I was speaking with a student the other day, discussing how to use consulting and coaching skills combined to significantly assist a client towards a solution to problems that arise. This clarifying process leads to many insights and ah-ha moments.
In this blog post, I outline my problem-solving process which I’ve honed over many years as a consultant, coach, and mastermind group facilitator. Try this technique with your own clients or mastermind group members, and let me know how it works for you!
The three-part problem-solving process
At the top of the process, you’ll use your coaching skills to help the client define the problem as it appears on the surface. Next, you’ll dive deep to understand its genesis and uncover the real problem which lies beneath. (You may find your client has some resistance to uncovering the true cause of the problem even if it’s apparent to you. If so, circle back to it in the final phase of this process.)
To arrive at solutions, consulting skills and brainstorming are used in combination, uncovering possibilities which can be analyzed for effectiveness.
At the bottom of the process is implementation and prevention, where you’ll use your coaching skills. Sometimes a client can’t know what truly caused a problem until they go through the whole solution-generation phase. There are many ah-ha moments of clarity which arise, as the true core of the problem becomes apparent. The solution will ask them to make changes, and the prevention will ask them to make further changes – including to their inner selves.
Begin with using coaching-type questions, follow on with consulting questions and brainstorming, and then back to coaching questions. I’ve outlined the process below.
Let’s begin, using coach-like questions. Ask the client to define the problem, with questions like:
What does the problem look like? What’s actually happening or not happening?
Where and when is it happening?
Why is this a problem now?
Is it consistently a problem, or does it only occur occasionally?
What will happen if you don’t solve this problem?
Now, dive deeper:
What have you already done to fix this problem?
Why didn’t that solution work?
Time to put on your consultant/brainstorming hat:
Ask: what does your world look like when this problem is solved? How will you know the solution has been effective?
Brainstorm possible solutions, simply creating a list without editing. Your client or member may want to jump into a discussion at this point about why a solution will/won’t work. Don’t let them. Explain the idea behind brainstorming is creative thinking; if you begin to analyze ideas, creativity goes out the window when the linear mind takes over.
Discuss the pros/cons of each solution. Share with them your experience with each solution, and which ones worked for you or your other clients.
Begin to rank each solution based on the likelihood of it succeeding within the parameters of time and resource availability.
Consider combining two solutions together for maximum impact.
Put on your coaching hat again, and ask:
Which solution seems the best for you and your specific situation?
Who needs to be involved in implementing this solution?
Will there be any resistance from others in implementing this solution? If yes, how will you deal with that?
Does anyone need any new skills in order to implement this solution? If yes, how will you get the training/education?
What timeline will this solution require and how will you find time to implement it?
What resources will you need?
How could this solution fail?
Talk about prevention:
Now that we’ve discussed the problem thoroughly and found a solution, what do you think was the underlying cause of this problem?
In order to prevent this type of problem again, what systems or processes do you need to put in place now?
In order to prevent this type of problem again, what do you, personally, need to do within yourself to step up your mindset or your habits?
If you’re running mastermind groups, these are perfect questions to ask when clarifying someone’s Hot Seat topic. You can also ask these questions via email as a preparation for a consulting/coaching meeting.
This entire process can take less than an hour or can span over several sessions, depending on how much time is spent on brainstorming and implementation. There may be a gap as the client/member implements the solution and awaits results.
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