News report about our coaching work in the NHS

The sfwork team have been working with Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust (AWP) for just under a year now.  The new issue of Coaching At Work features a news item written by the editor about this work, with comments from Justine Faulkner, deputy director of HR.  You can read the article on the CaW website at

The text of the article runs:

Avon calls on solution-focused coaching to restore confidence

Describes a coaching initiative at Avon & Wiltshire Mental Health Partnerships NHS Trust which is boosting managers’ performance and confidence.

Liz Hall

Avon & Wiltshire Mental Health Partnerships NHS Trust is boosting managers’ confidence and performance with solution-focused coaching (SFC).

In November 2006, the trust restructured its services, moving away from a structure based on locality to one based on care groups such as child and adolescent mental health. The restructure meant people were being managed in units which were geographically dispersed- the trust covers an area from Swindon to Bristol- and confidence and performance suffered as a result.

“Natural relationships weren’t really happening and managers were getting less confident. We introduced solution-focused coaching among other things to help managers feel more confident and connected with colleagues,” said Justine Faulkner, a deputy director of HR- learning and development at Avon & Wiltshire Mental Health Partnerships NHS Trust.

In April 2008, the trust teamed up with sfwork to run SFC workshops for managers. It has run six cohorts of 14 so far. “The impact has been far greater than we’d expected -we’re getting very positive responses. It does seem to have taken hold and is improving managers’ confidence and performance,” said Faulkner.

SFC is a good fit for the trust as many of its managers have used solution-focused therapy in their work with service users, including Faulkner. Its emphasis on the positive is also working wonders. “It might be a public sector thing- we get into habits of talking negatively about what we do. We have a very deficit-focused approach to problem-solving and SFC turns it on its head and is very action-focused, enabling people to take very small positive steps,” said Faulkner.

She gave the example of the head of physiotherapy who had been working closely with partners including Bristol City Council to deliver the Active Life project, a scheme aimed at engaging people with mental health issues. Since the coaching, the scheme has “become exponentially successful”, winning national awards and attracting board level interest, said Faulkner.

She said the SFC approach is rippling out beyond the actual coaching by managers. At a recent conference for some 150 managers to look at the trust’s business plan, although only some of the managers had been through the sfwork programme, an SFC approach was taken and lots of positive actions identified.

The trust is now looking at developing a team-based SFC framework which would initially be rolled out in team building events.

Published 9 February 2009


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