Connecting to the system

I am a systems thinker. That means I see everything as interconnected; everything links together, and when one part changes, the whole system changes.

Not everyone thinks like that. I think now, more than ever, people are wrapping their heads around the idea that nothing exists in isolation. But I’d like to suggest how you can build a clearer picture of the ‘system’ you live or work in if this is not something you are used to thinking about.

These ideas apply to individuals and organisational leaders of any kind.

A system is the context and dynamics that surround us at any given point. You can try to find out what the context and dynamics by asking yourself questions like:

  • Where am I? (physical context)
  • How do I feel about where I am? (emotional context)
  • What’s going on around me? (dynamics)
  • What relationships am I involved with? (relationship dynamics)

For organisations, the questions may be something like:

  • What’s our workspace like?
  • What do people feel about where they work?
  • What are some of the working processes happening here?
  • What working relationships exist here?

This is the first level of building a clearer picture of the system you’re in.

On the liberating path, being conscious of and connecting to the system you’re in is important because that system is so influential. It influences your behaviour sometimes without you even knowing. Here are some simple examples:

Your workplace is cramped and difficult to work in, so you don’t like spending time there

Your workplace is well-lit and spacious, so you feel comfortable working in it

You sit next to the sales team who have to speak a lot on the phone – so the dynamics around you are quite noisy and sometimes distracting

You sit next to the sales team who have to speak a lot on the phone, which is really helpful because you can give them ideas to share with clients

Your partner is hugely supportive of your work, so it’s easy to swap ideas and be productive

Your partner is going through a hard time, so it’s difficult for you to focus on work and make things

By being conscious of the system around you, it becomes easier to connect to it. In turn, that means you can make changes where changes need to be made, whether that’s moving teams around or supporting your partner for a while. It also makes it easier to connect with the individuals who are in the system with you, because now you ‘get it’ – the context and dynamics are affecting them too.

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