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A Coaching Approach to Problem Solving

May 19, 2017

When someone asks you to help them sort out a challenge, there’s an empowering and practical coaching framework you can use to help.

sorting out a challengeI used this approach recently with two leaders strengthening their collaboration; you can use it on your own challenges as well as when working with others.

“What will success look like?”
Create a forward thinking focus by getting crystal clear about the goal. If it’s long-term, what would the first milestone be? After listening, summarize your understanding of the goal as succinctly as possible. Confirming or correcting your summary strengthens clarity.

“What’s getting in the way?”
When someone’s feeling stuck, the obstacles are often top of mind. Get these out of their head by listing the most important ones.

“What helps you get closer?”
Now ask about supports for progress. Make sure you spend as much, or more, time listing what can bring them closer to their goal.

Your role is to support their thinking, not to identify obstacles or supports. So ask about a range of factors, like: personal ones, those involving others, those in the environment, or supports that helped in similar situations.

“What changes could have the biggest impact?”
Review the lists of obstacles and supports. Ask which 2-3 are the strongest. See if they can find any relationships between the strongest ones.

Now they’re prepared to brainstorm changes that can impact the strongest factors, individually or in aggregate.

Once they have several promising ideas, ask which change they want to start with and what supports can help.

The two leaders found that communication habits, including speaking more succinctly and asking questions to clarify understanding, were key.

These small changes created a big ripple effect, as did using a framework they could repeat as they learned more over time.

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