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Management, Teaching and Therapy Published: Sunday, November 24, 2002 By: Dr. Manuel Ángel Morales

Management, as an activity, falls somewhere in the area of overlap between teaching and therapy. Regardless of whether differences among these ventures are more a matter of social labeling or reflections of different interactive patterns, some distinctions can be made. Supervision is like teaching in that it involves the supervisor helping the supervisee to master knowledge and skills that are needed for effective execution. Supervision is like therapy in that it involves a significant, constructive and healthy relationship in which a supervisor attempts to bring about modifications in the supervisee’s thoughts, feelings, and actions, especially self-directed behaviors.

The work of S. de Shazer and Jefferson Fish (Patterns of Brief Family Therapy; Culture and Therapy) is very open, sensitive, multi-disciplinary, committed to idea of brief sessions for coping with personal problems and very applicable to organizational settings. The main elements of their therapeutic orientation are the following: 1. Define goals rather than problems. The working interactions and dynamics should emphasize clear goal improvement definition. The logic is that as long as you know where you are going and how to get there, it isn’t important to know where you are coming from. While traditional thinking would contend that a careful definition of the problem would indicate how to solve it, solution focused managers as therapists argue that paying attention to the process of crafting a solution is a much better and preferred task. 2. Stress solution talk rather than problem talk. The core argument here is that problem talk is perpetuating, while solution talk can be described as a process of changing client’s response expectancies to become more positive, constructive and action oriented. The focus is on what is going well rather than what is going wrong. Again problem talk often is a huge task of distraction. Trying to solve a problem is sometimes like trying to think of something else. It can be interpreted as listening to music or playing basketball, which are activities that directly have nothing to do with the core issue to be solved, but at the end help in this venture. 3. Deconstruct the problem. Solution focused managers as therapists attempt to demonstrate that because there are exceptions to the problem, the client’s predicament isn’t always what it seems, for example uncontrollable or hopeless. Here the process is one as trying persuasively to change the client’s negative expectancies. 4. Find exceptions to the problem and encourage them to increase. This is the core of the strategy, and there are many techniques and intervention approaches to implement it. The purpose is to increase the frequency of competing responses (alternatives to problem behavior in the same situations) through a variety of means, including the modification of response expectancies on the part of the subject. 5. Encourage client’s expectation of change. This is about altering the response expectancies of the subject by creatively using some kind placebo effect.

These lessons are very interesting when apply within the context of organizations, because sometimes focusing on solutions is the only way of trying something different and seeing what happens…


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