Coaching to Develop Problem Solving Skills
Your clients come to you because they are stuck and need help moving forward. Often, because you are experienced and have the benefit of objectivity, you can pinpoint the problem and have a good idea where the solution lies. It’s tempting just to provide that help, knowing that clients will find it helpful. 

Written By Robert E Logan

Christian Coaching Pioneer, Strategic Ministry Catalyst, Resource Developer, Empowering Consultant : Logan Leadership
A good coach knows that the most powerful solutions and the ones that are most likely to get traction are the ones that the client comes up with on their own. Sometimes you get a client that finds the discovery process frustrating and just wants to be told what to do. It’s a “give a man a fish” situation. The long-term solution is to help the client learn to identify and resolve problems on their own. 

What do you do when your client regularly leans on you to identify problems and answers? 

The Six Skills of Problem-solving

6 problem solving skills

Work through the process below one step at a time, teaching them as you go. It will take far longer than just telling a client what to do or giving them a “helpful suggestion.” But this is no longer about the presenting problem; this is about teaching them how to solve problems themselves. Not only will it take longer, but you’ll need to coach them through this process more than once. Next time they come to you with a problem, return to this process and talk them through it. Once they have applied it to multiple situations, their problem-solving skills will become more ingrained. 

1. Isolate the problem

First, help them clarify and articulate the problem itself. Usually various areas are interrelated. Say there’s a problem with the children’s ministry. Is the problem primarily with teacher morale? Teacher training? Or maybe it’s with the curriculum and approach? Or it could be rooted in lack of clear communication with the parents. A little analysis here will help your client make sure they don’t get sidetracked on things that aren’t the main issue. Step one is making sure they are clearly focused on the right problem. 

2. Determine the depth

Next you’ll want to help your client assess the depth of the problem. How deep do its roots go? A problem stemming from people’s attitudes or spiritual lives or entrenched relational dynamics indicates a problem that goes much deeper than, say, a poor methodology being used. One can be changed more easily than the other, and it’s important to know how tractable or intractable a problem is.  

3. Understand the scope

How wide ranging is the problem? For example, say a community outreach team at a church seems to be struggling. Is it a problem with that particular team? Or is it connected to the overall DNA of the church not being very outward focused? As you can see, those different scopes would suggest quite different solutions. Ask your client questions to help them determine the scope as well as the depth of the problem. And as you go along, tell them the steps you are walking them through in this process so they will be better equipped next time to do more of their own problem-solving. 

4. Identify strategy

Once you have helped your client take the necessary time to truly clarify the problem—isolating it and determining its depth and scope, they will be in a much better position to begin steps 4-6: the problem-solving stage. Generally, clients want to jump here, skipping over steps 1-3, but then they find themselves stumped and ask you for suggestions. Helping them do the preparatory work for the first three steps will help them much more readily identify strategy. For example, if they have assessed that the problem is rooted spiritually and is widespread in the DNA of the church, they are more likely to adopt a strategy that involves teaching of biblical truths, prayer, and conversational dialogue with a great deal of listening. This problem is not something that can be solved by, say, making the music selections more modern. 

5. Generate options

Now that a general strategy has been identified, help your client brainstorm as many options as possible. No idea is too outrageous, and the more ideas the better. Helping them generate options will make your client feel more empowered and more prepared as they approach the problem. Encourage them to ask others in their circles to help them identify possible options. 

6. Pinpoint solutions

Finally, now is the time for decision-making. This is likely the point your client wanted you to jump them ahead to by giving them the “answer.” But you know that with this process behind them, they have come up with a much better solution—and one more tailored for their situation—than you could ever have handed to them. They are now able to choose from many possible and appropriate solutions. Plus, sometimes your client will be able to either combine two options or take a two-pronged approach, using more than one potential solution to address their problem. 

Resources

This blog is a solid start to helping your clients learn problem solving skills. If your client needs more help, a great place to start is with the Problem Solving & Decision Making Profile, an assessment tool to help them understand their strengths and accept areas where there is room for development. If a bigger picture is needed, the Problem Solving Skills Storyboard is a powerful tool to explain where they are, where there’s room to grow, and the benefits that will  come from that growth. Once they have pinpointed where they need to grow, they can work through those areas in between coaching sessions using the Problem Solving Skill Builder Booklet. (Links go to loganleadership.com)

Photo by Tachina Lee on Unsplash

Cover Photo by Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash

 

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