To explore Impact, I started looking for its definition in different fields. The first place I turned to was Physics, specifically Newton’s Laws. The first law mentions that “an object in motion remains in motion at a constant speed and in a straight line unless acted on by an unbalanced force.”
Then, I looked in several dictionaries and the one that resonated with me was “the powerful effect that something has on somebody/something”. Just, after reading these definitions, some of the questions that came up were, what kind of effect can we cause or how much can we change the direction of our teams, organizations, communities, and ourselves?
In this article, I will explore Impact from four different perspectives using the Integral Model by Ken Wilber as a compass, which proposes four quadrants: I, It, We, and Its.
In the I Quadrant, we start our journey with the impact we have on ourselves as individuals and the actions we can take to create sustainable growth in ourselves. The It Quadrant invites us to explore how we are being perceived, the way we show up, and the impact that others may have on us.
In the third section of the article, we move to the We Quadrant, where we will discover how our approach creates an impact within the team and how it models the interactions between the individuals within the group. Finally, at the Its Quadrant, we will learn about the impact we can have on the organizational structures of the systems we influence and how this is perceived by other groups outside the teams, organizations, and communities we interact with.
I Quadrant: Impacting our growth
When working with a group of coaches on developing the Agile Coaching Growth Wheel – which is a great tool to create personal goals to build our own growth journey – one of the sections I focused on was Self-Mastery. In this section, we identified three key areas: Emotional Intelligence, Balance, and Personal Transformation.
As change agents work on increasing our Emotional Intelligence, we become self-aware of our strengths and weaknesses, our skills, and our values. This leads to developing the ability to self-regulate and choose the stance that the situation requires from us so that we can best serve the purpose at that moment. Little by little as we develop these skills, we start to realize the impact that our Emotional Intelligence can have on the systems we interact with.
The second aspect of Self-Mastery is Balance, or our ability to combine all the elements in our lives in a healthy way. This includes everything that we are, from our work to our slack time both in the physical and spiritual space. There are times when life takes us out of balance, however, from our continuous work on this skill, we can regain balance in our life.
The third area within Self-Mastery is Personal Transformation. This includes being intentional with the change we want to create in ourselves. By putting together all the work we’ve done so far in the Emotional Intelligence and the Balance space, we create a purpose for the impact we want to have in our own development.
As we develop our competencies in these three areas, we define how we show up and the way we are perceived by others. In the next section, I will talk about the importance of being aware of our stance and how we can use this to “dance with the moment”.
It Quadrant: Adapting Our Approach
As we go forward in this journey, we start accruing tools, techniques, and skills that shape our behavior and the way we show up. This forms our approach and determines how we are perceived by the teams and the organizations we work with.
This is beautifully captured in the book Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins when she wrote “Through your being, you exert a far-reaching and long-lasting impact on people, teams, and organization, much more so than applying a whole textbook of agile techniques perfectly”. Bringing our whole self forward determines how we are perceived, and this has an impact on our actions and our decisions.
By observing and actively listening to how the system reacts to our approach, we are able to move to the stance that the system needs the most in that moment, to serve our teams in the best way possible.
In this “dance”, moving from one stance to another as needed, we become part of the system. Now, our journey will take us to We Quadrant, where we will be impacting the culture and the team dynamics.
We Quadrant: Our impact within the system
A system can be a pair, a team, an organization or even a community. Every time we enter a space, we have the opportunity to bring our whole self into it. This means that everything we have developed regarding Self-Mastery and our presence, has the potential to deeply impact any system we are invited into.
Therefore, we must be mindful of the way we are influencing the people around us. Before we enter the space, we can take some time to think about how I am showing up. For example, bringing curiosity, deep democracy, and lightness can help us challenge our clients to clear the path ahead. This is a great way to cause an impact on the system we are working with, and let them choose the focus of the conversation by taking the steering wheel.
From a Systemic Coaching point of view, we believe that the system is naturally intelligent and creative. This means that our impact needs to be carefully balanced to guide as opposed to prescribe. We are now part of the system; we are sacrificing part of our agency to merge in this new culture.
Therefore, our role is key, which is to facilitate the co-creation of an action plan, designed by the team, to manage their challenges. Here lies a great opportunity through our approach, to influence the creation of new ideas and innovation.
Finally, our path takes us to the Its Quadrant. Here, our influence can affect how organizational structures are created, thus impacting the way the system is perceived.
Its Quadrant: Building structures
Through all the impactful actions I mentioned in the sections above, we start to identify the impact on the organizational structures created by the systems we interact with.
Regardless of the system, roles and dynamics emerge thus shaping the way people behave. It could be a vertical organization, with the leadership on top and the teams at the bottom, or it could be a flatter structure where leaders emerge, constantly allowing for a high rate of ideas that are exchanged to spark innovation. The fact is that our individual internal process, the way we show up and how we influence the system has a huge impact on the shape that these structures take.
On the flip side, if we are in an organizational setting for example, the interaction with other teams or areas and the way they perceive our team’s dynamics, have an impact on our behavior.
The bottom line
At this point, I have drawn a direct – but not necessarily straight – line from how we impact our own growth and build our competencies to the way we influence the design of the cultural structures within the systems we work with.
I would like to invite you to draw a path, add four milestones to that journey and consider how are you influencing yourself, how is your approach being perceived, how is this influencing the system you are in and what kind of structure are you facilitating.