This post was originally published in the Newsletter for CIPD Management Toolclicks. You can read the original article here.
“The solution does not care where the problem came from” W. Herren
This paradoxical quote is a powerful maxim for developing your team.
When teams want to develop or change, what usually happens is they analyse everything that isn’t working and discuss the possible reasons. They adopt a ‘problem focus’ and spend much time analysing and discussing the very thing that they don’t want i.e. the current situation and everything that isn’t working.
A solution-focused approach turns this way of thinking on its head and shows how you can help teams be more efficient and more productive.
As human beings, we can adopt one of two ways of looking at the world.
On the one hand, we can see ourselves and other people as flawed and prone to mistakes.
Then we focus our attention mainly on what is not working and what mistakes individuals are making.
You might recognise this: there are teams that criticise every flaw openly. People moan, complain and make sarcastic comments. All the stories are negative ones and there are constant complaints about time pressure, lack of resources, impossible working conditions and difficult colleagues.
In this vale of misery, all energy and momentum are lost. And the result is the team limits their own progress and performance. Instead of shaping their future, they use their time to bemoan the past.
On the other hand, we can see ourselves and others as highly skilled, with invaluable knowledge and experience.
Every individual, every team and every organisation have far bigger potential than they are usually aware of. This potential has already flashed up occasionally in the past – at least in a few moments, sometimes over a longer period.
A more positive and effective approach to developing your team is to work with this power of what they are capable of.
When you and your team reflect on the past, don’t look for mistakes and shortfalls, but instead explore the strengths of the team and search for moments of success. These moments provide you with the basis on which the team can progress and build further success.
Three ways you can help your team be more efficient and productive
You can help your team be more efficient and productive by adopting the following approaches:
1. Focus on the successes you want to deliver, not the barriers.
Encourage the team to talk about the future that everybody wants, and not waste time discussing what they don’t want.
Professional athletes and coaches in all sports know that imagining positive future scenarios is a powerful way to increase the likelihood of achieving a successful result.
The same is true in work teams.
Team members become excited by their idea of a positive future and want to make it a reality. So team members then behave in ways that aim to achieve the successful result.
2. Build on success. Find what works and do more of it.
Focus the team’s attention on what is already working that is taking them in the direction they want to go.
The seeds of the result you are trying to achieve are almost always present. What parts of the positive future you want to create are already in place or have happened occasionally before?
Help the team analyse the past and present to find what is working or has worked before that could be a useful possibility to help them create the change or performance they want.
3. Highlight resources. Ask about and observe strengths, skills, positive qualities
You may assume that crises and problems in your team arise because the team is incapable of dealing with the situation adequately. The team lacks certain skills or it is not flexible enough.
A more positive approach to developing your team is to recognise that the team has many skills and resources that it may need to (re) discover. It is not about covering shortfalls but about highlighting existing skills and strengths and using them to create the results you are aiming for.