Marita Fridjhon, CEO and Co-Founder of CRR Global, Inc. and the Creator of the Organization & Relationship Systems Coaching (ORSC) Program

#020: The Dreaming Nature of Systems: How Team, Executive and Business Coaches Can Work with What’s Emerging with Marita Fridjhon

Join Dr. Krister Lowe and leading organizational coach and early pioneer in the field of relationship systems coaching, Marita Fridjhon, for this week’s episode of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast. Marita is the CEO and Co-Founder of CRR Global, Inc.—an ICF accredited coach training school—and the Creator of the Organization & Relationship Systems Coaching (ORSC) program. Her primary focus in coaching is on systemic change, leveraging diversity, creative communication, deep democracy in conflict management and the development of Learning Organizations. In this episode Marita shares her journey growing up during the Apartheid era in South Africa; to sailing up the Amazon river where she investigated the impact of death and dying on families and communities and where she discovered the concept of the “dreaming nature of human systems;” to becoming a faculty member of the Coaches Training Institute and then to co-founding CRR Global. Some themes explored in the episode include: the dreaming nature and emergence of systems; the 3rd entity; Relationship Systems Intelligence; holonic shifts; the dynamics of coaching systems; becoming a systems coach and more. Throughout the interview, Marita shares stories of success and challenge from her own practice coaching individuals, teams and organizational systems. This episode provides team, executive and business coaches with powerful insights and practical tips for how to bring a systemic approach to their coaching practices. This is an episode that all coaches will surely not want to miss!


Learn more about Marita at: 




  1. White Papers Provided by Marita Fridjhon
  2. Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching (ORSC) Training Program




Part 1 – Getting to Know the Team Coach: Marita Fridjhon

  • Coach and CEO and Co-Founder of CRR Global (Center for Right Relationship), ICF accredited coach training school and Creator of the Organization and Relationships Systems Coaching (ORSC) program
  • Based in California
  • Raised in South Africa during apartheid and dedicated her career to improving the human condition through a variety of practices
  • Several degrees: Clinical social work, community development, process work, family systems therapy and Alternative Dispute Resolution and deep understanding of systemic evolution
  • Early pioneer in deep ecology movement
  • Cutting edge approach to coaching systemic change
  • Has worked all over the world
  • Trained hundreds of consultants in systems coaching
  • Born in South Africa and grew up there, was on faculty at Capetown University during the apartheid era – this had great impact.
  • Was a political activist. Was on faculty at School of Social Work, Capetown University was one of two integrated universities in South Africa. Not unusual to arrive in South Africa and find that many students were in jail somewhere for doing activist work.
  • In late 70s, clear that remaining there felt like remaining part of the problem.
  • Change would need to be of a larger systemic nature.
  • Exodus of whites out of South Africa during this time.
  • Apartheid came to an end because of large global sanctions against S.A. – Larger system is what matters
  • Was doing work around death and dying in different cultures. Left South Africa on sailboat to the Amazon. Had permission to work with tribes to understand their norms around death and dying. Stayed for two years.
  • Systems are always evolving or emerging in new places, whether individual or group.
  • Relationship Systems Intelligence – five principles – when I can experience everything that happens to me and to others, not just as personal, but as an expression of the system.
  • It plays out in what we invent. Culture is a dreaming process. Very little consensus about it.
  • Tapping into the dreaming of “primitive” tribes about their consensus reality is one example.

How Marita got into Coaching

  • PhD took her to the Amazon, was already in mediation business. Headed to U.S.
  • Shortly after getting to the U.S., got involved with coaching and everything in her background clicked into place. Working with what client is trying to become.
  • Trained with CTI and became faculty member. Once that clicked into place, everything else began to build.
  • Moving from individual coaching to larger units – the first system is the self. “If I ever thought that I was doing individual coaching, it’s always been a lie. It’s multiple parts in me that meet up with multiple parts in you.”
    • There’s a third space entity that has its own characteristics when two people come together.
  • Didn’t want to start a training company. CTI agreed that they could incubate through them.
  • Systemic view requires a different skill set.
    • Worked with a well-known author who had sold rights to the next book and hit writer’s block.
    • Started working with him on his relationship to the book.
    • Different players involved: the one who wants to write the book, another one who is tired of writing. Started working with internal selves in relationship to that book.
    • Got him through writer’s block.
  • The Third Entity
    • There’s always an indication that when two or more people come together there’s a different space, the combination of the people
    • When we talk about relationship systems coaching, we say the client is the third entity. Creates a different vantage point.
  • Why coaching individual leaders isn’t enough: because when they come together, the third entity is what needs to be coached.
  • It’s not either or. Individual or executive coaching won’t go away. But they are different entry ways to something. Continue to refer executives to individual coaching, as long as the coach can do that against the backdrop of the system to which he/she will return.
  • The system one returns to also needs to have buy-in.
  • Richard Boyatzis’ work (Case Western Reserve Univ.) Intentional Change Theory – we only change sustainably through relationship with others.

 Relationship Systems Intelligence

  • Emotional Intelligence: ability to know myself and my impact. To have awareness of all myselves.
  • Social intelligence is very related – how the “me” engages with the “we” and can have an understanding of that.
  • RSI (Relationship Systems Intelligence) – ability to understand that whatever happens to the “it” (the system) is an expression of the individuals. Whatever happens to me, doesn’t just belong to me, but to the system.
  • E.g., Complaining – the system is asking us for something. What is it? My own style may determine that I’m the one to go after the conflict. But the conflict belongs to the system.
  • There are different mental models, but we’re all more or less pointing in the same direction. Different models are pointing in the same direction. The emphasis we put on the team entity having its own information in everything we do, is aimed in this direction.
  • Managing complexity – instead of working with a team of 12, we work with one entity.
  • Instead of thinking of 100 people in front of you, what’s the message that you’re delivering to one.
  • Every individual is a piece of the puzzle.
  • Holonic simplification: Ability to cluster things together rather than looking at individual pieces only. I.e., focus is reduced from 12 individuals to the meta-view of the group (1 entity).
  • I can sit back when I add a meta-view.
  • RSI – all of us have had experience of being part of a team when synergy happens (the “flow”) – this is an indicator of when RSI is working?
  • To the extent that I can let go of my own ego and be part of the whole, I have access to systems intelligence.
  • E.g., at MIT, research around collective intelligence – when teams were put together, the hypothesis was that the collective intelligence around tasks would be the mean of the individual intelligences, but this wasn’t true. Teams with more social and emotional awareness were more collectively intelligent. I.e., teams where conversation was not dominated by one person also had more success.
  • Problems facing us today are calling for collective action – more legitimacy to this approach through research.
    • e.g, John Gottman, advent of positive psychology, emotional intelligence, vulnerability and relationships (Brene Brown)
  • To be strategic, we need to shut down the relational part of our brain sometimes. But too often we don’t switch back.
  • Team coaching is a response to a need.
  • The most critical thing for us as coaches – to be able to relate to a team to be able to recognize where they want the help. Systems entry is a big piece – start with a team.
  • Systems are always in a state of emergence
  • Initially focus on what’s wrong – but then shift to thinking “what’s trying to happen?” “what’s trying to emerge through it?”
  • If everyone is intelligent and smart enough, and that’s all it takes, they would have figured it out a long time ago. Meet people where they are.
  • What’s trying to happen in the system?

Part 2 –”Hits & Misses” Section

    • Worked with small consulting team in the process of laying people off. And they wanted to do it in a way that wasn’t like other corporates (wanted to walk their talk).
    • Used tools to get them out of thinking mode. Had them break into different teams, sent them away with a couple of questions around what they’re doing and seeing in the company.
    • Last question: if you could speak on behalf of Company X, what does it want/need right now?
    • Logistics team were outsourced – they went off to different teams. The three members from Logistics came back from the group activity and looked one another saying “I think I talked us out of a job.”
    • What does the larger whole need right now?
  • CRR Global have gotten very clear that systemic change takes time. Often takes longer than an individual shift can happen. They’re like cruise liners who take a long time and need tugboats to help them change direction. CRR Global demand that they have the time to do the work. They make many referrals, if clients wish shorter term engagements.
  • Do a lot of work on the phone, but the first session happens in person.
  • Typical engagement length? Depends on the organization. Starting a contract for a year. Sometimes as much as four years.
  • In the camp agreement (can go to the edge of the camp if you want, but you can’t leave): when people work for change, or through difficult situations, we all need to know they’re committed to the process.
  • e., In the sports world, coaches stay for more than a year. Long term coaching is necessary.
    • Worked with a government organization
    • 1 day session before they went into a big merger
    • Focal point was around values – what values did they want to hold steadfast to?
    • Worked with them with other coaches (group of 150, lawyers, policemen)
    • One group was more skeptical of the exercises.
    • Last question in exercise was: Consider for a moment with all the answers you have and decide, what is it that government wants from this merger?
    • Team member came back to say: “This was one of the most difficult days of my life because I don’t always get these things, but after that last question I now know more about what needs to happen than I did before.”
    • Failures are doors into what really needs to happen.
    • If things didn’t work out, it’s because we didn’t meet the system where they really were. We met them where they wanted to be.
    • Worked with an aeronautics company. All very bright individuals, but not at all engaged.
    • After first break, told them, “It’s not working. Tell us what we need to do because we’re missing the boat.”
    • It came out that the timing was really bad for them. During last six weeks leading up to their session, had had several trainings, and they were drained. Coaches didn’t have info they needed.
    • Worked with a national park
    • Group of scientists, park wardens, etc. Mixed group.
    • Did a little activity with them where they practiced the “yes, and” – someone says something another person disagrees with, and the person follows up by saying “yes, and.” Activity failed miserably.
    • When coaches looked at it, realized the scientists couldn’t do it (say “yes, and” to something that was false or that they disagreed with). Pulled the exercise and did something else. Asked them, “if you were to redesign the activity, how would you do it?”
    • Failures,– meeting people where we think they should be rather than where they are.
  • We sometimes crowd the space. There’s often such a push in busy lives of nonprofit or corporate office. It feels edgy to slow down and take the space.
  • Sometimes you need to adapt language to meet the system where they are

Part 3 – Parting Advice/Resources/Recommendations

Resources and Prep for this Work

  • Systems coaching for people who want to take their coaching to the next level
  • Desire to work with systems, to develop this different skill set. CRR Global offers trainings
  • If you are an executive coach, they offer Organizational Relationship Systems at Work – course where the training happens from the perspective of the CEO or team member. You would role play as the CEO. The mandate as coaches when we coach is very different than that of the CEO or team member as coach.
  • Conduct campfire calls – to talk about the work
  • People with facilitation background – people with 100 hours of coach training or already active in team environments.


  • Website: CRRGlobal.com – website to learn more. More global orientation:

 Where is the field going?

  • We have a lot of work ahead of us
  • We are not in competition with one another
  • In the world, large scale movements that are shaping our history
  • Become involved now that we have the resources that we didn’t have during apartheid
  • It’s the dreaming that creates racism, or makes someone an enemy.
  • Systemic transformation is happening like never before.

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