Organisational families…do you belong?
It’s not unusual for organisations to be referred to as families. This can be seen as a positive and a negative thing depending on each person’s experience of both their own family life and of course the organisation itself.
Working with leaders to improve organisational cultures one often sees patterns that mirror family dynamics. Cultures are, of course, complex and subtle and it’s generally not wise to try and distil them to a few factors.
However, drawing on the longstanding research into family dynamics it is possible to extract a lot of key information about an organisational system from three key principles. Principles that form the basis of systemic coaching or constellations. Like the stars, people form themselves into patterns and subsequent dynamics and relationships which can be brought into clearer perspective through these three principles.
The first is the principle of time. Time in the sense of who came first and who has been there the longest and vice versa. Time also in the sense of the history. For example, who is/was the founder and what is the impact of their presence? Exploring the organisation through the lens of time gives information on who is being ‘seen’ and respected and who is feeling ‘excluded’ or disempowered.
The second principle is the very primal issue of belonging. Finding our place within an organisation or team is really important if we are each to feel appropriately ‘powerful’ and able to play our part fully and healthily. If feeling insecure for any reason, or assuming a role that isn’t really ours then this can destabilise, not only the individual but also others with whom they are in relationship. For example, it’s common to see unhelpful parent/child dynamics at play in all organisations.
The third principle is one of exchange. To what extent is there a fair basis to the psychological and physical exchange between an individual and the organisational collective? On the face of it this should be straightforward. A contract is negotiated and providing both parties play their role as agreed it should remain healthy. Of course, we will all have many examples of where this is far from the truth. Complicated by our own sense of self, the level of psychological health within the organisation and the interplay between these, we see an ever-shifting balance of levels of comfort with the exchange.
And if we come back to the family, we can see each of these factors in the dynamics of which sibling came first and the power associated with that, the sense of belonging or otherwise within a family and the degree to which love is expressed and reciprocated in a manner that feels like a fair balance of exchange.
Exploring these principles within an organisational context is a powerful way of unlocking the inner power of teams, departments and whole organisational systems.