Systemic Coaching and Constellations

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What is systemic coaching?

Systemic coaching is coaching that is working in service of the whole system. The focus is wide, beyond the individual and on the relationship systems in which the individual belongs.

The full array of ‘classical’ coaching interventions can be very useful of course in many instances. However, sometimes attempts to coach only at the individual developmental level, without the wider system view, may result in only limited progress or in new behaviours which are not sustained.

This is because systemic coaching enables coach and client to see patterns and reveal hidden dynamics which may not have their source, or resolution, within the individual or team.

Systemically oriented coaching supports leaders and teams to align with the naturally occurring forces in systems so that change is lasting and behaviours contribute to the wellbeing of the whole. Systemic coaching enriches individual and team understanding of the natural forces which sustain and balance relationship systems thereby helping create and sustain a culture of organisational health.

So, what is a ‘systemic constellation’?

Literally, a constellation is a group of objects that together form a pattern.

So, a systemic constellation is a three-dimensional map, created out of objects representing elements of the system being explored. It’s an external visible map of the client’s inner image of a relationship system to which he or she belongs.

As a coaching intervention, a constellation is a direct, powerful and respectful way of accessing underlying relationship dynamics in complex relationship systems in a manageable and respectful way. Through a facilitated process based on an understanding of the natural forces of systems, the relationship dynamics can be revealed, disentangled and realigned to restore healthy flow.

A constellation can be used to illuminate relationships between people and teams, but also with abstract qualities and other elements, including for example organizational purpose, products or brands.

When can constellations be useful in coaching?

There are many potential applications. Here are just a few examples of contexts where systemic coaching with constellations can be useful:

  • To clarify the coaching agenda
  • Where the same problem or issue keeps repeating, for example recurring conflict, even though a resolution has been offered and named
  • Where rational analysis is not getting to the issue. The symptom is clear but the cause is not
  • Where a skilled and competent person cannot find their place, or fully occupy their authority in their role
  • Where you sense something unspoken in the client’s system which is distracting them, drawing their energy away
  • Where there is unexplained lack of focus in the client, or apathy and resistance in the system
  • Where a coach’s usually successful intervention doesn’t bring lasting benefits
  • Where the client is attached to their own version of events or expressing strong judgements
  • Where there are high emotions in response to rational statements