13 Crackers for Systemic Team Coaches

Introduction

Several of the systemic team coaches I supervise and work with in America, said that one of the most powerful parts of the training they had done with me was the memorable one-liners that I ‘peppered’ throughout the training.  They suggested I brought these together in a collection.  Another member of the supervision group suggested I asked my supervisees to all send in ‘the one-liners they found most helpful’.  From this I have developed the following.  I hope you enjoy them and find them helpful.  Imagine each as a message in a Christmas cracker, which for those of you not familiar with this tradition, is something that you pull open at the dinner table and inside is a small present, paper hat and a joke or motto.

  1. The team does not create the purpose, the purpose creates the team
    The best research on effective teams, shows that the most important element is having a joint team purpose that everyone recognises and can only be achieved through the team collaborating effectively together. I used to work hard helping teams create their purpose, now I realise I have to help them discover their purpose – as the purpose is already out there in their business eco-system and in the future needs of their stakeholders, waiting for the team to respond.
  2. Explore ‘future back’ and ‘outside in’
    To discover the evolving team purpose, we need to explore with the team both what the future is going to require them to step up to and what their key stakeholders are requiring now and in the future.
  3. Life sets the agenda
    Traditionally coaching emphasises being on the client’s agenda. Systemic coaching proposes that we should be neither on the client’s or the coach’s agenda but focusing on what life is requiring both parties to work on together.
  4. Never know better, never know first
    Traditional coaching also talks about leaving our experience outside the door, but I argue the clients need all of us to be engaging with their issues, but we should never know better and never know first, but once we have enabled their creative thinking, we should bring our own thinking alongside, dialogically creating new thinking, neither they or we had previously thought.
  5. Don’t tell, don’t ask: Frame the challenge, orchestrate the response
    Both Leaders and coaches, often switch between a directive ‘telling’ style and an eliciting ‘asking’ style. Team Coaches whether they be leaders coaching their own team, or external team coaches, help frame the collective challenge and then orchestrate and enable the team to respond creatively and collaboratively.
  6. Destination precedes design
    Before you can design the orchestrating and enabling process, you need to know where you and the team need to arrive by the end of the journey. Without knowing the possible destination(s) you cannot chose what vehicles you will need to get there.
  7. Start every session with purpose and outcome of this session.
    Every coaching session needs to start with some contracting to discover the joint purpose of the meeting and to explore what we need to collectively achieve together by the end.
  8. Quickly get the team on the stage with you as the animator in the wings
    neither you or them in the audience
    Team coaches can fall into the trap of creating a new hub and spoke configuration, with themselves on stage. A good Systemic Team Coach quickly gets the team actively engaged doing the work, but then stays alongside them supporting, challenging, nudging, enabling the best work possible. As part of this the coach needs to get the team to talk to each other directly and not via the coach.
  9. Coach the connections (internally and externally) not the individuals in front of the team
    Avoid coaching or commenting on individuals in front of the team, rather focus on the connection between team members and between the whole team and their stakeholders.
  10. Locate the conflict or problem in a connection/relationship not in a person or part of the system
    The first rule of conflict is to locate the issue in a connection not in a person or part of the system
  11. No such thing as an impossible boss, difficult team member, un-coachable team, just a mode of engagement we have not yet found.
    I often say this may not be true, but it is a great way to start every day, for it interrupts the ‘blame game’ where we and teams locate the problem in someone else or another part of the system. It encourages everyone to bring it back to what it is I and we can do?
  12. Design and prepare for every session but when you start be unattached to your plans.
    They say you can judge a good film by how much is left behind on the cutting room floor. Good team coaching is similar.  The preparation is important for the coach to be able to hold in mind all the many levels of the system and possible ways of approaching the team’s challenges, but when the session starts one needs to be open to what emerges in the team and between you and the team.
  13. Have fun, be creative and partner with ruthless compassion
    Team coaching is at its best when the team and the coach are enjoying it, but also when both know they are stepping up to the challenges life is presenting, and they are creating value for others as well as themselves.

 

Peter Hawkins December 2018 

Happy Christmas, Hanukah, Solstice, Dōngzhì Festival, Yuletide, Saturnalia, or December holidays.

 

I will be running Systemic Team Coaching 3-day intensives in 2019 in New York, Sydney, Beijing, Tokyo, Lisbon, Johannesburg, London, Montreal, Vancouver Island, Bucharest.  www.renewalassociates.co.uk. and www.aoec.com.



Partnerships are not created by partners: from bartering to partnering

Too many people think in terms of trade-offs that if you do something which is good for you, then it must be bad for someone else. That’s not right and it comes from old thinking about the way the world works…We have to snap out of that old thinking and move to a new model.

Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever

Many partnerships, from marriages to business mergers and from professional partnership organisations to public service organisations partnering to provide joint ‘leadership of a place’ start with good intent but descend into ‘trade-offs’ and transactional bartering of what each partner needs from the other.  In this short blog I explore how all forms of partnership need a purpose greater than the parts as well as processes for regularly renewing the synergy of the partnership.

Whether in business or in marriages, founding partners often think they are the ones who have created the partnership, but for the partnership to begin and be successful, a third vital element beyond the partners is even more important in its formation.

This third element is a collective purpose. It is the answer to the questions:

  • “What can we do together through collaboration that we cannot achieve by working in parallel?”
  • “Who and what does our partnership serve?”

Despite the growth of partnerships in all sectors of the economy, there has been very limited research on how to create effective partnerships that realize potential synergies and little development in how to effectively coach partnerships. Increasingly my colleagues and I have been applying the ‘five-disciplines’ model (Hawkins; 2011, 2014, 2017) to coaching partnerships both in how they form and develop as well as how they resolve conflict.

Commissioning

Many partnerships fail to adequately define the core mission that the partnership is there to serve or to create.  Ismail (2014) redefines the mission as the partnership’s ‘Massive Transformational Purpose’ – the endeavour that creates great beneficial impact for all the partnership’s stakeholders at the same time as transforming the partners and their ways of relating to others.  This creates the galvanising force and collective buy-in that gives a partnership its momentum.  It also needs to be a strong enough motivator to keep the partners fully engaged and committed, even when an avalanche of urgent issues tempts them away or when the dynamics of the partnership become tough.   The commission or collective purpose of a partnership does not usually come from further up the hierarchy but from a massive challenge in the wider eco-system that requires multi-organizational collaboration.

The collective purpose that is formed by a partnership in response to this challenge needs to be one that:

  • Is only achieved by working together and not by partners working separately or in parallel.
  • All partners recognise and define in an aligned way.
  • All partners are committed to and will prioritise over ‘business as usual’ items within their own organization.

Clarifying

Too often partnerships (including marriages) start in a contractual way with each partner saying what they want from the partnership.  This creates a negotiated transaction between the parties.  For a partnership to be transformational the partners need to develop their ‘future-back’ and ‘outside-in’ strategy – addressing questions such as:

  • Who and what does our partnership serve?
  • What can we achieve together that we cannot achieve apart?
  • What massive transformational purpose can we pursue together?
  • How will we know the partnership is successful?
  • What criteria will we use to evaluate our collective success?

Too many partnerships start their thinking from inputs into outputs. Instead they need to try working backwards along the continuum from ‘value-creation’ to outcomes by agreeing the necessary outputs they need to collectively deliver and the inputs or resources which are required to achieve this.

A partnership needs to clarify how this strategy can be developed into agreed strategic objectives with action plans and measurable targets, and clear roles and responsibilities

Co-creating

Inter-group dynamics are not only critical internally within organizations but also between multiple organizations that constitute partnerships. Increasingly organizations have a wide and diverse number of often quite complex partnerships with other organizations. One large drinks company I worked with was using competitors as bottlers in one part of the world, distributors in another and as a joint venture partner in a third area. Elsewhere they competed fiercely for market share. This required a sophisticated and mature way of managing partnerships.

In the public sector where independent services are expected to deliver more at higher quality but with less finance and resources, they are finding they need to work closely in partnership with other agencies to create savings, remove duplication of effort and create synergies in delivery of service.

There has also been a growing recognition of the importance of public sector organizations working together to deliver ‘leadership of place’. The UK’s public sector focussed Leadership Centre writes:

A sustained period of constrained public finances means we need to look beyond any single organization’s resources for solving problems. And the nature of the major challenges we face means they cannot be met by one agency alone. Our focus has rightly shifted away from organizational structures towards people and places, so across the public sector we need to learn to work together in different ways. And we need to do it fast and wide. (www.leadershipcentre.org.uk)

A partnership needs to develop effective ways of co-creating in which meetings do not become dominated by bureaucratic governance but generatively create new forms of response that their individual partner organizations could not have arrived at by themselves.

Connecting

Successful partnerships always focus on who they are there to serve rather than just on each other.  A coach needs to help a partnership to keep focused on this.

A partnership needs to be connecting with all its stakeholders in a way that represents all the constituent members, not just their own organization.  Effective partnerships I have coached have moved beyond ‘representative’ members going back to their ‘constituencies’ to brief ‘their people’ and consult.  They have developed joint statements from all members and new forms of engagement which entail joint cross-organizational presentations, communication and engagement events to the various organizations and the wider stakeholders.

Core learning

Finally, a partnership needs to have regular reviews, attending to its own core learning and performance improvement.  Many of the approaches for carrying out board reviews can be adapted to coaching the core learning of a partnership.  Other embedded core learning methods can also be built into partnership meetings, such as ‘time-outs’, process checks, process consultancy.

What is important however, is that the core learning is not just for a partnership’s internal representational members, but must be generated in dynamic co-creation between all its constituent member organizations, as well as all the customers/clients and other stakeholders for whom it is there to create value for.

A few years back I was privileged to be the celebrant for a couple who wanted to have a spiritual wedding that would speak to the many different beliefs of their community.  They came on retreat to design their unique ceremony.  I posed them two questions to explore before we were ready to co-design the ceremony:

“Who and what does your relationship serve?”

“What is the truth your relationship needs to express to your wider community?”

These questions took them into a rich collaborative inquiry, by the end of the week they and their relationship were ready to co-create a truly moving wedding ceremony.

These two questions are core to all partnerships – whether marriages, joint ventures, mergers or joint leadership of place.  As my wife and I reach our fortieth wedding anniversary, I realise that we need to ask ourselves these questions not only at the beginning of our partnership but at regular intervals to redefine and determine the changing purpose of the partnership and the ever changing needs of those our relationship serves.

 

Professor Peter Hawkins

This article is based on some of my new writing in the third edition of Leadership Team Coaching:  Developing Collective Transformational Leadership which will be published by Kogan Page in July 2017 (already on Amazon for pre-order)



The five major challenges facing the world can only be solved through collaboration, not by returning to being an isolated nation states.

On June 23rd UK voters will have the responsibility to decide whether the UK stays part of the European Union, or retreats into being an individual nation state.  It is clear that the majority of young people recognise the need to be part of something bigger than ourselves, but there is a grave danger that older voters will vote to leave the E.U. as a reaction to things they do not like. However much we are fearful of the changes that are happening in the world, we cannot turn back the clock and I believe the main challenges that face us in our hyper-connected world can only be addressed by international cooperation, not by retreat into competing nation states.

The five major challenges are:

  1. Climate Change.This is by far the largest challenge facing not only our human species but all of the biosphere which supports us and which we share with many thousands of other living beings.  It is now accepted by 99% of scientists that Climate change is direct result of human pollution and that the threat is still getting worst.  We have a very limited window before the affects will trigger larger runaway cycles of consequences which will be irreversible. Only radical international action can prevent the worst of global warming and increased climate disasters.
  2. Economic and social inequality. It is clear that we cannot solve the issues of climate change without also addressing the growing inequality between the world’s richest and poorest.  In the last 50 years many humans have been lifted out of poverty, but the gap between the world’s richest 5% and the world’s poorest 50% gets bigger and bigger.  WE now live in hyper-connected world where the poorest know what the richest are getting and want it for themselves.  This will continue to fuel international migration, war and conflict.
  3. Terrorism, War and Security. Small groups of Human beings who feel unrecognised, badly treated or humiliated can now quickly develop the power to terrorise those with whom they are angry   Only international cooperation on security surveillance can contain the impact of global terrorism.  This needs to be increased and leaving the EU will negatively impact progress.
  4. Climate change, economic inequality and wars will continue to drive international migration.  Leaving Europe will not limit those seeking to come to the UK, it will only decrease international cooperation to address the issues and make us more prone to either ever increasing numbers or inhumane border control.
  5. A Global Economic System that needs regulation. There has been increasing exposure of how global companies and super-rich individuals can avoid paying their fair contribution in taxation by moving their assets internationally. Now that we have a globalised economy we need international regulation to ensure that banks, businesses and the powerfully rich are all properly regulated and contributing to the benefit of the whole human family and the ‘more than human world’.  We do not need less bureaucracy, just more intelligent bureaucracy that is internationally created and adhered to.

Now is not the time for nations to retreat to isolated self-interest.  Indeed, self-interest requires us to collaborate internationally as this is the only way we can address these issues that will continue to affect each and every one of us.  Yes, the European Union needs reforming, so does the United Nations and the British Parliament.  The only sensible and responsible course of action is to stay an active and reforming part of all of them.  For the sake of my, and all our grandchildren, I therefore would ask all fellow voters in the UK to go out on June 23rd and vote to remain an active member of the European Union. If you do not live in the UK, please contact someone who does and convince them that their vote to stay part of the E.U. matters.

 



In the world of Hyper-change and Hyper-connectivity we cannot afford to evolve human consciousness one person at a time?

“The most important task today is, perhaps to learn to think in a new way.”
(Gregory Bateson (1972:462)

We live in a time when our collective human actions are putting the very existence of our species at threat, but also a time when we have the potential to destroy most of the living world of this planet along with our own species. Tim Smit the founder of the Eden Project for sustaining biosphere diversity opened a speech to the UK Institute of Directors with the line: “The next thirty years are possibly the most exciting time to be alive in the whole of human history. For in that time we will either discover if we deserve the title Homo Sapiens, or we will all fry.” (Smit 2019).

Reg Revans the founder of “Action Learning” (Revans 1982) often used the powerful formula L= E.C. (Learning must equal or be greater than the rate of the environmental change) as a way of awakening those who would listen to the Darwinian law of organisational survival. It is only through learning in relation to the contexts we find ourselves in that individual, teams, organisations or species co-evolve, flourish and survive. Bateson (1972), a contemporary of Revans, would also point out to those that would listen the problems we have created by choosing the wrong unit of survival.

In accordance with the general climate of thinking in mid nineteenth century England, Darwin proposed a theory of natural selection and evolution, in which the unit of survival was either the family line or species or sub-species or something of that sort. But today it is quite obvious that this is not the unit of survival in the real biological world. The unit of survival is organism plus environment. We are learning by bitter experience that the organism that destroys its environment destroys itself.

Continue reading “In the world of Hyper-change and Hyper-connectivity we cannot afford to evolve human consciousness one person at a time?”



Why Have a Web-Site at a time of digital overload?

Five years ago, we sold Bath Consultancy Group and I launched Renewal Associates as an independent business specialising in developing Systemic Team Coaching, in a way that brings the best of Organisational Development and  Coaching together in a rich blended offering.  I decided that the new business would have no web-site, brochures or business cards, indeed no marketing at all, except what books and articles I published.  The only work we would do would come from word of mouth and personal recommendation.  This has been very successful with more work arriving that we could cope with.  So why launch a web-site now? The world does not need more stuff, but it does need more connection that links thinking from different communities and different professional disciplines. Continue reading “Why Have a Web-Site at a time of digital overload?”