Leaders often comment on how they prefer team members who are ‘solutions-focused’ and don’t just bring them problems. However, many leaders don’t encourage this behaviour in the way they interact with their team. All too often reverting to take control of the situation and seek to ‘fix’ things, and by doing so, discouraging the very behaviour, they are looking for from their team.
With this in mind, what more can leaders be doing to encourage more solutions-focused thinking? Solutions-focused coaching offers a practical perspective and principles for leaders to consider, referring to a 2013 paper by Dr Anthony Grant here are three opportunities to reflect and adjust your leadership approach.
To facilitate solution-focused thinking requires a belief that your team are resourceful and capable of solving the problem at hand. A leader looks to establish a positive relationship of equals, where the team member is treated as the expert. Also, with a leader taking a positive approach, they will facilitate a more generative dialogue that opens up more possibilities.
With a solutions-focused mindset, leaders don’t view problems as a dysfunction to be diagnosed, rather a limitation in action taken so far, and the options considered. Consequently, there is an underlying belief that more positive progress will come from facilitating a solution rather than dissecting the problem.
The most important role a leader can play is to help the team look at the situation from a different perspective, as a way to encourage new ways of thinking. In doing so, a leader can support their team to find practical solutions with more pragmatic thinking that avoids complicated solutions. To move the conversation forward, leaders help define the immediate steps the team will take to implement their solution, which builds their self-efficacy.
Grant (2013) offers a perspective to coaches that also applies to leaders looking to facilitate more solution-orientated coaching conversations by “holding an attitude of intelligent curiosity, service and facilitation allow the coach to respectfully, but firmly, focus the conversation on solution construction”.
Grant, A. M. (2013). Steps to Solutions: A process for putting solution-focused coaching principles into practice. The Coaching Psychologist, 9 (1)