Safety coaching and mentoring – being solutions-focused

Generally speaking, safety people are not known for being solutions-focused. On the contrary, they are often regarded as being pre-occupied with obstacles and difficulties and the reasons why things aren’t as they should be.

To an extent this is understandable. Trained in techniques like 5-Whys Analysis and required to investigate the root cause of accidents and other failures, it’s perhaps to be expected that presented with a problem, the safety practitioner defaults to ‘why’ before any other question. But useful as this habit is in some circumstances, it’s not always the most helpful approach. When you ask ‘why’, it’s difficult to separate the person from the problem and it leads down a route where undermining the person and attributing blame becomes almost inevitable.

Solutions-focused coaching is more concerned with outcomes than reasons and the easiest way of focusing on the outcome is to ask outright: “what would the ideal outcome be?”

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