Systemic Coaching

empower|me unlocks the performance puzzle, and empowers your people to fully engage. 

Systemic Coaching work has emerged over the last 20 years as a powerful, awareness-based approach to seeing and transforming challenges in our organisational and professional lives. By creating maps of the whole system, it enables the hidden dynamics of even seemingly intractable situations to be illuminated – and often resolved – quickly and effectively.

During these volatile and uncertain times, the systems perspective of this work – as well as the method – will benefit HR professionals, leaders and change agents who want to open up the systemic intelligence and co-creative potential that is already there in leaders and teams.

The “persistent bias” of individualism
Barry Oshry, a systems theorist, has noted that our efforts both to diagnose and intervene in organisations have a “persistent bias”: we interpret things from a personal perspective. He notes that the leadership capacity of seeing the systemic contexts in which people operate is “missing”:
“When we don’t see systems, we see individual personalities. Our explanations are personal, and our solutions are personal. Fix the individual.”

This prevailing view in organisations has many limitations. It encourages a view of performance, behaviour and even creativity as residing in the individual (rather than also in relationships or systemic patterns), making us more likely to blame others, take things personally or fight for our corner.

Much of leadership development focuses on the individual. We tend to think that we can solve many problems just by building new skills or instilling different behaviours. Whilst it is important to take responsibility for one’s own actions and impact, we have found that there is a limit to what can be achieved by working in this way.

The web of systems – aka Life!
All of us live within a web of relationships. Everything we do is shaped by relationships and systemic forces, whether we acknowledge this dimension of reality or not. Our body is a system; we are born into a family system; we join and leave other systems from school onwards and in the world of work. Our businesses survive and thrive because of their dependence on a wider ecosystem of customers and suppliers, as well as the planet herself.

The systems of which we are part, pull on us with powerful force. All of us are deeply influenced by our sense of belonging in various groups. We ask ourselves, do we really belong here? How do we balance the loyalties of our belonging to different groups? In our work systems, we might ask, what is each person’s role or right place? What tensions does this create in each person and in the team? In systemic coaching and consulting, these are the dynamics that we learn to notice, model, navigate and align.

Working systemically requires recognising we are embedded in systems. Our businesses survive and thrive only because of their dependence on a wider ecosystem of customers and suppliers, as well as the planet herself.

Systemic coaching coaches the individual client or team with the system in mind – exploring the part in the whole, and the whole in the part – so as to unlock the potential and performance of both. This way of working changes the game of coaching, rendering each coaching encounter a systemic intervention in itself.

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