What is ‘Systemic Coaching’?
We live and work in unconscious reference to multiple relationship systems – our cultural, professional, organisational and family relationship systems. Each creates its own loyalties and different experiences of belonging. All these systems are sustained by naturally occurring organising principles. These principles are seen time and again and experienced as balancing forces that move all human relationship systems towards wholeness and balance. When the organising forces are ignored or violated the system attempts to re-balance itself. This causes the limiting dynamics which have such a powerful impact on life and life at work.
The attempt to re-balance in alignment with the natural forces creates dynamics within and in-between systems. Awareness of the systems we come from and belong to together with insights into the impact those relationship systems have on our clients opens up new horizons for coaches and coaching interventions. When you hold the wider system in view and apply a methodology for respectfully bringing the dynamics to life – systemic coaching with constellations – you are working at a level that’s beyond the individual and beyond the visible. Organisation and relationship system coaching of this nature illuminates, clarifies and resolves complex issues restoring balance and health to leadership, team and organisational systems.
Systemic coaching gives priority to the system. Constellations illuminate the hidden architecture of relationship systems. Combined they offer unique benefits.
What is a ‘systemic constellation’?
A systemic constellation is a spatial, relational model of the invisible dynamics within an issue or challenge in a system of relationships. It’s a kind of ‘living map’ of your client’s inner image of their issue or challenge, an x-ray of the system dynamics. That map, made of people in a workshop or objects in one to one coaching is, through a facilitated process, illuminated, disentangled and brought into balance through the application of the insights, principles and practices of this work. A ‘systemic constellation’ is often simply referred to as ‘a constellation’. In the context of coaching and organisational health they are referred to here as ‘coaching constellations’.
What is a ‘coaching constellation’?
A coaching constellation – simply a systemic constellation applied in coaching – provides an opportunity to explore a wide range of leadership, team and organisational development issues, business and relational challenges. By creating a ‘living map’ of the system in a way that illuminates the hidden dynamics beneath the presenting issue a coaching constellation can have a deep impact whether used one to one or with a large group. Used in combination with your preferred models and frameworks, constellations free clients from their familiar attachments and offer new paths to resolution and fresh energy for action and change.
Constellations also support coaches in finding their ‘right place’, their stance, in relationship to complex or challenging clients and organisational issues, gathering the appropriate personal and professional resources to coach with clarity and impact. For this reason they have become a popular methodology for coaching supervision.
What is different about this training?
This training is different to many other trainings that attract coaches and those interested in organisational development. The key differences include:
- It’s systemic. The training experience is designed to leave participants with fresh information about the way that relationship systems work and the impact of certain events and dynamics in them on those who are trying to manage, follow or lead. This is informed by a particular stance, an understanding of the organising principles of systems and the methodology of constellations.
- It’s an experiential, somatic (of the body) training. Learning is through standing in constellations, taking part in systemic exercises and facilitated discussion. This requires a willingness to learn something in a less usual way and to access embodied knowledge, to ‘de-throne the rational mind.’
- It’s personal and heartfelt. To really understand system dynamics you have to look at your own – both personal and professional. This often results in looking, respectfully, at personal and family systems – through constellations and teaching – and as a result the learning is deep and lasting. “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all” as Aristotle said.
What is the purpose and the benefit of coaching constellations?
The purpose of a constellation is to re-align systems with the natural organising forces which sustain them so that coherence and integrity are restored and the system can relax back into balance, allowing each element within it to have its place and function fully.
Constellations allow an inner alignment with the natural organising principles which sustain the human condition at work, in life. A constellation often facilitates a profound movement in the coachee as they experience the non-verbal language exchange that a constellation provides.
Constellations tap into the interconnectedness and invisible information within and between systems. Accessing the invisible field of information allows the coach and coachee to use the invisible, implicit information, rather than only the visible and explicit. The invisible information is often the most crucial, particularly when looking at disentangling complex dynamics, stuckness or inertia. Constellations free coach and coachee from their familiar perspectives, encouraging both to stand in the truth of ‘what is’ and see the issue in the context of the wider system. This leads to the development of coherence and integrity through the system.
This facilitates many benefits, including:
- Quickly identifying the roots of very challenging issues, providing a powerful diagnostic in individuals, teams and whole businesses at a refreshing pace. This energises coaches and clients alike.
- Application in any part of a coaching programme to illuminate blocks, find hidden resources and move towards resolution. This makes them accessible, applicable and popular, once they have been experienced.
- A constellation is an effective way of supporting your client to find their ‘right place’ in a system. Because constellations create an embodied experience of ‘right place’ they offer a uniquely powerful way of internalising a new outer image. This particular form of somatic coaching ensures the fresh image of clarity or resolution is internalised and integrated in your client’s mind and frame of reference.
- This approach is effective both in its respectful stance and the way that it can be applied alongside and integrated with other ways of working.
- The focus on ‘seeing the whole’ and ‘acknowledging what is’ generates high levels of trust and safety. This in turn settles something in the coach and the client as everything is included and seen for what it is.
- Constellations can help surface and set a powerful coaching agenda. This also energises clients and coaches as they can quickly clarify and create focus.
When is a constellation likely to be a useful intervention?
- When there is something stuck.
- When there is no apparent path to a solution.
- When you have come close to the limits of verbal communication and a fresh perspective may be useful.
- When you need to illuminate a large or complex system or issue in a manageable way.
- When as a coach you have a sense that there is ‘something else’ in this client’s system that is affecting their ability to be present or to perform.
- When your client has an enduring and difficult relationship with boss, peers or direct reports that have hidden dynamics blocking resolution.
- When a client has a challenging relationship with their role or difficulty finding their place in their organisation or team.
- When your client wants cultural, structural or other organisational health issues illuminated and clarified.
- When your client has difficulty occupying their role with personal authority and needs to locate additional personal/professional resources.
- When there is something hidden or secret or when something ‘just doesn’t feel right’ about the client’s issue but the source, or truth, isn’t clear.
- When there is a need to illuminate or clarify the coaching agenda.
- When the restoration of balance and the flow of organisational energy or leadership needs attending to.
- When a preferred theory or model for working doesn’t seem to apply or work but you’d like to realise its power in the system.
- When the client is attached to their own ‘story’ and a fresh perspective would be a useful step towards a more ‘whole system’ view.
How could this be useful for my own development as a coach?
- When you have a client issue on which you want a fresh perspective, insight or way forward.
- When you feel stuck or ambivalent – as a coach, or with a particular client.
- When you want to explore issues which are impacting your coaching stance or energy.
- When you want to explore potential resources for choices and decision points.
- When resourcing or preparing to introduce constellations with your clients.
Do you offer ‘taster’ workshops?
To assist coaches who would like to get a sense of whether they would like to deepen their interest in systemic coaching and constellations we are often invited to facilitate introductory workshops for L&OD professionals, in house HR leaders and coaches, leaders and executives interested in this approach. See our diary page for dates.
How could I train in systemic coaching and constellations?
Coaching Constellations Ltd. offer regular trainings in this work. This training is for coaches, L&D, OD and HR professionals who are interested in system-orientated coaching and the application of constellations in an organisational, company or corporate context. You are welcome to begin your journey on one of our ‘Essentials‘ trainings. Having learnt the key principles and practices and started to apply them in coaching, life and work of all kinds you may feel ready to take a further step, onto the next level, our 3-day ‘Fundamentals‘ training. This resources you to go further and extend your understanding and application in life, in teams, groups and organisational development. Each training day provides 6 hours of ICF accredited (CCEUs) professional development (split between ‘core’ and ‘development’). For those who want to grow and develop the application deep into their practice as coaches, facilitators or OD consultants our annual ‘Practitioner‘ training is also available. More details of these three levels are on our training page.
What is a ‘management constellation’?
This approach grew out of workshops where participants came from multiple systems, most of whom had no knowledge of each other before the workshop and no contact with each other afterwards. In this way people chosen as neutral representatives are truly neutral and can be relied upon to report information that they are picking up from the field of information that is available through constellations. A management constellation however is one in which all the participants are invested, in one way or another, in the issue and are also in relationship, most commonly within the same management team. This requires the facilitator to work in a different way as all those present are connected with and invested in the issue and the solution, so cannot be truly neutral. Specific approaches have therefore been developed for this context that draw on both structural and phenomenological forms and facilitation styles.
Where does this approach to resolution come from and what underpins it?
The approach was originated in Europe by systemic specialist and philosopher Bert Hellinger and applied to family and other intimate systems. It has now been experienced by many thousands of people in Europe and across the world.
Hidden loyalties, identifications and entanglements are respectfully revealed through a process similar to the non-verbal ‘limbic resonance’ seen in animals. This has created a reputation around this work for something that is both practical and profound and which quickly reaches underlying dynamics to free up a system. This in turn releases fresh energy for enduring change. The principle of acknowledgment runs through this work and supports people to really look at ‘what is’, to stand in the difficulty, before trying to move to resolution.
Life within an organisation – with founder dynamics, matrix reporting, multiple hidden loyalties and the need for constant change – can often be more complex than a family system. Investors, staff, shareholders, former employees, suppliers and customers make business systems more complex as the interaction with many other systems on a daily basis creates a constant need for re-balance.