EPISODE #026: METAPHORS AS VEHICLES OF TRANSFORMATION IN TEAM COACHINGPODCAST SHOW NOTES - KATI LIVINGSTON
Kati Livingston, Managing Partner, Creative Management Systems, Executive and Team Coach
#026: Metaphors as Vehicles of Transformation in Team Coaching
Join Dr. Krister Lowe and leading organizational coach Kati Livingston for this week’s episode of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast. Kati Livingston is a Managing Partner at Creative Management Systems, a consulting firm that helps organizations and teams adapt to changing conditions and re-engineer how they work together. She holds a Master’s in Adult Development and Psychology from Harvard University and is certified in Executive Coaching from Columbia University. Her coaching interest is in partnering with professionals to build effective relationships. Even in a world of increasing globalization and reliance on technology, Kati sees human interaction as a core competency to lead, motivate, connect and build trust with clients and colleagues. She teaches two courses in Harvard Extension School’s Master’s in Management program, titled “Creating and Leading Team Dynamics” and “Leading Through Change.” She also designs and delivers executive education programs for financial advisors on the Harvard campus. Prior to her work in organizational development Kati earned a Master’s in Art History and often brings works of art into business presentations to spark thought and reflection. Kati has been a Big Sister volunteer since 2000 and still regularly sees her Little Sister Felicia, now a 23-yr old college graduate.
In this episode Kati shares insights from her research, teaching and practice in using “metaphor” as a vehicle to foster understanding and transformation in leadership and team coaching. Themes covered in the interview include: metaphors as devices for framing, fostering awareness and facilitating behavior change; techniques for using metaphor in leadership and team coaching; some metaphors that often surface in coaching; resources to further study metaphor as as a tool in leadership and team coaching and more. Kati also shares two stories from her own coaching practice that illuminate how she leverages metaphor in her work. One is a story from her leadership coaching practice and another from her team coaching practice.
This episode is inspiring and provides both new and experienced team coaches with some super practical tips and techniques that will help them take their team coaching practices to the next level!
- Making the Team: A Guide for Managers, 5th ed, Leigh Thompson
- Metaphors in Mind, James Lawley and Penny Tompkins
- Mining Your Client’s Metaphors, Gina Campbell
- “The Coaching Assignment,” Brennan, D., from The Philosophy and Practice of Coaching, Eds Drake, Brennan, Gortz
- Images of Organization, Gareth Morgan
- “Metaphors We Think With: The Role of Metaphor in Reasoning,” Thibodeau and Boroditsky, www.PLoSone.org, Feb 2011
- The Cambridge Handbook of Metaphor and Thought, ed Gibbs, 2008 (lots of interesting articles)
- “Working with Metaphor,” Peter Sims, American Journal of Psychotherapy, vol 57, no 4, 2003: 528-536
- “Reconstructing Metaphors: Using Mental Re-Mapping in Cognitive Coaching,” Journal of Rational-Emotional Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Smith, K.A., 2008, 26, 16-29
- Managing partner at Creative Management Systems, a consulting firm that helps organizations and teams adapt to changing conditions and re-engineer how they work together.
- Master’s in Adult Development and Psychology from Harvard University
- Certified in Executive Coaching from Columbia University.
- Her coaching interest is in partnering with professionals to build effective relationships. Even in a world of increasing globalization and reliance on technology, Kati sees human interaction as a core competency to lead, motivate, connect and build trust with clients and colleagues.
- She teaches two courses in Harvard Extension School’s Master’s in Management program, titled “Creating and Leading Team Dynamics” and “Leading Through Change.”
- She also designs and delivers executive education programs for financial advisors on the Harvard campus. Prior to her work in organizational development
- Kati earned both a Bachelor’s & Master’s in Art History and often brings works of art into business presentations to spark thought and reflection.
- Kati has been a Big Sister volunteer since 2000 and still regularly sees her Little Sister Felicia, now a 23-yr old college graduate.
- What she loves about artwork is that it fosters conversations that helps people share perspectives.
- Sometimes uses the Neethling Brain Instrument along with a piece of art in a session with a team which helps reveals different perspectives and ways of thinking; also brings some levity to sessions
- Does a lot of work in the financial sector; started in pharma world with teams
- After era of Art History in her life, she went up to Boston and really got into adult learning work with Robert Kegan at Harvard, studied with Richard Hackman on teams
- Joined an independent consultant to work with teams (product, management, marketing) in pharma which helped link up her training with real world teams.
- In 2008 joined up with another independent consultant who had inroads into the financial sector and started working in that sector which has seen an increase in teaming and the need for teams.
- How Kati Got Into Coaching and Team Coaching:
- Coaching, leadership development and team work often overlap and can be combined when working with a client
- Found that when she was working with teams that there were opportunities for coaching but she didn’t feel like she had a strong enough discipline in that.
- Went to Columbia University’s Executive Coaching Program
- Sustainability is what drew her to coaching; had been doing some retreat facilitation and training workshops and found that wasn’t totally satisfying; wants to be part of the journey with a team and attending to all the pieces (facilitations, coaching, training, etc…); team coaching brings the whole experience together
- Lot of her training in team coaching early on came from reading
- Went through the Team Advantage training; a holistic approach to team coaching
- Two Courses at Harvard:
- Co-teaches with one of the partners at Creative Management Systems
- “Creating and Leading Team Dynamics” and “Leading Through Change”
- Was a student of the two courses she now teaches
- Course complement each other
- 7-8 years started to co-teach the course
- Students are mid to upper level managers/leaders – not a lot ramp up needed since they work with real teams
- Not a lot of formal training among students when working with teams
- Help people get some background theory and frameworks (e.g. what’s the difference between a working group and a team)
- Influences on teams course: Hackman, Katzenbach, Edmundson, New Science of Building Great Teams, HBR article, Leigh Thompson’s book on Teams is the course text
Part 2 – Using Metaphors in Coaching & Coaching Stories
- Metaphors in Teams & Coaching:
- Interest came as a result of research project she did as part of her coaching program at Columbia
- Dug into the literature and found a lot on metaphors
- Story #1: Team Leader: “Mother Hen”
- Led a communications department in a large organization
- One of her goals was to help her team be more independent
- Had a hard time seeing herself in the mix with her team
- Asked her to describe herself in a metaphorical team
- “…one of the values of metaphor is that you can describe something in terms of something else….it captures so much…it goes beyond logic and reasoning, it goes beyond that literal thinking process, and you can capture feeling, you can capture all kinds of subtle different meanings in that metaphor…”
- Client’s metaphor was as a “Mother Hen”
- One learning from Kati: It’s important to let the client fill in the interpretation of what that means instead of sharing your own interpretation; our job is support and draw out more meaning
- Image of Mother Hen in Kati’s head was of a hen scurrying around chasing its chicks
- “That’s the thing of about metaphors is that they are visual but we all get a different picture and its all based on our own past and our own stories.”
- As coaches we have to hold back
- One question you might ask: “So a mother hen is like what?….”
- Sometimes asks clients to close their eyes to help them see what is coming up.
- Client responded, “I feel like a mother hen who is sitting on her chicks.” Kati noticed her body flop; a heavy feeling. “I feel like I’m almost suffocating them.”
- Client could feel that image
- Kati asked: “Tell me more about that. What’s the heaviness?”
- Client described micro managing too much.
- Emotional feeling of heaviness resonated with client.
- Found parts of metaphor she liked as well as parts she didn’t…began to modify the metaphor and put some practical things around it: what kind of trainings did the team need. Explored value as well as limitations of the metaphor.
- Asked herself the question moving forward: “Am I sitting on the chicks or am I standing up and letting them run around the pen.”
- One action was not being the peacekeeper when conflicts arose among team members but rather encourage them to resolve the issues themselves.
- One of the client’s actions was sharing her thoughts about it with the team
- “[Metaphors] are framing devices…any time you put a frame on something you focus a person’s attention but it also filters out other ways of thinking.”
- As she is coaching she listens for the metaphors clients are using and then probes into those more because they tend to be revealing of richer content.
- “There is something there that is representing a whole slew of ideas, feelings, notions, ways of organizing thought that can be helpful.”
- As part of her research study on metaphors at Columbia she first did a literature review. Metaphors are one of the core competencies in many coaching frameworks. Used in psychotherapy, psychology practices, coaching. Resources she turned to:
- Metaphors in Mind, James Lawley and Penny Tompkins
- Mining Your Client’s Metaphors, Gina Campbell
- “Being aware of the metaphors you use is so critical because they really do direct your attention…they are those framing devices.”
- A research study Kati came across on metaphors and crime: Researchers created a report about a city with crime stats and asked people to respond on to solve the problem. Researchers created two reports but only changed the metaphor in each. One metaphor was of crime as as virus and the other was crime as a wild beast. Solutions people came up were different based on which metaphor was used for priming. In the virus case “prevention” was the focus where in the beast case “enforcement” was the focus. People were unaware of the metaphor that was influence and directing their attention.
- Story #2: Team: “Ant Colony”
- Team leader used the metaphor of “well-oiled machine”
- Kati explored what that meant for leader: “what does that look like behaviorally?” Response: efficiency, working together tightly to get work products out on time
- Also mentioned that she wanted accountability among the team rather than relying on team leader for answers all the time.
- Kati noticed that the further she went the further the leader’s descriptions moved away from the metaphor
- Interviewed members of team as part of team coaching engagement. One interviewee spoke about not want to pick up other team members work. Kati asked what do you do when that happens, “We go to the leader to fix it.” Katie shared this as part of a theme report and it had impact on the leader because she could see that the well-oiled machine metaphor was impacting how the group was acting.
- Kati facilitated a conversation with the team to come up with a metaphor of their own. Did some exploration with the team around the norms they wanted to create As a homework assignment she asked them to come back with an image or metaphor of what she wanted the team’s dynamic to look like based on the norms identified. Previously she asked teams to come back with a “motto” but that didn’t work so well (focus on words vs. images). Had each person present and explain it. Team could then talk about the fit of each image. Team settled on the image of an “ant colony.”
- Ant colony – more of a living system metaphor vs. machine; self-organizing metaphor that resonated with the team
- Group had a hard time determining if they were a working group or a team; found that some of their work was conducive to a working group and some required teaming. They found that the well-oiled machine metaphor was still relevant for the former and the ant colony one was more relevant from the latter. Weren’t locked into one metaphor.
- Peter Hawkins influence on Kati: One of the tasks of team coach is to help teams reflect on the past but also importantly to create new ways of creating together. “Shifting frames of reference their using to make sense of their collective experiences.”
- “Metaphors are are frame of reference…if you can help them become aware of the ones they are operating from and create new ones that help them make that shift…that is one of the ways this can be a really helpful tool.”
- Other metaphors Kati has come across: machine category, biological/ecological category, political metaphors, domination metaphors. Tend to fall into common categories.
- Be aware of your interpretations of your client’s metaphors
- Have fun with it; treat it as play
Part 3 – Parting Advice/Recommended Resources/Contacting Kati
- What has Kati excited now in her coaching practice: thinking about teaming in the financial arena; newer concept in this sector; many financial clients are finding value in pushing teaming given what is going on in the industry (e.g. movement to online services). How to help people work together in ways they haven’t experience in the past.
- Parting advice: playing with metaphors. Even though they may be out of someone’s comfort zone, there are structures that can help you work with metaphors. Metaphors in Mind and Minding Your Clients Metaphors are two great resources.
- “There are so many layers of meaning and they are connected not only to old patterns and old ways of thinking but they can really be great conversations to talk about shifts…they are vehicles for transformation.”