Elements Making a Difference
How can elements make a difference? Erin Randall explains how. “Magnesium” is work each person is going to be doing towards crafting better things. Each voice is a voice of a system. What does this system need now? Ad Meliora means to better things. The catalytic question is “what do I want to create? “
1. What is the purpose of a system? Is it to protect or is it to create? “If we want empathy in systems, if we want that connection in people, we need to be able to stand in those and shift and to be able to listen to what the system is asking us to find.” Says Erin.
2. What is the inner work required to do the outer work? How they want to be seen? What do you want others to notice in you? How confident are you to do the work the world requires from you? The litmus test is what are you seeing that I don’t? What do you want me to hear? The answer to these questions gives us more range and more aptitude
3. Different voices of the leader point to the role of the fixer, the communicator, the follower, the questionnaire, the avoider, the philosopher. The work here is to ask what is needed, to learn to bring those voices back into the choir. So often they’ve been cut out excised or just crushed.
4. Connecting with The Element
- Oxygen, is about learning to ask better questions and working out how to sit with those questions
- Hydrogen, how do we want to listen to what is coming up in systems and hear how the systems are responding and make space to interpret the response.
- Carbon, how do we go about creating psychological safety and supporting high performing teams?
- The starting point is about reflection and release. The next step requires getting ready followed by rollout. These steps are linked to accountability, having an accountability partner and an integrity check. The integrity checks give people space to distil their own values and checking in on how they are living them.
Supporting high performing teams, Erin Randall is a certified organizational relationship and systems coach.
00:00:00 Paula: Welcome to “TesseTalks” with your host, Tesse Akpeki, and co-host Paula Okonneh, where we share with you top leadership and management strategies. Today we have a bonus episode with none other than the remarkable Erin Randall. Our theme today is “Elements Making a Difference”. Erin is remarkable because she’s a veteran, organizational, agile and proactive coach serving organizations through sustainable, agile change, leadership alignment, and supporting high performing teams. She’s a certified organizational relationship and systems coach, which is ORSC-C. I like these. A certified professional coactive coach, CPCC, an expert agile coach, ICE-AC. And credentialed by the International Coaching Federation, ICF-PCC. She serves on the faculty of CRL Global Incorporated and has completed advanced training in embodied leadership, which is Strozzi Institute facilitation, conflict management, and visual communication. She splits her time between Austin, Texas, and rural Montana, and she has bespoken coaching practice “Ad Meliora coaching”. Welcome to “TesseTalks”.
00:01:36 Erin: Well, thank you. And I’m really sorry about that middle section, because I sound like a certified, like a potential certifiable. I’m like, oof, there’s a lot of initials there, Erin. And this is also why I actually very seldom use all of my initials. They sound awful. They sound heavy.
00:01:55 Tesse: But it’s one of the things as Paula is reading that out, I am what a talented woman with a certification to support it. I’m just loving all the different muscles of this coaching practice.
00:02:12 Erin: I do a lot of work on that side, and it’s not just the training, but I’ll go through the certification. For me, that would be like going to medical school and not becoming board certified. Okay. So if you’re gonna do the work, go all the way for it. Because I want the practice though, of doing that work and getting feedback on it so that I can improve. Yeah, that’s the agile in me always coming out.
00:02:37 Tesse: I can pick that up. And you know, Paula and I, we have connections with Africa, right? And particularly West Africa. And people just love getting qualifications. I mean, the more qualifications you know the better it is. But actually coming to places like America, I’m in the UK, et cetera. Having our qualifications also helps us to say, look we did this, we did well. And we are good at what we do, not just because of the impact we’ve got, but because of the evidence that we got through going through your training programs. So there’s something quite rich about certification actually.
00:03:18 Erin: It’s funny you should mention all of that. My husband rolls his eyes whenever he knows this, but I’m in another cohort as we speak, and this one is around team coaching supervision. Because so many of my clients are in fact other coaches and wanting that reflective space on what is the impact of their work. And so learning to hold that. And then, but part of that cohort is me logging hours doing that work with different systems, feedback and how can I continue to improve. You know, everyone will always say, you know, feedback is a gift and you can never get enough feedback. Well, frankly, it’s really hard sometimes to get feedback, good qualified feedback about whatever it is that you’re trying to do.
00:04:05 Tesse: I totally agree.
00:04:07 Erin: Yeah, I fully agree, there’s a lot of initials with a lot of certification there, and I’m like, woof.
00:04:12 Paula: I love it. I mean.
00:04:13 Tesse: I love it.
00:04:13 Paula: You worked for it.
00:04:14 Tesse: You worked for it.
00:04:15 Erin: Oh, I did it. Yeah, I have.
00:04:17 Paula: And that makes me realize that I’d left out a crucial part by saying connect with Erin on LinkedIn and join her for Magnesium 2023. Cause that’s what we are gonna be talking about.
00:04:30 Tesse: Yeah.
00:04:30 Erin: Well let’s say we get that part back in. So I do have my own bespoke coaching practice “Ad Meliora coaching”. And why Ad Meliora? Because everyone stumbles over the pronunciation of that. You didn’t, you’re fine, Paula.
00:04:47 Paula: I did. I stumbled.
00:04:48 Erin: It was, yeah, you probably looked at it. Well in Latin, Ad Meliora means to better things. Okay, so that’s where that came from. And “Magnesium” is that work each person is going to be doing towards better things, and that’s whatever it is for them. So “Magnesium” was really born in 2020 when everyone was in heavy lockdown. And I was thinking, okay, what am I trying to do here? What do I want to create? And you know that first year, you know talk about an experiment and talk about, I am real transparent with those systems. But it was three group coaching sessions, and I used to run it between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But here in the US everyone’s way too busy during those points, so I moved it, you know, last year to January. But we do three group coaching sessions. Session one is about reflect and release. Section two is rejoice and get ready, and section three is about rollout. So you’re seeing me there begin to combine the co-active work, the deep one-on-one. You’re seeing me bring in the system coaching aspect, but you’re also seeing me bring forth the agile side where it’s like, all right, let’s do a modified stripped down combo for you as a person. All right. We add an accountability because I have yet to meet the person who doesn’t do better with an accountability partner. And then we do quarterly check-ins, where you’re checking in on those goals. But we’ve also added monthly check-ins where you’re seeing me, and we’ll be adding another systems coach here in 2023. Really talk about what’s coming up in these systems. And we don’t know necessarily yet what we’re going to cover in those monthly sessions. It might be grief, sometimes. It might be, how do we want to work with a team in transition? You know, that door is open, but we want to leave it there to be open. But the other part of “Magnesium” that’s also new for this year, is adding in an integrity check. Giving people a space to really distill what are their own values and checking in on how they’re living them. What is integrity like in your life, right? So we’ll work through that too. Someone earlier asked me how I would sum up “Magnesium” and it would be like this let’s do the inner work so that you can go do the outer work that the world needs from you. So we give, just like you guys, you Tesse and Paula give people that safe, supportive, sacred space here for people to come. That’s also what magnesium is, okay? Because you’re going to find a lot of other people who want to, you know, they’re wrestling with, how do I become that change? Supporting them. What does it mean to make that possible. So let’s do the inner work so that you can do the outer work that the world needs you to do.
00:07:48 Tesse: I am so loving this, the inner work, going from the inside outward. You know, starting with self first and then going outside, and it reminds me of David Copenrider’s latest work, which is the work on the outside. And yes, you do the hygiene stuff inside, but actually the world needs people who have those values and live them out. So what would you hope be manifested in someone who does this inner work with you? What sort of things would be different, stronger. You know, more confident, whatever.
00:08:27 Erin: I would hope those things for all of them, but also it’s going to be deeply personal for each person that’s going to show up differently in each. But what I want, what do I dream? Is that by doing that work, we’re really wrestling with it here we’re able to take that out and be able to be with whatever is coming up in the world and not run from it, not hide from it, but really step into it and be like, I want to engage. You know, you earlier asked me the question, what do I want people to notice in me? Or how do I want to be seen? And that’s what I want for people doing this work, is that they know how they want to be seen. They know what they want others to notice in them and have the confidence and wherewithal to do that work. That’s why I asked another systems coach to come forth and really help me hold that space this year because every year this work grows and it gets a little bit bigger and you know, we do add in, you know, newer and bigger things like integrity check every year. But holding a space like this is no easy task. And I wanted Michelle’s voice on this too, and to help hold that so that people had not only a model, but they have the daring, the willingness to do that. And I think Michelle’s a really wonderful example of that possibility. She’s a very different voice than me. But I think one that needs to be heard more.
00:10:01 Paula: I love that Tesse and I, we approach things differently, but we are different about the same.
00:10:06 Erin: Right. And that’s the beauty of systems work, is that no two people are going to come at things identically. But what are you seeing that I don’t? What do you want me to hear? What does this system need now? Okay. And it just gives us more range and more aptitude, I think too.
00:10:27 Tesse: Yeah. You know what is it that makes, because I sense sometimes that leaders in organizations seem to be really frightened and scared of actually exploring what the system needs to hear, and so shut down a lot of the spaces don’t listen to the system. Actually, sometimes it sabotage the system, crush the voices, crush the everything. Is that something that you relate to in your work that, so systems they do this stuff so that nobody wins. Well, I don’t know if people can win in that situation.
00:11:08 Erin: So you’re actually touching more over into that organizational relationship and system coaching work. Because one of the five relationship systems, intelligence principles is around each voice is a voice of a system, okay. And part of our work as systems coaches is to learn how to, number one, draw those voices forth, but then also how to help those voices sing. I personally can’t sing, so I will not torture anyone on this call with me singing. But I’m betting that some people at one point or another have either been in a choir, okay? If you’ve got your altos and your sopranos and the tenors and the base. You know you’re going to want some to rise and some to quiet. But notice with the addition of either one person or a new section of the choir, the choir sounds different in that integration of all of those voices. And so if we think about that from a leadership perspective, as we shift from command and control, which has been there for a long time. Or it’s like this is just the leader and everyone else follows. You know, so we shift from that more to a systems leadership or a facilitative leadership style. This is starting to touch on that, and we’re seeing that here the work of magnesium is do the work internally so that you can begin to hold those spaces to help those voices come forward. But some level will all becoming systems workers, like it or not.
00:12:40 Tesse: Yeah.
00:12:41 Erin: And let’s find ways, let’s find ways to help those systems sing.
00:12:45 Tesse: Yeah.
00:12:45 Erin: To be a full expression of all the voices they are in.
00:12:49 Tesse: Yeah, I was reading that. Sorry Paula, I caught in, you gone. No, it’s just kind of reading your work, Erin. And the different roles, maybe the different voices of the leader, fixer, the communicator, the follower, the questionnaire, the avoider, the philosopher. These seem to have played different notes and different themes and threads. And yeah, I was curious about those different voices within the systems which are dynamic.
00:13:17 Erin: Yeah systems all have roles, and these systems are dependent on these roles for their organization and execution of function. Again, that’s feeding right back into RSI work. Notice that if you take a role away from one system, the system will naturally fill it on its own, someone will slide over. I mean, I’ll be honest, that’s how I even found myself as a coach to begin with, was because the person who was going to do that work left and the work was left undone and so I picked that up too.
00:13:47 Tesse: When I looked at the voices then in your work, I thought I captured it in my head because I thought, wow, this is really interesting, you know? What did the fixer do? What does what philosopher do?
00:14:01 Erin: And what a great question.
00:14:03 Tesse: Yeah.
00:14:04 Erin: For people to be able to, you know, ask the system that. So what would the fixer do right now? Okay. What does the system need to be fixed? You know, to ask that and to step into those roles, that’s also a great way to build empathy. What’s it like to stand over here in the person who’s always the devil’s advocate? Or what’s it like to be over in that position over in HR? Or what’s it like to be a leader now? If we want empathy in systems, if we want that connection in people, we need to be able to stand in those and shift and to be able to listen to what the system is asking us to find. Magnesium for me really was a passion project that came out of 2020. And back then I did not anticipate that we would still be doing this in 2023. I did not anticipate that I would be expanding that work every year. And these aren’t just small expansions. Integrity check was, you know, an entirely new portion to be bringing forward. And I think of that is priming work for the work of magnesium itself. You know, let’s go get clear end values and integrity over here, be able to take that forward into 2023. To be asking another person to come help me hold this space. This year I also, I’m betting big on magnesium and that I’m sending out printed workbooks along with it. Because I was getting requests from people who were doing the work. They’re like, okay, we like the online thing and I still send that out to people who want it. But because the workbook is beautiful, because there are parts of it that they want to see and print. They wanted a printed version and one with not, you know, glossy paper, but paper that would take the ink of a good pen to have that cathartic release as thinking about where am I in this cycle? Okay. That would really open up internally, you don’t do the inner work so you can do the outer work the world needs. And the thing is, y’all, I do this work right alongside you, and I’ll not only do it, I post it so that other people can see it. One of the things that I was doing last year was writing more, thinking more about some of this work, and then showing that and sharing it. Oh, by the way, that’s how the monkey talk came about was because of that.
00:16:28 Paula: I’ve been listening and thinking hmm. In the integrity check there is space for introspection.
00:16:35 Erin: Yeah, there’s space in everything for introspection. But we’re specifically making it there so that you can do a little bit of that rumbling before you come into magnesium in mid-January.
00:16:48 Paula: Because I mean, especially as you say, do the inner work so that you can show the outer work to others.
00:16:55 Erin: So you know what I would love to see? I would love, oh, number one, I would love to be able to translate this work into other languages and to be able to have so many more systems coaches step up and do this work and be able to hold that space. Because what would be the impact if we were able to help women in Persia step forward? Iran to have this there. Who needs to hear this In Africa? Where in Southeast Asia, what voices are we missing there? There’s space, you know, we crack the work open, bring it expansive, breathe into it. There’s so much possibility. Because we all need to do the inner work to do the outer work.
00:17:36 Paula: That’s really tough and that’s why I’ve been keeping quiet, because I’ve been listening to that and think of the impact that.
00:17:43 Erin: I was, cause I hardly let you get a word in edgewise.
00:17:45 Paula: No, no, no, no. I’ve been pondering over that. Do that inner work so that you can show the outer work.
00:17:55 Erin: Yeah. That the world needs. Do the outer work that the world needs.
00:17:57 Tesse: Yeah. That’s massive.
00:17:59 Erin: Because for some us this work is going to be about social justice, activism there. Some people, it might be climate change. For some of us it’s simply mentoring people for whom this work might not be possible. For others, it could be anything. Is it how agricultural land is used? Is it, you know, national park activism there? Is it simply doing the work so that you show up as the best friend or parent that you can possibly be. Because that also impacts every single system that you come in contact with. So now you know how I spent 2020. .Now you know what I’m like, I do every year we’re coming pushing on this.
00:18:43 Tesse: You know, looking at your website and reading there, there’s a quote there which says, show the work, show the vulnerability, show where I’m trying to grow. And you also talk about the value of feedback as well. And looking at feedback, there’s things that you’re saying and from what Paula was questioned that come to my mind and the inner work. And it’s connected to the place of trauma, individual or collectively in systems, whether those are the systems and the organizations and the traumatic experiences there, or in individuals. And the curiosity I have, I’m trying to express it for the first time, so it might not come out as clear as I want to. Is your work as a proactive coach with trauma collectively or individually. And how In coaching kind of a reckoning, a kind of connection with pain in a way that probably reframes it, doesn’t redefine it, but reframe’s it particularly from the perspective of the victim. So what I mean is this, there’s certain things that happen in a lot of systems. In the UK we call it systemic racism, institutionalized racism.
00:19:55 Erin: We have none of that here in the US. No.
00:19:58 Tesse: And it’s allowed to happen. And as a victim in that system, sometimes there’s nothing you can do because you’re powerless in a lot of respects because the system holds the power. Now, if you are coaching someone who has been over time and time again is beaten down by these kind of systemic oppressions, what can become possible? Because the person, the individual couldn’t do anything about it, really not much. You understand that’s a microaggression or a micro incivility. I don’t like it. But systems have a way of crushing that as well. So, you know I’m curious.
00:20:35 Erin: It’s funny, I was having this kind of conversation with a client this morning. What is the purpose of a system? Is it to protect or is it to create? And I think that’s where systems coaching begins to come in, listening to what is there. So there is so much trauma in systems. And in full transparency, this is an area in which I’m trying to improve my own coaching. To be with that trauma to, you know, witness it. To ask what is needed, to help learn to bring those voices back into the choir. Because so often they’ve been cut out excised or just crushed. I think earlier I used the phrase it was from that Galway Canal poem about reteach. I think it’s loveliness. That’s part of that work. Sometimes it’s going to be reflecting to that system with systemic racism here. What’s happening? What are you seeing go? And then stand in those different roles, those different perceptions. What’s needed there? Okay. What’s the question the system needs to be asked? What does the system want the people in it to know? You’ve touched on Tesse, why systems coaching is important. This wave is going to continue to grow, and it’s going to get bigger and louder, because we’re starting to hear the dissension, the cracks, what is making itself known, and this work to me is, so I’m talking magnesium here. Magnesium is helping people get ready to do that work because once you’re clear here and for everyone listening, I’m, you know, at my sternum, what’s inside? Once we’re clear here and how we want to be with that, we can go be with the world.
00:22:34 Tesse: That’s very helpful.
00:22:37 Erin: Thank you.
00:22:38 Tesse: It’s very touching, because as you say, this is what is needed now.
00:22:42 Erin: Yeah.
00:22:42 Tesse: We talk about climate change, big thing. We talk about that. We also need the integration of the elements. That’s why I love your work, Erin. How those elements interrelate, how oxygen and carbon and hydrogen and magnesium, how these elements, how they’re catalysts.
00:23:03 Erin: That’s why the metaphor has always worked for me. So magnesium was always the first one, and that’s why I named it magnesium. Not only because is it that bright incandescent light when it burns. Okay? But magnesium is everywhere in the universe. So we are all part of those stars that exploded, you know, millions and billions of years ago. We’re all part of that. We’re all stardust, you know, to quote Carl Sagan. But that’s why I named the first one Magnesium, because of that bright incandescent light to be there first, right? But yes, we also need oxygen, which is around learning to ask better questions, how to be with those questions, right? Hydrogen, how do we want to listen to what is coming up in systems? How do we want to listen to how systems are responding? How do we make space to just be with that response. Carbon, psychological safety. Oof. You know, you talk about this here at the very beginning of the show intro. This is a safe space, sacred. And if teams know that they have that, I mean, once you start bringing that forward teams, they’re kind of like, oh we can have, and the entire system will shift once the system begins to know that it is safe to do so. Where I can bring that which matters most to me, to you in confidence knowing that it will be safe there too. Brene Brown said that much more eloquently than I just did, but that’s where it’s from.
00:24:31 Paula: But sometimes we need the simplicity to really hear it.
00:24:35 Erin: So one day I’ll get the entire, you know, I’ll get the periodic table up and going and I’ll have Heather. Heather is the graphic designer who makes magnesium beautiful. Cause y’all, if I had done it, it would not be nearly as beautiful. She did that work.
00:24:50 Paula: Well, Erin, we want to just know how can people find out more about this magnificent work you’re doing?
00:24:56 Erin: Come to Magnesium. Go to my website, “www. AdMelioracoaching.com”. All right, and you can click over on “Get Magnesium”. It’s over under the elements. You can find it there. You can also easily find me on LinkedIn as “Erin Randall”. And I’m probably one of not very many who come up, but I’m also the organizational coaching Erin Randall, and I’m happy to talk you through it. You can also email me directly, “firstname.lastname@example.org”, and I’m happy to talk you through it too. Because, yes, I would love to send you a printed version of magnesium. I am extraordinarily proud of the fact that we listened to what that system was saying and hey, this is important. We want to have a printed version. So yeah, we made that possible this year too. That an integrity check. It’s been a big year.
00:25:47 Tesse: I hope a copy can come to the UK for me to hold up to people here.
00:25:51 Erin: We can make that happen.
00:25:53 Tesse: Yeah, I’d love to hold it up.
00:25:54 Erin: We know that the post works.
00:25:56 Tesse: When it does, when they’re not on strike, they’re fine. But, you know, absolutely. I’d love to hold it up for people, because I am impressed and touched and I can see Paula actually pensive when she’s that pensive, something deep is going on there.
00:26:12 Erin: I’m like, is Paula plotting world domination?
00:26:16 Tesse: She probably is, but maybe not saying it out loud.
00:26:21 Paula: I’m just listening. Listening is a tool that Erin touched down very deeply and listening. I mean, I’m coming away. I learn every day. So today, this has been another learning session.
00:26:33 Erin: Thank you.
00:26:33 Tesse: Yeah. Awesome.
00:26:35 Paula: So to our amazing audience, thank you so much for tuning in to “TesseTalks”, and we ask that you head over to “Apple Podcast”, “Google Podcast”, “Spotify”, or anywhere else you listen to podcasts and please click subscribe. And if you’d like to be a guest on this show, like Erin Randall has been, please head over to our website, which is “tesseakpeki.com/tessetalks” to apply. Thank you, Erin.
00:27:06 Erin: Thank you both. This has been a wonderful conversation.