This post is about some important thoughts on working with organizations that I learned from Michael Spayd, co-founder of the Agile Coaching Institute, some time ago. A key part of my learning is about the value of acting as a mirror to a team or organization when working as a coach, influencer or internal change agent.

Systems are made of People

The infographic below summarizes key elements.

Act as a mirror

Michael expressed the effectiveness of a coach who acts as a mirror to reflect a system back to itself. This can help a system become more aware of itself and act with choice. He gives the example of asking – “Do you want to be a great team?” and noting that the choice is up to them.

A powerful exercise is to ask the team to visualize themselves as if the team were an entity. This can be used to guide the team to a powerful future state.

A final word of caution is not to try and “fix” the team. Any lasting change requires that they heal themselves: it is critical that we see them as resourceful and capable to facilitate this. The alternative is to leave the system in a “better” state, but less capable of learning and growing than when we started.

A variety of differences in perspective can be used to mirror what is happening to drive insights and learning: management perspective vs. staff, present vs. past or future, team vs. group.

Look at the larger system for solutions

The concept of a holon can be used to think about what level of the organizational we are considering: individual, team, group or company. The central idea is that problems can only be solved at the next level up. Wikipedia has this definition: “A holon is a system (or phenomenon) which is an evolving self-organizing dissipative structure, composed of other holons, whose structures exist at a balance point between chaos and order.”


I would like to thank Michael Spayd for increasing my awareness of what is possible and improving my dynamic range as a coach change agent. He has helped start a multi-year journey of learning and growth.