The Development Center

Leadership Development

Our Approaching to Coaching for Leadership

Using a multidimensional framework—which involves the person, his/her organization and its context—I coach at the juncture of the person and their organization. Most of my clients face organizational challenges that involve formulating strategy or leading organizational and cultural change. A major goal of coaching is that they understand their organization, their leadership role and how to execute it.

This approach involves a growing understanding of the interplay between the leader and his/her organization moving from the global influences on their organization all the way down to the psychodynamics of the individual leader. Most engagements begin with an assessment, "organization-in-the-mind." Through this activity leaders become aware of their experience of their organization's multiple dimensions, resources, context, and their own leadership posture. This primary process activity enables them to access and utilize experiential, informational, and dynamic complexities that are not available through left-brain, linear thought. Therefore, through this activity they garner a depth and breadth of information to better make decisions and take action that serves the purpose of their system. This mental map is used as part of an assessment which continues throughout the engagement.

The client's work involves simultaneous and integrated thinking and feeling. Only through viewing leadership decisions through both of these lenses can a leader get a full enough picture of what is happening and of the possible ramifications of specific decisions and actions to turn experience into knowledge and wise action.

The framework—person, organization, context—is also applicable for someone preparing for or during a role transition. In addition, I have found this framework useful in working with executives and professionals who must lead a major change or program initiative or acquire new attitudes, knowledge and skills for a task or assignment. Common requests include how to lead with influence, lead organizational change, form and lead an advisory committee or cross functional team, work with difficult people, or lead in highly charged political environments.

Clients comment that when they stay emotionally and intellectually connected to the system and do not run away from organizational difficulties they are forced to transform themselves as a leader. One commented, "It was very transformative for me to realize that I am part of the system and have a part in transforming the system. The process was me, them, me, them, me, them, then it became us, us, us." Through this process leaders gain the courage to take calculated risks on "healthier
outcomes." Some clients have called this method big-picture coaching.

A psychodynamic and systems approach to coaching actually expands one's capacity for leadership. It goes beyond a standard coaching approach in which the leader draws upon his or her strengths to meet a current leadership challenge. My work results in adaptive leadership in the current situation and an increased capacity to meet leadership challenges in the future.

My primary goal in coaching is to enable leaders to be successful in helping their organizations fulfill their purposes and surpass their goals.

by Frances Unsell