SF tip #1: How to use SF without being annoying/deluded/Pollyanna-ish?

We’re starting to publish monthly tips about using SF ideas at work. You can subscribe to get these by email using the sign-up box on the right.   The first top is abvout using SF ideas in everyday conversation – without being annoying! 

People who are learning SF are fascinated by the way in which the Solutions Focus tools help to shift the focus on a conversation quickly onto ‘what do we want’ and ‘what’s working’.  As you’re starting to discover, this can quickly lead to more productive conversations, more engaged people and small steps to make progress right away.

Once upon a time (nearly 20 years ago now) I was learning SF for the first time and started to try to inject it into my beginner coaching work with managers.  Time and again I would ask a ‘positive’ question like “When does the problem not happen?” or “When are things better than usual?”  People would look at me like I was crazy, before continuing to tell me quite how severe the situation was!  So, not the impact I was hoping for. I then figured out HOW to use these questions in ways which really made an impact.

Some of you may also be thinking “But won’t I just sound like a ludicrously positive person?  Might I sound deluded?  Or even start behaving like (dramatic pause) an… American?”  The good news is that if you’re thinking like that, your are already showing good signs of the sensitivity needed to do SF really well.  We want you to come across as skilful, caring and perceptive when you use OSKAR in action.

  • 1.  DON’T do it all the time.  Wait for a challenging situation to come along – one that’s really worth your attention and effort.
  • 2.  Signal that you’re shifting into a coaching type conversation – say something like “So, it sounds like this is a tough situation… Would you like to take a few moments to think about it in a focused way to see if we can figure out what might help here?”
  • 3.  Start by asking the other person to summarise what they want – in a sentence – and then go from there, using whatever SF tools you like – a scale perhaps, a Future Perfect, or even what’s helping already.

This way you will be having a focused conversation, and will also have suggested to the other person / people that this is a special conversation which is worth giving attention and effort.  The exception to this is Affirm – try slipping this in wherever you feel you can, and see what happens.

Please send in ideas for future tips – we’re very much up for suggestions and conversation.  Email Mark McKergow himself at mark@sfwork.com

6 responses

  1. Hi Mark. Great initiative and love the tips. Ran a coach training program in Adelaide today and the question of sounding “too positive” was raised. I’ll be ready to answer those question sin the future! REgards Grant

  2. Great to see this link in my email this morning. Very good advice Mark – I would second all that (except the bit about “Americans” A bit naughty that Mark, where would be in SFBT without a particular American, now? It made me laugh to think what would the opposite be? “Try not to sound British – put a bit of emotion in your voice” .
    I would add that non-verbals are crucial when using SF. I spend a while on this when training staff who will work with people with chronic and long-standing difficulties especially. When searching for strengths and exceptions, keeping the voice as serious as if searching for deficits and keeping the look one of “curiosity” – extending the “not knowing” to the face as well as the approach.
    Hope you’re well. Kind regards, Eileen

  3. Good post Mark.
    Like any tool that works when we are fist learning the eagerness to try it in many situations happens. Then through time and practice the nuanced learning happens.
    In order for people to gain the wisdom that comes from experience they should ask and mess up and fail. Learning from mistakes and determining what worked in that scenario and what did not work as well as I would have liked is a step towards mastery. Even experienced SF people may use the tools in a weird way.

  4. This is incredibly helpful Mark. I’ve just been running a coaching programme in an organisation where using a coaching approach is a real culture change so these three tips are great for ‘easing’ people into a SF frame of mind. I love the idea of asking someome to sumarise in one sentence what they want – sounds really obvious but new coaches (and even experienced ones!) sometimes forget to do it. Thanks!

  5. Don Ledbetter | Reply

    Mark is correct, we engender trust and understanding when we inform others (in advance) that we are changing or shifting our conversation. The advanve notification minimizes others confusion and move the conversation in the direction of the desired solution.

  6. […] A previous tip gave guidance on how to avoid sounding “Pollyanna-ish” and a bit naïve. In addition to this we would add the following. […]

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