I had an interesting experience with a client recently. We had been retained to conduct a culture survey of the business which consisted of in excess of one hundred staff. When presenting the results of the investigations we had conducted, I started by telling him what I thought was wrong and what we needed to address in the near future. My thinking was fairly straightforward. I took the view that he probably knew what was working and certainly wasn’t paying me to come and tell him what was right but rather to focus on what he needed to improve and so my discussion with him started from that premise.
This thinking was in however in stark contrast to my own usual communication strategies. When I am working with a client for the first time, I would normally ask him to tell me what is working in his business or what is going well in his business as opposed to what is going wrong. I would also ask what the frustrations are but I would use what is working well or what is right as a starting point to address the frustrations, so that we can embark on problem solving rather than problem thinking.
In this particular case, I failed to heed my own advice and the client became quite frustrated (and rightly so). He wasn’t looking for me to sugar coat the outcome. He explained that his frustrations came about as a result of consultants or coaches in the past only focusing on what went wrong in order to justify the proposal they were about to put to him. Of course, he very quickly came to see that was not the way I operated and I wasn’t interested in painting a bad picture (so I could charge him to make it look better), but rather I was about providing him honest and objective feedback about the areas that he needed to focus on in his business.
Apart from the importance of taking a positive approach to problem solving, I was also reminded of something I learned many years ago in my Neuro-Linguistic Programming – the remedial-generative continuum, which is a coaching method I learned during my coaching studies. This remedial-generative continuum approach to coaching suggests that coaching is about much more than corrective (remedial) strategies or simply fixing something. Coaching is about attending to the areas that need to be remediated but in the process addressing the thinking that caused the problem in the first place. Albert Einstein once commented that no problem can truly be solved with the same kind of thinking that created it. In other words, we need new terms, fresh approaches and different ways of thinking. This is when coaching leads clients away from the remedial and toward the generative continuum.
It is important to remember when addressing something which may not be working in your business, to consider how the solution should also help you to achieve a more effective form of behaviour, improve the environment or enhance or learn a skill, which will not only fix the problem but generate both opportunity and a new way of thinking in business moving forward.
Remember when one individual who is in a position of influence within an organization changes for the better, they change the context they provide for others randomly and this of itself can be very generative in any business.
In my coaching, I am constantly aware of remedial generative continuum and understand that some clients have a strictly remedial mindset. Invariably that provides them with a short-term solution to what will ultimately be a long-term problem. By helping my clients to take a journey from remedial to generative success becomes a natural by-product of the coaching process. It is worth remembering that your mindset determines what you presuppose about the possible outcomes in what you do in your business. This of course includes business coaching. What you believe and value will affect what skills you to choose to develop, what capabilities you exercise and how you are able to behave in a way which brings about sustained change in your business.
Next time you have an issue to address in your business, think about the remedial generative continuum and look for a solution that not only fixes the problem now, but also provides long term growth opportunities.