The Solution Does Not Care Why the Problem Occurred1

The Solution Does Not Care Why the Problem Occurred

This is a provocative statement by authors Peter Szabo', Daniel Meier, and Kirsten Dierolf in the highly recommended book, Coaching Plain & Simple: Solution-focused Brief Coaching Essentials. The authors compare coaching to a flashlight—what we direct the beam toward becomes visible in the dark. Often, clients direct their flashlight toward a problem. Similarly, in a 360, interviewees are quick to point their flashlight on a client's weaknesses or problems.

So, what do we do?

Like solution-focused coaching, using a solution-focused approach can change the entire experience of a 360. Interviewees often expect that if they share a problem or client weakness, the client will understand and move toward a solution. However, it usually results in an adverse reaction by the client, confusion about how to solve the problem, and lack of reinforcement when they try potential solutions.

Weaknesses might be insightful, interesting or informative...but are insufficient for change.

This is why we never ask about weaknesses in the Shift Positive 360®. Instead, we patiently work with each interviewee to identify what greater success would look like. This distinction of what the interviewee wants rather than what is wrong is very important. When they can clearly identify what success looks like it is far more helpful for the client and more likely to be seen and reinforced by the interviewee.

Where will you point the flashlight?

By bringing a solution-focused approach to the 360 experience, we can avoid getting lost in the dark. We can point the flashlight on potential solutions and increase the client's opportunity for success.

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  1. Dierolf, K., Meier, D., Szabo, P. (2009). Coaching plain & simple: Solution-focused brief coaching essentials. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.