lucidly and plainly written, with
helpful examples of dialogue from real-life coaching sessions.
The chapters include some useful micro-skills of inter-
viewing, with an emphasis on effective ways to use language
(‘why?’, ‘could’ not ‘should’). These show that solution
focused coaching may be simple in concept but it is not easy.
There is a timely warning to coaches in Chapter 3 about
remembering to allow the coachee moments of silence to
think through ideas. This differs from the therapy setting in
which silence is often over-used, partly as a consequence of
the therapy style of more traditional thinkers such as Freud.
Any coach will fi nd something of value in this book,
even if they do not decide to adopt the complete solution
focused model. They can safely begin to experiment, by using
the ideas described so clearly in this book. You cannot guar-
antee results in human affairs, whether the issues are health,
love or money. However, the solution focused approach may
now be regarded as of proven value, producing good results
in many settings and saving time into the bargain. I hope
that many coaches will buy this book and benefi t from the
wisdom within.
Alasdair J. Macdonald
Weymouth, 2012
The past decade has been an exciting time for the develop-
ment of coaching, coaching psychology and mentoring prac-
tice around the world. Coaching has gradually shifted from
an industry to profession thanks to the work of the profes-
sional bodies and their dedicated volunteer members and
staff. Some countries or regions such as the United Kingdom
have National Occupational Standards, which help to
underpin coaching practice in the workplace. Palmer and
Whybrow (2007) found that over 28 different approaches to
coaching were being used by practitioners. In their on-going
surveys up until 2009 they found that solution focused
coaching was one of the most popular approaches being used
by coaching psychologists.
Why a book on solution focused coaching? We (Bill and
Stephen) had already co-edited the Handbook of Solution
Focused Therapy in 2003, which highlighted how the
approach can be used therapeutically in a range of domains
or settings such as social work and schools and with different
client groups such as parents, children, families and couples.
Although we had published papers (Palmer, O’Connell and
Grant, 2007) and chapters (O’Connell and Palmer, 2007) on
solution focused coaching we realised that although they
captured the essence of solution focused coaching practice,
we were unable to include the fi ne detail due to word limita-
tions. There was one obvious solution – a book on solution
focused coaching practice. We imagined the desired scenario
and got down to work.
Preface
xviii PREFACE
Solution Focused Coaching in Practice is a ‘how to do it’
book. The book does not assume that the reader has any
prior knowledge of either coaching or the approach.
Therefore we hope that the book will be equally suitable for
experienced coaches who may wish to read the chapters
specifi cally on the solution focused approach or neophyte
coaches just starting out on their coaching journey. Also we
hope that professionals who wish to use a coaching style in
their work such as managers, human resource specialists
and consultants may fi nd the book useful too.
The rst chapter is an introduction to what coaching is
in order to set the context. The second chapter provides an
overview to solution focused coaching and the following
two chapters provide solution focused coaching skills for
coaches. Chapter Five then considers the solution focused
coach. Chapter Six looks at group and team coaching from a
solution focused perspective. Chapter Seven considers prac-
tice issues such as the process of solution focused coaching,
the coach–coachee relationship, and the role of technology.
The next chapter focuses on the inclusive coach who may
use techniques, interventions, models and theories drawn
from other approaches in a judicious manner. The last
chapter provides a range of solution focused coaching exer-
cises, which can be used in individual and group coaching as
well as training.
In this book we provide coachee case studies and
vignettes that include life, personal and work-related issues.
At the end of each chapter we have provided a number of
practice tips, discussion issues and suggested reading. In the
Appendices we have provided two solution focused coachee
worksheets and we have also listed, after the references,
useful web resources.
First and foremost, I wish to acknowledge the immense help
Moira, my wife, gives me in all that I do. I so appreciate and
value her input to this book and to our business and family.
Thanks also to Donnamarie, Katrina, Joanne and John who
support me so well. I have been fortunate in having so many
great colleagues who have helped to shape my thinking and
writing. I am indebted to the work of Steve de Shazer, Insoo
Kim Berg and Bill O’Hanlon and many other Solution
Focused writers and practitioners. Discovering the Solution
Focused community has been a life-changing event. I would
like to mention in particular Steve Conlon, Peter Creagh
and Garrath Ford, my colleagues in Focus on Solutions who
share their ideas so generously. My college’s motto was ‘to
teach is to learn,’ hence my thanks go to the many people
who have participated in my training courses over the years
and who have contributed greatly to the development of my
Solution Focused work.
Bill O’Connell
I thank my colleagues Bill O’Connell, Alasdair Macdonald
and Mark McKergow for their refl ections on solution
focused practice and on-going support over the past decade.
Routledge staff have supported my work since 1997, which is
much appreciated. Particular thanks go to Joanne Forshaw,
the Senior Editor whose on-going patience is remarkable
and Kate Moysen, Senior Production Editor who worked
with me on this book and others over the years.
Stephen Palmer
Acknowledgements
xx ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I would like to thank Stephen Palmer and Bill O’Connell for
the great opportunity to co-author this book with them,
which I hope will be of value to others. Thanks also to
Stephen for sharing his coaching experience and for
involving me in numerous coaching writing projects over
the past fi ve years. Special love and thanks to the Marsh,
Smith, Frost and Williams families, for all their kindness
and support over the years.
Helen Williams
1
What is coaching?
The modern-day practice of coaching has its origins in early
sports coaching, where the aim was to improve the perfor-
mance of top athletes. From around the 1970s these methods
began to be adapted for life and workplace coaching, with
the aim of improving perceived quality of life, motivation,
task performance and goal achievement; although somewhat
surprisingly, workplace performance coaching research can
be found in the academic literature as far back as the 1930s
(e.g. Gorby, 1937). In the past two decades coaching has
become increasingly popular and is now recognised as an
effective route to both personal and career development.
Whether the entirety of a person’s work as a coach, or as
a philosophy or style adopted in order to deliver other objec-
tives, such as managing people and teams, coaching takes
many forms. A number of defi nitions of coaching exist (see
Palmer and Whybrow, 2007), a selection of which include:
Unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own
performance. It is helping them to learn rather than
teaching them (Whitmore, 2002: 8)
The art of facilitating the performance, learning and
development of another (Downey, 1999: 15)
Collaborative, individualised, solution focused, results-
oriented, systemic and stretching: it fosters self-directed
learning (Grant, 2007: 25)
Solution focused, results-oriented systematic process in
which the coach facilitates the enhancement of work
2 SOLUTION FOCUSED COACHING IN PRACTICE
performance and the self-directed learning and personal
growth of the coachee (Grant, 2001: 8)
Solution focused coaching is an outcome-oriented, compe-
tence-based approach (O’Connell and Palmer, 2007: 278)
Coaching is in essence about facilitating others to help
themselves to attain a desired goal or future state. The
majority of coaching methods are non-directive, although
some acknowledge a place for more challenging, direct ques-
tioning within a non-directive framework.
What coaching is not
The eld of coaching shares its boundaries with other prac-
tices, and is perhaps most closely linked to the fi elds of coun-
selling, mentoring and training. For this reason, as well as
describing what coaching is, it may also be useful to describe
what coaching is not. Coaching is a facilitative approach
intended to help the individual achieve work and personal
life goals (Grant and Palmer, 2002), focusing on the growth
and development of psychologically well individuals (Peltier,
2001). Coaching is not a therapeutic approach for use with
individuals wishing to resolve clinical goals or pathological
conditions (Grant, 2001; Peltier, 2001), such as depression or
paranoia. Where it becomes apparent that the coachee’s
goals are of a clinical nature, it is appropriate and ethical for
the coach to refer the individual, for example to a psycholo-
gist or psychotherapist. The key differences between coun-
selling and coaching are summarised in Table 1.1 .
Mentoring is typically characterised by a more informal
relationship over longer periods of time, with greater
Table 1.1 Counselling and coaching
Counselling Coaching
Clinical goals Non-clinical goals
Delivered by a trained
counsellor or psychotherapist
Delivered by a trained coach/coaching
psychologist
Approach underpinned by a
medical model
Approach underpinned by a non-
medical, coaching model
WHAT IS COACHING? 3
emphasis on the transfer of knowledge, imparting of advice
and provision of opportunities for personal or career devel-
opment (Grant, 2001; Jarvis, 2004). By comparison, in
coaching the coachee is held responsible for their goals and
actions, while ‘the coach facilitates learning in the coachee’
(Grant, 2001: 7). The ultimate aim is for the coachee to
become self-suffi cient through internalisation of the
coaching tools and techniques. The key differences between
mentoring and coaching are summarised in Table 1.2 .
Training is commonplace in the workplace for both
acquisition of technical skills and development of behav-
ioural competencies. In terms of broader life goals, there are
a number of courses available covering numerous aspects of
personal development, such as assertiveness skills, time
management and presentation skills. Unlike coaching, the
intention in training is typically to transfer knowledge and
skills from the trainer to the training participant, and as
such training tends to be facilitator-centred, with one or two
trainers delivering the programme to a group of individuals.
The key differences between training and coaching are
summarised in Table 1.3 .
Table 1.2 Mentoring and coaching
Mentoring Coaching
Informal and directive Formal and non-directive
Non-specifi ed timeframe Specifi ed, contracted timeframe
Transfer of knowledge Progress towards coachee’s goals
Creation and/or provision of
opportunities for development
and career progression
Creation of a safe environment
for personal development or job
performance
Table 1.3 Training and coaching
Training Coaching
Directive Non-directive
Facilitator-centred Coachee-centred
Working to the trainer’s agenda Working to the coachee’s agenda
Transfer of knowledge and skills Progress towards coachee’s goals
and internalisation of coaching skills
4 SOLUTION FOCUSED COACHING IN PRACTICE
The coaching context
Coaching may take place for a variety of reasons and in a
variety of different contexts. An individual may engage a
coach to support them in personal development or life
coaching goals. An organisation may engage a coach to
work with an employee or number of employees on job
performance or organisationally driven goals. Coaching
might be established at the individual level for personal
development, at the group/team level for team develop-
ment or at the organisational level for the creation of a
coaching culture. The coaching context may also be
informed by the organisational level of the employee/s,
whether intended for call centre staff, the graduate
population, middle management, senior management and
the leadership team or the executive board. Box 1.1
provides a list of potential objectives for work place
coaching.
Box 1.1 Objectives of coaching
Acquisition of skills.
Improved performance on a task.
Transformation of the coachee’s life focus.
Enhanced self-awareness.
Enhanced self-confi dence, self-esteem and/or self-effi cacy.
Competency-based personal development.
Job transition and career development.
Improved team performance.
Cross-cultural awareness.
Who is the coach?
Coaching in organisations is typically delivered by external
or internal coaches, managers or members of the HR depart-
ment (CIPD, 2007). There are a variety of factors for consid-
eration in the selection of a coach (see Jarvis, 2004; Chapman,
2006):
WHAT IS COACHING? 5
Internal/external resources available and appropriate-
ness regarding issues of confi dentiality.
Coach qualifi cations, experience, membership of profes-
sional coaching bodies and testimonials.
Relevance of coaching methods offered for specifi ed
coaching goals.
Fit of interpersonal style to the coachee and organisa-
tional culture.
There is a wealth of literature describing the basic skills of
coaching (see Whitmore, 1992; Graham, Wedman and Garvin-
Kester, 1994; Alexander and Renshaw, 2005; Bresser and
Wilson, 2006), which typically include rapport building, ques-
tioning, listening and facilitation as well as session and
boundary management. A number of professional bodies
have been established around the practice of coaching
(see Williams and Palmer, 2009), many of which have devel-
oped standards frameworks and codes of practice, coach
competencies, guidelines for supervision and course recogni-
tion and accreditation processes (Jarvis, 2005; Wilson, 2006).
Box 1.2 provides a list of example coach competencies.
Box 1.2 Example coach competencies
Self-awareness, continued professional development and
supervision.
Working to ethical and professional standards.
Relationship building.
Effective communication.
Facilitation of learning and development.
Goal, outcome and action orientation.
Application of coaching knowledge, models and techniques.
Coaching evaluation.
For full details of coach competency frameworks see the
Association for Coaching (2005), International Coach
Federation (2008) and the European Mentoring and
Coaching Council (2009). Do note that these frameworks get
6 SOLUTION FOCUSED COACHING IN PRACTICE
updated and it is worth checking their websites for the most
recent versions. The United Kingdom also has National
Occupational Standards for Coaching and Mentoring.
As an individual coach, it can be an extremely valuable
process to refl ect on and map out your coaching model and
offering: What are your underlying values and philosophies
as a coach? What are your qualifi cations and experiences?
What coaching models, tools and techniques do you make
use of, and how do you link these together in your own inte-
grative coaching framework? What coaching methods sit
outside of your coaching offering? What is your interper-
sonal and coaching style? Which professional bodies are you
a member of and how do you demonstrate that you adhere to
their best practice guidelines and standards? Where are
your strengths and areas of development as a coach? This
clarity will enable you to communicate your coaching model
and offering to others, and to deliver coaching with your
own unique, authentic style.
We recommend taking a solution focused coaching
approach to this exercise. The remainder of this book will
detail the solution focused coaching approach in full. In
essence, the principles that apply here are:
Focus on you and your potential as a coach (your coaching
skills, experience, values and attitudes).
Clarify your hopes, goals and aspirations as a coach.
Consider how you might tap into your resources even
more in order to achieve these goals. Remember small
steps make a big difference.
Challenge any negative self-talk.
Focus on your preferred future as a coach, and consider
how you can do more of what works!
Clarify your immediate action plans and next steps.
Core coaching skills
Two core skills are widely recognised to provide the founda-
tions for effective coaching:
1 Questioning.
2 Listening.
WHAT IS COACHING? 7
There are a number of different types of questions effectively
used in coaching:
Open questions To encourage dialogue, e.g. what, where,
when, how, tell me more, describe . . .
Closed questions To refl ect back or facilitate a ‘yes’
response from the coachee, e.g. so what you are describing
is; and you would like to think differently on this issue?
Socratic questioning To challenge the evidence for nega-
tive or unhelpful thoughts, e.g. what is the evidence for/
against that belief; has there been a time when that wasn’t
the case; to what extent is holding this belief helpful to
you?
Scaling questions Used frequently in solution focused
coaching to rate the scale of the problem or level of confi -
dence in dealing with the problem, e.g. on a scale of one to
ten where one is not signifi cant, and ten is highly signifi -
cant, how would you rate this problem?
The art of listening is perhaps harder than it initially seems.
Often, when we think we are listening to the person speaking
to us, we are in fact only partially attending to them. We are
distracted by other sounds and sights, by other thoughts
in our heads (oh no, I forgot to pick up the dry cleaning;
we really need to be moving this coaching session to a close
. . .), by our presumptions about what the person is going to
say next or by our own answers to the question posed (surely
the next step is obvious . . .).
There are two forms of listening that are instrumental
in effective coaching:
1 Active listening.
2 Refl ective listening.
Active listening requires the coach to be fully present in the
moment, silently and non-judgementally listening to what
the person is saying and doing, and to what they are not
saying and doing. It is also about observing and acknow-
ledging their own reactions to the situation and the impact
this is having on the course of conversation.
Refl ective listening is where the coach refl ects back, or
mirrors, what the coachee has just said. This can be a very
8 SOLUTION FOCUSED COACHING IN PRACTICE
powerful way of making the person feel listened to, or of
demonstrating that you are listening and encouraging the
coachee to refl ect on or talk more about the topic raised.
You might choose to refl ect back the exact words that the
coachee has used, to summarise what the coachee has said,
or to use a metaphor that helps the coachee to view their
situation from a slightly different perspective (Palmer and
Burton, 1996).
The coach–client relationship
The coach–client relationship is a fundamental aspect of all
coaching engagements (O’Broin and Palmer, 2007; Palmer
and McDowall, 2010) and has been found to have signifi cant
impact upon likely success of coaching (Stober and Grant,
2006; Stober, Wildfl ower and Drake, 2006). It is the responsi-
bility of the coach to monitor the dynamics of the coaching
relationship, and to raise it as a point of discussion with the
coachee if it does not seem to be working. While initially
uncomfortable, this discussion may act as a catalyst to
removing the barriers within the relationship, or may lead
to the coach and coachee agreeing a more suitable solution
such as identifi cation of an alternative coach.
The scenario presented above on coaching relationship
dynamics is something that might usefully be raised in
supervision, to help you as the coach clarify the best way
forward. The value of supervision for coaches is increas-
ingly recognised, with the clear benefi ts of learning, devel-
opment and a place to discuss ethical issues or concerns
(McDougall, 2008).
Who is the client?
Clearly the client is the coachee who has contracted with the
coach and who is going to undertake the coaching assign-
ment. However, within organisational settings, this is often
less clear-cut. When coaching staff or executives, it is impor-
tant to clarify who your coaching contract is with. Triad
coach contract agreements are common, whereby you (the
coach) agree coaching objectives, coaching process, feedback
WHAT IS COACHING? 9
procedures and confi dentiality arrangements with both the
coachee and their manager and/or HR representative. This
will foster a climate in which the coachee is able to trust the
confi dentiality of the relationship, and/or be aware of its limi-
tations. It also ensures that pressure is not applied at a later
date on you (the coach) to share confi dential information.
The organisation representative also needs to be aware
that the coaching process may lead to outcomes that do or
do not align to the organisation’s goals, for example if the
coaching results in the coachee deciding for themselves that
the most appropriate solution for them sits outside of the
current organisation.
Key features of coaching
While a number of coaching approaches and models exist,
there seems to be a shared understanding of the ultimate
goals of:
1 Personal/team/organisational insight.
2 Progressive actionable change.
There also seems to be an underlying formal and structured
coaching process that provides the foundations for the
industry as a whole. This structure helps coachees to under-
stand what they might expect from coaching, focusing the
attention and motivation of both coach and coachee.
A typical coaching process has a beginning, middle and
end. The goals and objectives of the coaching are typically
agreed at the initial contracting meeting and reviewed at
the end of the process. While solution focused coaching does
not advocate prescribing the number of coaching sessions,
three to fi ve sessions may be found to be required on average.
If the manager is acting as coach, then he/she will need
to contract with the coachee/s how and when the coaching
will take place. For example, will these form separate meet-
ings or will the coaching approach be integrated more infor-
mally into regular meetings and performance reviews?
Coaching assignments are often agreed between the coach
and coachee, for the coachee to complete in-between
sessions.
10 SOLUTION FOCUSED COACHING IN PRACTICE
Theoretical approaches to coaching
Although this book is about solution focused coaching, we
thought it useful to give some consideration to the wider
coaching context. There are indeed a number of different
approaches to coaching, and the reason for this can be
understood in terms of the different philosophical and theo-
retical foundations from which they have grown. Perspectives
on human learning and development include behaviourist,
cognitive (both rationalist and constructivist), psychody-
namic, humanist, person-centred, ontological, gestalt,
systems theory, transactional analysis, neuro-linguistic
programming (NLP), transpersonal, existential, mindful-
ness, positive psychology and more – and from each perspec-
tive comes a considered and useful coaching approach!
While some approaches are quite distinct, others might
be viewed as having a great deal in common. Proponents of
each approach have, over time, developed their own sets of
models, tools and techniques. Approaches that take into
consideration both behavioural (practical) and cognitive or
emotional (psychological) aspects of a situation have been
described as ‘multimodal’ approaches (Lazarus, 1984; 1989),
as well as ‘dual systems’ approaches i.e. practical and
psychological (Neenan and Dryden, 2002; Palmer and
Szymanska, 2007).
Solution focused coaching in its purest form has been
described as taking a minimalist approach to theory and
concepts, directing attention to what is already working in
the coachee’s life (O’Connell and Palmer, 2007). Increasingly,
however, many coaches are considering an inclusive
approach, with the integration of theoretical perspectives
and blending of coaching approaches (O’Connell, 2005) for
practical, effi cient, client-centred coaching solutions. In
Chapter Eight we consider the inclusive approach to solu-
tion focused coaching in more detail.
For more information on the range of theoretical
approaches to coaching see Peltier (2001) The Psychology of
Executive Coaching ; Stober and Grant (Eds) (2006) Evidence
Based Coaching Handbook ; Passmore (Ed.) (2006) Excellence
in Coaching ; Palmer and Whybrow (Eds) (2007) Handbook of
WHAT IS COACHING? 11
Coaching Psychology ; and Cox, Bachkirova and Clutterbuck
(Eds) (2010) The Complete Handbook of Coaching .
The value of coaching
There is a growing body of academic research with fi ndings
in support of the value and effectiveness of coaching (see
Kampa-Kokesch and Anderson, 2001; Grant, 2006b; Passmore
and Gibbes, 2007). The Association for Coaching published a
survey reporting benefi ts to the individual including
improved managerial skills, enhanced motivation and
improved work–life balance (AC, 2004). Benefi ts at the team
and organisational level have been found to include increased
team working and leadership skills, improved performance
and reduction of workplace stress (Gonzalez, 2004; Gyllensten
and Palmer, 2005; Cortvriend, Harris and Alexander, 2008).
Managing change through coaching
Whether at the individual, team or organisational level,
coaching is a fundamental tool in the facilitation of change.
The coaching process affords the individual or group of indi-
viduals an opportunity to heighten awareness of self, others
and the environment. Awareness facilitates choice, and the
act of choosing enhances perceived control and subsequent
levels of engagement and commitment to the process of
change.
Practice tips
Refl ect on your coaching practice:
In which coaching contexts do you provide coaching?
What, if any, theoretical framework do you model your
coaching on?
How do you describe coaching to others?
What coaching do you provide?
What coaching do you not provide?
Consider a solution focused approach to your own
continued professional development (CPD) as a coach:
12 SOLUTION FOCUSED COACHING IN PRACTICE
What are your coach competencies?
Where are your strengths?
How might you develop your coaching practice by
doing something different?
Establish clear contracts around confi dentiality and feed-
back processes.
Discussion points
Do you believe there are really differences between
coaching and mentoring?
In your opinion, what are the key features of coaching?
What are your concerns, if any, about coaching staff
within organisations?
Can a manager be a coach?
Suggested reading
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Palmer , S. and McDowall , A. ( 2010 ) The Coaching Relationship:
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Palmer , S. and Panchal , S. ( 2011 ) Developmental Coaching: Life
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Palmer , S. and Whybrow , A. (Eds) ( 2007 ) Handbook of Coaching
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Palmer , S. , Grant , A. and O’Connell , B. ( 2007 ) Solution focused
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Peltier , B. ( 2010 ) The Psychology of Executive Coaching: Theory and
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Stober , D.R. and Grant , A.M. (Eds) ( 2006 ) Evidence Based Coaching
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... In contrast, coaches with a deep rootedness in strength-based approaches tend to focus on nurturing clients' positive skills and qualities. Consequently, and in line with the premises of positive psychology they tend to use questioning techniques that activate existing resources and prioritize solution building over problem solving (i.e., solution-focused questioning techniques; O'Connell et al., 2013). These questions can for instance be focused on exploring previous solutions ("Can you think of a time when you managed a similar problem well? ...
... Real-life coaching often uses a blend of solution-and problem-focused techniques (Grant, 2012) but since we are interested in the effects of specific coaching questions, we separate them in our study design. (O'Connell et al., 2013) rather than focusing predominantly on the problem and its origin. In practice, the problem that has brought the client to coaching in the first place will almost always be the starting point of any coach conversation and as such, problem-focused approaches play an important role especially at the beginning of the coaching process. ...
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... SFCB coaching can be defined as an approach to coaching that is primarily focused on the development of personal strengths and on defining and attaining practical solutions to problems rather than analyzing the nature or etiology of the presenting problem (Grant, 2017;O'Connell and Palmer, 2019). Drawing on cognitive-behavioral theory, this approach to coaching posits that goal attainment is best facilitated by helping people understand the reciprocal relationships between the environment and their thoughts, feelings and behavior and finding ways of structuring these to best support goal attainment (Grant et al., 2010). ...
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... Instead, individuals identify achievements, uncover resources and commit themselves to small goal-focused action-steps (Warner, 2013). SF approaches are much more than 'positive thinking' (O'Connell et al., 2012). ...
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Research suggests that mental contrasting with implementation intentions (MCII) enhances commitment and goal attainment. However, most studies have used limited comparison conditions. The present study compared MCII against two other potentially effective approaches: autonomous planning (AP), and solution-focused planning (SFP). It was thought that condition would have an indirect effect on goal progress by affecting commitment. However, goal attainment expectancy was hypothesised to be a moderator such that MCII has positive effects when expectancy is high but negative effects when expectancy is low. Ninety-eight female students were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: 1) MCII, 2) AP, or 3) SFP. All students initially set themselves a goal for the coming week regarding personal projects. Mean commitment and goal progress were marginally higher in the MCII condition than in the AP and SFP conditions but the differences were not statistically significant and (as predicted) much smaller than in previous research. Expectancy did not appear to have a moderating effect. The apparent benefits of MCII were larger relative to AP than to SFP. Results suggest that MCII may sometimes be no more effective than other approaches to goal-setting and planning, particularly if they are evidence-based and carefully-designed. Implications for schools are addressed.
... Widely prescribed as an antidote to dichotomous thinking, scaling is thought to minimise the impact of adverse events whilst maintaining or raising hope and motivation (e.g. Freeman and Davis 1990;O'Connell et al. 2012;Blundo and Simon 2016). However, such views appear to have been formed in the absence of evidence. ...
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Chapter
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Chapter
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Chapter
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Chapter
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This book will enable anyone to assess their own level of stress and reconsider their behaviour and health, with valuable tips on time management, exercise, nutrition and relaxation. CONTENTS: Introduction -- What is stress? -- A working model of stress -- Changing your thinking -- Changing your imagery -- Changing your behaviour -- Improving your physical health to help you conquer stress -- Dealing with work-related stress -- Stress self-audit -- Developing your own action plan.
Chapter
The coach–client relationship is a fundamental factor in every coaching contract. In recent moves towards creating a conceptual Contextual Meta-model for Coaching, and in seeking to ask the question ‘What are the common themes that are effective in coaching and within what context’, Stober and Grant (2006) propose seven thematic factors. Two of these themes directly relate to the coach–client relationship, attesting to its imputed critical importance within the coaching process: • a meaningful relationship where the client believes that the coach will work in the client’s best interest • the coach’s role within a collaborative working alliance is to enhance the client’s development, performance or skill set, while appropriately pacing the intervention to both maintain challenge and facilitate change. Surprisingly, despite its putative contribution to coaching outcome, little research literature exists specifically on the coach–client relationship at a detailed level of investigation (see O’Broin and Palmer, 2006a). Conceptual coaching approaches construe the coach–client relationship differently, however few if any argue against the importance of a good working relationship between client and coach as an absolute minimum requirement. A working definition of the coach–client relationship that reflects the approach taken within this chapter is as follows: a unique, co-created, evolving relationship comprising the coaching alliance plus additional client and coach contributions.
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The word 'stress' is derived originally from stringere, a Latin word meaning 'to squeeze or press'. which was also used in the past to denote hardship.
Chapter
The solution-focused, problem-solving approach provides tangible, goal-focused models for effective coaching within family businesses. In the family business context, coachees often choose to focus initially on business issues such as business strategy and challenges, organizational structure and understanding the market, as opposed to more personal developmental issues. In a family business setting it is often the case that the system of interest is the soft system, and the components of interest are the interpersonal relationships that make up the formal and informal business structure. Solution focused frameworks such as the PRACTICE model provide a credible and effective start point for coaching conversations within the family business setting. Stress Mapping and the ABCDEF model may be usefully combined with PRACTICE to facilitate a more in-depth and personally focused discussion addressing cognitive, emotional, and/or behavioural blocks if and when required by the coachee.
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This article discusses the development of goal setting theory through induction. The processes such as formulating concepts and definitions, measurement issues, data gathering, data integration and presentation, identifying moderators and mediators, resolving contradictions, noting issues in application, expansions and extensions, and the role of induction in deduction are explained. A multi-decade effort that involves these processes led to a useful theory that has withstood the test of time.