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Solution-Oriented Coaching, or the Lost Art of Effective Conversations

After spending more than a decade in different managerial roles and learning various aspects of the job, I came to the conclusion that as a manager, conversations are the ultimate tools of the trade. They enable you to direct, motivate, and engage people, and to pull information from the environment.

I realized at some point that many managers, myself included, were too reliant on gut feelings during decision making, or were biased in searching for problems to solve in teams or in people—and therefore self-prophesying problems—which was not always constructive. I was able to track down this behavior to a simple lack of rigor and effectiveness when conducting conversations.

It’s amazing how many companies do not train their managers, or when they do, train them poorly on how to conduct a conversation effectively so that it will lead to results. So I started looking for better solutions to making my direct reports accountable for their work, giving direction and motivation, and supporting them along the way, specifically via conversations.

On that journey, I stumbled upon a therapy framework called Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, or SFBT for short, and it has changed the way I interact with people at work so much that I decided to write this article so I could share my experience.

This article is the culmination of my personal journey with SFBT over the past three years. It covers the basics of SFBT, how I’ve used it in the workplace, and the some limitations I’ve encountered. The article concludes with a long list of resources, many of which are free, to help you dive further into SFBT.

For the rest of this article, I will refer to SFBT applied to coaching and management as Solution-Focused Coaching, to make it clear that I do not want to go into the realm of therapy, given that I am neither trained or medically licensed for it, and that providing therapy is not my role as a peer or manager in a workplace environment.

Finally before jumping into the topic, I want to clarify that almost the entirety of the ideas presented in this article are not mine. They come from various therapists and clinicians who practiced and honed those techniques and shared about their findings in books and articles. I do not claim to take credit for any of those ideas, my main contribution here is that I am trying to bridge the usage of those techniques from a therapeutic setup into a workplace setup, and I am also sharing my personal experiences and findings in doing so.

The field of SFBT is gigantic, and in this article I will only be able to cover the surface. My goal is not that by the end you would be fully trained, but rather, that you would see the benefits for yourself to use those techniques, and that it would motivate you to spend more time on learning SFBT. So in short, this article is my attempt at selling you to the benefits of SFBT.

How Did I Get Here?

For a long time as a manager, I wanted to improve my coaching skills and improve on how to motivate people to do their best work.

I went over a lot of content, and after some time I became annoyed with how ineffective and not helpful most of it was.

This takes the form of articles, books, frameworks, TED talks, and so on, which are basically junk food in the form of information. Don’t get me wrong on this, there is nothing wrong with French fries, as long as you eat them only once in a while and it’s not the only thing you eat. The same thing can be said of the information you expose yourself to.

There is not a lot of money in nonfiction books for most authors, but there is a ton of money to be made in consulting fees. This is why most leadership content is usually written as a teaser for a paid product or as a way to generate sales leads for consulting services. It is designed to make you feel good at the moment and push you to buy that other product or service, and generally it won’t be nearly enough to upskill you.

I went down this alley for a while and initially felt good about the content, but eventually I got quite frustrated by the ineffectiveness of most of it. Then by chance, I worked with a leadership coach who happened to be a licensed family therapist, and I wrote about this experience in another article. He is the one who introduced me to SFBT, and through it, changed my approach to coaching and to managing.

What I immediately liked about the SFBT framework is that it is pragmatic and battle-tested. It leads to better conversations, better working relationships, and being more effective via more critical and fact-based thinking.

I’ve used it myself for the past three years in a workplace environment, and I can vouch for it. I wrote the first draft of this article in May 2021, and I waited two years to publish it. Why did that do that? Because I wanted to test those ideas over time and have others try them too, as a way to validate the value of SFBT in the workplace, and only then I could feel confident about writing about it and trying to convince others.

In the meantime, I also presented ideas from this article to a group of directors at my full-time job, and their feedback has been fairly positive. Some of them even reported having reached breakthroughs in situations which they deemed lost with direct reports who you could categorize as difficult characters.

Based on my own experience and the feedback of others around me who have used SFBT in the workplace, I am now certain about sharing this article, because I can guarantee that it will be a good use of your time.

What are the benefits for you?

I’ve had the great chance to travel to Japan several times. I love spending time there, as the culture and ways of thinking, along with the people I’ve met, have broadened my horizons so much.

One thing caught my attention as I was learning about the architecture of ancient Buddhist and Shinto temples: many of them were built without a single nail or screw. The Japanese carpenters, known as miyadaiku, perfected the art of carving beams of wood in such a way that they could be assembled to fit seamlessly even in large structures.

Learning how to use SFBT has a lot in common with ancient Japanese carpentry. With SFBT, you will learn how to carve conversations as a foundational skill which will help you create a work environment along with working relationships that will be effective and long-lasting.

Take a step back for a second. What’s the main function of managers? To me, it is to create a vision for their people and organizations and ensure the full delivery of that vision. This implies that managers ensure their teams understand the “why” behind goals and feel ownership for it, and follow up to ensure they do what’s expected, which is done using dialogue and conversations.

And note that here I am using the term manager in a way that doesn’t imply having direct reports. For example, I consider staff engineers and senior architects to also be managers, because they are domain experts and need to lead changes and deliver outcomes within their scopes. It’s just that managers with direct reports can get things done by setting goals and doing performance management, while managers of domain expertise have to rely more on influencing and convincing to get things done.

So how does applying solution-focused coaching help you with performing at your best in your role as a manager?

First, it will add pragmatic tools to your managerial arsenal. You will be more effective at coaching and at managing your direct reports, peers, and colleagues. It will provide you with techniques to unblock situations in people not delivering their tasks and projects, in people’s personal development, in conflicts and politics, and in many more situations.

Second, it will increase the psychological safety that others have in you, because solution-focused coaching will help you in being clear and fair so people know what to expect from you. In addition, it will help you show to others around you that you are willing to listen and support.

Third, it will increase the sense of cooperation in others. As a manager, in the end what you want is to maximize cooperation and minimize resistance. The conversational tools of SFBT are set in such a way that you make people take ownership of their topics. This naturally increases motivation and cooperation, and therefore it applies to solution-focused coaching.

Finally, it will simplify your work and your scopes, because once you will have learned the techniques and know how to set up the right conversational foundations, the rest of your time will be spent simply setting direction and course-correcting with your orgs and your people. It will save you time, so you can focus on strategy and longer time horizons.

Conversations are a manager’s most important tool, and yet I never stumbled upon a single organization that trains its managers in how to properly lead a conversation. This is an overlooked skill gap for many managers, and solution-oriented coaching is a way to increase awareness and improve on it. It is not a silver bullet, it’s only another tool in the box, but I do consider it to be a super tool.

How much effort will it require?

Don’t expect miracles. You have to invest time and effort, it will require perseverance in learning those techniques, and you will have to try those ideas in practice, you will have setbacks and disappointments, and you will have to try again.

In terms of timeline expectations. You will find immediate benefits after 2-3 hours of reading about the core ideas and after trying some of those ideas in practice during 5-8 sessions with direct reports or peers. From my personal experience, I can also tell you that if you hang in there, things get significantly better after just one year of keeping those ideas in mind.

Specialists trained in this field are required to take 150-300 hours of classwork and practice over the course of three to four years, so if you fall in love with the topic, you can also decide to go very deep.

What is SFBT?

SFBT, or Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, is a method developed by therapists in the early 1980s in Milwaukee, Winsconsin. It was mainly driven by Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg, based on work of previous successful therapists, such as Milton Erickson and many others.

They were dealing with clients who had serious life problems, and SFBT has been proven effective in a wide spectrum of situations, from mild to extreme: from regular couple therapy or looking for purpose in life, all the way to violent behaviors, substance misuse, trauma, abuse, and depression.

SFBT was developed empirically: they reviewed thousands of hours of live and recorded sessions, and took notes of what worked and what was effective. It consists of two things: a framework for conducting meetings with clients, and a set of tenets and questions that therapists use as conversational tools to help the clients make progress.

Be careful to notice that here, the word “solution” has a special meaning: it opposes Brief therapy to traditional Freudian therapy. Brief therapy is all about finding alternatives to the problem. It’s not identifying and eliminating the problem, but by finding solutions, the problem reduces and/or goes away.

Wait, is SFBT just another fluffy coaching framework?

Solution-focused brief therapy has been thoroughly researched and is evidence-based, see below an excerpt from the SFBT Wikipedia page.

SFBT has been examined in two meta-analyses and is supported as evidenced-based by numerous U.S. federal and state agencies and institutions. To briefly summarize:

  • There have been 77 empirical studies on the effectiveness of SFBT.
  • There have been 2 meta-analyses (Kim, 2008; Stams, et al, 2006), 2 systematic reviews.
  • There is a combined effectiveness data from over 2800 cases.

The meta-analyses and systematic reviews concluded that solution-focused brief therapy is an effective approach to the treatment of psychological problems.

The effects of SFBT are of the same size as other evidence-based approaches such as CBT and IPT, with the advantage that SFBT requires fewer sessions on average, and requires a simpler approach.

There are institutes who offer certifications, which based on the targeted level will require anywhere from 150 hours to 450 hours mixing theory and practice. So good news if you end up finding a passion in SFBT, there is room to go very deep into it!

The Eight Tenets of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy

Steve de Shazer, co-creators of SFBT, puts the main tenets of SFBT as:

  1. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
  2. Once you know what works, do more of it.
  3. If it doesn’t work, don’t do it again. Do something different.
  4. Small steps can lead to big changes.
  5. The solution is not necessarily related to the problem.
  6. The language for solution development is different from that needed to describe a problem.
  7. No problem happens all the time; there are always exceptions that can be utilized.
  8. The future is both created and negotiable.

I keep those tenets in mind when I have conversations with direct reports. They will act as first principles and help me make quick decisions on where to take the conversation next.

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The SFBT Questions In a Workplace Context

In addition to the main tenets, the other side of SFBT are four questions, or more precisely, four categories of questions, which go as follows:

  1. Exception questions / Identifying resources and what works
  2. Scaling questions
  3. Coping questions
  4. Miracle questions / Future pulls / Preferred futures

The exception, scaling, and coping questions are clarifying categories. They’re meant at minimizing the odds of making assumptions, and aim at being specific about the facts of what worked and what didn’t. The miracle question is an orientation question, meant to open up potentials and possibilities. Those questions are not random: they are the result of hours and hours of observations, thus they come from a form of empirical study on what works and what doesn’t during a therapeutic context.

In the following subsections, I will give more examples about these categories of questions and how to use them. In SFBT, the choice of words matter, however, you should not aim at asking questions word-for-word as they appear in books. Instead, you should do your best to understand the spirit and intent behind a category of questions, and go with the flow and your own words as long as you stick to the spirit of the inquiry you’re doing with someone.

1. Exception questions

Exception questions are meant to help identify potential solutions by looking at what has worked or helped in similar situations.

  • Are there times when this has been less of a problem?
  • Are there moments in the past when the opposite happened, and everything went smoothly?

And below are some questions that I’ve developed, using the exception questions as a starting point, but adapting them to a more workplace context. These are questions you’d ask one of your direct report:

  • How have you and the team managed to get so many of the backlog tasks and projects done? What do you think contributed to those achievements? What can be done for the team to achieve even more of those?
  • When you worked on task A, you finished it very quickly and with high quality. Now if we look at task B, that took longer, and the result was not as shiny. What can be done to apply more of your success in the tasks of type A towards the tasks of type B?

And once the direct report comes up with a few examples, you would follow up with more questions to help him identify what precisely in those examples and exceptions has worked and could be reused to solve the problem he’s facing today. Something along the lines of:

  • What exactly made it less of a problem during those times?
  • What do you think made it so that in the examples you just gave me, the outcome was successful?

2. Scaling questions

Scaling questions are useful to assess progress towards a goal, and figure out how to keep someone on track with making progress. A natural follow-up to a scaling question is to ask a “small next step” question to identify what can be done to maintain progress.

The scaling question ties deep into the tenets of SFBT because it’s about moving towards positive outcomes, instead of focusing on why things are wrong and how to get away from the problem. Moving towards a positive outcome is more motivating than trying to escape a problem.

Some examples of scaling questions are:

  • From 0 to 10, with 0 being lower and 10 being highest, how would you rate your motivation on this project?
  • What score would you rate your motivation when you started the project?
  • What can explain why the score has been going down over time? (or up)
  • What would be a small thing you could do to increase the rating by a mere 0.5? What would take the situation and how you perceive it from a 4 to a 4.5?

3. Coping questions

Coping questions are useful to help someone remember that they have overcome many challenging situations in the past and that they have resources and resilience in them.

Coping questions are particularly useful when someone comes to a session or one-on-one and says he has made no progress on their goal, or seems demotivated. Making the person realize that things could be worse, but aren’t, is a good way to re-engage him and get him back in the saddle.

  • How did you manage to keep going despite everything going wrong?
  • How did you manage to prevent things from getting even worse?

Below are more examples that I took from the book Solution Focused Brief Therapy: 100 Key Points and Techniques. These are based on a context of therapy, but I’m including them here because they are useful examples of how to bend the phrasing of the coping question type. You can easily tweak them to use them in a workplace context:

  • How have you managed to keep going while suffering depression for so long?
  • How did you manage to cope with divorce on top of your depression?
  • What did your employer see in you that led them to give you such a responsible job?
  • How on earth did you overcome your alcoholism when you were in such dire straits?
  • How did you overcome your drug addiction?
  • Where did you find the confidence to speak to her let alone ask her out?
  • How did she know that behind the sad façade was a man worth marrying?

4. Miracle questions / Future pulls / Preferred futures

This category of questions is meant to help someone visualize a future in which his problem is gone. The typical miracle question would be something like this:

  • Imagine that you wake up tomorrow, and by some miracle, the problem you have has disappeared. But because it’s a miracle, you don’t know it yet. How would you discover it’s gone away?

And here are some examples of questions that I’ve developed, based on the core idea of the miracle questions, but aimed at being useful in a workplace context with a direct report:

  • Let’s imagine we are having our end-of-year performance conversation, and project X would have been entirely solved.
  • What is it in your work relationship with person X that you want to change? Three months from now, what would have changed when you come to a meeting with this person that would be a clear sign that something has changed?

And then based on the description that the direct report would provide, I would follow up by diving into the details to make things as specific as possible. The goal of those follow-ups is to make the person come up with at least one small step action or behavior that leads to a solution. 

Here are some follow-ups I’ve used:

  • How would the people in your team know that it is the case?
  • How would you know that something has changed?
  • How would you be aware that something is different?
  • How would others around you notice?
  • If a third person was in that meeting with you, what would this person notice?

Notice that those follow-ups include a mix of asking the person how he would notice, which is an internal standpoint, and also asking how others would notice, which is an external standpoint. It’s a simple trick, but it sometimes helps someone come up with more specific signs and next steps.

From there, you want to dig deeper and deeper with as many follow-ups as you need:

  • What else?
  • What other things would they notice?
  • And after they notice that, what would they say or do?
  • And once they do that, how will you react to it?

Finally, another great application of the miracle questions is when you get a new direct report and you feel that the person is a bit shy or a bit afraid to open up, as the working relationship and trust haven’t been solidly established yet.

In such situations, you can use the miracle question approach to have this direct report come up with a broad vision of what he wants to accomplish for his scope and job role. And because he’s the one who came up with this vision, you get commitment from him even though trust is still low.

Avoid “why” questions

You will probably have noticed that none of typical SFBT style questions include the word “why,” and there is a reason for this.

Why questions can feel judgmental or confrontational for the person you direct it to, and can turn them defensive and uncooperative, which is the opposite of what you want. For example as a manager of a team leader who’s team is not doing great, if you asked the team leader “why is your team not performing well?” he might think “is my manager asking about the root cause, or is he insinuating that I have a full responsibility and saying that I’m not able to do my job?”

On the contrary, if you had asked “what happened with the team that made it not perform well?” this takes away the focus from the person you asked the question to, and it puts it on the team, its environment, and the factors that caused the underperformance. It is a more cooperative and constructive conversation.

In addition, using what, who, when, and how over why questions will also keep the conversation more open, and will increase the chance of getting answers that are more specific and less general. 

Example of a solution-oriented conversation in the workplace

Below is an example of a conversation I’ve had with a senior engineer. I’ve embellished the dialogue so it would be succinct yet realistic.

MANAGER: When you think about your work from July until September, how would you rate yourself on the behavioral expectations for senior engineers at the company, let’s say, from 0 to 10? With 0 being everything is going wrong, and 10 being everything is awesome.

SENIOR ENGINEER: I would say something like a 7.

MANAGER: Wow, 7 is pretty good already. And I agree with you, I also see it in this area. Okay, so now, what would make it an 8?

SENIOR ENGINEER: Hmmm, I don’t know.

MANAGER: No need to think too broad. What would be a small thing or small step that can take what is this 7 today into an 8?

The senior engineer thinks without talking for about 10 seconds, while the manager stays silent and resists the urge to say something.

SENIOR ENGINEER: Oh I see. Hmmm, I guess I could be more involved in helping the junior engineers grow their skills.

MANAGER: That’s a good observation. And how would you start doing that?

SENIOR ENGINEER: For instance, I would spend time reviewing the code of the two junior engineers on the team, and then sit with them individually to explain what they could do differently to make their code even better.

MANAGER: I think it’s a great idea, let’s make it happen. So, what is one thing you could do over the coming two weeks to make progress on this?

SENIOR ENGINEER: I will book time in my calendar to make sure this happens, and will follow through. I will also give a heads up to the two trainees to let them know I’ll be doing that so that they know I mean well and they’re not taken by surprise.

Great success! The senior engineer identified things he could take to contribute further to the team, along with steps on how to concretely make progress on that and directly contribute to his own personal development. Everybody rides into the sunset.

Of course in real life, this senior engineer did not not come up with all these things by himself. I had to dig deeper and ask intermediate questions to help him come to a set of realistic and feasible next steps. In similar conversations with other direct reports, it took me more than one session to unblock things, and it’s perfectly fine as long as there is progress made along the way.

I’ve also found that I sometimes had to give part of the solution to a direct report to create momentum. If you ever find yourself in such a situation, then I recommend that you be careful with giving solutions, because it reduces commitment from the direct report, and opens up the risk for the direct report possibly blaming you if things go wrong.

Once a solution has been picked by the direct report, and a commitment is established, then I use the next one-on-one conversations to check how things are going. In the example of this senior engineer, in future conversations I would ask the engineer to rate his progress on the same 0-10 scale. If the number he gives me is lower or equal to the previous meeting, then I can guide him and troubleshoot to overcome those obstacles.

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The Limitations of Solution-Focused Coaching in The Workplace

Now that I’ve presented the foundation of solution-focused coaching, with both the tenets and the questions, let’s jump into how to apply them into the context of management.

Coaching is not always the best option

I’ve found that there is a limit as to how much gentle guidance I can provide to a direct report, whether it’s about using solution-focused coaching or any other coaching approach. As a manager, you can use a coaching tool to support your direct reports, however, you’re still their manager and not their coach.

Andy Grove wrote it better than anyone else in his classic High-Output Management: as a manager, you’re the judge and the jury. You are the one who says when your direct report doesn’t meet the expectations for their job and when that direct report underperforms.

The needs of the business often take precedence and I have to be more directive and more assertive. And in some cases even, my direct reports don’t possess the adequate maturity, experience, or skills, and I have to lay out a solution for them.

If someone intentionally underperforms, coaching won’t work

If someone is intentional about their misbehavior, for example by disregarding instructions or being rude to colleagues, then a coaching approach isn’t an option. You have to deliver feedback, document it in writing, and take swift action with your HR partners.

Part of the assumptions for the classic SFBT framework in a therapeutic environment is that clients are motivated towards something. It is supposed to be the therapist’s job to help the client uncover what is their motivation. However, in a workplace context, if someone is disrespectful to colleagues, then as a manager there is no need to show patience or be more interested than necessary for them. Such behavior is toxic and needs to be dealt with.

The workplace context often dictates the outcome

Another limitation I’ve found is that, within the classic SFBT framework, the initial step is for the therapist to help the client come up with the vision of the things she wants to do and solve, via the use of the miracle question. This defines WHAT the client wants. Then, in the following sessions, the therapist will guide the client to come up with steps and solutions on HOW to turn her vision into a reality.

In a therapeutic context, SFBT assumes that the therapist doesn’t have a say in either the WHAT or the HOW of the client, and that the client has full freedom to decide on both aspects.

In the workplace context of modern tech companies, knowledge workers often have limited freedom on the WHAT. A large part of their job is not up to them, as objectives are set at the organization level or by their manager, or sometimes by managers several levels above them. This means that the starting point of the miracle questions is generally not applicable to a workplace context for short-term goal setting. However, the miracle question is still very useful to coach someone into defining their long-term WHAT, which is a broad career direction and aspiration, and which is independent of short or medium-term objectives.

Now regarding the HOW, there is often more flexibility for workers to define that, and I’ve found in my experience that is a good area to apply SFBT. Indeed, for direct reports who are a bit stuck in coming up with specific steps on HOW to achieve an objective, the future pull and miracle question has been a good way to get them to a solution and while doing so, gain commitment and accountability from them.

How To Get Started With Solution-Focused Coaching

My Initial Journey With SFBT

When I got started with SFBT and solution-focused coaching, what worked for me was to start reading introductory content to get the gist of it. For that, I spent around four hours on a mix of short articles, book chapters, and videos.

Then, I quickly jumped into practice by trying out solution-focused questions during one-on-one meetings with my direct reports. I would give myself the challenge that I would ask at least one solution-focused question during every 1-on-1 and follow down the path of that topic for two to ten minutes, depending on how confused or engaged the other person was.

After each meeting I took notes of the questions I asked and how the person responded. I also tracked if I felt the conversation got blocked or was going somewhere. Then, I used those notes to reflect on my use of SFBT with a close friend, who acted as a sounding board for me. Finally, I used my notes to identify areas I had to improve on, and looked at more content that would cover specifically those areas.

Your Learning Program

If you want to get started with solution-focused coaching, I’ve created a short step-by-step plan that you can follow to get the basics, loosely based on my personal experience. It will require some reading and some practicing from you, and also that you have the discipline to stick to it for a few weeks.

Step 1: Read introductory content on SFBT

A great starting point is the book Solution Focused Brief Therapy: 100 Key Points and Techniques. This book is 200 pages in total, but it’s a short read as it is organized in 100 mini chapters of 1-2 pages each. I recommend that you read the first 24 chapters (around 50 pages) then explore the rest as you see fit.

Step 2: Write a flashcard

Write a flashcard for yourself with key ideas and some example questions in each category. Have it ready for when you will have a conversation with someone during which you want to try out those questions.

You can also refer to this list of solution-focused questions for leadership created by Mike Cardus. I’ve formatted the list into a PDF file, which you can download here and use immediately.

Step 3: Practice in real conversations

In your coming 1-on-1s or touch bases with direct reports, ask at least one question in a solution-focused style. Don’t stop at the first answer the person will give you: make sure you ask follow-ups and go into specifics.

Your flashcard can help with that. If you don’t feel confident pulling out your flashcard, just tell the person “I’m trying out something a bit new and unusual to improve how I support others during conversations. I have some notes on this flashcard, don’t worry if you see me reading from it.”

Step 4: Reflect on your practice

After each conversation during which you practiced solution-focused coaching, take 5 to 10 minutes to reflect about how well you believe you asked questions, and how you could have asked them differently for more impact.

Take notes of that in a paper notebook or in a file on your computer, so you can keep track of your thoughts and process over time.

Step 5: Dive deeper

Read more books and articles from the resource list at the end of this article, and talk about your doubts and challenges to peers who are also learning. Repeat the process by using solution-focused questions in more conversations, and with different types of relationships: go from only direct reports to peers, then try it with your manager, etc. You’ll be surprised how effective those ideas and questions can be.

Step 6: Do role playing (optional)

If you don’t get enough practice via regular conversations at work, then an extra thing you can do is role-play with colleagues, friends, and partners. Here is a short intro on the topic of role-playing. One person you trust would act as a particular personality profile, or within a particular scenario or behavior you want to train for, and you’d be acting as the manager for this person. Then you swap roles and keep on training each other. This is a way to put your mind into situations as close as possible to what you’ll be facing in real life, and prepare you for them.

Closing words

This concludes my introduction to solution-focused coaching in the workplace, based on ideas taken from solution-focused brief therapy. Keep in mind that SBFT is a set of questions, tenets, and conversational tools. And that’s what solution-focused coaching is all about: using the art of conversation to troubleshoot and help people them find solutions from within.

As for the example questions I shared or you’ll find online, beware of not using them like a telemarketing script, but rather use the principles behind the questions as an inspiration to guide how you want the dialogue to flow. Tweak them to your personality, to your style, and to the choice of words of the person you’re interacting with.

Putting the required time into practicing is the only way to operationalize SFBT and turn it into a permanent skill. With practice, you’ll be able to have a flowing conversation and ask solution-focused questions while keeping a natural conversation flow.

Below this article you will find a long list of resources about solution-focused coaching to keep on learning.

I would like to thank Ifty Haque for reviewing an early draft of this article.

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Resources to go further

In this final section, I am sharing resources that I’ve collected along my own learning journey with solution-focused brief therapy and solution-focused coaching.

Note that if you’re looking for SFBT in the context of management and leadership, you will also find interesting resources if you search for the keywords “solution-oriented management” and “solution-focused leadership”, along with their derivatives.

Introduction resources

Cheat sheet / Flash card


Videos and recordings of Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg

Examples of questions and therapy sessions

Longer-format articles

Associations and lists of resources

Published inLeadership and Management

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