Let’s try a thought experiment:
Think about a team your are coaching, or part of yourself. What makes this team a team? Its members, the place you work in, the tools you use to connect, the clients you serve. What does that look like?
It is easy to think about a team as a system within its own boundary.
A boundary that separates the team members from the non-team members. As if the Team is a living, breathing, and stand-alone entity that we can contain in our coaching sessions.
Before we start interacting and intervening in a team, we need to think about our own mindset and beliefs around the team. Every team is made up of a few people that “belong” there. These members are not trapped, they come and go. The members also have a history with and outside the team, impediments, alliances, and their own system which they bring to the team, every day. It is too simplistic to say the team is a system and that is what we coach. Real systemic coaches will get curious about every possible relationship that is connected with the people that make up the team, because they are somehow part of the system that makes the team do what it does.
We need to select what part of a system we want to focus on, then create a container for this part of the relationship to grow beyond the present reality and coach it forward, allowing for the relationships to flourish, to grow beyond the team and initiate a ripple effect in all the systems that connect with the team at work.
“In essence, systemic coaching is just as much about continuous improvement as our favorite Agile framework “
Systems thinking and Systemic coaching are two very different disciplines that work with the same raw material: Relationships. Relationships between people, between people and things (such as a product, a service, a role, or a story), and the relationship between things. All these relationships interact and influence each other constantly. It is not a static thing we can observe, record, and file away.
So, now think again of that team, what does it look like now?
- What would it be like to focus on one relationship within the team, what are its distinct characteristics? What does not belong to the relationship?
- Can you see if you can find that the relationship itself has parts we can define (only occurs at work, the history of the relationship, the connections and power struggles within the relationship)?
- What would it bring if we find out that that relationship itself is part of something bigger (the team, the leadership circle, the organization’s football team?)
- Is the relationship related to another relationship? Does any relationship depend on it to thrive?
- What would happen, if we change where we stand, and look at the relationship from a different angle, another person’s eye, time perspective even?
Systems Thinking allows you to untangle the apparent chaos (to a certain extent, of course) of the system.
What would happen if you as coach, started focusing on the system(s) instead of on the people inhabiting the system?
Systemic coaching works with and in service of the knowledge acquired by Systems thinking, with the aim to improve the relationships that hold the system, so the system can thrive, grow and improve. The people in it build their system with intent, with aspiration and allow it to gradually start to self-organize into a healthy team, that follow a set of simple and powerful rules, to reach its objectives, just as any other “natural” system does.
With this in mind, we could call it Team coaching 2.0 as it helps us coaches to look beyond the imaginary boundaries of a team, to create awareness of what is needed, missing or too present for relationships to flourish.
If Systemic coaching is “team coaching without borders”, what question do you want to ask the system you are coaching?
Systemic Coaching Courses
There are many different systemic coaching frameworks and classes out there, and having followed some, and read others, I will admit that in each of the approaches there are merits and interesting coaching tools to be found. I also recognize that many parts of the training and certification classes use terms and names for their tools that confuse me at times. As if they were designed to make us feel that we can’t be a good systemic coach without embracing ‘Meta Skills’ adhering to spiritual and Taoist insights or even understanding Quantum Physics!
It is with this desire that we today are building a highly practical course that will teach you the basic principles of systemic coaching, its principles, tools and competencies; without the fuss, the fuzz and the mystery.
I will let you know when we are ready for the pilot, so you can all give your feedback and ideas!