Reviewed Piece of SF work: John Wheeler
Delivering workshops on the SF approach to mandated participants who worked with mandated clients and expected training
At the beginning of the engagement participants in service B had been marshalled by their organisation to be taught the Solution Focused Approach as a result of the service hearing about the effectiveness of the approach with clients they shared in common with a parallel service A. The enthusiasm of managers in both services contributed to me not knowing that service A had decided to do this, arriving at a venue expecting to meet more practitioners from service B, and finding on the day that most were from service A. This presented a major challenge as practitioners in service A worked with voluntary clients and were usually voluntary participants in SF workshops. In contrast service B mainly worked with mandated clients and, as I soon discovered, also felt somewhat mandated to meet with me. By the end of my engagement with the first group of 20 practitioners from service B and a further four groups of a similar size there was clear evidence of practitioners in service B using the SF approach effectively with clients, and service B had a clear plan in place for embedding the approach into the service.
The client rated the work at 8 and when asked “How responsive was I to your needs?” commented,
- “You changed the event and tailored exercises to make it more reflective of our service” A colleague from service A who eventually assisted me in the work and subsequently offered supervision to practitioners from service B commented,
- “I found the advisors to be highly motivated to begin to use what they had learned from him (John) and even more motivated to tell us about how it had been successful with customers.”
I learned that in sharing the Solution Focused Approach with newcomers the process and content need to match. How I deliver the workshop needs to be consistent with the approach. I also found that well established parts of the SF approach can be remarkably helpful when in situations such as the one I found myself in. Asking what participants from service B wanted from the workshops and how they would be able to tell their experience with me had been useful helped me to know how to adapt my materials and invited them into a less hierarchical relationship with me as the person standing at the front. Taking time to find out what participants already knew about constructing effective engagements with clients demonstrated that I valued their knowledge, and brought into the workshop service based examples of future-oriented strengths-focused work. Coffee break conversations helped me to be a better informed tourist in an otherwise unfamiliar world. Scaling, part-way through, enabled us to talk together about the extent to which their outcomes had been achieved and what else we might do to achieve them. Using the Miracle Question on the last day for each group enabled participants to imagine their own uses of the SF approach and identify what they needed from the organisation to keep going.
John is a wondeful examplar of the Clues descibing the basic position of the practitioner, in particular in the respect he gave his participants, always treating them as equals, expert in their own situations. Working with participants who had not volunteered to attend his workshop, he served as a great model of how they might deal with their own clients, few of whom wanted to be with them. His ability to move them from a position of scepticism to enthusiasm showed great awareness – of his own mood as well as that of the participants – and flexibility in adjusting his plans to meet their needs. His tentative, non-dogmatic approach won him many allies.
Second Reviewer summary:
John is an experienced and reputable solution-focused practitioner who again demonstrated in this piece of work his mastery of the art of solutions focus. Throughout this work he showecased an sf teaching and learning philosophy and “walked the talk“ with his clients. In a difficult situation he showed great awareness of the needs of the participants and adapted to the challenge by becoming a “tourist“ in their working environment and building a solid platform with them. His non-defensive and co-operative stance won them over. He succeeded in co-constructing the training content with them and involved the participants as co-trainers with great success.(Stanus Cloete)