If you want to work with an Executive Coach, I highly recommend you work with a coach who uses a Whole Systems Lens. Whole Systems Coaching is a method of coaching that considers the interplay between individual, team and organizational dynamics. An Executive Coach who uses a Whole Systems Approach will start an engagement by understanding the broader picture and “organizational system,” instead of focusing on just the individual leader and their needs. They will look at the economy, industry, organization, roles, formal and informal authority, relationships and team dynamics. With this type of macro inquiry, the executive coach can draw conclusions about how the broader organizational system is impacting their client, and they can observe how the leader reacts to and contributes to dynamics at work.
A Whole Systems Executive Coach will also play close attention to the individual and togetherness force, a dynamic tension that every leader experiences. This tension arises from two basic needs: the need to be an individual, and the need to be with others in relationship. A Whole Systems Executive Coach will notice if the leader is able to manage this tension in a positive way, or if they tend to lose themselves in the group, or over-react to the emotional tension at work. They will notice how the leader maintains boundaries and maintains their sense of individuality, and how they balance their individual needs with the team’s needs and their group affiliation. They will also notice how the executive responds to personal stress and stress that arises in the group. Does the executive take on the anxiety of the team? If so, why? Do they lose their sense of self when things get heated, or are they able to stay calm and composed?
At the same time, a Whole Systems Executive Coach will pay attention to team norms, and they will notice what type of person is a “good fit” with the team, and how the team rejects team members who do not belong. This tells the coach a lot, as it highlights the cost of being separate from the group, and the tolerance level for diversity within the team.
Whole Systems Executive Coaches also understand the relationship between emotional intelligence and individual and team functioning. If an executive has a high level of emotional maturity, and a well developed sense of self, they will be better able to manage the ebbs and flows of team life. If they do not, they will be more likely to get caught up in team stress, take things personally, or they may tie their personal identity to the team, or organizational mandate, beyond what is healthy. They may also take negative feedback hard, having a reaction that is disproportionate to the feedback itself.
An Executive Coach with a Whole Systems Lens will also pay attention to the how the team operates as a whole, doing so allows them to carefully craft the best intervention which may be at the individual, team, or organizational level. For example, if a team is complaining of silos, a Whole Systems Coach will look at how the team functioning is contributing to this, and they will work with the team to shift the dynamic. They will also work with the individual executives to understand their role in creating the silos, and they will assess their reactions to it, and whether it fits with their personality preferences.
As you can see, there is tremendous value in working with an Executive Coach who uses a Whole Systems Lens. This type of coach will be able to see the organizational dynamics the executive must navigate without getting caught up in them. With this knowledge, a Whole Systems Executive Coach will be able to operate as a true thinking partner to the executive, helping them create strategies to get the desired results.