In ‘The Mentalist’ Patrick Jane is a petty criminal turned consulting detective. Incredibly perceptive, with a deep understanding of human behaviour, he picks up all sorts of clues from people, alive or dead, that his likeable but flat-footed professional colleagues always miss. He then uses clever psychological ploys and strategies to get the perpetrator, whom no-one else suspects, to step forward.

I want to be like Patrick Jane. I would love to be able to speed-read into a photographic memory and to spot a cop, a ‘mark’ or a lie from 20 paces. Wouldn’t it be great to see the problem, the cause and the solution in the blink of an eye, every time. And here’s the point.  Some management and consulting literature would lead us to believe this is what it takes to manage and lead. We need to be skilled at understanding seeing round corners and reading minds, models of thinking and the clues that go with each thought pattern. We also need to know clever strategies for dealing with the clues, the thought patterns and the imminent behaviours.

This is a tough requirement. This would describe a psychology-based approach to coaching or managing. Something like this:

Solution-Focused Coaching is different.  Although Solution-Focused Coaching is underpinned by Erickson and other psychologists, Solution-Focused Coaching is a communication-based rather than psychology-based approach. So whether you call yourself a coach, therapist, trainer, consultant, or manager, the important issue is not the name of what you are doing but the use of communication to agree a common context, description and solution to the presenting issues.

The person being coached or managed brings their experience and their understanding of the situation. The person doing the coaching brings agendas, requirements and models. Together they create “The space in-between”. They build an understanding of the context, the content and the criteria for achievement. They agree a way forward. The person being coached takes away their understanding of what they are going to do.



The coach and the person being coached create an understanding of the issues, the context, the thinking and the possible solutions. Everyone benefits.

Solution-Focused Coaching is all of the following:

  • A stance: a way to approach situations and conversations.
  • A language process: creating frameworks of understanding around issues that allow people to become less stuck.
  • Presenting reality: Rather than being positive at all costs, it is about facing tough situations and noticing what works.
  • A way to explore alternatives:  broadening perspectives beyond the confines of the definition of the problem, to highlight real opportunities for solutions.

This goes beyond one-on-one coaching.  Solution-Focused Coaching is an excellent approach for group coaching.  It starts when each participant realises they have only one  perspective on the full picture.  They may then allow themselves to pay attention to the perspectives of others.  They don’t have to be thinking ahead for clever responses.  This attention is incredibly affirming to the person speaking.  Each speaker therefore is able to access their most creative ideas.  As people in the group listen, even to the person who seems to have the least value to contribute, they build a rich, common understanding of the issue on the table.  And once they all understand the issue they are able to create solutions.  Together!

We only ever execute what we have created ourselves.  This is a fundamental law of execution.  When groups work together to define a solution they become unstoppable.  All of the group-work I do follows this pattern.  All the models I use to set strategy, establish self managing teams and work with projects are applied in this way.

Yes it would be great to have x-ray vision.  I would love to be able to read minds.  But as a leader what would you prefer, to have these superhero abilities or to have teams who work in synergy and integration?  Wouldn’t you prefer your team-members to understand each other and the situation in which they find themselves?  Wouldn’t you like the team to craft elegant and relevant solutions?  Wouldn’t you like to watch them execute these solutions?  Wouldn’t you prefer to experience the common magic of communication and the space in-between.

I wonder if you find this as liberating as I do?  What do you think?  Click on the box below and leave a comment.