Key Principles of Coaching - Solutions Focus

“We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

Our past two newsletters have focused on some of the key principles of coaching, Self-Directed Learning and the benefit of Challenge and Stretch. In this newsletter we continue the theme, concentrating on a key tenet of Coach & Co.’s approach – a Solutions Focus - and learn from 'Steve', a valued client.

What do we mean by a Solutions Focus? An instant answer to every dilemma? Pretending that we have not faced challenges in the past? No. A Solutions Focus represents a ‘future’ oriented mindset. Looking at the current circumstances and finding a way to improve those circumstances. We can all learn from challenges – coaching uses that learning and takes us beyond that.

Coaching Mining Supervisors

Coach & Co. is pleased to be partnering with a Western Australian based mining company to coach over 100 of their supervisors / emerging leaders, focusing on the development of leadership and people management skills.

Welcome New Coaches

A big welcome to our new affiliate coaches, John Sharp and Bruce Brodie, both credentialled coaches with the ICF, based in Perth and with extensive experience in the resources and construction sectors.


Coaching provides the opportunity to change the way we think, feel and behave so we arrive at a more desirable outcome - the one we want most. To illustrate this, I will (broadly) share a recent conversation I had with a client.

This client, let’s say their name is 'Steve', had used the first couple of coaching sessions to manage a couple of very challenging situations he was facing in the here and now. Through these coaching sessions he managed to negotiate those situations effectively, and much more quickly than otherwise would have been possible. However, Steve still felt as if he was ‘swamped’ by his current circumstances. This was leading to frustration that was building and moving towards anger. This was having a particularly big impact on his business.

Using the third coaching session to explore this frustration, Steve came to a realisation that he had lost track of where his business was heading. Prior to facing these obstacles, he'd had a good idea of what he wanted his business to look like, however it had been a long time since he had provided any focus on that vision. Much of his time and effort had been spent in managing problems day to day, many of which he had very little control over.

Building on this insight, we then set about re-establishing that vision for his business. By the end of the session, having switched his mindset to a solutions focus, Steve had regained clarity about the direction of his business and was even starting to talk about strategies to make sure that happened, something he had not done in a long time. As a coach, the most interesting result of this conversation was the realisation that the challenges Steve had been managing now seemed relatively insignificant when put in the context of his greater vision.

Further, Steve recognised that he had been dealing with those challenges in a way that prevented him from realising the outcomes he wanted. Needless to say, Steve was pretty energised by the end of the session, and is now on track to achieving his business vision, with clear goals set for the next 6 months, 12 months and 5 years.

“To solve the problems of today, we must focus on tomorrow.” Erik Nupponen

Coaching is about setting your sights on where you want to be, then putting the strategies in place to achieve this outcome, focused on solutions the whole time.

When working with Coach & Co. coaches, one of the things you will notice is the lack of ‘Why?’ questions being put to you (Why do you have this problem?, etc.). Having a solutions focus means being more constructive and proactive in your mindset. “What do you need to do to achieve this?” and “How can you develop this expertise?” are examples of solutions-focused questions. Asking questions such as “Why haven’t you achieved this yet?” and “Why do you find it so difficult to do that?” are likely to prompt a defensive response from the coachee. Having a solutions focus is about opening the coachee up to ideas and possibilities, not closing them off to available opportunities.

Self-Coaching Exercise
The following activity can assist you, or someone you know create a solutions focus:

Take note of your communication style for the day. Whenever you send an email, talk to someone on the phone or have a meeting, make a mental note of the number of times you focus on the problem, as opposed to the number of times you focus on the solution. Take particular note of any “Why?” questions and try to replace them with “What?” or “How?” questions.

For more information about the Key Principles of Coaching, and a Solutions Focus in particular, please contact Simon Altschwager on 1300 788 678 or, or refer to our website at

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