“Seeing how a group of strangers could work so productively together to open new perspectives on complex leadership questions was very worthwhile.”
“John’s facilitation was extremely clear.”
“An informative insight to leadership facilitated by John in a relaxed and congenial environment that was thoroughly engaging.”
“John embodied the language and stance needed for effectiveness in this work – with humour and at a pace that allowed time for questions and assimilation.”
“The constellation approach is ideal for those who are used to working with a coach and are interested in translating that into a group environment.”
What is a Constellation?
A constellation is a living map made of other individuals in the workshop who are used as representatives for specific people, teams, divisions, products or more abstract elements like ‘our customers’ or ‘our culture’. With guidance from the facilitator the client is invited to choose different representatives for each important element that is relevant to their question, topic or issue and then place them in the space in relation to each other. The client then steps back and becomes an observer of a remarkable but highly effective process that doesn’t use intellectual thinking but accesses embodied information.
A pattern emerges. A pattern which is an external expression of the hidden, internal dynamics in the system being explored. This initial map of ‘what is’ is illuminated to identify the dynamics that are blocking or causing conflict or other difficulties and, as the constellation develops, missing conversations are completed, whats been excluded is re-membered and fresh resources located. Through a combination of facilitation informed by a knowledge of the dynamics which sustain and limit systems and the phenomena of representative perception the constellation shows what is needed for change. A new pattern emerges that creates fresh insight and then resources and resolves, bringing balance to the whole system.
Representative perception is the somatic phenomenon that delivers such value in constellations, surfacing what has not been fully seen, said or considered. The tacit, embodied information that is held in every relationship system. Representatives and representative perception should not be confused with acting or role-play or mythodrama. There is no ‘story-telling’ or acting, only perception. Unlike role play a constellation is facilitated, not directed, and can be relied on every time to deliver new insights and information beyond the stories, ideas and judgements that can distract and misdirect leaders and organisations.
Each constellation includes time for checking and sense-making as well as a review of actions and responsibilities to take away.
How do systemic issues arise?
Organisational systems are governed by naturally occurring forces that ensure their effectiveness and vitality. When they are disturbed, or ignored, business and the business of leadership can become unwittingly entangled in the self-righting dynamics, then the natural order and flow of leadership and organisational health is disrupted.
It is the attempts to ignore or side step these underlying forces which cause imbalances and entanglements in the system. Once out of balance the system tries to right itself and calls individuals or groups of people into service of the need to correct and find balance and the natural order again.
A constellation will surface the unseen dynamics and then reveal new paths to enduring resolution, bringing fresh vitality to the whole system.
What informs this way of working?
Constellations are underpinned by simple truths that have been found to balance successful human relationship and other systems. Key amongst them is that everyone and everything has a ‘right place’ in their system. The purpose, the roles and all the people. A place where they belong. Each different but equally valued. When, as individuals or teams, we experience being in the ‘right place’ systemically, we feel ready to bring our best selves to our role, in service of the purpose and can then function with clarity, in flow with the system.
All human systems hang like a child’s mobile, in delicate balance. The winds of change can easily disturb one part, which in turn influences and affects every other part. The constellation of relationship dynamics changes and causes an imbalance. The sense of being in the ‘right place’ is lost.
The unspoken awareness in the system demands balance and redress. The system calls people – individuals in family systems, leaders and teams in business systems, into the service of the need to redress the balance. This creates numerous cultural, communication, leadership and motivation issues.
It’s the job of a Constellation to identify – and then point towards a resolution – these complex issues, bringing renewed clarity, fresh resources and energy to the system. So that all can find their place.
Where does this approach to resolution come from and what underpins it?
The approach was originated in Europe by systemic specialist and philosopher Bert Hellinger through application within family and organisational systems. It has now been experienced by many thousands of people in Europe and across the world in both personal, organisational, consulting, educational and executive coaching contexts.
Hidden loyalties, identifications and entanglements are often revealed in just a few minutes, giving this approach a reputation as an intervention that can quickly get to the underlying dynamics and free up a system, releasing fresh energy that leads to resolution. The principles of acknowledgment and respect for ‘what is’ run through this work and so support people to really look at the truths and honour the past, before trying to move into the future and on into resolution.
Life within an organisation – with founder dynamics, matrix reporting, multiple hidden loyalties and the need for constant change – is often more complex than in a family system. Investors, staff, shareholders, former employees, suppliers and customers make business systems more complex as the interaction with many other systems on a daily basis creates a constant need for re-balance.
An increasing number of professional executive coaches are now training in this methodology and facilitating change at a deep level in individual leaders, teams and whole organisations.
How can I and/or my business access the benefits of Business Constellations?
There are four principal ways of working with business constellations and experiencing the insights and clarity that they can offer.
1. Multi-organisation workshops
Leaders from different businesses and industries gather in a confidential workshop to illuminate pressing issues. Powerful insights about business, leadership dynamics, consulting and organisational health emerge when working on your own issues but also whilst supporting or observing the work of others. These workshops also provide an opportunity to hear about the underlying principles of systemic leadership and organisational health. Available in one or two day workshop modules.
2. Private bespoke workshops
For single businesses that have a number of organisational, leadership or other systemic issues to explore and who have a senior management team who want to explore them as a unit. Available in half and full day workshop modules with or without external neutral representatives.
3. Organisational health and systemic leadership development workshops
These are one or two day off-site workshop programmes, for cross-functional, multi-team members from one commissioning business, exploring issues of organisational health, personal and professional development and systemic leadership through a mix of exercises and whole group constellations illuminating current issues and building system awareness in a group of leaders from the same organisation.
4. One-to-one systemic executive coaching
Constellations and the understanding that underpins them are also very effective in one to one settings where organisational, leadership or other systemic issues can be explored with a senior executive and a systemically trained coach using table top or floor based applications of constellations.
Learning circles and training environments
For coaches and consultants there is a facilitated learning environment, available through this website: coachingconstellations.com as well as other opportunities for training, information about which is available at the workshops or on request.
What happens in a Workshop?
This way of looking at professional and organisational issues takes place in a group setting. The workshops are small and there is explanation, demonstration and time for questions before the work starts and throughout the day.
The group sits in a circle and, under the guidance of the facilitator, uses the space in the centre to set up each constellation. To begin each piece of work the person who is bringing an issue briefly describes, to the facilitator, the difficulty or challenge the business, leadership team or organisation is facing. The facilitator then assists them in the selection of group members to represent the elements of the system being explored. This concept of representation of somebody or something else is central to this way of working and is explained and experienced in opening exercises and throughout the day.
The issue holder guides each representative to stand in relationship to one another in a way that resonates with their inner sense of the relationship dynamics. As a result a pattern is created, an external picture of an inner, often unconscious, image. This is the start of a constellation and, even at this early stage, often reveals fresh insights about the organisational system being explored. The form of the rest of the constellation depends on the issue, the representatives’ feedback and the facilitator’s observations and interventions.
During the constellation the facilitator gathers information and insights from the representatives – they will experience distinct and precise sensations. As the dynamics gradually become clearer, the facilitator works with the representatives to bring reconnection and resolution to the whole system. The process of a constellation – lasting from a few minutes to over an hour – and the new image of resolution provides the issue holder with new information for action and change. Combined with the post-constellation discussion and processing the issue holder leaves with insights, fresh energy and resources for resolution.
As an observer you may be invited to take part in other peoples’ constellations as a representative. It’s very common that someone else’s work will resonate and that through their constellation you will clarify a business or leadership issue of your own.
Who can attend?
Business Constellations workshops are open to:
- Organisation and business unit leaders, owner managers, senior managers and executives who have responsibility for dealing with a complex or challenging business, organisational, commercial or cultural issue. One colleague from the same organisation may attend with the individual who brings the issue in order to support issue clarification and sense-making and, where appropriate, two or three observers who will be involved in any actions required following the workshop.
- HR, OD consultants and coaches who work with the commissioning client are welcome to these workshops, by invitation of the client, so they can take the insights back into the coaching / consulting relationship and process.
- Where members of a senior team are keen to look at issues that face them together, it is possible for all to attend. However, please contact us to discuss your particular situation, issues and needs.
“I was very impressed with the insights available through this methodology and John’s assured delivery style”
What about confidentiality?
These workshops take place in a confidential environment that assures client confidentiality. All representatives – who are experienced executive coaches used to working in both personally and commercially sensitive contexts – are screened to ensure no conflict of interest with the commissioning client organisation and all are required to sign a binding NDA.
At the start of the workshop a confidentiality framework specific to that workshop is also agreed by the whole group. This can be reviewed and re-stated at any time if required by the client. In addition it is possible to explore issues with concealed or ‘blind’ constellations, where no information is shared with the group.
Where are the workshops held?
The scheduled workshops are held in central London, UK. However, when you commission a workshop you can choose the location. Workshops can be facilitated in-house and worldwide. Please contact us to discuss specific requirements.
What do I need to know to take part in a workshop?
Nothing. In fact the less you ‘know’ or think you need to know the better able you will be to access the deeper dynamics that influence human relationships, leadership and organisational systems. Come as you are, not knowing and you may leave with more than you imagined possible.