The foundation of systemic phenomenological work


28 July 2017| Systemic Coaching

Systemic coaching is like a dance! Not by knowing how to dance, but being danced by the dance itself.

As a systemic coach, I start by (in a non-judgmental manner) moving the coachee along all his or her systems: the work background, the family background, and how history has been dealt with in those systems, the history of larger systems such as places of residence, countries of origin, political convictions, or beliefs…

This ‘detour’ may seem unrelated to the question. But all these systems give so much information. We do not do anything with it initially. But all that information creates a field around us. As a coach, I also step into the field of systems and information around the coachee and try to perceive, with all my senses, who or what in those systems is asking for attention.

The coach asks questions about what has happened, and listens to the facts the coachee tells. And also to the facts that are not told. Because the systemic coach listens with two ears: one ear hears what is being said, and one ear hears what is not being said. For instance, when a coachee continuously talks about the mother, my second ear hears that the father is continuously not being mentioned… I then guide myself as coach through a series of internal questions: What pattern could be under all of this? What is it a solution for, the fact that the father is not being mentioned? And what could it have to do with this work-related question?

Suddenly I hear the question come out of my mouth: “How many chances did your father actually have?” The coachee falls silent and a silent tear rolls over her cheek. “Too few,” is her response, “he wanted to study, but he had to take care of his mother and sisters when his father died.” And after a long silence and a sigh, she goes on: “Is that why I am so overly indignant? It’s not just about my competences that are not being seen, but also about my father’s value, which was not recognized?”

As a coach, I do not say anything for a moment. After a clear silence, the coachee says: “Oh, I’d never looked at it this way. Thank you! I think I know now how to talk to my boss. All of a sudden, I see her just as my manager, and no longer as the whole world, that does not give me any chances..”

I often call systemic coaching “coaching via a detour”: First you scan all the systems, sensing what in those systems is asking for recognition.

But sometimes it feels like the coachee and me are like two people bumping into each other, while dancing on the dancing floor. We do not know each other and we do not know where to end. We both lead and follow the rhythm of asking and answering. It’s me guiding through the jungle of systems, and it’s the coachee deciding when to follow and when to dance separately again.

May I invite you to this systemic dance? In the training for systemic coaching, the emphasis is on learning: “We will step on each other’s feet while dancing, we will slip on the slippery floor and eventually – when you are taken by the phenomenological systemic perception – there will be that magic moment where you and the coachee will be danced by the dance itself.”

Bibi Schreuder
Bert Hellinger Institute, The Netherlands

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About the Bert Hellinger Institute

People are constantly evolving. With each other, without each other. In families, in teams, in organizations. Systemic thinking makes us aware of the “why” of our being and doing. Organizational and family constellations create room for movement. The BHI provides courses, workshops and training programs in the field of systemic work, constellations, leadership and coaching. This is how we contribute to the development of people, organizations and society.

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