Coaching is about change. As coaches we want to help our clients be better and more fulfilled versions of themselves. There are many different views on how people change and learn and on how we as coaches could best facilitate their shifts, transitions and growth.
Coaching starts with creating awareness and exploring the unknown or the buried treasures below our conscious surface. We want to explore where our clients are at in terms of their assumptions, beliefs, habits and behaviour. A lot of our own personal development can be achieved by seeing our world through different lenses and in exploring new ways of thinking and doing life.
If coaching however only focuses on the client and their own perceptions, beliefs, attitudes and behaviour we are not serving them as best we could. The reality is that people are part of systems and our association and engagement within these systems can greatly contribute to our success or to our failure.
Some systems we choose ourselves eg. The schools we go to, the friends we make, the mentors and role models we look up to, the work environment we enlist in and the religious groups we join. All of these systems have an impact on us as individuals and can greatly assist in our development or in our stagnation.
Alain Cardon, a guru in the field of systemic coaching, mentions that he always asks his clients to identify the 10 most influential people outside of their work environment that could possibly help them to achieve their goals and dreams. Systemic coaching therefore is not just team coaching or organisational coaching but even focuses on the complexities of an individual and their environment. In other words, systemic coaching is about looking at the interfaces of a person with the pertinent actors in their lives and how you as a coach could assist them to cultivate these relationships into win-win scenarios.
The fact remains that no man is an island and whether we like it or not, our community, our family, our corporate culture does influence how we perceive ourselves, the world and our future as a whole. When we view life in the context of our systems, we will probably be more careful in our choices of who we associate with. When we realize that our competitors actually help us to develop and grow our skills and resilience, we will embrace them rather than avoid them.
I once watched an interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone where both actors confessed how they influenced each other’s lives and careers. Although they could not stand each other in the beginning, they grew in their relationship and actually became good friends. Arnold even mentioned that he bought one of Sylvester’s paintings and that he admires how talented Sylvester is. Sylvester in return mentioned how Arnold’s work ethic inspired him to work harder and it resulted in him achieving more than he would have without the competitiveness of their relationship.
Sometimes we are born into an environment that is nurturing and developmental, however this might not always be the case. When we realize that the systems we form part of are no longer serving us or setting us up for growth and success, we need to ask ourselves some hard questions. Sometimes we can adapt and thrive despite a system that is not necessarily ideal, however it certainly takes more effort.
Some people have managed to challenge the status quo and by doing so transformed the systems they form part of. Other people decided to leave the system that constricted them and started their own or joined a different system. In coaching we want to explore and understand how our systems affect us and how we can harness them to support our own vision and transformation. Like with wind, we can sometimes move our own sails to benefit from the momentum of our systems to bring us closer to our destination.
Systemic coaching therefore is a far more effective way to coach individuals to thrive, once we realize that we can create champion environments that can produce winners. Champions are seldom formed in isolation. It is much more of a collective and collaborative approach.
Although an understanding of systems is a must for coaches, it should also be an important consideration for leaders who are serious about human resource development. The question to leaders who want to run champion companies and organisations is, how do you cultivate an environment that is conducive to raising winners who will ultimately fulfil your vision and score the goals you need to secure the future of your organisation?