Last week as I was perusing the aisles of my local supermarket (I went for rye bread, perusing was for cake), I bumped into a former colleague of mine, a really talented couples therapist. We started talking about couples therapy and various styles, mine is pretty distinct (strategic therapy). She mentioned that she had recently been to a workshop by Terrence Real and he brought up the key question he starts each session with and she thought it was right up my alley.
It was. Here’s how it goes, “What would you like to have accomplished by the end of this session?” In an advanced form (maybe after the relationship with the client is established) this can be asked as, “What will be different at the end of this session?”
Think about it. Setting the expectations that way from the start of the session removes all the need for exploration as to what the issues are. In fact, it removes the need for negative reinforcement typical in therapy that requires the parties to complain about each other. (ok, it’s not required, but that’s what happens). It starts the session off on an optimistic note and allows for positive potential outcomes to be imagined.
When mentoring or coaching an employee, using this type of questioning at the outset can expedite the process by beginning with the end in mind. What are you hoping tot get out of this relationship/meeting? The onus is now on the employee to make the most of the session by providing a well thought out answer. It may even be best to send the question to the employee prior to the session so they know what to expect and are not thrown off.
In meeting settings this type of questioning can lay the ground work for a mutually beneficial outcome. Parties have the opportunity to share what’s important to them prior to getting down to work.
I think one of the most important implications this question has is that it pushes for a results orientation. Once hopes have been established it is up to the parties involved to make it happen.