Sharing and building Solution Focused practice in organisations

Leadership Group: Solutions Focus in Practice

Still learning solutions focuses I attempted using scaling questions with a leadership team. Below is a story of what happened, and how great it turned out!

Working with a leadership team of 5 people including the COO of the organization. I was called in to facilitate and consult the leadership team with the following objectives

Leaders will be able to reflect upon their own behaviors and adjust accordingly based upon what team they are a part of and whom they are leading. This will be centered upon skill(s) based development and
co-creation of a shared structure for discussions at a leadership level.

Concluding this process with;

  • Shared process and structure for leadership team to make decisions and solve problems within a time span.
  • Skill in active listening and communication to peers, supervisors and direct reports.
  • Co-creation of decision making methods for Leadership team to utilize in real-time. Leadership team will make a decision that is applicable to the organization at the time of our meeting.
  • Co-creation of team problem solving for Leadership team to utilize in real-time. Leadership team will solve a problem, develop an action plan & plan the step to a solution that is applicable to the
    organization at the time of our meeting.

In the first team meeting I sensed some reservations from the team.

So I asked, “I am sensing reservations of our time together lets discuss this.”

After about 3 minutes of silence and people staring at their shoes one person spoke up, “Now we are involved in many, many projects and are about to go through preparation for a large audit from the state & feds that is going to
take our time. I think that all of this is excellent and we could
really benefit from it. I just don’t thing we have the time to give it
our all.”

The rest of the team nodded their heads.

I asked, “are you all willing to discuss this and as a group determine what you need and when you will have the time to give it your all?” Everyone nodded;

Next I facilitated the group through the following Solutions Focused Leadership Process;

“Everyone on your paper please draw a scale from 0 – 10”

drew this on the white board;

0 —-1—-2—-3—-4—-5—-6—-7—-8—-9—- 10

“Here is the question, mark on your own scale and keep it to yourself; with 0-being this is the absolutely worst time for the Leadership Process, 10-being that this is the absolute best time and you are fully prepared to give it you all, where would you rate yourself right now, today?”

About 3-5 minutes for people to rate and reflect of their scaling.

“Thank you…please take about 3 minutes and list what is going well, what is working that has put you where you currently are on the scale, the things that are going well that kept you from rating yourself
lower on the scale. List these items clear and distinctly as possible,
again keeping it to yourself.”

Again 3-5 minutes for the people to list and reflect why they are where they are not lower / higher.

“Is everyone comfortable sharing where they are on the scale?”

Allowed for the group to individually share where they placed themselves, while I wrote each persons name under the number they said. Averaged the numbers to create group consensus. The average was close to
a 6;

0 —-1—-2—-3—-4—-5—-6—-7—-8—-9—- 10

“Wow a 6 that is great…let’s discuss some of the things that are successful to bring the group to a 6…”

The group talked about things are working, steps that are successful. They did not talk about the problems and concerns…instead they talked about what they are currently doing really well.

“If I was to observe this group in a meeting and workplace situation what would I see, how would the individuals interact, how would the team interact, how would topics be discussed…Describe what I
would see as an observer that would make me say…WOW this group is
operating at a 6, as opposed to a 3 or 4.”

The group shared more of how there interactions are and what processes are working and how they are solving problems and making decisions…

“Next step…using the same scale where would you have to be as an individual leader to be alright with going ahead with the learning, training, and process work that we have defined? Where on that scale
would you HAVE to be in order to say, I am now ready and prepared to
give this process my all. Scale your answer and keep it to yourself for

“Looking at where you scaled yourself to be prepared to give this process your all compared with where you scaled yourself in the first round, what is different? Please take about 3-5 minutes and list how you
will know that you have reached this new number on the scale, what your
interactions with the leadership team will be like, with your staff,
with clients, with family, what will you; prepared to give this process
your all look like, take some time and describe it.”

Waited for about 5 minutes while the group wrote…

“Who would like to share where on the scale they would have to be in order to give this leadership process their all?”

Repeating the same process as above, wrote the persons name (In a different color) under the numbers. Surprisingly 2 of the people had lesser scaled numbers in the 2nd round than in the 1st!

Again we averaged the numbers and it came to about a 7;

0 —-1—-2—-3—-4—-5—-6—-7—-8—-9—- 10

As a collective group we sat and starred at the scaling data…the leadership team had their numbers and solutions there in the room, staring at them in what each person and then the group collectively
needed to be successful.

“WOW…a 7, that is great…As a group tell me what will things be like for the leadership team when you are all collectively operating as a 7…If I was observing the group what would I see, that would have me say
WOW they have gone from a 6 to a 7 and now they are ready to give this
process their all.”

Then something awesome happened…They were talking about the great work that has been accomplished and how great they feel about what is happening, as they listed what a 7 would look like. People started to
say, we are already doing all these things, we are there.

As the discussion continued, the COO took a quick poll of the group and everyone agreed that they are ready and prepared to give this leadership process their all!

I said, “That is awesome, you are a great group and as we have just seen, really know your stuff and are capable of;

  • Developing a shared process and structure to make decisions and solve problems within a time span.
  • Utilizing and enhancing your skills in active listening and communication to peers, supervisors and direct reports.
  • Co-creating decision making methods for Leadership team to utilize in real-time. We just made a decision that is applicable to the organization at the time of our meeting.
  • Co-creating team problem solving for Leadership team to utilize in real-time. We just solved a problem, developed an action plan & planed the steps to a solution that is applicable to the organization.”

Now we just continue to build upon you success!”

Following that meeting the leadership team has created some amazing results of increasing retention of talented staff members, increasing the productivity (through partnered quality projects) of several
departments. As well as continued to coach and develop their staff and
organization into a high functioning team of solutions minded
individuals, leaders, teams, and organization.

Plus we are still working together to continue the skill building and increase the applied capacity of the leaders.

michael cardus is create-learning

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Comment by Katalin Hankovszky on December 14, 2010 at 6:09

What a beautiful story!! Astonishing in some ways. You took some risks (addressing reservations and wait for so long - instead of asking them what do they want), you did something an SF scale-user never would do (creating average of individual scaling results in a team) --- it was like reading a thriller: Do they kill him???

And what a relief!! it worked, again: people recognise how far they are and how competent they are and get engaged to work in that well-prepared frame of yours. I like your questions and compliments, too, especially seems to me useful (as a reader, you know) the one with the outside perspective)

Congratulations, I very much appreciate this piece of experience, thank you.

Comment by Paolo Terni on November 8, 2010 at 19:08
Congratulations on a job well done!!
Thanks for taking the time to share this story with us and for going into details, it was very useful!




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