Confidence, effectiveness and systems
Depleted confidence and effectiveness
A senior executive with a consistent track record of stellar success moved into a new role in a new organisation and suddenly found her confidence plummeting in parallel with her boss’s apparent lack of confidence in her.
A newly recruited COO found his effectiveness and his confidence waning as he struggled to meet the demands of his new culture to focus on endless detail rather than conceptualising and implementing his vision – the vision that he had been recruited for.
A head of function, reporting to a new line manager, found himself undermined, devalued and voiceless in his relationship with his boss, despite consistently positive feedback on him from elsewhere in the business.
A visionary Board Director, recruited for one significant area of the business and subsequently recognised for having the capability to take on an additional area, found it impossible to step into her authority and to deliver her best by being who she was.
A behavioural approach, focused on the individual
In each of these cases – all of them clients I have coached – as coach I might have got drawn in exclusively to working on personality profiling, emotional intelligence, leadership style or any other of a host of approaches addressing the nature of the individual’s behaviour.
A relationship approach – and the importance of belonging
What turned out to be much more effective, however, was to remember that any individual functions in large part by virtue of their relationships to their environment and to the individuals, themes, histories and other influencing factors within it. In each of the instances above, the issue was about the nature of the coaching client’s belonging – where they fitted in their teams, their divisions and their organisations, and the unconscious loyalties that populated that belonging.
Illuminating the unseen was the key to confidence and effectiveness
For these clients, something unresolved, and previously invisible and unaddressed, associated with a predecessor in the role, turned out to be behind their feeling unsettled – or worse. Once that ‘something’ was brought to the surface in the coaching, even though in some cases it was impossible to know exactly what it consisted of, all these clients recovered their confidence and their effectiveness.
Besides this systemic theme, it became clearer than ever to me just how closely confidence and effectiveness are linked. Confidence that is depleted – which often results from the individual interpreting an external event or behaviour, and believing – albeit unconsciously – the message that they construct from it – leads very easily to effectiveness that is depleted. Looking outwards from the individual into their environment and the systems of relationships they are part of is, I have found in my coaching practice, often a more elegant and rapid process, offering richer and more sustained outcomes for rebuilding and re-resourcing, than cognitive approaches .
A systemic approach liberates fresh thinking
This kind of systemic approach externalises the problem so that the individual can detach from it and look at it as something separate from them, rather than something that is part of them or something that they identify with. Not only is the emotional charge defused, but the capacity to discern and create choices and find a new kind of focus means, in my experience, that the individual feels liberated and less oppressed by their circumstances, has a greater sense of space and becomes more creative in developing ways forward.
‘Who?’ becomes ‘Where?’
And the question about ‘who’s the problem?’ (which can often imply blame) becomes ‘where’s the blockage?’, which can bring a richer and more sustained solution.