A systems psychodynamic approach allows coaches to work at depth, to tackle the hard to reach issues that are limiting the performance of organisations, teams and leaders. This method of executive coaching is often necessary to uncover “what’s really going on” and here are five tips to working successfully with the systems psychodynamic approach.
1. Emotion is Data
As professionals we are often encouraged to leave our emotions to one side. We are trained to work with our logic, but work can evoke irrational feelings. For example, someone can feel excited, competitive, miserable, angry or happy; merely as a result of a conversation with a peer or boss. Emotions are the undertow at work and if left unattended, can trip us up in the most unexpected ways.
In the systems psychodynamic approach to coaching, the emotions we experience in the room with a client are used to inform our work. We believe they are a communication that needs attention.
2. Remember the Person, Role and Organisation Triangle
As systems psychodynamic coaches, we work with what we refer to as the PRO Model. If we miss one of these apexes, we are missing a crucial part of the context of our coaching work with our client. We aren’t frightened of working with the person, or even the personal, because we always link it to the role, organisation and even the context of the referral.
This means that “small talk” – where a client is going on holiday or some other sort of personal material (difficulties at home or historical autobiographical information) might shed light on the current situation that a client has sought coaching to address.
3. Working Below the Surface
Whilst concrete, visible and factual information (the organisational structure, reporting lines, how long a client has been in the team they are in) is important. What is also vital to a systems psychodynamic approach is the more difficult to access material – what in terms of the “Johari window” might fall into the quadrant of “unknown to self and unknown to others”.
As systems psychodynamic coaches we work with the metaphor of the iceberg and are particularly interested in working “below the surface” to draw our attention to a client’s blind spots – the areas that perhaps might trip them up if they don’t pay attention to them. Through the coaching journey we also work to uncover the area that is unknown to self and unknown to others.
4. Have courageous conversations
It’s often the conversations that seem to be the hardest to have that are the most important to have with our clients. Clients often come to coaching because of a systematic turning away from the difficult to grasp conversations.
Our rule of thumb is that if it feels difficult to say, it’s exactly what needs to be said. These conversations need to be handled sensitively and the timing and pace of courageous conversations needs careful consideration. However, if they are handled well they can lead to creative outcomes.
5. Coach as accompanist
The coach serves the client. We have to go at our client’s pace and hold onto the idea that if there was a simple solution, the client would have found it. The coachee is the expert in terms of the organisation and culture – our job is to help them harness their expertise in a way that works for them.
Tavistock Consulting is running a systems psychodynamic coaching programme that is accredited by the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) at senior practitioner level.
"When the Executive Coaching course pops into mind, a smile comes to my mind. I love it: I think the group works well and is forming a nice cohesive and empathic whole. The slow-but-deep teaching style and the complementary approaches of the two teachers works well for me. I like the balance of theory and experience, a cycle of thinking-reflecting-doing-reflecting and I like it too because, so far at least, even when I’m in the hot-seat, I’ve felt safe. This is not an easy environment to create, but when it is created, it really fosters learning and higher levels of motivation.”
Written by a member of the 2013 cohort of Tavistock Consulting’s Executive Coaching Development Programme
We are inviting applications for the May 2016 cohort. Click here to find an overview and application link for the Executive Coaching programme.
Attend our free Open Event on Wednesday 21st October, starts 6.30pm and ends 8.00pm, at Tavistock Consulting, 94 Belsize Lane, London, NW3 5BE.
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