Building a bridge between the individual psyche and the organisational context.
Having spent my early consulting years working with the organisational sociologist François Dupuy’s team, who had taught me to look for the rationale to unexplained behaviours in the wider organisational context, I was on familiar ground when I discovered the Systemic and Strategic Approach, which, at the psychological level, sees any given symptom as a cog in a system. Reciprocally, other members in the group maintain the symptom by their own interventions, thus maintaining the system’s stability.
The solution provided by the symptomatic behaviour might be painful, costly or inadequate to at least one member in the group, creating a dysfunctional balance. Nevertheless, all systems strive for stability: every time a member of the group steps away from routine behaviour, the whole group is disturbed and follows regulation processes to regain its initial stability. This phenomenon of homeostasis explains why change is so difficult and places resistance to change in a wider perspective than on the sole individual.
The human brain struggles to find new ways to solve the situation and tends to do more of the same, even when told or taught to do differently. Repeatedly attempting to solve a problem with the same inadequate solution, however logical and helpful it might be in other contexts, compounds the situation and “the solution becomes the problem.”. This is where my coaching takes place.
My ambition is to help my clients realise that they are not “pawns in a game, but players who know that the rules are “real” only to the extent that we have created or accepted them, and that we can change them.”
In corporate environments, most of the requests come through intermediaries and the coachee is not always asking for anything. This is one of the reasons for which systems thinking is as powerful in corporate environments as in family issues.
Unravelling who is asking for what :
When the latter is not accessible to coaching, there is always an alternative pathway to change through the former, if (s)he accepts to play a role in creating the solution to a problem (s)he doesn’t feel responsible for. This is, in my view, one of the most remarkable strengths of the Systemic and Strategic Approach.
Insight about why a phenomenon occurs doesn’t suffice to change it.
Unlike the Psychodynamic Conflict Theory, stating that “ the unconscious material consciously available to the person experiencing symptoms likely to produce more complete and lasting changes for the individual than those that do not.” Watzlawick & al. describe their approach as “a search for pattern in the here and now rather than for symbolic meaning, past causes or motivation”. The first observation I share with these authors is that insight aboutwhy a phenomenon occurs doesn’t suffice to change it; the second is that change often happens without insight, through subtle changes in their worldview. It doesn’t mean I completely rule my clients’ past out of the discussion: I take it into account insofar as it shapes their present values, beliefs and behaviours.
Whereas the former designs specific change goals and strives to remove obstacles, the latter explores what happens for the coachee in the time and space of the session, that will help an unknown future to emerge. I have soon found it helpful to be able to choose between these two approaches according to my clients’ level of clarity and satisfaction with their goals.
The whole purpose of the first sessions of my coaching is to frame the problem or desired change in an interactional way. It helps listing attempted solutions, finding their underpinning pattern and starting to instill doubt into the clients’ mind about the validity of their regulation processes to reach their goals. Of course, instilling doubt about regulation processes implies that some unsuccessful attempts have been made, or that some action that should have been taken hasn’t been taken).
My visual interpretation of a case study presented in Boutan & Aubry's "Essaye encore!"
To read more :
Dion, S. (1993) ‘Erhard Friedberg et l’analyse stratégique’ Revue française de science politique, Année 43, No. 6, p. 995.
Watzlawick, P. Beavin Bavelas, J. Jackson, D. (1967) Pragmatics of human communication: a study of interactional patterns . p.12.
Wittezaele, J.J. Nardone, G. (2016) Une logique des troubles mentaux: le DOSS, Paris: Seuil. p.95.
Peltier, B. (2010) The psychology of executive coaching, 2nd edn . p. 140.
Leary-Joyce, J. (2014) The fertile void: Gestalt coaching at work, St Albans: AoEC Press. p. 6.
Houdé, O. (2019) L’intelligence humaine n’est pas un algorithme . pp. 136-137.
Watzlawick, P. Weakland, J. H. Fisch, R. (1974) Change: principles of problem formation and problem resolution . p.22.
Watzlawick & al., 1967, p.27.
Watzlawick, & al., 1967, p. 13-14.
Wittezaele & Nardone, 2016, p. 154.
Peltier 2010, pp. 136-137.
O'Neill, M.B. (2007) Executive coaching with backbone and heart: a systems approach to engaging leaders with their challenges, 2nd edn.. P. 134.
Kilburg, R. (2004) ‘When shadows fall: using psychodynamic approaches in executive coaching’ Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, Vol. 56, No. 4, p. 251
Watzlawick, & al., 1967, p. 26
Leary-Joyce, 2014, p. 119
O’Neill, 2007, p. 83
Watzlawick, & al., 1974, pp. 38-39
Boutan, E. Aubry, K. (2017) Essaye encore! Déjouer les pièges relationnels au travail . pp. 89-95
Pour me contacter, prenez rendez-vous directement dans mon agenda en ligne, ou remplissez le formulaire suivant, je vous répondrai dans les plus brefs délais.