Brief Coaching for Lasting Solutions - Review of the book

22/09/2009 17:09


I have recently bought the book Brief Coaching for lasting Solutions, written by Insoo Kim Berg and Peter Szabo and read it in some detail. I have some time ago read an article about the brief coaching in Coaching at Work publication, listened to Peter Szabo’s recording of a coaching session and attended one of his workshops at a conference in Geneva in 2008, as I was curious about the brief coaching.

However, it was only after reading this book, that I fully came to appreciate the simplicity of this approach of coaching. I have been in my coaching career trying to move my game of coaching to higher and higher levels, never being satisfied with the level I am at and reading this book made me realise that it is not the number of tools and processes that make a good coach, but understanding the most basic principles, , simpler the better, as the authors say“ may end up scratching your head from time to time, puzzled about how such simple things might work so well.“.

The main of them beiing the solution focus, total belief that the client has all the resources and behind every action is a good intention, step by step approach, how even smallest changes can make a profound effect on client’s life, let the client determine the length of coaching, the ethical approach to clients needs.

The origin of brief coachng – Steve de Shazer and Insoo KimBerg in Milwaukee looking for an effective and efficient approach, interesting in things that worked, not what the problems were or what did not work. When clients talked about their problems, they became more depressed, on the other hand, when they talked about the things they wanted to do, they became hopeful,  excited and creative, longer they talked, the more excited and creative they became.

They realised that the language became the most important tool in the change process.

The simple principles during the brief coaching process:

-          If it works, don’t fix it

-          If something worked once, do more of it

-          If it does not work, do something different

-          Change is constant and inevitable – life is full of changes

-          The future is negotiated and created

-          Small solutions can lead to large changes

-          Problems and solutions may not always be directly related

-          No problem happens all the time

-          Ask questions rather than tell the client what to do

-          Give compliments

-          Gently nudge to do more of what is working


The book goes into quite a detail about the actual coaching sessions, spending a large time on the session number one, using simple questions, getting to know the client, acknowledging their successes and helping them to define the goals in a positive way, helping the client to find positive energy by finding out what is important to the client, as well as finding out who is important to the client.

The book is full of concrete examples of coaching conversation with detailed description and explanations of what was happening before, during and after coaching and how to deal with and react to unusual situations during coaching with practical guidelines from experience used in special situations in coaching, such as working with challenging clients, conflict situations, mandated clients, etc.

The most important thing at the first coaching session is to be persistant to identify the successful outcome for the client. Use of scales helps to focus and provides measure, miracle questions help to provide a picture of the future.

I especially appreciated the following , many of which were indeed learning points:

Making the ordinary extraordinary

Life is full of small successes, achievements

Repeating what we do well

Not dwelling on failures and disappointments

Deeper awareness questions, all the time

References to other people, best friend, family – how do they see us, what changes they see, what would they say

Not pushing too fast, slowly step by step and encourage mastery of current progress

Smallest easiest  and simplest change, one at a time

Assume the good intentions of others

Holding principles of coaching within discussion and examples i.e not judging, taking clients perception as reality

Build on the strengths and competencies and not on the negatives

Finally of course the Ethical obligations and  confidentiality.


The book Brief Coaching for lasting Solutions is worth reading and I can recommend it to coaches in the beginning of their career, as well as experienced coaches, wanting to go more into the depths and details of various approaches.


Zlatica M. Stubbs

Executive and Corporate Coach