Solution-Focused Brief Coach Training at UC Davis

Solutionsurfers’ PURE Brief Coach Training Program – Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP) with the International Coach Federation (ICF)

Solutionsurfers is very proud to announce our partnership with the University of California system.

Our next training workshop will be delivered on October 12 & 19 (module 1),  at the UC Davis Extension in Sacramento, California.

Fee: US$ 675 includes lunch and parking fees.

14 CEUs credits with the ICF.

For more information and for registration, please click on the following >>>> LINK which will take you to the UC Davis page for the workshop.

SOL World 2012

Our dining hall at Keble College, Oxford. I was expecting Harry Potter to walk in any minute, and an owl to drop a message next to my plate :-)

Back from the SOL World Conference held at Keble College in Oxford, England.

I am happy to see the community of Solution-Focused practitioners is doing well:

– some are developing new concepts within a Solution-Focused framework. For example, Mark McKergow building on the intriguing idea of “Leader as Host“.  I think this metaphor is extremely powerful and it deserves to get a lot of traction in the wider leadership development community.

– some are enriching other disciplines by bringing a SF approach to them. Anything from management tools (e.g. see Jeff Matthews on performance management) to constellation work (e.g. see Marianne Guerts & Yvonne Pluk).

– some are working to advance a deeper understanding of the theoretical framework of Solution-Focus practice. I personally did not see much of that at the conference, but I know of the efforts of a few (e.g. again Mark McKergow and Gale Miller in the paper “From Wittgenstein, Complexity, and Narrative Emergence: Discourse and Solution-Focused Brief Therapy“).

– some are expressing SF in its purest form, articulating all the richness hidden in its apparent simplicity. I am thinking of Peter Szabo and Chris Iveson. The Zen of Coaching.

– some others are creating new ways to make SF practice fun & useful. I am thinking of the SF-inspired team building exercises created by Monica Rotner & Brenda Zalter-Minden.

Anything else?

Well, I think it would be lovely to see  more of an interaction with other sciences in order to evolve the standard Solution-Focused protocols / questions.

It is my belief that, in its essence, SF is a Darwinian Algorithm (see here). As such, it can itself evolve. But is it?

I think the best way for it to evolve, i.e. coming up with new questions or modifying established ones, is to cross- fertilize with social psychology or positive psychology.

Here is an example of what I have in mind.

Minjung Koo & Ayelet Fishbach recently published a paper about the “Small Area” hypothesis regarding goal adherence.

Basically, the hypothesis states that at the beginning of goal pursuit it is better to focus on accumulated progress, what has been done so far; and when we get closer to achieving the goal, it is best to focus on remaining progress, what needs to be done.

As SF practitioners we have been using the scaling question for decades now, and we should have a lot of experience about this. Do we? Does this result match our experience? Yes or no? Moreover, how would this result affect our practice? How should we change our questions to accomodate this result?

I believe new exciting developments are possible in SF if we engage in a constructive dialogue with other disciplines to incorporate new insights into our practice, making it even better.

Well, I guess I found a topic for SOL 2013, haven’t I? :-)

*** Update: the conference was about much more than just the Solution-Focused community of practitioners. Case in point: the CEO panel talking about using Solution-Focus in organizations. HERE is a link to an article in the Guardian which summarizes the discussion.

Coaching Story – and the client became one

I just got back from Basel, where I had the privilege to co-facilitate with Peter Szabó the “Live Coaching Days”.

That would be module 4 of SolutionsurfersPURE Brief-Coach Training Program.
It is so called because in those 3 days participants have a chance to coach “real” clients, i.e. not other participants – and to do so in front of other coaches.

It is a unique opportunity for trainees to put their coaching skills to the test – with clients who, unlike the participants, do not know how the process is supposed to work. Clients walk in with a real-life topic they want to work on, a topic unknown beforehand to trainees and facilitators alike.

It is also a unique opportunity for coaches to perform in front of their peers and get specific and detailed feedback on their coaching – something very hard to do in a profession where most of the interactions are one on one, and governed by strict confidentiality. As coaches, we might have some form of feedback in terms of outcome (did it work for the client? was he / she happy?) but not about the process (how did I do that?).

I was blessed to witness many amazing coaching conversations.

I am sharing one below, in a format that protects the identity of client and coach.

Just to give you an idea of how cool Solution-Focused Coaches are :-)

Once upon a time, there was a coach and a client.

The client wanted to align her team so they would work better together.
As she elaborated on that, it became clear she was talking about an “inner” team.
Everything sounded so abstract and sterile – as if it were a management problem in an organization far, far away.
The coach did not flinch, and started working with the metaphor and the words offered by the client.

After some exploration, a big step forward occurred when the client was offered a Skaleboard to play with.
By positioning pieces on the board, the undifferentiated inner team  started to break down into individual “members”, each one with “very good reasons” and a specific concern – the part of the coachee that was worried about health, the part that was excited about her work, and so on and so forth.

With only 5 minutes left in the coaching session, the client became clear it was a matter of deciding between two alternatives, or a composition thereof.
The client mentioned she liked exploration and movement.
The coach was quick to seize that opportunity: he had the client stand up and have a glimpse of the two different scenarios (and a combination of the two), by leading her to different windows and skillfully depicting the two different outcomes, using the client’s words.

Once given a chance to see what the different choices would lead to, the client was very quick and very confident in making a decision – it was clear to everyone in the room that she was definitely very attracted to one of the two scenarios.

I was very impressed by the ability of the coach to think on his feet, to work with what the client brought and to brilliantly get to a resolution by performing a complete “decision coaching process” in 5 minutes.

I was also very impressed by the client.
It was amazing to see the level of integration she achieved in just thirty minutes.
What started with an abstract description of a fragmented self made up of undifferentiated inner voices and devoid of emotions, evolved during the session into one person, speaking with one heart, one mind and one soul.

The outcome  went well beyond the best hopes of the client: her goal for the session was to get some elements so she could “work on a team alignment plan” on the train ride back home – she did not expect to solve the issue right there and then, with a “team” that became one in thirty minutes!

Solution-Focused Coach Training – California, 2012. Registration now open!

The registration is now open for the 2012 California edition of SolutionsurfersBrief Coach Training.

Here is the link with all the information about the program:

To sign up, please send an email to:

If you want to find out more about the training program and how it can benefit you,

you are invited to attend one  of the following conference calls:

– Friday, January the 27th, at 12 noon PST (3 PM EST)

– Tuesday, February the 14th, at 9 AM PST (12 noon EST)

– Wednesday, March the 14th, 9 AM PST (12 noon EST) ***please note that the early bird rate is available only until March 1.

Please RSVP with Ms. Corey Godzwa at and you will be sent the information to access the conference call.

On Positive Feedback

Solution-Focus relies on positive feedback – i.e. noticing what is working and going right instead of pointing out what is not working and going wrong.

Even more so with Solution-Focused training: for example, the whole Solutionsurfers’ Brief Coach Training is designed around positive feedback. Exclusively positive feedback. That makes the learning experience unique. At first participants are disoriented – but very quickly they begin to appreciate the empowering nature of positive feedback. Practice session after practice session, each participant’s unique coaching skills develop and evolve, by focusing on what works and ignoring what does not. A process similar to Darwinian Evolution, as pointed out here.

Yet, somehow, not using negative feedback is considered to be a sign of being a wimp. A softie. Out of touch with reality.

Actually, that is quite the opposite.

Everybody can deliver negative feedback. But only expert performers can deliver positive feedback. Because positive feedback is based on tacit knowledge rather than explicit knowledge.

This point has been brilliantly developed by Gary Klein in his latest book “Streetlights and Shadows – Searching for the Keys to Adaptive Decision Making” (pages 45-47).

His reasoning:

– “when we try to improve performance, we usually emphasize explicit knowledge more than tacit knowledge”; that is because “it is hard to give people feedback about tacit knowledge”

– so “in giving feedback, we tend to focus on specific procedures

– but that means “we give feedback about departures from procedures, instead of helping people to notice subtle cues and patterns”.

– conclusion: “we find it easier to give feedback about errors than about skillful actions or about  improvements in mental models“.

So while how to deliver negative feedback is a critical and important skill, delivering positive feedback is an often neglected ingredient for building expert performance.

Noticing what works is an essential part of developing expertise. And you need to be an expert to notice the little things that are working, maybe just a little bit.

Positive feedback is for pros! :-)