Coaching for Systemic Change

Seeking to work and lead collectively in pursuit of systemic change at times like these can feel uncertain, exhausting and disorientating, however much it feels like the right thing to do.  We have been exploring the potential role of coaching to offer a targeted response to these circumstances, looking in particular at how to incorporate the core practices of Collective Leadership in our coaching.  This offers opportunities to pause, reflect and work together to examine the different aspects of systemic change work and explore what steps can be taken to better achieve the outcomes we are working towards.

Lucie McAnespie and I met on a Coaching training programme earlier in the year and have been working together to explore different approaches to coaching that can offer a route to reflect upon wider systemic issues and to find ways to embed these in our coaching work.  We recently explored how to use art as a stimulus for this and made a visit to The Burrell Collection in Glasgow to deepen our inquiry.

Photograph of Artwork from the Burrell Collection. Taken by Janet Whitley

We decided to take a short time to walk around the galleries and to allow ourselves to be drawn by particular elements of the exhibition, paying attention to what seemed to attract our attention, how that made us feel and what they brought to mind for us.  We then took some time to reflect together on what had arisen for us, deploying drawing and guided journaling to uncover deeper levels of meaning in our observations. 

What stands out from the experience for me is a strong sense of the Burrell Collection as a restful and contemplative environment which was highly conducive to deeper reflective work. The relationship between the gallery spaces and the outdoors also contributed significantly to this.  I was also extraordinarily struck by the age (really ancient) and feeling of contemporariness of many of the pieces of art on display. This signalled something for me about the timelessness of our experiences and cycles of experiences that continue through the ages.

Photograph of piece of tapestry in the Burrell Collection. Taken by Janet Whitley

I learned about the powerful impact of a restful and restorative environment, and a wide variety of beautiful and stimulating art-works to enable us to undertake deep reflective work which will inform my coaching practice. 

This feels particularly important for the times we are working through, where space and time for reflection are often unavailable and a deeper dive becomes necessary.  This has a great deal of relevance for our work on coaching for systemic change, where it is crucial to create opportunities for coachees to experience different ways of knowing to enable different actions for the future.

Photograph of Painting in the Burrell Collection. Taken by Janet Whitley

Lucie commented, “From my point of view I completely agree with Janet’s comments about the space being particularly impactful. The design of the building bringing outside in and the layout of objects in an organised but not chronological way really resonated for me. It is possible to find peace and a way through the muddle of life despite it seeming chaotic! The beauty of the space and the objects within it contributed to a positive feeling, restoring equilibrium and allowing hope which are essential in coaching. As coach and coachee we were able to allow the space and our activity to support and expand our thinking and feeling bringing a breadth and depth that words alone may not have achieved; important to remember and continue to experiment with for the future.”

We have been delighted at the positive response from a very diverse range of colleagues to work with us on this and look forward to many opportunities to learn together. You can find out more about our work on Coaching for Systemic Change here.

Our next Open Space event will take place on 2 November and you can sign up here.

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