Research Paper By Hector Sandoval
(Leadership Coach, SPAIN)
I began training as a professional Coach in June 2012. My main motivation is to leverage over 26 years of corporate experience (as a leader and executive in a variety of operational, commercial and people management roles) to support individuals and corporations who are committed to developing and improving leadership effectiveness. Over the past years I encountered many situations where the opportunities to improve employee alignment and motivation failed, mainly because the leaders did not recognize gaps in their own behaviors and skills. As part of an executive team or as a consultant my degree of influence was very limited. As a Coach, however, the process and commitment that can be established on an individual level, based on creating a trusted, effective and moving forward space, may yield extraordinary results in bridging those gaps.
As part of the requirements to graduate as a Coach I have developed my own Coaching Model: the LeadER Model. This model is based on the premise that effective change can take place when individuals assume a leadership role to create, steer and accomplish goals in their personal or professional dimensions. The LeadER Model defines a structure where the Client is listened to, learning occurs through powerful inquiry, acknowledgement, assessments and perspective reframing. This knowledge is then transformed into action plans, with clear steps to build a bridge between the current state, the desired state and an emphasis on Execution and Review phases of these plans. At the end of the journey, the Client is able to experience positive change to behaviors and skills, understanding that common leadership traits can be useful in discovering and leveraging untapped potential.
As with most Coaching models and propositions, the Client is advised that in order to develop the proper knowledge of the current state, desired direction and goals, and the execution of successful plans, time and effort should be committed in a genuine way. In this sense a typical Coaching engagement may take around 12 sessions, usually spread between 3 to 6 months, in order to materialize the actions into results. With this in mind I began to look for alternatives that may add value to the Client by way of reducing the length of the engagement, in specific cases where this may be appropriate. Because I would like to focus my practice coaching leaders in positions of considerable responsibility, and as a former executive myself, I believe providing an option for a shorter but no less powerful relationship can be an attractive proposition.
In late October 2012 I attended an ICF Sponsored Conference in Barcelona, Spain. The primary motivation was to begin a networking strategy within the local Coaching community, in order to understand the market situation and position my own personal brand and services accordingly. Another objective was to learn any new trends or perspectives that the keynote speakers could bring to my attention. It was in this context that I first encountered the concept of ‘Brief Coaching’, as presented by one of its strongest practitioners, Dr. Peter Szabó of Switzerland.
Brief Coaching: According to Dr. Szabó’s own publications and his keynote speech, Brief Coaching is a product of the ‘Solutions Based’ paradigm, and has been extensively developed, practiced and documented through his work. A well-stocked resource center can be consulted in Dr. Szabó’s ‘Solutionsurfers’ website: www.solutionsurfers.com. One can better understand the origin and progress this particular approach, since its origins and through the work of Dr. Szabo, as well as the research conducted by sociologists Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg.
In a summarized version Brief Coaching can be explained in the following terms:
- This approach blends very well with the ICF and ICA principles stating that ‘Clients are capable, resourceful and whole in order to approach their intentions to grow and introduce positive change in their lives’. While Brief Coaching supports a structure containing the elements of: Listening, Powerful Questions, Perspective Reframing, Actions and Commitment, it simply proposes to accomplish these phases in a much shorter period of time by taking advantage of solutions the Client may already have in place. Dr. Szabó explains that in this approach there are three distinct phases that distinguish Brief Coaching from a more ‘problem based’ paradigm1:
- Coaches can be useful to Clients in different ways, depending on how they approach the journey from a current situation, a desired outcome, and the steps in between to accomplish goals and objectives. To represent these approaches one can formulate questions such as: “How can I help you unblock the situation”, or, “What are the steps you would like me to help you with”, which are associated with the more traditional Coaching relationships. Or, in a ‘solutions based paradigm’, one can ask: “what have you already done to accomplish the desired situation”. That is, focusing on what the Client has formulated as solutions rather than analyzing the problem.
- Exploring the Future, or ‘desired state of being’
- Exploring signs that the goal is already being reached
- Experimental Phase
- Dr. Szabó demonstrated this approach by using an example where his own 12 year old daughter became a one session Client: the ‘problem’ his daughter wanted to be coached on was the requirement to write a school paper in the midst of an already busy schedule and time pressure. After listening to his daughter’s description of the problem, Dr. Szabó asked his first question: “on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being submitting the final version of the paper on time, where are you at?”. His daughter replied: “a 3”. He then explained that the following two questions were fundamental in moving the Client forward and represent the essence of Brief Coaching: “What have you done already to be in a 3”. After his daughter explained the first steps in collecting data for the paper, organizing other sources of content and agreeing with another student on sharing the work, Dr. Szabo’s next question was simply “what else?”. After repeating this question several times, the Client reflected that she had accomplished much more than she originally thought, and stated that her current position on the scale “was more a 4 than a 3”. With this realization came empowerment and confidence, and after only 15 minutes the Coaching engagement came to an end. Dr. Szabó’s daughter did not return for a second session, but did report to her Father that a few weeks after that single conversation she was now “a 7” on the scale and eventually she turned the paper in, on time, and with very satisfying scores.
- I was very impressed by this concept and realized that this was probably the first significant ‘new trend’ in Coaching that I had come in contact with since completing most of my ICA training, and other research I had been conducting to expand my knowledge of the profession.
- I consulted Dr. Szabós website and found several compelling ‘case studies’ where he applied the concept of Brief Coaching to real life engagements with managers and leaders of considerable corporate responsibility. In most cases the key to implement the Brief Coaching approach was to use a scaling type question and to repeat the process that Dr. Szabó demonstrated in the conference: ask the Client what has already been accomplished to reach the initial position in the scale, and follow up on that level of inquiry. In most cases the Client required one or two sessions to realize that significant solutions were already in motion, sometimes improving the position on the scale, and feeling very empowered to take the remaining part of the journey on their own.