Doing the work in sustainability that we want to do

Lots of the women who came along to She is Still Sustainable said that the highlight was a co-coaching exercise we ran, using a solutions focus approach.  People paired up and coached each other, asking positive, future-oriented questions about the sustainability work they wanted to do. The instructions are here.

 Co-coaching at She is Still Sustainable

Co-coaching at She is Still Sustainable

I’ve used this co-coaching exercise in other contexts recently too, for example training people in running better meetings, with a volunteer pastoral care team who offer confidential listening in a community setting, and working with a group who wanted to get better at being a peer support team for each other.

There are two things I want to reflect on about this:

  • The power of a solutions focus approach
  • How easy it is to teach people to coach each other this way

The power of the positive

There is an unexpected novelty for most people in creating a vision of how you want things to be, appreciating and identifying what’s got you so far towards it already, and then finding the small, doable actions which will take you ‘one point further up the scale’.  It’s refreshing to focus on solutions, when we more usually prioritise problems, barriers, failures.  Culturally we are encouraged to ‘learn from our mistakes’.

Of course if we make a mistake it is great to at least get the benefit of learning from it.  But we can also learn from our successes!  And there’s something uplifting and motivating which comes from remembering and building on what works.

It’s easy to use this approach

In workshops and training courses, if you can find 45 – 60 minutes, you can get your participants co-coaching. 

The first step is some guided visioning – and I usually do this as a whole group.  I invite people to sit comfortably, closing their eyes if they like.  Depending on the focus of the event, I’ll invite people to imagine that they wake up one morning and a miracle has happened!  They are (for example):

  • Doing the sustainability work they want to do, in the way they want to do it;
  • About to run a perfect event;
  • The best pastoral care team member they can be;
  • A fabulous peer team.

Quick summary

 Solutions focus: scaling

Solutions focus: scaling

I talk them through their day, pausing to give them time to really think their way into it: What does it feel, sound, smell, taste like? What do they hear, say and do?  How do they feel?

Having built up this detailed vision of the ‘future perfect’, I invite them to identify where they are on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is the future perfect and 1 is its opposite. 

I then invite people to get into pairs (if it’s an odd number, I join in), and do the next steps in the process. I talk through what those steps are, and back this up with a handout.  I let people know how long they have for the exercise: I like to ensure there’s no less than 15 minutes each way – 20 – 25 minutes is even better. 

I check for questions, and then let them get on with it.  I discretely check in with everyone approximately half-way through the time, to ensure they have swapped roles.

It’s all in the handout. 

Being a great change maker

My experience with this solutions focus co-coaching exercise has been overwhelmingly positive, so much so that I’ve included it in both editions of Change Management for Sustainable Development.

Try it!