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Coaching With OSKAR

Coaching with OSKAR

I had the opportunity to attend the International Association of Facilitator‘s North America conference in Halifax, Canada, last week.  In addition to the expected value of networking with fellow professional facilitators, there was also the chance to learn with and from some experienced colleagues.

I was introduced to a new (to me) coaching tool in a session on “Coaching Executive Teams”.  The tool comes from the Solutions Focused Therapy movement, which “is a type of talking therapy that is based upon social constructionist philosophy. It focuses on what clients want to achieve through therapy rather than on the problem(s) that made them seek help. The approach does not focus on the past, but instead, focuses on the present and future.” (definition from wikipedia)

It is an interesting tool to bring to an organizational setting, as it encourages you to look forward, to solutions, rather than spending your energy tackling the many obstacles you might face. 

In fact, the metaphor that jumps into my mind is that of a rugby player (I’m giving away from roots in Ireland and South Africa here!) – the player with the ball dodges and weaves their way past the defense, looking for the gaps, rather than trying to power their way through obstacles.  This approach can allow for greater progress when you do exploit the gap!

So what is OSKAR?

It is an acronym for:
Affirm and Action

Outcome – this is a description of the difference that the coachee wants to see as a result of the coaching.  This is more than just a ‘goal’, as you can also describe characteristics of the difference.

Scale – the coachee is asked to rate themselves on a scale of 0-10, with 10 being the Outcome has been achieved.
There are a couple of interesting points here.  First, by scaling themselves in this way, the coachee is reminded that they are very unlikely to be at 0, the complete opposite point from the Outcome.  They are some way along the continuum, so they are making some progress towards their desired outcome.
The second point is that the coachee is then asked “What would it take for you to increase your own score by X decimal point?”  As the coachee both chooses how far along they desire to move up the scale, and determine what they will have to do to make that happen, there is a high level of ownership of the actions they identify.
Note that the coach is not giving advice or directing the coachee towards certain actions.  They are helping the coachee by asking questions, and helping them consider just how far they are willing to move this time.

Know-how and Resources – this is an opportunity to ask the coachee to remind themselves of how resourceful they already are, and the resources to which they have access.  By looking to the know-how that has enabled them to reach this far along the continuum, the coachee is reminded what resources they can call on for the next set of steps they are considering.  And they can also identify the resources in the people around them that are available to assist them.

Affirm and Action – the coach has a chance to affirm the positive qualities they have noticed in the coachee, based on their observations in the coaching session.  The coachee also identifies the Actions they will take, the small steps to move themselves further along to the continuum to the point they identified when they did the Scale work.  The next steps should build on what is working, on the know-how they have developed over time.

Review – the focus of follow-up sessions between coach and coachee is not on whether the planned actions were carried out, but on ‘what’s better?’ By assessing whether things are moving in the right direction, the discussion remains ‘solutions focused’

I think this is a useful tool, and I intend to incorporate it into my consulting toolkit.  In addition to the solutions focus, which I find very compelling, you can get a lot of value from even a brief use of the tool in a coaching conversation.  When we practiced using the tool in pairs in the conference setting, my coaching partner and I each described getting good value from thoughtful, solutions-focused questions, in less than 10 minutes!

A nice summary of OSKAR is available from the Centre for Solutions Focus at Work.

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