How SF impacts perception
A conversation with Ronald Warnecke
May 16, 2021
Foreword by Annie Bordeleau
Many colleagues in Ronald’s work environment describe him as someone who is staying ahead of the game, fully dedicated to finding new and effective ways of supporting individuals and teams in their development.
We had crossed paths many times, promising to meet up soon to exchange ideas on workshop design and Solution Focus. It is only recently that we finally grabbed a coffee and a meeting room to start exploring with this interview.
Expecting to collect a list of Solution Focused tools he uses in his interventions, I was very surprised to hear how skillfully he approaches his internal clients, far beyond the tools. As a result of his SF training, some of the shifts I found in his story were:
- A closer look with the client at the desired difference or transformation they want in their lives
- A stronger assumption that what is needed for the transformation is already there
- An appreciation for holding the space and the silence to enable miracles to happen We trust that you will also detect many more in this short interview. Enjoy!
Annie: First of all, I would like to thank you for this opportunity Ronald. It is the beginning of a conversation that we’ve been meaning to have for a long time.
Ronald: Yes, that’s true.
Annie: I would like to start with how you currently apply SF and then explore how you got in touch with the approach in the first place. Does that work for you?
Ronald: That’s is indeed very SF.
Annie: After connecting with the approach, where do you see yourself using it in your work life?
Ronald: So surprisingly, after a long, long time, beginning from the training until today, and reflecting from occasion to occasion about what I’m doing, the biggest insight for me was that it is not about applying a technique, it’s not applying a set of instruments or tools. It is much more about a different mind-set, a different perception of how you translate what is going on around you into action and into responses given to the people around you.
Ronald: It’s more about how you are seeing things and less about which specific tool or instrument you are applying and it’s not only in the business environment, it happens in your whole life, also in the private environment.
For example, with my wife, we are thinking about moving homes and together creating with our conversation a future of how this could look. Or if you have conversations here with an employee in a professional environment about how our own transformation looks, to what this could lead into the future and how we both envision it and how it feels. So, really, by talking to each other and with each other, creating new realities.
And as we started our conversation here right now, with the end in mind, it’s a similar application as in those examples of thinking about the future and how this can be applied.
Annie: To envision it.
Ronald: Yes, to envision it, what it means for me and to what extent this feels differently and what are the – if you may have time – small bits and pieces that can turn into something different compared to today.
Annie: And how would you describe it? You said something like: “we see it differently” than before and we respond differently, how would you put your finger on that difference?
Ronald: From my perspective, I’ve grown up and been educated in a way that you are confronted with a problem and everyone around you wanted to have a solution in place. It was about constantly reacting to things that were thrown on your table without spending efficient time or taking a conscious step back and as I said, thinking about what the future could look like. It was about, “here is the problem and bring me a solution right now!” And you were rewarded for behaving that way.
As it turned out in professional life, it was a strong request from my superior to act on it, to be fast. Starting in the solution thinking and solution coaching the entire approach offered a different perspective in terms of, not bringing the solution, but trying on the one hand, maybe together to co-create a solution, or on the other hand, helping your conversational partner see their solution. So, it’s a totally different, how should I say, requirement on yourself to what extent you use your own competence in driving things forward.
Annie: So it’s like you’re saying that instead of reacting to what you are getting, you are taking a bit of a step back and looking with your partner into what makes sense looking into the future.
Annie: And that’s how you are using SF; is it a more conscious exercise?
Ronald: It’s definitely more conscious. As I tried to explain, you have been rewarded to quickly respond on questions thrown at you, now it’s more a conscious experience of looking around you, better understanding how things are inter-relating and not responding in the classical consultant or expert role but leveraging what is around you, leveraging the experience, the knowledge, the skills that are around you in the light of assuming that everything we need to know is within ourselves.
This is a great insight I got out of this training and it developed and has grown over time.
Annie: Um, leveraging the strengths around you and trusting that everything you need is there already.
Ronald: And everyone has his own truth; who am I to tell someone else that it is the truth. It’s like awaiting what the others bring into the game. It’s about acknowledging and also appreciating what all the others have to say on a certain topic or a certain task.
Annie: Interesting, so you’re saying here that there’s an awareness that the person sitting in front of me lives in another world, in their own truth. That was a big part of Solution Focus for me, that they have everything they need and they live in a completely different world, to trust SF and to use those skills in that reality. And since you’ve done the course, in your day to day practice leading and being a partner for many people in the organisation, where could one see that you use it?
Ronald: There are different pieces. I think the most obvious one is how I run a situational analysis with a client; if a client requests my support in terms of, “We are facing XYZ and how can Learning and Development help me?” We usually diagnose and analyse the client’s situation and based on this, propose a sufficient development support. The entire Solution Focused thinking allowed me to enter a different area as to how to run such a situational analysis and ask different questions and with that, help the client to better understand how things are relating to each other and draw different conclusions than if you just lead a problem focused analysis or diagnosis.
With that, you open the room to co-create the potential development solution that is required for a specific request. So, it was not only on your shoulders to come up with a proposal, it was something that you co-created together with the sponsor and this is a totally different way of approaching such a situation.
And the second piece was in designing interventions or designing solutions for a specific need. For example, a procedure for a workshop. With the training in mind and what we’ve learned there, it also opened in that area, the opportunity to include sequences, and the workshop procedure allowed a much stronger focus on the resources of the participants, a much stronger focus on to what extent these resources can be leveraged in finding a solution together.
Another example was the idea of having a market place on resources. This was not very usual maybe a couple of years ago, but you can use this idea of people talking about their own strengths, the things they are really very good at, in a group setting and sharing those resources with each other and allowing with that to build on the good things that everyone has in terms of how the group can approach a certain issue or a question that they need to overcome or find a solution for.
Annie: So you would take what it here in the room (the resources) and link it to the challenges the team is facing?
Annie: Interesting, nice. There are two more questions that I have I mind and the first is to discover what motivated you in the first place to take this route and discover this mind-set? And then how did it fit to what you were doing before?
Let’s start with the first one: What initiated you in the first place to discover Solution Focus?
Ronald: Good question because it’s quite a few years back in time. If I remember correctly I ran research on what is offered in coaching, what are the different streams that are available, different theories. I spoke to colleagues who already went through training and quite pragmatically, I was looking for something that was offered in Basel. On one hand choosing the specific approach and on the other hand the private situation of finding something quite close to Basel, reducing the effort to travel.
Annie: And so you chose the …
Ronald: Weiterbuildungsforum, I had heard good things about it from the people who attended and another thing that was important for me was that we had already worked with a couple of the trainers here at Roche. They are coaches in our coach pool, so I was familiar with their approach and this was quite an important component that shaped my decision.
Annie: How did it fit to what you were doing before? How did you experience this approach from where you were coming from?
Ronald: Hm, the biggest surprise was this strong emphasis on the solutions and less emphasis on the problem. There was one thing as part of the training that I won’t forget; we were asked to design an intervention and present it to the other participants. Our intervention was that we designed a small interaction between the facilitator and the group without the group talking about the issues they are facing. It was just the facilitator asking a couple of questions and leaving the room and the space, the silence with the group to let them think about. The facilitator received the feedback and just with the body language could see that the group was ready, their thought process was done, he’d ask the next question. There was a fantastic, non-verbal communication between the two, but it was so obvious that something happened with the group that was facilitated, and this was quite an impressive observation for me.
Annie: It was clear that something had happened?
Ronald: Yes, it was like you do not have to share the problem with me, but I want you to think about the challenge you are facing and the group started to think about it. It was powerful!
Annie: Powerful, yeah.
Ronald: And obvious, because just for the observers of this exercise, you realised that the body language expressed the state that the participants achieved in the group, in answering the questions for the themselves, without loudly responding to the question.
Annie: I find that the longer I work with the approach, the more aware I am of that state, carefully looking at the partner.
Ronald: Yes, and this was impressive, how this experience also shaped my sensitivity when I interact with my clients and my customers. On the one hand asking those questions and giving them the room to think things through and allowing them to create their own solutions. It’s not about me proposing, not always about me proposing solutions and the way forward but to let the client come up with what works best for his or her specific context or setting.
Ronald: And that’s the co-creation part. Of course, I can be of help for the client to bring the thinking and what we have achieved out of the conversation, concept or proposal and maybe engage some external vendors as well. However, there is a fundamental piece I can bring in and the solution focus training helped me to do this differently.
Annie: Great, thank you so much Ronald. I will transcribe all of what you shared as you touch upon so many aspects of the approach. Many thanks.
Ronald: Great. Thanks.