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In the midst of a high-stress situation, many Executives fall into the reactive thinking-action patterns. As a result, many people turn to a third person in the hopes of lowering their anxiety and be able to carry on with their work. But as Mary Beth describes, "More often, reliance on a third person prolongs the unresolved situation." The result is that rather than dealing with the source of the stress, many try to pass on their anxiety to others and can distract the leader from dealing with the issue at hand.

Using the systems perspective as a guide for coaching can create a broad and almost overwhelming setting. Yet, engaging the coachee to look at the system they are living in can enhance their perspective and impart opportunities they might not have seen otherwise. As Peter Senge describes, "Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing a pattern of change rather than static snapshots" (2006, p.68).

Our job as coaches is to ensure that the Executive "retains ownership" of their issue and that we as coaches, don't get caught up in taking on the coachee's anxiety and work harder than the coachee to resolve their problem. When organizational "anxiety" arises often the first thing that happens is a knee-jerk reaction to flee by the coachee. The blame frame opens up and a woe is me attitude arises. We may feel it is our job as a coach to get in a strong role in their triangle but help them identify the issues and find their way out. We need compassion but must hold them accountable. As quoted in the O'Neil reading (chapter 3) “Your #1 job as a coach is to help the executive face his own reactions and get back to his creative center". Taking advantage of a potential relationship is an important part that can be applicable in leveraging clients to show commitment to success. Ensuring that there is a great regularity is a common part whereby dances unfold to knock a relationship from certain possibilities in forming partnerships. This is an important part to take note since it often occurs with lack of awareness. It is possible for an individual to feel like the burdened top as well as the oppressed bottoms or an unsupported ends. The most enlightening part of a coach approach has been to unlearn, do less and forgo expectation of how the coach-coachee dance should go. A coaches neutral position in important.

The illusion of control is often a problematic root cause of organizational interpersonal tensions. "Real leaders take charge all the time; they are never seen to be indecisive or allow others to be empowered on the stuff that really matters. We never allow ourselves to acknowledge that in taking charge we may be acting reactively and not proactively." Whether it is a perceived deficit or surplus of power, this imbalance can create an unproductive and narrow worldview that negatively impacts the bottom line. "It is important for the coach to see their side of the pattern and to sustain a belief in the client’s resourcefulness – keep turning your client back to facing their own challenge (O’Neill, 2007)".

Team NAC


O'Neill, Mary Beth. (2007). Executive coaching with backbone and heart: A systems approach to engaging leaders with their challenges (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. [Retrieved from the Books24x7 database]*.

  • Chapter 3: Systems Thinking - Understanding the Executive’s Challenges and the Coach’s Challenges

  • Chapter 4: The Triangled Coach - Being Effective in the Middle

Oshry, Barry. (2007). Seeing systems: Unlocking the mysteries of organizational life. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler. [Retrieved from the Books24x7 database].

  • Act II, Seeing Patterns of Relationships

Senge, Peter. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization (rev. ed.). New York: Doubleday. [Royal Roads Library Print Collection: HD58.9 .S46 2006].

  • Chapter 4: The Laws of the Fifth Discipline

  • Chapter 5: A Shift of Mind

#coaching #executivecoaching #performance

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