How Gestalt informs our work
We are deeply informed by a ‘Gestalt’ approach to learning and development. Gestalt roughly means ‘to make into a comprehensive whole’, and with it comes the notion that each one of us has the intrinsic drive to ‘make sense’ of our experience and to function at the most effective, satisfying level possible. As Gestalt-orientated practitioners, we are interested in the process by which the individuals or teams we work with become aware (or block awareness) of what is going on in any moment, how they mobilise (or block) their energy for action and how appropriate (or not) that action is in achieving satisfying and relevant outcomes. We work with people to become more aware of themselves, others and the situations they are in, to have more choice in the actions they take and experience greater satisfaction with their achievements. Amongst many other things this means that:
We go below the surface
Many consultants and facilitators facilitate ‘difficult issues’ such as confrontation only to the point that they uncover an identifiable problem. They then move rapidly to problem solving, thus often addressing symptoms rather than underlying patterns. A Gestalt-orientated facilitator/coach, by contrast, accepts that the world of human dynamics in organisations is not as simple as that. We work with the individual or team to become aware of their patterns (helpful and unhelpful), the purpose these patterns serve, how they are reinforced and what the patterns enable them to avoid. We work with them to engage in deeper, stronger, more ‘robust’ interactions between people, that get to the heart of what really matters, and in so doing, make fundamental shifts in they way they relate to and work with others.
“Change occurs when one becomes what he is, not when he tries to become what he is not.”
Arnold Beisser, The Paradoxical Theory of Change
We hold a different view of ‘change’
A great many managers and leaders view resistance to change as something that needs to be ‘overcome’, to be ‘pushed through’ and then behave in ways that provoke further resistance. We believe instead of seeing ‘unwanted behaviour’ as something to be overcome, the fastest route to change is engaging with human beings who need to be understood. When someone is truly understood, they become significantly less ‘invested’ in their habitual stance. They become more able and willing to experiment with different ways of doing things, different ways of viewing their situation. Our starting point in working with individuals or teams is to raise awareness of ‘what currently is’ (current thinking, behaviour, feelings, assumptions) and to fully understand the ‘meaning’ that these hold for the people concerned. We find that when a person or team engage with this deep exploration, change follows.
We engage with the ‘system’
There is a term in therapy, ‘the identified patient’, i.e. the one who needs to change, who is ‘causing the trouble’. This happens in business too, the disruptive team member, the under-performer, the impossible team. Often these are the people for whom coaching or team building is sought. Again, reality is never that simple. We believe that all behaviour and all outcomes are co-created, the result of complex interactions between team members, the leader(s), the organisational context, culture etc. When we are coaching, or working with a team, we seek to understand the wider context in which the individual or team works, engage people from the wider system and to seek ways of ensuring that change becomes embedded in that system.