Is Your Inner Team more than the sum of its parts? 

Is Your Inner Team more than the sum of its parts? 

 In coaching teams over the last forty years in many parts of the world, I have realised that one of the teams that most needs coaching is our own ‘inner team’.  Each of us has many different roles which are matched by different sub-personalities.  We think we have just one ‘I’, but we have many ‘I’s.  Sometimes these different parts of ourselves complement and support each other: other times they disagree and fight together.  The great 20th century Sufi teacher Gurdjieff would point out in his teachings, that the ‘I’ that goes to bed determined to get up in the morning to get a job done before breakfast, is not the same ‘I’, as the one who wakes up tired in the morning and wants to rest in bed. 

We can start developing our inner team by discovering more about each of the team members. Each of these is cocreated in the space between us and the worlds we inhabit.   I have in my team, the teacher, the writer, the organizational consultant, the coach,  the gardener, the husband, father, and grandfather.  Then there are the less prominent members, such as the avid reader, the one who loves good food and wine and entertaining, the humorous one, the meditator, the one who loves young children,  the poet, the friend, the walker, the one who watches cricket and sport. Then there is the integrating and orchestrating ‘Self’, who witnesses these different roles and sub-personalities and who needs to play the role of the team leader. 

The next step in helping this team to be more than the sum of its parts, is to find the team purpose.  This work can be done by addressing the questions:  

  1. what can this team do through collaborating together, that they cannot do by working separately in parallel?   
  1. who and what does the team serve, which require their teamwork? 
  1. what are the top priorities that they all share? 

Only then can we turn to explore how the team members need to collaborate better to serve the collective purpose. We can inquire into which of these support each other and which ones compete for attention?  We can look at our own inner diversity and inclusion – which team members get all the limelight and demand attention, and which ones easily get overlooked and ignored? 

One way of addressing this is to use the method I developed for feedback between team members and the wider team, entitled “Team Contribution Grid” (Hawkins 2022, pp.376-377), for each of your internal team members.  You fill out a separate grid for each member.  Here is the grid I created for each of my team members to complete. 

Three ways I currently contribute to Team Peter 



Three ways I could contribute more fully to Team Peter 


Three ways I receive value from team Peter 



Three ways I could receive greater value from team Peter 




Once they have all been completed, then If you can, put each separate grid on a different chair and imagine them all sitting there, and one by one giving feedback, as you stand in the middle representing the whole team. 

If this is not possible, stick them all up on a wall or white board.  Arrange them in clusters, with those who get on well together, close to each other, and those who are disconnected at a distance.  Think how they would respond to each other. 

Having listened to all the parts, as the team leader, where do you need to coach and facilitate better connections between members?  Which team members need more attention and time in the spotlight?  Which need to be less prominent and move into more of a support role? 

Now compose the message you want all your team members to hear and take on board. Completing the following seed sentences might help you do this: 

  1. Our biggest collective challenges, which requires help from all of you are……… 
  2. Together we could achieve so much more in………  by……….. 
  3. To achieve that, the help I need from all of you is……. 


Once you have written this, try reading it out loud imagining all the different team members in different places in the room. 

Then compose individual messages for each of the individual members. 

  1. What I value about your contribution is…… 
  2. What I find difficult about you is…… 
  3. What the difference I need from you going forward is….. 

In response to each of these, write the commitment that you need each of these roles and sub-personalities to make.  Try and be as specific as possible. 

As team leader we need to love and appreciate every member of our inner team, and not be ashamed of any one of them.  If there are any, we are ashamed of, we need to find a way of developing them to change or help them successfully leave the team.  Our biggest challenge is to help the team to be aligned to the collective purpose and key future challenges; to work together so the team becomes more than the sum of its parts. 


Peter Hawkins April 2023 



This is the sixth year that I am sending a range of Systemic Team Coaching Christmas Crackers out to the wide and growing global community of team coaches around the world.  Each year I take one-line aphorisms that I have found myself using on my various trainings and make a short collection.  Like mottos and jokes in Christmas Crackers, they are there to both amuse and help us see the world differently.  I hope you enjoy them.  Previous years aphorisms are published in the 4th Edition of “Leadership Team Coaching: Developing Collective Transformational Leadership” (2021) published by Kogan Page.


  1. For this particular ‘match’ which of my inner team do I need to have on the pitch, which on the substitutes bench and which do I need to rest, so they can be used on another day.
    This was inspired not just by the Football World Cup, but also by Marita Fridjhon ‘s question: “How do we bring our best self to each unique encounter and leave our worst self at home watching T.V.”! We all have an internal team of different sub-personalities, and every systemic team coaching encounter requires us to be choiceful of which we bring into play.
  2. “Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward in the same direction.”
    This quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, is as applicable to teams as it is to personal relationships.  Often the best way to develop trust is to have a joint challenge that requires us to collaborate, should to shoulder, looking in the same direction.
  3. Destination precedes the journey; it does not come at the end.
    It is the love for the destination that inspires the journey and creates the route we need to take – read Cavafy’s great poem Ithaka.
  4. The Systemic Team Coach needs to focus on the needs of those not in the room, as much as those who are present.
    These include past, future or absent team members; the full range of stakeholders, the wider community, future generations and the ‘more-than-human’ world of our shared Earth.
  5. Do Not let small groups have an individual report back to the large group.
    The sharing of the dried up remains of a past conversation creates death by serial feedback. Enable the whole sub-group to turn what happened in their small sub-group into a springboard to start a new even richer conversation in the larger group.
  6. Be precise with your intent and instruction or you will confuse the team.
    Many coaches are excellent at asking open-ended questions but as a systemic team coach you need also to enable activities and action, and this requires being clear about the purpose the activity serves and what you are asking the team members to do.
  7. Mobilise the contribution of your extra team member.
    A recent executive team of 6 were complaining that they lacked the resource to do everything that was needed.  I asked them how they were utilising the seventh member of their team.  Who is that they asked. I replied: “She is called synergy.”
  8. If you have no idea what to do next pray.
    This can be to any God, higher power, the eco-system, life etc; it is only important that you pray to an entity bigger than you.  By praying we stop ourselves trying to be heroic or solve the issue by ourselves and develop a humility that asks for help and takes us to the learning edge.
  9. We all have the capacity to double our impact in the world – but not alone.
    Don’t just ask what I can change and what I cannot change, but rather what I can change: a) alone (very little), b) change by a new collaboration with others, and c) influence others to change.
  10. Managers delegate tasks, leaders need to commission outcomes.
    Many leadership teams, get stuck delegating tasks and wondering why the responsibility boomerangs back to them.  Leadership Teams that learn how to commission other teams, with a clear definition of what needs to be achieved, for whom,  by when and within what constraints – and then gives the ownership of ‘how to do this’ to the team, achieves much more.
  11. Originality consists in returning to the origin.
    This lovely quote from the great Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, connects with my constant inquiry in how we work from ‘source’ rather than from effort.
  12. To do things right first you need love, then technique.
     Another moving Antoni Gaudi quote I discovered in Barcelona this year. It helped me realise that I would rather help 100 systemic Team Coaches fall in love with teams and the world they serve, than help 1,000 learn the basic competencies.
  13. Insight is created in the Neo-cortex of our brains, but change is always embodied.
    This connects with an earlier one-liner “The Coaching Road to hell is paved with ‘aha’ moments and action plans that never get enacted.”

Happy Christmas, Hanukah, Solstice, Dōngzhì Festival, Yuletide, Saturnalia, or December holidays to all my friends, colleagues, and Blog followers everywhere.

There will be a new GTCI Gateway programs and Senior Practitioner program in 2023.

I will also be running a number of Systemic Team Coaching 3-day intensives in 2023.  In addition, I will be holding Advanced Retreats for Coaches and Team Coaches during June and September in Barrow Castle, Bath UK, and an on-line programme on supervising team coaching and Transformational Coaching, all in Bath, UK.
There are also STC Cert programmes happening in Barbados in January, UK, China, North America, Singapore and Africa. For more information visit STC Certificates

Peter Hawkins
22 December 2022
©Renewal Associates 2022

Leading by Nature – Giles Hutchins

Leading by Nature by Giles Hutchins

Foreword – Peter Hawkins

I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with Giles since his first book The Nature of Business was published in 2012.  I remember so well reading it with excitement and resonance, so pleased to see a fellow author addressing the big questions of our time.  Questions such as:

  • How can organizations function the way nature operates?
  • How can we learn through biomimicry, not just ways of making our products more natural, but also the whole way we organize and collaborate as humans?

Here was a truly radical thinker and writer, taking us back to our roots in the ‘more-than-human’ world of the earth we live, not on, but from.  Again, in his latest and now fifth book Giles is both inspirational and radical.  Inspirational in showing what leaders and organizations need to do to be future fit for what the planet now requires, and radical in the true sense of taking us back to the roots of life.

read the full forward here/…

A Beautiful Way to Coach by Fiona Parashar, 2022, Routledge

So easily coaching can become burdened by problems and coachee overloaded and become problem centric.  Coaching also needs to open the doors and windows to new possibilities, to be inspired by nature and beauty, and help the coachee stand back and repurpose their lives and discover their unique contribution to a better world. 
Fiona Parashar, a positive psychology seasoned coach, has provided us with an inspiring book that shows how she coaches senior executives on Vision days, using many creative techniques including joint walks in nature, so beauty and the ecology can be partners in the coaching process.  Read my foreword to this book here.
To purchase a copy, 20% discount with this flyer , go directly to the Routledge website.

Next year I will be publishing my own book on “Beauty in Coaching” which aligns with the Advanced Retreats for experienced coaches, mentors, supervisors and leaders.
running twice this year, with spaces available currently.

Held as non residential retreats; June 29th – July 1st and September 7th – 9th, Barrow Castle, Bath, UK; within it’s beautiful gardens, surrounded by captivating countryside, there are still places available on both programs and you can book with this link.

David Clutterbuck’s and Peter Hawkins’s Best Reads of 2021

David Clutterbuck and I both enjoy an eclectic mix of books and have enjoyed many wonderful titles this year. Here are our top 10 reads across a number of topics.

As always, we have both enjoyed an eclectic mix of new titles this past year. Here are our top 10 reads.

First, three books about how we think and make decisions

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. The author brings together the teachings of her Native American heritage, her life as a single Mother of two girls and being a professor of Botany to gently help us see the world more ecologically and indigenously.

Think Again, by Adam Grant & Noise, by Daniel Kahneman and colleagues. Two tours de force by giants in the field of human cognition, taking different perspectives on how and why individual and collective decision-making is so often flawed.

Thinking the Unthinkable by Nik Gowing and Chris Langdon. Explores how and why we tend to avoid dealing with difficult issues and what to do about it.

Next two books on systems and systemic thinking

Coaching Systemically by Paul Lawrence – explores systemic thinking from multiple perspectives.

Upheaval by Jared Diamond draws on case studies of how nations coped with crisis to draw conclusions about how organisations and societies can learn to adapt and thrive.

Two on aspects of awareness

The Body in Coaching and Training by Mark Walsh – a useful overview for anyone working with Gestalt, ontology, or mindfulness; or wanting to use themselves more in their coaching practice.

Supersenses by Emma Young. If you thought there were just five or six senses, you’d be wrong. Young identifies and explores 32 human senses. I found it broadened my mindfulness dramatically to experience consciously such a wide range of sensory inputs.

One general title on coaching

WeCoach by Passmore et al – the biggest collection yet of coaching tools and techniques in one volume.

One on teams

Team Human by Douglas Rushkoff – “being human is a team sport”. Rushkoff argues cogently that the impact of much technology has been to undermine our instinct for collective endeavour. He helps us in ’Understanding humanity as one big, interconnected team.’

And three intriguing outliers

The Handshake by Ella Al-Shamahi. The handshake is something we take for granted, but the meaning and impact of handshaking varies dramatically from culture to culture. A gripping read (yes pun intended!)

Becoming Mandela by Trevor Waldock.  Trevor moved from being a UK coach to developing young community leaders across Africa.  These are letters to his sons and a great guide in how to be an Elder, rather than a Leader.

No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention by Reed Hastings (Netflix founder and CEO and Erin Meyer Instead Professor.  Not an exemplar for others necessary to follow but many provocative ideas for how to run a company like an elite sports team.

And also this year we both enjoyed reading new updated editions of each other’s books on Team Coaching:

Coaching the team at work. (Second edition, 2020) by David Clutterbuck

Leadership Team Coaching: Developing Collective Transformational Leadership (fourth edition, 2021) by Peter Hawkins

What books have you enjoyed reading this year and can recommend to be added to our 2022 reading list?

A unique opportunity to join Peter Hawkins 3 day Virtual Systemic Team Coaching Course 15th-17th Dec 2021

Systemic Team Coaching Course
15th – 17th Dec 2021

(replaces the face to face event in London)



Systemic team coaching drives powerful change at individual, team and organisational level. This 3-day experiential programme explores how to coach teams to consider both their internal dynamics and external stakeholders working with the connections and influences within and outside the team. Examining both internal and external aspects, the programme provides a valuable way of supporting teams to improve their productivity, performance and realise their full potential.

Those completing the Certificate/Foundation programme will be awarded the Academy of Executive Coaching Certificate in Systemic Team Coaching and which carries ICF credits: 19 CCEUs: 3 Resource Development & 16 Core Competency.

The Systemic Team Coaching Certificate includes training in the unique Team Connect 360 diagnostic, through which you’ll be licensed to use this powerful online 360 tool with your own clients – only Certificate participants are able to do this.

Discovering Eldership by Peter Hawkins

Preface to “Becoming Mandela” by Trevor Waldock

In early 1999 I was travelling from Johannesburg to Cape Town by plane and was privileged to find myself sitting next to Alfred Baphethuxolo Nzo, who was Foreign Minister in Mandela’s first Cabinet, from when Mandela was first elected President in 1994.  We talked of the recent history of South Africa and the changes that were coming about. He told me how he would stand down as a Minister and a politician at the forthcoming election. But soon Mr Nzo turned the conversation to families.  He proudly showed me pictures of his children and grandchildren.  I said: “well once you are retired you will have more time to spend with your grandchildren.”  He looked at me sternly and said: “Life is different in our culture; we do not retire. Once you step down as a leader, you become an Elder. An Elder has their own responsibilities. One of which is to hold the Leadership to account. The leaders have to answer to the Elders for what they do, and we must support and nurture them.”

Immediately I felt a sadness and a lack within my own life and that of my culture.  The personal lack I had explored many times in psychotherapy, in workshops with Robert Bly, and with my spiritual teachers.  I had searched out and been blessed to have some great Mentors.  But the cultural lack of Eldership in our Politics, Professions and Communities was a new awareness that I would pursue. So, when I first met Trevor in 2003, I discovered a shared quest and was enriched by the conversations we had prior to him writing his book “To Plant a Walnut Tree” and was honoured that Trevor included a number of the stories from our conversation.

Since that time, I have been a great admirer of the way that Trevor has continued to pursue this quest in a very committed and active way, developing leadership programmes for young leaders in communities across Africa.  He develops leadership in others, not by knowing better, but by constantly discovering through collaborative inquiry with the young people, what is needed in their communities, and what needs affirming in them, so they can step up and respond.

Just recently I watched a video from Trevor’s work, of a young black female community leader in Africa, saying: “Please stop talking about us as tomorrow’s leader’s, our societies cannot wait that long.  In Africa, we are today’s leaders.”

As I write this, I have just been watching the speeches of the young people’s gathering in Spain, prior to COP26 Climate Conference that will be held in Glasgow October 2021. Impressive young leaders from around the world, who are desperately trying to hold the politicians of the world to account for the lack of turning their rhetoric into committed action and for the horrific legacy they, and we, are leaving for their generation to contend with.  I despaired as I then listened to the patronising empty rhetoric of the older politician’s responses.  Where, I thought, are we Elders who have a role to play, not in adding more words, but in helping the powerful leaders really listen, emotionally feel and take on board what the young leaders are telling them.  We need to help the political leaders have the humility to ask young people for their help. Where are the Elders who are needed to facilitate a true generative dialogue between the generations and between the rich, early industrialised, nations that have caused the bulk of the greenhouse gasses, directly or indirectly, and the economically poorer countries who disproportionally will suffer the consequences. There are some, but far too few.

Sadly, Mr Nzo died later in the year I met him, so was not able to fulfil the Eldership role he spoke of. However, as Trevor shows, Nelson Mandela did live long enough to show us how it is possible to move from Leadership to Eldership.  You become an Elder when you give up on personal ambition and attachment to specific outcomes, but can do what is necessary to be done, without seeking reward or recognition.  When you can respond to life’s challenges non-reactively, drawing on wisdom, not knowledge or expertise. I have written about Eldership in a number of my books and other writings, but still daily struggle to give up leadership and respond as an Elder.

My best teachers have been my grandchildren.  There is a lovely Welsh saying: “Pure love arrives with the first grandchild.”  This is because the deep love that you had for your own children, comes around again, but this time you are not so psychologically entangled.  You can love them for who they are and are becoming, without expectations, or the same anxieties, fears and replication of your own previous family patterns.

As I write this the first Autumn leaves are being blown by the wind and rain, past my window and I am grateful that several weeks ago we managed to get the hay into our barns just in time.  Also grateful for the many fruits and vegetables from our garden which is sitting in the covered area outside our kitchen.  I remember the harvest festivals I have attended over the years, when we sang with thanks for what we had received from the rich earth and nature around us.  I am reminded of a recent conversation with colleagues with whom I am editing a book on how coaching can make its contribution to the climate emergency and how we discussed how important practices of gratitude are.  I found myself saying: “But we must not stop at gratitude, appreciating the enormous amount we receive by grace from the wider ecology every moment of everyday. At harvest festivals (which could be celebrated daily) in all the different religions and indigenous ceremonies that I know of, after we have given thanks, we move into offering.”  As Robin Wall Kimmerer, writes in her beautiful and wise book “Braiding Sweetgrass” (2020: p115): “Cultures of gratitude must also be cultures of reciprocity.” And she beautiful describes First Nation Americans’ ceremonies where everyone puts into the collective collection what they do not need and takes out what is necessary for them.

When I was young, I thought privilege was something you strived for and earnt and that it bought you freedom.  Only now in my seventies I can look back and realise I was always, and will always, be privileged and that the more privilege you have, the more it brings you, not freedom, but responsibility.  I now believe this is what Mr Nzo was trying to teach me. To still be alive with our health, our faculties and a family, is to be greatly privileged. With that privilege comes greater responsibility.

Thank you, Trevor, for being a role-model and sharing your wisdom and inquiries and active experiments into how we become responsible Elders and Ancestors.