Coaching has taken a decade or two to become an established profession and management tool. The rise of coaching means managers are familiar with the idea of a structured dialogue with a colleague, usually one of the manager’s direct reports. The coaching dialogue may be aimed at sorting out a problem, clarifying goals, encouraging better performance.
As coaching has developed in organisations, so too has the solutions-focused (SF) approach. If we see SF as part of a wave of ‘positive approaches to change’, a wave which includes positive psychology, Appreciative Inquiry, the strengths brigade, Positive Deviance and others, it is clear that the way we describe organisations is changing.
Our view is less mechanistic and based less on engineering, as we take a perspective influenced by systems thinking, studies of chaos and complexity, a greater respect for organic and evolutionary processes. And this means different conversations. The questions we ask, the individual words we choose to utter, the topics we include, all influence the conversation and the conversation makes a difference to what happens next in the organisation. This means taking conversation seriously and building our conversational skills in the kinds of ways described in Positively Speaking.
We are co-constructing an emergent future, step by step with our colleagues as we take our turns in each of our conversations.
It is worth articulating in great detail the future that we want to experience. This sets a direction, which functions like a compass. We can conversationally equip ourselves with resources – reminders of our relevant skills and experiences. And we can recognise when we are moving in the right direction, ready to adapt our journey through a changing landscape.
We meet each encounter with our improvisational skills. We encourage everyone to notice what is around us, making use of whatever we find, cooperating as much as possible. Then we can enjoy conversations that describe progress and that anticipate the next signs that things are going the way we want them to go.
Let’s keep these conversations going.