Why coaching should be systemic and what does it mean


For an executive coach the client can be either an individual or a team. Both are complicated systems in themselves, and at the same time they are also parts of bigger systems – organisations, consisting of overlapping groups of people and relationships between these. Systemic approach to coaching takes into account all these relationships, thinks of the executive, his team and the whole organisation like a web of overlapping rings.

The closest ring to managing partner or CEO is his primary group of colleagues – his/her executive management group, ideally a team, but more often than not just a co-working group. And then the other important group on the outskirts of the organisation – the board, representing one of the stakeholder groups – the owners. Inside these there are individuals, each of them being complex individual system with their ideas, attitudes, beliefs, prejudices, habits – their typical sets of behaviours, often called personalities. The CEO has direct relationship with all the individuals in these circles. This makes it altogether a pretty complicated picture of interactions and relations. Not all the communications go through the CEO, but he/she is in the centre of these, he or she is in the field of the influences of all these communication flows and relationships. And being part of these, he/she influences them as well.

There are by-laws, policies, procedures, job descriptions and other useful and practical things that keep things in order. There are other things much less overt like values people believe in, stories they tell, heroes they remember and glorify. This is called culture and is usually not well documented, but one can “smell it” in the air of the office. It can be sensed and felt and it has its direct daily influence to people’s behaviours. One cannot force it but there are still ways to influence its development.

Executive is there to help organization reach its goals through the people working there. He/she has to do it, taking into account the hard and soft sides of the organization and also different personalities of the people he works with to serve them in best way.

There are many things to do every day, possibly more that one can handle. Executive gets more letters than he/she possibly can answer, more requests for meetings he/she can fulfill. Trying to cope by staying late and doing it all, one may burn out quickly and this is not the way to go. Keeping oneself in good shape, mood and fit is an important predisposition for being able to lead others.

So managing one’s mind and keeping fit psychologically is part of executive’s responsibilities. Executives mood does not go unnoticed, on the contrary it is amplified through various networks she/he is part of. Keeping fit emotionally involves self management, but also setting priorities and managing ones time. Everybody has the same amount of time and one will always have enough time for important things – if he/she knows what is really important.