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Value of Troublemakers

April 2019

What if troublemakers are hidden resources! While it may seem counterintuitive to talk about the value of troublemakers, in fact they often have profoundly significant value. Too often troublemakers are seen as mischief makers, causing disruption and difficulties for their own reasons. However systemically, if we look at troublemakers, they're often doing something in service of the system. In this case we would be wise to listen to what the system is trying to communicate.

Understanding Recurring Patterns

March 2019

Recurring patterns occur across organisations of all shapes and sizes every day. When the pattern is not healthy, and the outcomes are negatively impacting people and the business, they can be halted by understanding the systemic principles that are at play.

Understanding Complex Issues with a Systemic Lens

March 2019

Complex issues are characterised by non-linear dynamic relationships. It’s typically not possible to predict cause and effect, because the movement of one aspect influences multiple other aspects simultaneously and has an organic effect, like a living system. On the other hand, a complicated issue is typically characterised by several possibilities in terms of cause and effect. It requires someone with specialised expertise to be able to understand and diagnose the cause and effect relationships and advise about how to influence the issue. It is somewhat predictable with specialised knowledge. Working with complex issues requires a more experimental adaptive approach; being able to observe the system, the dynamics effects and learn and adapt as it evolves.

Systemic Levels of Conscience 

February 2019

What are the systemic levels of conscience, and how to do they play out in an organisational setting? Their impact can be profound. Levels of conscience can be in harmony or dissonance. When we experience significant events, it can throw us into turbulence, which arises with clashing levels of conscience. When we understand how to work with these different levels, we can create flow and vitality instead.

Unlocking Systemic Intelligence

February 2019

If you think about the world in which we live today, which is full of pace, complexity and ambiguity, there are many unknowns. How do we move forward when there are so many unknowns? How can we start to map and model possibilities? The power of systemic intelligence is that it reveals things that we can't see. It also allows us to test ideas to see how they would impact the system that we're operating in, or that we're wanting to influence.

The accepted wisdom says that those ultimately accountable for major failures in their organisations should resign. While it makes sense at one level, is it wise? By exiting executives - instead of having them clean up their mess - are we missing the opportunity to learn, and change the behaviour of corporate Australia? We need a different approach to leadership and accountability.

How the dynamics between individuals can get in the way of a transformation effort

June 2017

It all came down to one individual. One person obstructing the change. One person undermining the business restructure. One person responsible for wasting a year’s effort and expense to turn the business around.

Or did it? Could it really be that one executive – tried and tested over a decade in senior leadership – was the reason why the business transformation wasn’t succeeding?

On the surface, that’s exactly how it appeared. I had been asked to review the situation where a culture transformation had stalled due to a challenging dynamic between two senior executives.

December 2016

I want to introduce you to a concept called ‘Creative Tension’. Whenever we work towards a significant achievement, we are using creative tension. Creative tension is required for learning to walk, learning to swim, completing an education, raising a child or building a business. Whenever we see high levels of performance and achievement, creative tension will be in action. Many of us use creative tension unconsciously but, if we develop a conscious awareness of it, we can create what truly matters to us more consistently.

September 2016

Inappropriate remarks happen often in the workplace. Politically incorrect comments can be especially volatile – there is often an instant social backlash if inappropriate remarks are made about race, gender, homophobia, or other crucial topics. In this article, Sarah Cornally shows how to address the unconscious bias that often lies behind such unwanted remarks. She shares how she has assisted organisations to respond effectively to these challenges, working carefully with all people involved to create deeper understanding and respect.

March 2016

Effective leadership requires the skills for having courageous conversations. Being able to speak courageously develops trust and fairness, two critical ingredients for engagement. Leaders who commit to this in themselves and their teams have a clear advantage.

A courageous conversation is a conversation where you take the risk of being completely open and honest, with the intention of creating a better outcome for everyone involved.

February 2016

For the most part, organisations do not need more ideas – they need better access to creative insight and the impulses that give rise to collective breakthrough. Systemic intelligence offers particular advantage to individuals and organisations striving for success in this 21st century of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. The field of System Dynamics, in which systemic constellations and other modalities have important contributions to make, provides several ways of accessing this intelligence.

August 2015

Sometimes people who behave in a task focused, goal oriented way can find themselves accused of being a bully. This might happen if they are unaware of the effects of their behaviour on others. Equally, sometimes people perceive that they are being bullied when the so-called bully is simply holding them accountable for expected results. Managing this tension requires elegant skill. 

February 2015

A bully has a hold when you believe you can only comply with the bully’s wishes, whether it is verbal taunting, intimidation or physical threats. Your challenge is to expand your range of choices.


February 2015

Previously published in Management Today Magazine

Organisations are living systems. They evolve over time in response to the forces at play that influence their development. Those forces may be internal or external. Sometimes it is a special capability someone brings, a change in the market, a demand from a significant client, a complication such as a resource no longer being available, an expansion, a contraction or solving a certain problem.

How people respond to events and circumstances shapes the organisation and its ability to serve the market. The leadership of the organisation determines this as they typically have the biggest influence on the organisational system.

December 2014

You have been grappling with a challenging business issue. You feel the weight of responsibility for finding the solution. So many people depend upon you. You have put a lot of time and energy into working out what needs to bedone. You have talked to people to make sure you have considered everyone's view. It is now clear in your mind, so you begin implementing the solution. Surely everyone will get on board and things will start to improve as the solution unfolds and everyone benefits.

October 2014

Have you ever observed someone’s actions as they are trying hard to achieve a result? It is clear to you what they need to be successful, but they can’t see it. Try as you might to enlighten them, they just don’t get it. It is as if they can’t admit something to themselves and the struggle continues.

On the other hand, there are situations where suddenly the penny drops as they open up and understand something anew. They recognise a distinction in the situation that they had missed which enables them to take effective action and realise the results they are seeking.

August 2014

Arguably the most important job for any board is selecting the CEO.  The CEO is the visible leader of the organisation. The board entrusts the care of the enterprise to the CEO and everything the CEO does has a major impact on the board, the marketplace and the people employed. The board’s ability to make the tough decisions when necessary, and then select well, will ultimately determine the image, performance and health of the organisation. 

1. Know yourself

Consider every experience an opportunity to gain insights about yourself and your leadership.

2. Know the purpose of your leadership

Are you pursuing a passion to achieve something that meets a need, something that matters deeply to you and the others on your team?

Why consider systems dynamics?

Systems operate according to fundamental principles. If these principles are observed systems will be healthy and energy will flow through the system in constructive ways, which enhances the life of the system. It becomes strengthened to realise it’s purpose, a healthy vital system. If any of these principles are compromised so is the system. It will then respond in a way that reveals itself, by the presence of disturbances in the system. This is a result of responding to the negative effects. This produces symptoms. It may be stuck or blocked, turbulent, inefficient, high maintenance, lethargic or resistant, revealing an unhealthy weakened or burdened system.

For a system to change it needs to change from within and it must involve all aspect of the system as an integral whole. Organizations are designed to create order and maintain it. If you want it to change you have to attend to what is required for it to change.  Partial change will lead to reversals that simply serve to reinforce the idea that people and organizations do not change. People only change if it makes sense and the system and the collective work together to create the new order. It takes great courage and the willingness to embrace the inherent risks of disrupting things. Developing flexibility in systems is the new leadership challenge.

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