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Pushing for Solutions

Someone comes to you to discuss an issue they have.  You ask some questions, and at a certain point, you feel like you have a pretty good grip of the situation.  It is time to move to solutions, right?

NOT SO FAST!  That just might be the last thing that they want to do.  Perhaps they are simply seeking:

• Clarity on their challenge

• A sounding board
• Empathy
• A moment of reflection
• An impartial sparing partner
• A chance to share their story with someone
• Confirmation that they are seeing things clearly
• etc.

A while back I was observing a coaching conversation where a manager (coachee) shared that he was struggling with his relationship with a colleague.  At a certain point, the coach said ‘Why not just go and talk with her about this, and figure it out together?”

The conversation then turned toward a rather lengthy discussion that looked more like an argument between the coach and the coachee.  Finally, the coachee said, “But how can I go talk with her about the issue when I don’t understand what the issue exactly is?  It would simply create yet one more interaction of the sort I am trying to avoid!”

Indeed, the coach had thought that the challenge was clear, but now realized that it actually wasn’t.  It was back to the drawing board, which in this case consisted of analyzing several recent interactions that had gone wrong, in more detail.  Together they identified two common themes that were repeating themselves, and the coachee felt much better prepared to work this out with his colleague.

It can be tempting to move too quickly toward (our) solutions, missing important steps along the way.