Expertise and Responsiveness – what you need depends on where you’re going

It’s confession time.

Even though I (Sharon) have been in the consulting/training game for over 15 years, I still find it very difficult when I am expected to “tell people what they should do”, without any knowledge of their particular situation. So in order to satisfy this demand in the past, I have become an expert on best practice in a number of areas. I can tell organisations and course participants what they should do according to best practice in leadership, management, performance management, team development, professional service, personal efficiency and dealing with conflict (to name a few), but I can’t necessarily tell them what any particular organisation or individual should do, without knowing their context.

In the past, I had seen this as a secret weakness – I was too responsive, not assertive enough – so I searched for ways to be more assertive in my delivery as well as searching for the “killer consulting questions” that would reveal what the client needed.

This led me to the Solution Focused approach, which started as a therapy and which has expanded mainly in England and Europe to an Organisational Development and Coaching approach. For me, the essence of the approach is epitomised by a story from long term practitioner Harry Korman MD. After repeatedly asking a 15 year old boy in many different ways “how would he know the session had been helpful” and getting a response of “don’t know” for 13 minutes, finally followed by “come on man, ask another question”, Harry’s response “I can’t….. if I don’t have any idea where you want to go, I have no idea what to ask”, shocked the boy into a conversation.

That story resonates very strongly with me and the SF approach confirmed my belief that the purpose of consulting and training, especially in the area of performance improvement and interpersonal skills is about “finding what already works and doing more of it”, interspersed with examples of how others have been successful. It also means that I no longer do straight training – my facilitation skills are now as important as my telling (information) skills.

One of the great benefits of Solution Focused consulting and facilitation for me and my clients is its elegance and efficiency. Sometimes by the time I have found out where they’re going, why and how it will benefit them and others, what resources they can access and what first steps they might take, participants often find they have what they need to take successful action without further input on my behalf. If they do want input, then I have a treasure chest of research, examples and experiences to dip into and provide options – but I don’t have to “should” all over them!

Additional benefits include: greater confidence and higher follow-through because the participants have chosen the solutions and they already know they can do them.

The only potential downside is that consulting assignments are shorter, but the offset is that I get to work with more clients, in the same amount of time, which I love.

So, if you know an organisation for whom this approach would be a good match, send them this link and encourage them to give us a call at A Passion for Results. Right from the first discussion we will be productive!

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