INTERVIEW: ALAIN CARDON - CEO OF METASYSTEME S.A.S
Alain Cardon is an world-renowned leadership and organisational coach whose unique methods and approach has assisted enterprises in nearly 40 countries to transform their performance and results. His system is unique, his methods are unorthodox but his results can't be argued with. We interview him to learn more about Metasysteme and its work.
Metasysteme is a global results-oriented and systemic executive coaching, team coaching and organizational coaching network radically dedicated to increasing your measurable successes through breakthrough systemic strategies. To serve this objective, the Metasysteme network provides systemic executive coaching, team coaching, and organizational coaching, consulting and training professionals for individual and corporate clients in Continental Europe (and Eastern Europe), the Americas, Africa and the far East. Over the past thirty five years and all over the world, our systemic executive coaching competencies have been focused on exponentially developing our client's life, executive team and organizational sustainable results.
"As a network and to accompany these clients, we have always simply followed our own individual intuitions, shared convictions and common vision. All this time, we were very pragmatically focused on helping our clients achieve their measurable results in the most effective way."
Your coaching methods are unique... are you a rebel coach?
We're not really rebellious. We're just different. From the beginning of my career and now with the Metasysteme network, we have not been against any established order. On the contrary, most of our corporate clients are active and very successful members of the corporate establishment. As a network and to accompany these clients, we have always simply followed our own individual intuitions, shared convictions and common vision. All this time, we were very pragmatically focused on helping our clients achieve their measurable results in the most effective way. Working with and for them, we have very gradually built our reputation for over 40 years. Granted, however, we may not have paid much attention to the consulting and coaching establishment. We don't come from any "big four" or business school type of background, and have never scanned mainstream models for inspiration. Over the years, we just pragmatically trained and learned in the field, with our customers and clients.
You have built Metasysteme into an international player in its field. Share with us an overview of your career.
We started as a relatively classical French management and human development training company in 1978. In the 80s, we discovered systems thinking and veered towards team consulting, mostly working within intact teams, always including their managers and direct reports. True to systems thinking, we focused much less on individual behaviors and personalities and much more on active team processes and system cultural patterns. For us, helping teams change their collectively shared, often unconscious processes became the most performing approach to help them achieve the collective results they desired. So in the field and with our clients, we gradually and pragmatically developed and distilled a systemic approach that today inherits much more from biological models: how do flocks of birds, hives, swarms, schools of fish or anthills operate? What can we learn from these to change how teams operate daily?
Within ten years we had developed our systemic consulting skills and reputation for achieving tangible results to the point of attracting international, corporate executive client teams. Our marketing was and is done mostly online and by word-of-mouth, at no coast. We wanted to be good enough to do without heavy marketing or sales. Under-promise and over-deliver. So we have always focused on relatively few client companies at a time, and accompanied them in depth and on the long term in their cultural development to achieve breakthrough results. Beyond the above-mentioned biological inspiration that has helped us our develop viral models of organizational change, we are today looking at how quantum theory can help take us and our clients to our next level.
"For us, Systemic Coaching is first a way of being and perceiving, then a way of relating or interacting. It is not about standardized theory and models or tools. For example in any team meeting, an attending systemic coach can first decipher key elements of a collective team or corporate pattern in almost any phrase, and then with a strategic purpose in mind, can immediately respond in a way to disrupt or redirect that pattern."
Why did you want to become a Coach?
We didn't plan to become coaches... By the year 2000 and for those who had experimented our approach, the market considered us to be a very performing, original team coaching and organizational development provider. Indeed by then, our approach had much in common with basic coaching philosophy and processes. We subsequently adhered to the International Coach Federation and formally positioned ourselves within this frame of reference. In a way, we were referred to as team coaches before we formally knew what it was, or what it was going to be. For the record and at the time, prominent coaches had the gall to publicly declare that team coaching didn't exist. Maybe not in mainstream coaching.
Over this time, Metasysteme also has changed. It is today much less of a company, more of a really open or loose network or community. Its members share a common systemic-coach training foundation, common local and international experiences in the field, regular although haphazard communication between its members. Metasysteme actually doesn't really exist as a formal system but as a community of practice and school of thought. Mostly, our network of independent coaches rests on deep connections and friendships, and is held together by a systemic vision and authentic and generous sharing of whatever each can develop and contribute. In order to inspire the larger coaching community, we all freely and openly communicate on all that we do through online articles, books and videos. We all also mentor trained coaches who display the potential to become great systemic coaches.
Tell us about Systemic Coaching, what is it?
For us, Systemic Coaching is first a way of being and perceiving, then a way of relating or interacting. It is not about standardized theory and models or tools. For example in any team meeting, an attending systemic coach can first decipher key elements of a collective team or corporate pattern in almost any phrase, and then with a strategic purpose in mind, can immediately respond in a way to disrupt or redirect that pattern. Of course, to immediately know how to instinctively react, the systemic team coach's spontaneous response is based on years of practice and supervision.
"Profound sustainable change is made possible by helping a system change the underlying cultural patterns that too often survive all formal, cosmetic structural changes. This is one of the reasons why we will privilege large-group coaching architectures, simultaneously working with the top 20 to 90 key players. We immediately and simultaneously address the underlying processes in large systems much more rapidly than through time-consuming individual coaching or team-by-team coaching approaches."
What are the benefits, and what typical pain-points does your Coaching work eliminate?
Today, a single Metasysteme-trained systemic coach can accompany a formal system of up to 90 participants in a large ballroom setting, all intensely working on their company's goal, three days in a row. Simultaneously working with such a mass can directly affect the whole next organizational level within the following two months - up to 800 people. While the 90 key players simultaneously work within their teams or networks on their sub-system issues, the coach can appropriately disrupt or redirect processes to help elements of the concerned system achieve breakthrough results in record time. In such systemic coaching work, the objective is not so much to treat system symptoms such as slow decision making, poor time management, to better delegation or empowerment, reduce turnover, increase commitment, etc; but more to create the performing conditions that will help simultaneously eliminate all such symptoms in record time. It is an all-inclusive package! Consequently, we help organizations transform their cultures in such a viral way that new success patterns very effectively, almost simultaneously, eradicate perceived dysfunctional interactions and symptoms.
Your Organisational Coaching involves working with 60- 80 key individuals within a company. Why is this scale important?
Although we accompany formal corporate changes or re-configurations such as mergers and acquisitions, our systemic coaching work is not based on changing anything in the formal organizational structure. We know that replacing individuals and restructuring teams doesn't do much to effectively modify culture or unconscious collective processes. Profound sustainable change is made possible by helping a system change the underlying cultural patterns that too often survive all formal, cosmetic structural changes. This is one of the reasons why we will privilege large-group coaching architectures, simultaneously working with the top 20 to 90 key players. We immediately and simultaneously address the underlying processes in large systems much more rapidly than through time-consuming individual coaching or team-by-team coaching approaches.
Your Organisational Coaching is bottom-up, with a direct coaching style. Why is this approach necessary?
As we see it, Systemic Coaching disrupts habits to achieve more, better and quicker. To disrupt comes from the same linguistic root as to interrupt or as rupture. It is impossible for a system to change if it is not willing to consider replacing ineffective patterns with updated innovative processes. And of course, when breakthrough processes are introduced to a large system in a rapid, very effective, and motivating way, they will be much more sustainable than if they are imposed in a classical top-down, centralized, rolled-out, or forceful approach as is often the case today. So if the Metasysteme systemic coaching approach immediately accompanies a substantial mass of key players, it is to make sure that everyone is on board and can participate in the change they say they want. When they measure their almost immediate results, their motivation is difficult to stop!
We do often come up with resistance from executive teams, for such a process often by-passes their relatively conservative, top-down or controlling strategies. This bottom-up strategy is ten times more effective when helping an organization really achieve the changes its executives say they want to see. We actually help transform lip-service into measurable reality. We sometimes actually warn our clients to watch out for what they wish, for they may just get it!
"Our core business and central focus of research, however, is developing human-system cultures and processes to become healthier, more performing and sustainable. When we choose with whom we work, the first and most important criteria is that organization's and CEO's true commitment to achieve pertinent or sustainable, measurable change."
You train an international network of Coaches, write books and deliver conferences, have you time for new clients?
Delivering conferences is our last priority. Building a solid international network of systemic coaches is the best way for us to leverage the skills we have developed in order to have the social and economic impact we wish to have. This has been more central in our past strategy. Spreading the word by making all our experience available online and through books is an easy way to reach a much larger population of professionals and to develop the market for our network. Our core business and central focus of research, however, is developing human-system cultures and processes to become healthier, more performing and sustainable. When we choose with whom we work, the first and most important criteria is that organization's and CEO's true commitment to achieve pertinent or sustainable, measurable change. If that commitment is wanting, spending time and money to accompany fashionable cosmetic lip-service operations does not serve our purpose, nor, on the longer term, our clients.
Your client list covers the globe - how does this international experience influence your work?
We have always been international. More European at heart, but open to all other enriching cross-cultural experiences. We firmly believe that if we are truly systemic in the way we deploy our skills, we can coach for positive disruption within any willing type of cultural system. So we travel extensively.
Your system has been described as a continental European approach, why is this the case?
Europe is our home base. Most Metasysteme coaches have trained and have their base here. Gradually, however, we are spreading out, again by word-of-mouth, in a slow viral way to serve a much larger radius. On the one hand, this may be the sign that we are doing something right, and on the other, that we be ready to start testing and questioning the pertinence and limits of our home-grown model when we meet really different cultural settings.
Tell us about avenues for self-coaching that Metasysteme offers?
We are developing online tools. An existing one, always work in progress much like everything else we do, is the individual and team self-coaching Journey. Sometime soon a second online resource will be the our Fundamentals of systemic coaching course. A first segment should be made accessible in 2020. A word of caution, however, neither of these will satisfy expectations if one is searching for easy quick-fixes. These are designed as challenging disruptive proposals.
You have written many books and articles, what would you recommend as a starting point?