Systemic Team Coaching® Diploma / “If you don’t feel stretched and uncomfortable it’s not real learning!”

19th March by Lee Robertson

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“If you don’t feel stretched it’s not real learning

Anne Stenbom is a global executive coach and intercultural specialist. With expertise in developing leaders and their people in international companies, Anne is a trained systemic team coach and also works with individuals, and groups. Here she shares her experience of completing the Systemic Team Coaching® Diploma and her work at Global Business Leaders (GBL).

Your background includes management roles in training, marketing, corporate communications and sales. Who or what introduced you to coaching?

It seemed like an obvious step to train in a new and emerging field that would complement how I was working with clients in the early 2000’s. I had left corporate life as a result of motherhood, moving countries and completing an MBA and was running relocation briefings to support expats. I knew from personal experience that this work was so much more about cognitively understanding national cultural differences and finding the right teabags in the new country. It was all about supporting people through transitions in their working and personal lives. My style was less “tell” and more “ask” – I signed up for an international executive coaching training programme and it provided a thorough grounding for my coaching career.

What led you to signing up for the AoEC’s Systemic Team Coaching® Diploma course?

Fast-forward fifteen years as a freelance executive coach to being a partner in Global Business Leaders (GBL) – an organisation co-founded with three friends and coaches to meet the growing developmental needs of international organisations and their leaders. Our purpose was to make a difference to wider communities leaving a lasting legacy that promoted dignity, respect and fulfilment.

Alongside working with individual clients, I had also run many leadership development training courses and team development workshops. Most of the team training was shorter in term and even though it was always our ambition to support sustainable behavioural change it wasn’t always what the client contracted for. I felt that one-off away days rarely made a lasting difference, and that team coaching could bring many more beneficial outcomes, not just for the team, but for a wider audience.

I was familiar with the AoEC from other courses I had completed and rate the organisation highly. When I found out about the Systemic Team Coaching (STC) course I was very keen to complete this as an excellent way to complement my education and professional practice by working with teams systemically. I must admit I was hesitant at first, given the time commitment over a year and needing to bring the “right client” but I’ve never regretted the decision to sign up!

What did you find were the most beneficial learning experiences on the diploma?

There were many including the obvious – the live discussions and practice, constellations work and input from the course facilitators. The participants were highly qualified and experienced coaches and we enjoyed a lot of very useful sharing and learning.

Working with the real client took me to my learning edge in many ways and being supported through supervision was of huge benefit.

What was the benefit to you of working on a live case study throughout the programme?

My client was a perfect match for the global, virtual work I was already conducting. The challenges were known but this didn’t make them any easier to deal with. What we practiced in the course modules could be applied to our live client cases and we further deepened and expanded our learning from those of the other coaching teams. Things didn’t always go as planned – the messiness and complexity of managing many relationships was made painfully obvious on some occasions. If you don’t feel stretched and uncomfortable it’s not real learning! I certainly benefited from heightened awareness of my own coaching style and preferences when the going got tough. The highlights were when we had positive client feedback that our work was making a real difference to how the team not just operated more effectively but related to each other better. I think I emerged a stronger, more confident team coach and continue to draw on the learning for work with individuals and organisations as well as teams.

Can you please tell us about your own coaching model and how this has evolved having done the diploma programme?

At GBL we had already developed a model which we had envisaged for working with organisations. Through the STC programme I adapted this GBL framework for working systemically with teams. Since then, it has evolved further into what we call the Discovery Prism today. The Discovery Prism is our simple, question-based and practical framework. We offer it as a way to promote more joined-up thinking in organisations, wider participation and greater accountability. By answering the big questions that need to be addressed by every organisation, people will be better able to develop sustainable 21stcentury organisations that serve their wider communities.   

We wanted to share the framework with as many people as we could and so started writing – first one book The Discovery Prism and then the recent new release, Leadership Through Covid-19 and Beyond.

So, you are a published author and also a director in Global Business Leaders (GBL). Can you tell us a little more about who you work with and what coaching services you offer?

At GBL we partner with our clients on four main areas of people development – leadership growth, outstanding teams, culture and values and diversity and inclusion. We take a coach approach to all our work, whether running one-on-one sessions for an individual client, or working with a team.

We work with all kinds of organisations, both private and non-for-profit, small and large, across many sectors and geographies, from corporate banks to the entertainment industry, from universities to charities. We believe it’s less about what the work is and more about how people together get the job done for whoever they serve.

You describe yourself as being a global executive coach and intercultural specialist. What are the typical challenges and opportunities you help local, virtual and global teams work with?

A much-noted cause of concern for many clients is their lack of connection – to each other, to other business units, to their key stakeholders, their purpose and values. Fragmentation and isolation result often accompanied by a feeling of lack of control and disempowerment. Working virtually can magnify all of this, particularly where different cultural expectations occur and there is greater room for miscommunication. As in all kinds of change work, I work with the client to raise awareness of self and others, to press pause and reflect, although this may seem counter-intuitive when working relentless hours at speed.

When the client comes back with greater clarity and energy to move forward, I take this as a sign that we are on the right path. So many factors can influence outcomes, but we take the measurement of all our work very seriously and conduct ongoing feedback and evaluation.

What feedback have you received from those you have worked with?

That they have been inspired to think and act differently in ways that have a positive impact on their own colleagues, teams and organisations (and sometimes family members)!

How have you seen the need for coaching change as we have gone through the coronavirus pandemic?

Our coach approach has always been to work holistically at depth. I don’t think the need for this has changed, but perhaps there has been somewhat of an awakening to the fact that coaching is not just about performance improvement but about people as human beings (not just human doings) and their impact on the wider system. 

Wellbeing and care are more in focus as people suffer from lockdown and are feeling more vulnerable and isolated. Organisations that are doing well in spite of the trauma of the pandemic are those that are most supportive and understanding of people’s needs to be seen, heard, acknowledged and valued. So, I think coaching is now appreciated by many more as a critical touchpoint during these times. 

What do you find most rewarding about your coaching work?

The opportunity to contribute to a better working world, where people feel happier and more fulfilled. I have been very humbled to contribute to the Coaching through Covid programme and felt I gained at least as much as my coachees. The opportunity to serve is one which drives me to continue my professional journey.

A huge thanks to Anne for sharing her personal journey and experience of team coach training with us.