March 1, 2024

Improving performance with scaling

Hi, this is Carlo Perfetto here:

Over the past few months, I have been supporting the team leaders of a company in improving the performance of their respective teams. Having spent a lot of time on giving feedback based on the positive elements, one of the critical issues I am about to address with them is 'how can we help employees to identify an effective and sustainable improvement plan on their own'.

Immediately I thought of 'scaling', a tool typical of the Solution Focus approach that is quick, pragmatic and effective. Here is a brief description of it and its use.

What is scaling?

Scaling in Solution Focus is a 'qualitative' scale by means of which a person can be made to think about basically three different moments of his performance: his ideal point, his current level and his increase from his current level.

Through this visualisation and a few questions, the person is able to quickly identify what steps they could take to improve their performance.

Let us examine the different points:

• level "10" is the point at which the performance is "ideal" or desired, i.e. the subject's description of what he/she would do if his/her performance were maximum;

• level "0" is quickly described as "the exact opposite of the ideal performance level", leaving it up to the subject's imagination to define it in detail;

• level 'X' is the current situation, as defined by the person;

• the space between "0" and the current situation is a very interesting space; it is worth focusing the person's attention on what he/she actually "feels" he/she is already able to do, what is somehow already acquired and often taken for granted;

• equally interesting is the space between the current situation and "10"; it may in fact be important to investigate whether and when it happened that the performance was ever at a higher level than the current one and to understand the reasons, the behaviours that determined and supported it;

• finally, level "X+1"; it is the level immediately following the current one and consequently the one most easily reached with a little effort on the part of the person. Studying and deepening this level AFTER analysing the other levels is the prodrome for constructing the immediate and pragmatic action plan for performance improvement.

How to use the technique?

And here is a possible sequence to use this tool effectively: (I speak of 'possible sequence' because during a feedback or coaching session, the dialogue may not necessarily move in the order described; the important thing, however, is that it ends with an effective action plan...)

1. clearly identify level 10 (ideal performance);

2. quickly mention level "0" as the "exact opposite of the previous one";

3. identify the current level;

4. focus on the differences between 0 and the current level;

5. search for past situations of very good performance, between the current level and the ideal level, with subsequent analysis;

6. definition of the '+1' level compared to the current situation (i.e. 'what would you notice if you were at 5, what would be different, what would others notice, etc.)

7. determination of possible small steps towards that level.

It is important to pay attention to the sequence described in steps 6 and 7: first it is necessary to have "what would be different at 5" described and then ask what actions to take to reach that level.

Of course, the tool can also be used in subsequent feedback sessions. In fact, it is desirable that this happens: you will be able to build a feeling of continuity between the different sessions and also identify the improvements the person achieves each time!

And now start using it!

Simple, isn't it? Sure, like the whole Solution Focus approach. But beware, 'just because it's simple doesn't mean it's necessarily easy'; so be very careful not to guide the person's choices but just ask questions, wait for the answers and build on them!

If you are curious how you could use this approach in your managerial conversations, the "Coaching Skills for Managers and Leaders" course could be for you. Here all the info!

Good scaling, then! And if you'd like to share with us your ways and have a chat with other passionate coaches, you can visit us at one of our Free Coaching Meetups!

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