What are they and where do they come from?
Constellations are very useful tools for working with individuals and teams. The constellations that originate from Bert Hellinger’s work and systematic coaching are nothing but a set of elements that create a pattern and have their own structure. This is a live map of the client that represents his internal relationship landscape.
“Constellations work because we all carry within us an unconscious inner map of everything and everybody we have been or are in a relationship with." John Whittington
In coaching work, you can use constellation exercises in different contexts. They are particularly useful when the client says he is stuck and the same problem keeps coming back to him. Equally, when there are frequent conflicts in the client’s relationships or environment and when a team or company members do not respect each other. It is also worth reaching for them when the coach’s preferred methods of working with the client do not bring results. In that case, new energy emerging from non-verbal work is needed that derives from the intuition.
Working with constellations
The first stage of system settings is map creation. To arrange it you can use objects that are at hand like cups, pens or adhesive cards as well as specially designed tools. Feel free to use stones and tokens as well as Lego blocks or toy figures. The map can also be created in the open space of a forest or park using branches, tree trunks and natural terrain for its design. It is worth noting that in the case of cards and cups a coach and a customer need to determine in which direction they are pointing. You can make use of cup holders or arrows to achieve that.
To arrange a map you can use objects that are at hand like cups, pens or adhesive cards as well as specially designed tools. Feel free to use stones and tokens as well as Lego blocks or toy figurines.
The map can also be created in the open space of a forest or park using branches, tree trunks and natural terrain for its design.
The map creation process is divided into three phases: ‘interview’, ‘map creation’ and ‘closure’.
In the first phase, a coach asks questions and invites a client to look at the problem from a broader, systemic perspective. Questions that can be asked at this stage are:
- Could you describe the problem in a few words?
- What would change for you if this problem were solved?
- If we were to create a map of the problem what elements would it include?
„Business and other human endeavors are also systems…Instead, we tend to focus on snapshots of isolated parts of the system, and wonder why our deepest problems never seem to get solved.” Peter Senege
To create a map that lets you look at the system you first need to outline its boundaries. When working with a team leader on map creation the sequence of questions can be:
- What would it be like if the tabletop represented the whole company and this piece of paper was your team?
- Now select the figurine/stone that represents you and put it on the map in a place that feels right. What does the size/color of the figurine tell?
- Set up other team members on the map in a mutual relationship. Note the direction and the distance. Which way is your team looking at? How far or near are they from one another? If you stood in this place which direction would your attention be directed to?
- Is anything else important here? Should someone or something else be considered at this stage?
- Stand up and look at your map from different angles. What do you notice when you look at it?
- Select one of the items on your map and see if you can move it to another location. What has changed?
Creating a map can take from ten minutes to half an hour. The duration depends on any new information and insights that may arise while creating the client's image.
A good way to close this part is to ask a customer the following question: “What new information have you got by looking at the problem in this way?”
Map creation may stop when the client has got an insight into his situation and has acquired information that could be used at a later stage of the coaching process. As you gain experience working with system settings you may again invite the client to form a constellation by adding to it the two most important processes i.e. movement and sentences. They are crucial in further work with the hidden dynamics of the system.
Exercise for use in teamwork
The movement can be used to work with a team to harmonize the roles of individuals with the company’s goal.
In the first stage, a coach asks the team to write a common goal on a piece of paper. Then he places the card with the goal on the floor defining its orientation to past and present. Then he/she asks each person to stand in a place that would determine their attitude towards the goal at the moment.
After this stage, it is worth checking how people feel in their positions, how it affects the functioning of the team and how it determines the relationships between team members. Then the coach asks those who want to change positions to move to a place in the future where they think the whole team will pursue a set goal. Here again, people share their impressions of the places they occupy in space, the relationships arising between them and the bond connecting them around a common goal. Such a newly created map allows the team to build an internal sense of identification with the company goal. It also specifies how each of the roles performed in the team serves to achieve this goal.
For more information about the constellation check: “Systemic Coaching and Constellations. An introduction to the principles, practices, and application” by John Whittington.
This article was produced as a result of the “Elevate”, implemented by the Innovation Development Foundation and co-financed by the European Union Erasmus + Action 1. Educational Mobility, Mobility of Adult Education Staff (Agreement number 2018-1-PL01-KA104-049658).
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
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