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.