In our Solutions Focus practice we like to say that our clients and customers are the experts, by which we acknowledge that they know their lives and work better than we ever can, and are therefore best placed to decide how to use their resources to solve their problems.
So, if the client is the expert, how do we let them know that, while still adding value in our job as coach, therapist or workshop leader? How do we empower clients in practice during a workshop or a coaching session?
Even if we cast ourselves in the role of question-asker, it’s still not that easy. After all, the person who asks the questions has the power to guide the exchange. If that person is the coach, how does that serve to empower the client? Is it merely a fake kind of empowerment?
Part of the power consists of who decides what will be talked about. So perhaps a key move here is from ‘consultancy’ or ‘coaching’ to ‘conversations’. Conversations are structured to be more equal than typical doctor-patient or consultant-client types of relationship. In conversation there is less of a single leader and a greater sense of playfulness. There will be taking of turns, and each turn can project the conversation in the direction chosen by either speaker.
Mark Twain observed that the only difference between work and play is the obligation to do something - which can turn any activity into work. So here’s a possible difference: not so much that the client asks questions of the coach, but that the client is encouraged to ask questions of him or herself.
Giving this power to the client makes the session more like play. In a game, the concept of power is diminished. Each player can say yes or no.
And if client still insists we are the expert, that’s fine; they are now more obliged to answer our great questions!
How playful can you be in your consultant-and-client relationships?