In Relationship Systems work, particularly in organisations and teams, it’s not uncommon to come across ghosts.
(A version of this post was originally printed in Choice magazine, written by Alfred DePew, ORSCC)
Interesting dynamics can emerge when we coach an entire team. Often we reach a point in the process when a team realises: we’re not alone in the room. There’s an eerie presence and suddenly everyone can see it. The spirit of someone who no longer works here. Hanging around. ‘Haunting’ the system.
Just how the ghosts go on haunting us can vary too. There may be a futile or onerous company policy in place because of that person. (All leave requests must be processed in triplicate, for example.) Or a wonderful tradition left in their wake. (Like the all staff summer picnic.)
Examples of ghost archetypes we’ve seen hanging around include:
- The Troll – an obstructionist, with a grating communication style. They cast a dark cloud over every meeting.
- The Know-it-All – arrogant and aggressive. The colleague who never hears feedback.
- The Scrooge – a miserly ‘scorekeeper’. They seem bent on getting what they think they’re due.
Ghost Roles often keep a team stuck in old patterns or beliefs. They can dampen innovative thinking, and imbue fear into the new or unknown. To give your team it’s best shot at future success, you need to work together as the Ghostbusters!
How to rid your team of its ghost roles
‘Roles’ are not the same as people – and this is key. In systems work, we recognise that people inhabit the roles most closely aligned with their responsibilities, personal traits and system demands. The first thing to do is separate the people, their name, from the qualities of the role that is haunting the system. Discuss openly and constructively how your ghost typically manifests.
1. Depersonalise. Look only for the qualities of the role that ‘s haunting your system.
2. Design an alliance around how, as a team, you’ll address the quality when it emerges.
Countering your particular ghost archetype might be as simple as making a joke and keeping things lighthearted – “I think the troll is lurking under the bridge again!“, for example. Other times, your team may need to convene and coach each other through a situation. Commit as a team on what do whenever the ghost qualities re-emerge. Because they will come back – maybe not the people, but the qualities. Be ready. A shared vocabulary for how to bust that ghost is going to significantly empower your team.
We can help your team tackle its ghost roles. Get in touch to find out how. We’d love to hear from you.