A worthwhile world

MONIKA HOUCK, former CEO of Lufthansa Systems Hungaria in Budapest, talks about Solution Focused Coaching and how we can change our life and the world.


Interview to Fania Pallikarakis

“In the ‘70s we thought we had to create a better world” she says and while she adds that “I have always wanted to become an artist”, Monika Houck can be proud of a 27 year career in Lufthansa, where she strongly influenced the company’s culture towards a solution-focused direction. She explains that working as a Coach and High-Talents Mentor in the airline industry, was a way to contribute to this dream of her youth. 

Today, she finally finds the time to start doing the things she had always wanted to and proves that it’s never too late: by pursuing university studies in Arts and Photography. An elegant lady, successful businesswoman and a very active member of the Solution Focus community, with experience in Leadership, Project Management and Information Technology throughout Europe, Asia and the United States,  Monika Houck is on top a well-grounded  person with a firm belief that modesty is a crucial virtue. 

I had the chance to meet her at the SOL World Conference held in Budapest in March. She still dreams of a better world and believes that we can change our life. She shared with me her thoughts on how this could be done, in an inspiring and sincere way, with a human touch. Here is what she said. 

16-e1416318974999How did you get involved in Solution Focused Coaching?

That was when I met Insoo Kim Berg, a leading figure in the formation of Solution Focus. Although I had already a solid systemic education from the University of Heidelberg, I was very surprised by her approach and working with Insoo really changed my life. Ever since, I have been applying Solution Focus in all aspects of my work and my personal life.


How would you describe the Solution Focus approach briefly?

Solution Focus offers a possibility to those people who want to change their life and who believe in the possibility of doing so. This attitude is decisively important.


Do you agree that sometimes things are so bad that it seems impossible to make a positive change happen?

It seems that it takes a lot of courage to imagine a future that is completely different from the present you are living in today. We live in a world that is full of barriers, do’s and don’ts. If you grow up in a way like this and in a world like this, it’s not too easy to overcome these walls. Still, it’s the only way; if you want to create a future where you can make a life that you will be looking back at and say “Yes, this is what I wanted. This was a life worth living”.


Is there a key that can help us achieve that?

Language plays a fundamental role. Many people, when asked what they want, include in the description of their wishes the reality and the barriers of today. They use a language that says “I want this but I know I can’t do it; I don’t have the talent or the money”. This is a language where the possibility of changing things is not included. This happens when you are linked too closely to the existing system and beliefs, and currently “accepted” behaviour.


Do you imply we should dream more?

One of the things that I love most in Solution Focus is the Miracle Question. You ask people to forget reality for a minute. You ask them to imagine that they are dreaming in the night. Then, they wake up the morning after and enjoy the pleasure of the miracle they dreamt of. Solution Focus insists that you create a very colourful picture of what this morning after the miracle looks like. You create the picture in a way that is detailed and clear, so that the next necessary step to make it happen, is something very concrete as well. This is something I believe in and it can be applied in whatever area you are working in.


And what about the problems? Do you ignore them?

When I “met” SF, I understood that it is not always about knowing more about the barriers and the difficulties of life. Solution Focus encourages people to forget about them, when thinking of the future. This way, it is much easier to create a colourful picture of what you want. The next step is to clearly understand where your talents and resources are and that’s what builds up the ability to change.


What you are saying reminds me of Nikos Kazantzakis’s famous quote You have your brush, you have your colours, you paint the paradise, then in you go”.

Exactly. Kazantzakis encourages people to do it. There is an important resemblance with Solution Focus into that. It is about creating your own idea of how paradise is and using your colours and brushes. You use what you have. Then you name your vision or idea of paradise and make it happen. It’s what solution-focused people call “Future Perfect”. Sometimes, I call it “a life worth living”.


Do you think that it’s easy to create paradise?

For artists it’s easy. They have a piece of paper, colours and brushes and then there is paradise. If the paradise they paint on paper makes some people happy then it’s fine. The rest of the world is not as easy to paint in colour as a piece of paper. In Art it’s easier to dream and have day-dreams. In daily life you have to cope with the reality that is around you. So the task is a bit more difficult. It is not only your colours and brushes; you have to learn to influence the people around you and the system within which you are working. The artists who are successful are those who not only have the fantasy but who also use this fantasy in order to create beauty. That is what artists and solution-focused people have in common.


How can a Solution Focus coach help us create our paradise?

For all human beings, everyday people, leaders, artists, politicians, there are situations when you are stuck and don’t know how to move, although you really want to. In such situations it helps to have a coach. Because the coach is neutral; he or she is an outsider who can help you have a look at your life and its possibilities from a distance. So if you have to deal with a difficult situation, then a Solution Focus coach might be a good person to talk to. He can help you overcome the inner barriers that you perceive in your reality, deal with them and find ways to implement the paradise or the life you want to see. So if you want to create a future worth living, you become clear on how it might look like and what to do.  And then you do it!


What exactly happens during the SF process?

You invite people into a conversation. The coach might say “If you really want to have this future let’s talk about it! How would it look like? How would it work? How would you work with others?” Once it’s clear how you want the future to look like, you clarify what your first step might be, already today(!), that might take you to that direction. You build one step upon the other. As long as you know that you are moving forward to the life you want to live, you have the energy to overcome barriers. Especially if you find others to join you.


Does everybody need a coach?

In my dream nobody needs a coach! I would prefer that we coaches were superfluous. The necessity of a Solution Focus coach comes from a world that is full of barriers and a system that is very often so overwhelming that makes it difficult for people to believe in their own possibilities, trust their talents or each other.


What would a world with more self-confident people look like?

If that happened, then people would create a world where we could live in a satisfying way and where our dreams might come true. We can create this world if we don’t forget that we live in it together with others. It is necessary to add this to our own dream and see if we can create a dream that is good for everybody. I think that could happen if people start seeing the existing system as something that is not eternal and unchangeable.


You think it’s possible to actually change things?

Systemic coaching and theories explain how the complexity of things has to do with the fact that one part of the chain influences the other one. That means that you can change the system, as you are a part of it. We don’t have to accept the way the system works today. For example, in most countries of the world it’s money that counts and profit is the baseline. Why should we accept that the only true value is money?


Many people would insist that the system is so powerful that it is impossible to change it. What would you reply to them?

If you look back at human history we had all kind of times. If mankind had always said that things have to stay as they are and that we are only allowed to move within the existing system, then there would have been no innovation nor progress. We are able to change the system and the world and this is one of the differences that human beings have compared to others. To be able to do that, it’s necessary to overcome our inner doubts and be self-confident. Solution Focus builds on this trust in our abilities. This way there is a possibility to create a better world that is a good place to live in.



The article was published on May 15th, 2015, at the exostispress.gr portal for Culture, Free Thinking and Expression. You can see it here.

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