Solution-Focused Leadership: The Development and Evaluation of a Marriage and Family Therapy-Based Leadership Training Program


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Virginia Tech


This research project utilized concepts and methods from the field of marriage and family therapy, to help leaders from business organizations develop greater relationship competency. A training workshop was designed and then evaluated to improve the quality of the training process, and to answer the following question: what, if any, effect did the workshop have on the participants1 relationship competencies in their work and/or family roles?

The workshop participants were 12 people from small to medium sized business organizations who held leadership positions in their companies. The training model consisted of an initial three-day session, followed by a two-month interim period where the participants were given individual coaching, concluded by a two-day follow-up session. Several qualitative methods were used for obtaining data including the use of focus groups, in-depth interviews, and case notes.

Formative evaluation processes provided information critical to the program1s improvement. Summative evaluation results indicate that the training was effective in helping individuals increase their relationship competency in the following four areas: 1) increased awareness, 2) greater relationship orientation, 3) new relationship-oriented behaviors, and 4) perceived outcomes. Participants reported having greater awareness of their own cognitive and emotional processes, as well as greater empathy for the experiences of others. Participants1 attitudes became more relationally oriented and were followed by new behaviors that promoted closer family relationships and collaborative work relationships. Participants credited the training with positive relational outcomes such as greater trust, more intimacy, and better communication in selected relationships. Other outcomes, specific to the experience of particular individuals, were also attributed to the training experience.

The results provide preliminary evidence that MFT processes may be effective in helping leaders develop interpersonal or relationship competencies in a workshop setting. This study adds to the collection of research where family therapy models have been successfully utilized in diverse human systems contexts.



leadership development, program evaluation, interpersonal competency, marriage and family therapy, solution-focused therapy