A High-Performing Factory via Solution-Focused Coaching: A Case Study

Production line at the Cepina Levissima Factory, Italy

From 2003 until 2005 I was heavily involved as a Solution-Focused Coach / Consultant in support of a major Organizational Development Project for Sanpellegrino, the Italian bottled-water company owned by Nestle Waters.

It is one project I am still very proud of.

Here is one lesson learned re Coaching and Organizational Development:

Coaching was introduced as a way of helping them once they were already facing problems, i.e. first they were given the new role and thrown into the field, then they were offered the opportunity of having a coach to help them meet the challenges they were facing. I believe this is a key success factor. First, coachees need to experience the problem so they can experience the need for coaching. In this scenario, management does not need to sell coaching – quite the opposite, management can play the role of the saviour by graciously offering them this much-needed support.

You can read the whole case study I wrote for eO&P (e- Organisations and People) and published in November 2010 here.

How Solution-Focused Coaching can Help You to Become a Good Manager

Project Oxygen was the code-name given to a bold new plan by Google in early 2009.

Was it a new search algorithm? Or a fancy speech-to-text app? Or some other tech wonder?

None of the above.

It was something much more ambitious: it was a quest to find what makes the perfect manager.

After months of exhaustive data-mining and observations (hey, after all they are Google, analytics is their job!) they came out with a list of 8 Good Behaviors that characterized their best and most effective managers.

Here it is:

I know! Not exactly the dramatic insights you would expect, right?

But being data-generated, this list is gold.

As a whole, it reads as a very Solution Focused approach to management.

It is the ranking of these behaviors that is very interesting.

The key skill to be a successful manager in Google? to Be a Good Coach!

So learning how to become a Coach is important. Very important.

Score one for Coaching.

But we can dig deeper. Take a look at what it means to be a “good coach”:

1 – provide specific, constructive feedback, balancing the negative and the positive
2 – have regular one-on-ones, presenting solutions to problems tailored to your employee’s strength

Now the question is: how do you do that? It is easier said than done!

I would argue that Solution-Focus is the best way to carry out those desired behaviors.

More specifically:

1 – Solution-Focus’ main tool is feedback; no advice is given.  It is constructive feedback, since in Solution Focus we give only positive feedback. By only making comments on what works and not dwelling on what does not work, Solution-Focused Coaching offers an elegant solution to the problem of balancing positive with negative, avoiding all the pitfalls of negative feedback.
2 – in a recent post, I said coaching is the Art of Conversation: so having regular one-on-ones should be no problem to a manager trained in Solution-Focused Coaching.  Solution-Focused Coaches do not “present” solutions. They do something even better. They are trained to elicit clients’ (in this case employees’) specific solutions, which are naturally and of necessity built on the employees’ unique strengths! Which is perfectly in line with the next key skill listed, empowering your team.

I believe that Solution-Focused Coaching not only meets the behavioral challenge set by Google, but exceeds those requirements.

The “Be a Good Coach” in this list can be read as “Be a Solution-Focused Coach“!

Click >>> here <<< to learn how to become a Solution-Focused Brief Coach with a ICF (International Coach Federation) ACTP (Accredited Coaching Training Program).

Thanks to Coert Visser who originally posted about Google’s Project Oxygen >>> here <<<

Coaching demystified

Solutionsurfers’ PURE Brief Coach Training – participants busy in coaching conversations

“Embodied Learning” Coaching, “Limbic” Coaching, “Emotional Intelligence” Coaching, “Law of Attraction” Coaching, “Somatic” Coaching… and what about “Solution-Focused” Coaching itself?  So confusing!!  Too many names, too many claims.

But Coaching is simplicity itself.

Becoming an effective Coach is a different matter – if Coaching is a simple concept, that does not mean it is easy to execute.

Here is my own take on Coaching:

  1. Coaching is a purposeful conversation. Nothing more, nothing less.
    According to the ICF (International Coach Federation), the purpose of a Coaching conversation is to “help people improve their performances and enhance the quality of their lives.”
    To do that, Coaches are trained in different “protocols” (i.e. sets of assumptions, questions, communication strategies…).
    I use ‘Solution-Focused‘ protocols: they are well supported by research and they have at their core the assumption that is featured in the ICF definition of Coaching:   “the Client is the expert in his/her life and work and … every Client is creative, resourceful, and whole.”
    What kind of change can a conversation bring about? As Liselotte Baeijaert brilliantly put it, a Solution-Focused Coaching conversation “leaves the client changed: with more hope, with more creative ideas, with a feeling of competence, with a clearer view on possibilities“.
    No quantum mechanics or spiritual laws need be involved.
  2. Coaching can also be Observing and Giving Feedback (i.e. constructive comments on the performance observed, with the aim of improving the performance itself). This kind of Coaching is often referred to as “Behavioral Coaching“.
    ‘Behavioral Coaching” is not that different from coaching in Sports. It is at the root of “Deliberate Practice“.
    Clients might want to develop some specific behaviors or skills (e.g. public speaking, interviewing skills…) and the Coach helps Clients practice. By simulating and observing the Client’s performance and by giving appropriate feedback, the Coach helps the Client acquire the desired capability. Think a tennis / swimming / ski… instructor. With a sprinkle of psychology.
    Again, there is an art in observing and giving feedback and the Coach is an expert on that.
    But that’s it.

    A good conversation. Strategic and scripted in the mind of the Coach, but naturally flowing (if the Coach is good) from the Client’s perspective.
    Or a keen eye and a good checklist.
    I know, no glamour here – in terms of marketing appeal no competition with terms like  ‘energy boundaries” or “somatic matrix”.
    But conversations and checklists have something going for them – they work.