Solutionsurfers is very proud to announce our partnership with the University of California system. These 3 separate events listed above made me realize that Solution-Focus is Quiet Strength. Solution-focused principles and techniques, orginally developed in psychotherapy, have found their way into coaching, over the last decade.
Standard effectiveness research approaches involve randomized controlled experiments in which the treatment of interest is compared with a reference approach and a control group. Research aimed at a micro level of coaching can be an important addition to these standard research approaches. Survey based research also offers some interesting opportunities to analyze the specific interventions and behaviors of solution-focused coaches. Then, I used a statistical technique called multiple regression analysis which gave insight into which specific coach behaviors were predictive of coaching success. The number of non-solution-focused coach behaviors that was predictive of positive outcomes was smaller. I hope this is a good (while modest) beginning of survey based research into the effectiveness of solution-focused interventions in coaching.
Here is a short story that very well illustrates why I love Solution-Focus Coaching and its magic in bringing out clients’ expertise. My Coaching Client is the Administration Manager for a small but fast-growing company, and we are having a Coaching session over Skype. However, operating under Solution-Focused assumptions, I am not supposed to share these recent insights from psychology with my Client. As it often happens during tough moments in Coaching, I look at the card pictured above, that sits prominently on my desk. So I did just that: I relaxed, got my hands off the steering wheel and let the Solution-Focused process unfold, one question at a time.

The client answers eagerly the first questions – however, as we go into more details of how things would be different, I can sense his frustration. Coaching was introduced as a way of helping them once they were already facing problems, i.e.
You can read the whole case study I wrote for eO&P (e- Organisations and People) and published in November 2010 here. Becoming an effective Coach is a different matter – if Coaching is a simple concept, that does not mean it is easy to execute. Again, there is an art in observing and giving feedback and the Coach is an expert on that.
While an evidence base of solution-focused brief therapy is beginning to come off the ground, little research is done on the effectiveness of solution-focused coaching (one researcher who is already doing interesting research in this area is Anthony Grant).
Recently I published such a study: Testing the Association between Solution-Focused Coaching and Client Perceived Coaching Outcomes. Strategic and scripted in the mind of the Coach, but naturally flowing (if the Coach is good) from the Client’s perspective.
While this approach is indispensable it is not the only useful approach and it is not without weaknesses. Micro-analysis research will, in the near future, I predict, be supported by software to analyze language used in coaching conversations. It’s just that they like to work in a different way –  each with his or her own area of responsibility rather than as a team! By simulating and observing the Client’s performance and by giving appropriate feedback, the Coach helps the Client acquire the desired capability. One particular sentence by Douglas Riddle resonated deeply in me: How does a coach do that?
Individual clients, client organizations and society at large rightfully demand that solution-focused professionals not only discover things that work but also justify what they do by scientifically testing their claims.

For one thing, this type of research requires the existence of generally accepted definitions of the treatments (coaching procedures) that are researched. As this type of research will develop a much more nuanced and specific kind of knowledge will emerge about what works and what not. The survey consisted of a list of 28 coach behaviors, 14 of which were solution-focused behaviors and 14 of which were behaviors solution-focused coaches would deliberately avoid. And to be working in this company as a team would mean a huge cultural change, given our history. First, coachees need to experience the problem so they can experience the need for coaching. This type of research comparing coaching approaches does say something about the relative effectiveness of these approaches but does not say much about the relative contribution of the constituent elements of these approaches because these are not examined separately in these types of experiments but in combination with each other. I asked clients to describe what their coaches had done and what they had not done (without referring to the solution-focused approach or any other approach, by the way). 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.
The coaches who expand my mind, emotions and performance come to the coaching relationship from a place of inner calm. In addition to that, I asked clients to describe on several dimensions how effective the coaching had been. Solution-focused coach behaviors turned out to be were strongly positively correlated to positive coaching outcomes. Non-solution-focused coach behaviors, on the other hand, turned out to be moderately negatively correlated to positive coaching outcomes.

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