Mr. Bear Wants to Be Loved: and Other Stories About Making Change Easier

My latest book: “Mr. Bear Wants to Be Loved: and Other Stories About Making Change Easier – for Children and Their Parents” is out!

This book was born as a challenge: how to introduce Solution-Focus in terms so simple that even a 6-year-old would understand.

True to its objective, it became a book for children about how to make change easier.

In this book you find 9 short stories about change.

Each story illustrates a simple strategy to make change easier or to think differently about problems.

The main characters of the book are Ms. Elephant and Mr. Monkey.
They meet other animals who want to make a change in their lives.
Mr. Monkey is very well intentioned, and he tries to help the forest’s inhabitants following the traditional, orproblem-focused, approach to change. Ms. Elephant is very well intentioned too. She helps the forest’s inhabitants by empowering them using a Solution-Focused approach.

The stories can be read by (or to) children age 4 to 8.

Each story is accompanied by some comments and suggestions for further reading.

The comments are aimed at adults who might want to find out more about the concept presented in each story, and learn a little bit more about how to make change easier in their own lives.

To find out more about the book and to purchase it on Amazon, please go to: http://making-change-easier.com/.

Enjoy!

PS: thanks to all of you who already bought the book! That was very encouraging. I would especially like to thank Bärbel, Klaus, Marco and John for taking the time to send me some very supportive and positive notes about the book!

Succeed

Below my latest amazon review on the book “Succeed – How We Can Reach Our Goals” by Heidi Grant Halvorson

Succeed” is a wonderful book for anyone interested in goal-setting and goal pursuit, which is to say pretty much every one.

It is science-based yet not dry.

The author puts a lot of effort trying to be engaging and she largely succeeds (pun intended).

Being based on science, this book does not offer the simple, clean-cut, one-size-fits-all solutions of many delusion-based self-help books, so most of the time the answer to a practical question raised in the book is “it depends” – immediately followed by a clear explanation of the key variables at play, which should make it very easy to any readers to plot their own course.

Here is a break-down of the chapters, I hope this is useful:

Chapter 1 – do you know where you are going?

About choosing an appropriate formulation for your goal ( “well formed”): being specific, making it hard,  why vs. what frame, value vs. feasibility, chances of success vs. the road to get there, mental contrasting as a decision making tool for goal setting.

Chapter 2 – do you know where your goals are coming from?

About beliefs (fixed vs. growth mindset; see Carol Dweck’s work) and about environmental triggers for goal pursuit

Chapter 3 – the goals that keep you moving forward.

An excellent explanation of be good (achievement, performance) vs. get better (progress, mastery) goals.

Chapter 4 – goals for optimists and goals for pessimists.

Promotion-focused (maximizing gains) vs. prevention-focused (avoiding loss) goals. A very important and extremely useful distinction, further articulated in terms of when to choose one or the other, how the distinction is linked to optimism / pessimism, motivation, feedback, risk-taking and inner needs. I think the book is worth buying for this chapter alone.

Chapter 5 – goals can make you happy.

How some goals are better than others because they nourish our essential needs of Relatedness, Competence and Autonomy (see Self-Determination theory). How internal goals are different from external goals and the important role played by intrinsic motivation in goal pursuits.

Chapter 6 – the right goals for you.

In this chapter the author recaps the ground covered so far but from the perspective of the user. In the previous chapters the author presented psychological research results and how they are relevant to goal setting. In this chapter the author starts from a specific need / situation (e.g. “when you can’t seem to get going”; “when you need speed”; “when you want to be creative”…) and then matches the situation with the appropriate goal frame (e.g. in the 3 examples above, why & prevention goals, promotion goals, promotion & autonomous goals respectively).

Chapter 7 – the right goals for them.

The author shift gears, and this chapter is about assigning goals to others (vs. to oneself, the topic of the previous 6 chapters). The tips given center around leaving a sense of personal control, using the right triggers, using the right frame, making the goal contagious.

Chapter 8 – conquer the goal saboteurs.

This chapter is about seizing opportunities, knowing what to do, increasing monitoring and shielding your goal pursuit from distractions or competing goals.

Chapter 9 – make a simple plan.

This chapter is all about the virtues of the magical formulation “if… then…”, i.e. “if I am in this situation, then I will take this action”. Making such plans is the most effective strategy for goal pursuit. According to the author, if you take nothing else from the book, take at least this.

Chapter 10 -build the self-control muscle.

This chapter explains the concept of self-control as a muscle and useful strategy for goal pursuit based on this insight – namely, like any other muscle, strengthen it, rest it and compensate when tired. I am personally very critical of some formations of this analogy (e.g. the glucose explanation, see Kurzban) and I think a better treatment of the topic is given in the book : “The Willpower Instinct”. However it is true that this is not the main focus of Grant Halvorson’s book.

Chapter 11 – keep it real.

This chapter further elaborates on the role of optimism in goal pursuit. Given the good press optimism gets in self-help books, the distinction made by the author in this chapter between realistic vs. unrealistic optimism is pure gold.

Chapter 12 – know when to hang on.

This chapter is about another key ingredient of goal pursuit: grit. That old-fashioned virtue of commitment to long term goals and persistence in the face of adversity. And no, long term does not mean tomorrow and adversity does not mean “twitter is down, OMG!” or “I do not have the latest iPhone”.

Chapter 13 – give the right feedback.

Frankly the least interesting chapter of the book, at least for me. The good part though was the author presenting the “5 rules of positive feedback” by Henderlong and Lepper. It is research-based and it is a useful checklist for anyone tasked with giving feedback to others.

Overall a great book, an essential reference for anyone (coaches, executives, consultants)  involved in developing leaders, and a useful treasure throve of good tips for anyone engaged in goal pursuit.

Lost Solution-Focus Quotes

I wrote this small booklet for fun.

It goes under the category: “humour”.

I would recommend it to all Solution-Focused practitioners with a sense of humour :-)

From the introduction:

“Solution-Focus practice is so effective yet so simple.
It makes you wonder whether any one stumbled upon it before it was codified by the Brief Family Therapy Center in Milwaukee.

Well, as it turns out, many did.
What you have in your hands, dear reader, is a precious collection of original quotes by famous thinkers over the ages. Each quote mentions Solution-Focus, either implicitly or explicitly.
It took me years of research to find these writings. I hope you, dear reader, will appreciate my efforts. I had to do painstaking work in ancient libraries. I had to crack secret codes. I had to hike in the jungle. I had to dig up manuscripts in the desert.

Solution-Focus practice is so effective yet so simple. It makes you wonder whether any one stumbled upon it before it was codified by the Brief Family Therapy Center in Milwaukee. Well, as it turns out, many did.
What you have in your hands, dear reader, is a precious collection of original quotes by famous thinkers over the ages. Each quote mentions Solution-Focus, either implicitly or explicitly.
It took me years of research to find these writings. I hope you, dear reader, will appreciate my efforts. I had to do painstaking work in ancient libraries. I had to crack secret codes. I had to hike in the jungle. I had to dig up manuscripts in the desert.”…

And here is a sample page (each “Lost SF” quote comes with the original and the context):

“Eppur si solve.”

(And yet it is solved).

Galileo Galilei, while contemplating the paradoxical nature of Solution-Focus.

“Eppur is muove.”

(And yet it moves).

Galileo Galilei, Italian mathematician, physicist and philosopher. Sentence uttered during his Inquisition proceedings, 1633.”

You can buy the book on amazon.com by clicking >>>>> HERE. Enjoy!


Challenging Coaching – brief book review

The book “Challenging Coaching: going beyond traditional coaching to face the FACTS” is a welcome addition to coaching literature.

It starts out by clearly laying out some assumptions at the root of the profession of executive coaching today.

These assumptions, if unexamined, would limit our effectiveness as coaches:

1 – “The core principles of therapy have been used to provide a structure, an ethical basis, and fundamental principles [to the coaching profession]”.(Kindle Locations 659-660).  However, this introduces a bias in the very foundation of coaching: “The result of this influence is that the skills at the heart of coaching are largely oriented toward counseling skills with a non-directive ethos, majoring on listening skills and the ability to ask powerful questions, and so demonstrating empathy and building a strong rapport between coach and client.” (Kindle Locations 655-657).  However, often coachees are very high functioning individuals. They do not need support per se. They need a challenge in a supportive environment. As the authors point out, “And when we asked leaders for feedback on how our coaching could be made more impactful, repeatedly they replied: “I love it when you challenge me, so challenge me more!” (Kindle Locations 261-262). So the authors exhort us to “be the missing voice of challenge in the coaching conversation”. The traditional approach of coaching carries the risk of collusion and irrelevance, according to the authors. Collusion, when the coach operates in ways which appear to support the clients but actually are ways to avoid difficult conversations that need to happen to help clients make progress. If you are a coach, you know you have been there more than once. Irrelevance, when the focus on individual goals ignores the organizational context.

2 - “what shaped business coaching as it developed was a focus on individual wants, not organizational needs. Many return on investment (ROI) measures from coaching initiatives … reflected this bias, targeting the retention of high performers, improvement in staff survey engagement scores, and subjective feedback from participants rather than progress in specific, bottom-line measures.” (Kindle Locations 296-298). I think this is a very important point. Stakeholders, the organization, the market, the company’s strategy – they all need to be taken into account and somehow be present in the coaching conversation. I liked the idea put forth by the authors that coaches can be thought of as the stakeholders’ representatives.

Starting from these premises, the authors develop the FACTS framework to help coaches be more “challenging”, or rather hit the sweet spot that balances support with challenge. As the authors point out, “The behaviors and skills in FACTS are not used instead of the supportive skills and models of more traditional coaching approaches, but rather to expand on these skills and leverage them to further improve performance and sustain the coaching impact.” (Kindle Locations 382-384).  In that sense, the FACTS framework is a useful addition to any coaching model. FACTS is an acronym which stands for: Feedback; Accountability; Courageous Goals; Tension; System Thinking. Each of these key skills for coaches are to be played in a four quadrant matrix where the axes are support and challenge. The optimum development for the coachees would happen in the high challenge – high support quadrant.

While the tools itself, e.g. feedback or system thinking, are not exactly new, the way they are used to challenge coachees was definitely interesting and worth the read.
I personally got the most value out of the part regarding “Accountability“. I loved the emphasis placed on the contract and the systematic ways in which stakeholders, bosses, organizational constraints & culture are taken into consideration.  However, if you are new to system thinking or to coaching, then the other parts of the model are a treasure throve of insights as well.

Personally I think Solution-Focus does an excellent job in balancing challenge and support, by unconditionally accepting the client’s worldview but at the same time by holding the client accountable for his or her perceptions and words (see “Interviewing for Solutions“, by Peter De Jong and Insoo Kim Berg).

I also think SF practitioners are really good in including stakeholders in their conversations with clients and in their work with organizations.  Adopting a “systemic” stance comes naturally to SF practitioners, simply because “relationship questions” are the bread and butter of SF.

Still, I would highly recommend this book to all coaches, at the very least to be aware of the “blind spots” rooted in our profession’s foundation and of the ways in which they might limit the effectiveness of our work if not examined and remedied.

Leadership & Self-Deception

This is a good book. For two main reasons.

Reason #1: it frames leadership as being part of being in a relationship to others and to the environment (vs. simply “influencing others”).

From the Introduction:

“To give you an idea of what’s at stake, consider the following analogy. An infant is learning how to crawl. She begins by pushing herself backward around the house. Backing herself around, she gets lodged beneath the furniture. There she thrashes about, crying and banging her little head against the sides and undersides of the pieces. She is stuck and hates it. So she does the only thing she can think of to get herself out—she pushes even harder, which only worsens her problem. She’s more stuck than ever. If this infant could talk, she would blame the furniture for her troubles. After all, she is doing everything she can think of. The problem couldn’t be hers. But of course the problem is hers, even though she can’t see it. While it’s true that she’s doing everything she can think of, the problem is precisely that she can’t see how she’s the problem. Having the problem she has, nothing she can think of will be a solution.”
The Arbinger Institute (2010-01-11). Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box . Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Reason #2: it talks about leadership as being a fundamental stance you take towards others (vs. being just a question of  skills or techniques). It reminded me of “I & Thou” by Martin Buber.

“Either I’m seeing others straightforwardly as they are—as people like me who have needs and desires as legitimate as my own—or I’m not. As I heard Kate put it once: One way, I experience myself as a person among people. The other way, I experience myself as the person among objects. One way, I’m out of the box; the other way, I’m in the box. Does that make sense?”
The Arbinger Institute (2010-01-11). Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box (p. 37). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.
I highly recommend the book.
Despite our best efforts, all of us, at least some of the time, are “in the box”.

Warning

There is scant evidence, objective evidence, to confirm that this massive, expensive, thirty-plus-year effort [to teach leadership] has paid off. To the contrary: much more often than not, leadership development programs are evaluated according to only one, subjective measure: whether or not participants were satisfied with the experience.
Kellerman, Barbara (2012-04-10). The End of Leadership (Kindle Locations 2665-2667). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

The quote above should appear in any promotional material for leadership development programs – sort of like the FDA warnings on cigarettes.

Dear consumers of leadership development programs (either individuals or organizations): before dishing out thousands of dollars for a program, ask what the evidence is that the program works.

Be an informed consumer… and May the Force of Scientific Evidence Be With You, dear reader.

PS: a very interesting conversation about this is going on here –> http://lnkd.in/g2gRFP (Linkedin – Solution-Focused Canada).