What does your favorite sweater got to do with your brain?

Your favorite sweater

I bet you have a favorite sweater in your wardrobe. Or at least another piece of clothing that you love the most. Everyone or at least the majority do, and I am curious to know what your is? 

Can you think of one piece of clothing that suits you best and always make you feel good, comfortable? That one piece that is the first and easiest choice, hence the one you tend to grab of or with facility and wear the most?

This doesn’t mean you don’t HAVE other sweaters though. 
This doesn’t mean you don’t WEAR the other sweaters either. 

You do have other sweaters and you do wear them when you choose to. But when you are in a hurry, don’t know what to wear or just want to be comfortable, you open the closet and go for the familiar again. The first thing you do is take that favorite sweater out. 

This one suits you best in the broadest sense of the word.
In other words, this sweater is your preference!

The Brain and Preferences

When I debrief the Neuro Agility Profile™, which explains how our brain is uniquely wired, and talk about preferences – the way you naturally like to use your brain best – I often explain ‘preference’ by using this example with the sweater.

We all use our whole brain and are able to reach and use every region of it. 
We do, however, have a preference in how to use our brains in any given situation.

Yes, you guessed right.
It’s the way that suits you best and is the one you always feel good with. It is what makes you, who you are!

Like we all have a favorite piece of clothing, we also have a preference for how to think, learn and process information. A preference for how to explore new situations, a preference for the way we approach and do things, communicate with and listen to others etc. 

Does this mean you don’t use the other brain regions or aren’t able to use your brain in other ways? Not at all. Preferences don’t have anything to do with competencies. (Competences are acquired.) Just as with your sweaters, you can choose to wear ‘another one’. 

You can choose to use your brain differently and adopt another communication style and behavior for example. Depending on the situation, mood, setting you are in, you probably do that as it is.

Default setting

–       Is this easy? Well, it depends. Not always. Especially when you are under pressure it isn’t. 
As mentioned above, we are all uniquely wired and all have a favorite way of looking at and doing things. And especially in first-time situations or when things get tough and stress or fatigue sets in, the brain goes for what it knows best to preserve energy and get the needed comfort and solution. The first thing we grab for is that favorite ‘sweater’, our natural wiring. Our default setting.

Neuro Plasticity

–       Can it become easier? Yes! Easier than you might think.
The good thing is that the brain has ‘neuroplasticity’, and we know we can create new neural pathways to use more of our brain capacity. We can learn how to use more of other regions that are not our current default setting. That’s to say, with this, just like we can choose our sweater we allow ourselves to have more choice between so-called ‘brain settings’ to ‘wear’.

Smooth, Easy and Fast! 

Would you like to know more about how to enable yourself to adapt to any given situation? Smooth, easy, and fast? 

Please contact us directly for the Neuro Agility Profile™ and the on-line Brain Booster Program™ we provide.

Measured Results

For a group of our clients our observation following a close measure over a period of 3 to 6 months, showed already a 10 to 15% increase in Neuro Agility. 

The results each individual shared on a personal level are: feeling much better and fitter, happier, less bothered and calmer. They share their relationships improved. They experience less stress and make fewer mistakes. They can do more in the same amount of time (more productive) and at the end of the day, they still have enough energy to enjoy life with their family or do sports – given this is an issue for most of us, a big one if you ask me.

  • Karen van Hout 

The Neuro Agility Profile (NAP™) – What is it?

End of May 2020 Omozua Isiramen and I became the Authorised Strategic Country Partner and Sole Provider of the unique in its kind and most comprehensive Neuro Agility Profile (NAP™) Assessment and Practitioner Training in The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.


Because, being ‘Agile’ or ‘having the ability to change & adapt’ are key terms to integrate into any operation these days.

Because we truly believe the NAP™ assessment can be of benefit to you in helping you, your team and organization on your path into the future.

Because the cost-effective NAP™ assessment is different from other known assessments and is sound scientifically based. 

Because The NAP™ brain profile assessment is a multi-dimensional, neuroscience innovation that assesses 6 drivers that can be enhanced for optimum brain performance and 7 neurophysiological components that impact a person’s neurological design. 

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Because, although it is generally referred to as a brain profile assessment, this profile is not similar to any other assessments in the market, also referred to as brain profiles, as it is the most comprehensive neuro-agility assessment that exist. 

Because where other assessments measuring is static, this tool does measure improvement and provides you and the employee in no time accurate information about the person’s uniqueness and create a personal brain-based development roadmap to their desired change. 

Because It offers innovative solutions to developing people’s ability to be more of who they really are and can become. 

Because it contributes to their self-awareness, growth, ability to adjust, adapt and create. It provides information about how to adapt to meet new challenges more easily. It leads to better, quicker learning and reducing the risk on human error.  

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Above all, it helps you and your organisation  to become more agile, to adapt faster and easier to new approaches and to perform to new expectations. 

Because everything- And I do mean EVERYTHING- starts with the brain.

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  • Would you like to know how this Neuro Agility Profile can serve you, your team and your organisation? 
  • Would you like to know how this profile serves you in the sports world and education?
  • Would you like to join our team as Practitioner in Belgium or the Netherlands?
  • Would you like your HR department in #Luxembourg, #Belgium or #The Netherlands to be trained and use this tool in your recruiting and retaining process? 

Contact us via karen@systemicneuroscience.com or Omozua@systemicneuroscience.com or have a look at out website: www.systemicneuroscience.com

Karen van Hout is The Systemic and Neuro- Agility Trainer, Coach and Counsellor and facilitates Personal and Professional Leadership from within for you, your team and organisation.

Karen is the founder and director of OF WOOD and Co-Founder of the Systemic Neuroscience Consulting Group for leadership and Business in Luxembourg. For information about our Masterclass and other services please follow this link.

The Systemic Neuroscience Consulting Group is an authorised Strategic Business Partner of Neuro-Link International, Inc. and Neuro Link Europe and Sole Provider of the Neuro Agility Profile (NAP™) Assessments and Practitioner Training in The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Together with her Business Partner Omozua Isiramen she developed The 3-to-5 BrainSystem Code™ , THE CODE for being #FutureReady lies in using it Today. 

You can reach Karen via: karen@of-wood.lu and karen@systemicneuroscience.com

Follow our Business pages on LinkedIn via: OF WOOD and Systemic Neuroscience Consulting Group for Business and Leadership in Luxembourg

Help, I am not good enough!

She smiled but her eyes told me something different. Paula admits: ‘I feel like a fraud. When I look at my team I don’t know why I lead this team. What on earth am I doing here!’. ‘It was by accident you know’, she continued. ‘The position as manager of this department became vacant and I just jumped in. I guess I was just in the right place at the right time. And here I am. Who do I think I am that I can do this! There comes a day I am going to be found out, you know.‘

Paula is not the only one.
Have you ever had thoughts like her? I bet you have. I know I have. Almost no one is immune to this feeling and way more people than you think, have these thoughts at least once in their life. The number I read lately is 70% of the population who can relate to this feeling. That’s a lot, right?!

‘My success is not mine’
Interesting enough the mentioned 70% is, like Paula, a group of people from whom you won’t expect it to have these beliefs. These are not slackers of incompetents.

Most of the times these are people (men and women) with impressive accomplishments. Think about the CEO of that one Multinational, the actress who won an Oscar, successful business owners, top managers, Olympic athletes etc. High achievers who suffer from the feeling of not being good enough. Who think: ‘My success is not mine. How did I end up here. I am not good enough and one day I will be found out.

The ‘Imposter Syndrome’

Like almost everything this phenomenon has a name: it’s called the ‘Imposter Syndrome’ and is described as follows: ‘Form of intellectual self-doubt that is accompanied by anxiety and often by depression as well’.

People who suffer from this ‘syndrome’ feel like frauds. Deep down they are convinced that they are not as good as other people think they are. Instead of being proud of what they achieved they focus more on what they haven’t achieved yet.

Besides having in common that they feel like a fraud they also have in common that they are moodier, less confident and suffer from performance anxiety:

Where does this come from?
It seems that the people who suffer from the ‘Imposter Syndrome’ come from families where achievement is highly valued.  For them achievement determines their sense of self-worth. Another reason is that you might feel different then your peers. A third reason could be ‘perfectionism’.

When I dove deeper into this topic I read something that draw my attention. A possible fourth reason for the Imposter Syndrome, one I find very interesting and, I know, helped Paula very much:

Reason nr. 4: The Expert and their Brain
As mentioned before a large (if not all) number of the persons who suffer from this syndrome, are high achievers in their field. Experts. We all know that when you are experienced, you rely on your knowledge and experience. Your decision making process goes almost, if not always, intuitive. 

It is also known that intuitive and routine actions are hardly or not registered by the brain. (The brain only registers exceptions very well.) Therefore the actions are not conscious and therefore not or harder to recall.

With as result you cannot remember how you made the decision, why you made that decision. It seems there was no effort. It seems you haven’t thought about it. There is no information. You cannot recall anything. This can make you feel inadequate. At least not accountable for any success.

Just as the writer of the source of this thought I would like to turn things around: The fact that you can rely on our experience, that you are able to execute important decisions unconsciously is not a ‘lack of’ but a characteristic of an expert.

What is not helpful:
If you think an accomplishment would help to overcome this feeling, I have bad news for you. The contrary is true: success adds to the feeling of being an imposter. So what about a compliment? Nope….. Accolades? No, does not help either. Why not? Paula and the others suffer from performance anxiety, you remember? 😉 For them these things means more successes => more at stake.

What does help:
Embrace it – Paula worked on this one. She acknowledged and accepted it as a part of who she was- and is. As such it helped her to talk the nasty feeling down.

Take inventory: She took time to write down all the things she was good at. To her surprise the list was longer than she thought. She noticed how many she had achieved and was able to see her strengths.

Don’t compare: She stopped comparing herself to others. Paula is Paula.

Get a ‘second opinion’: She looked for outside evaluations, feedback and promotions.Although hard to accept these, she bravely did.

Stay competitive: Set some realistic expectations that will leave you slightly over challenged, not overwhelmed.

Don’t keep silent: Share your feeling with people you trust.

Find a mentor: Someone who truly believes you can break the spell.

Be a mentor: This can help you realize how many valuable knowledge you have.

Say thank you: I love this one as you might know. Graciously acknowledging praise is good for both, the giver and receiver.

And last but not least: Celebrate! Never ever forget to celebrate. Take time to acknowledge your success. Do something special for yourself before you move on to another challenge.

Good luck and whenever you need help dealing with this topic, I am one push on the button away.

 – Karen van Hout

A tiny tip with huge effect

Chances are that you are known with the advertisement I am about to talk about.The advertisement concerns a drink but every time I watch it, I am more drawn to the 45 sec. story.

The main character does not make choices.
The voice-over (the man who appears from the refrigerator) says: ‘We see this a lot. People who don’t make choices. Innocent? Maybe. But when it starts taking over your life…’

When it starts taking over your life…
The result is that the main character let others choose for him. And I can tell you, they do! The man ends up with a ridiculous suit, a ‘dubious’ hairstyle, a house that is not a house, let alone a home, and drives around in the strangest car. Or better, ‘vehicle’.

The voice over turns up again: You cannot live like that!
At the end of the story, after a lot of encouragement and with great effort the main character finally makes a choice and gets what he chooses. The man, discovering the power of choices, is thrilled. Everyone around him is happy. That is the moment to celebrate and a party starts.

The creators of this advertisement produced a funny story here, one with a core of truth. They show what happens when you don’t make choices but also what happens if you do!

How important is it, to choose?
By choosing yourself, control over your life is in your own hands. By doing so, you create the opportunity to get what YOU want. The opportunity to live the life you wish. A team that serves you best. Having to job you envisioned for yourself etc. The haircut you fancy…; )

At the same time deciding is perhaps one of the most difficult things to do.
We tend to keep weighing our options in the hope a better one comes along but that does not make any sense. You can gamble on it of course, but it usually results in disappointment and fragmented attention, you will get nothing from it. Obstacles and reasons why it will be difficult, impossible, over handed etc. prevail. The only thing you achieve with this is the confirmation that you will not succeed. Or a haircut you absolute dislike. 😉

To get what you want, you must decide what you want.
With all your being, with everything you have.

Miracles do happen, you know:
As soon as you have made that choice, all the reasons why you would not get what you want melt away. Once you have made your decision, there is focus, focused attention and dedicated action.

You will be amazed by the vast array of opportunities that present themselves. Again, and again it turns out that there are several roads that lead to Rome. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Whatever you do, Choose!
If it is not clear yet, my message here is the following: Dare to choose for what you want. Choosing is absolutely the first step towards getting what you want. And like I said before: It is not always necessary to know how to get ‘there’. When you make the choice, the path reveals itself.

Are you afraid to make a choice?
Choosing one option is the only way to find out if it is the right one.

Do you feel you made the wrong choice?
Choose to make another. But whatever you do, Choose!

Are you impatient?
Have faith. Yes, sometimes (or most of the time) it takes a while. But one thing is certain, as soon you made your choice, you will get it. You will get there.

Before you know it, it is time to CELEBRATE! ( link to part 2 of the commercial)

5 Signals to recognize ‘Double Exposure’ and how to solve this

In Healthcare it is all about the relationship between the patient and the caregiver. Warm and human relationships are healing for all parties.

But what happens if relationships are disturbed? And what can you do to solve these?

In this blog an explanation of a disturbance in case of ‘double exposure’, what it is, how it can be traced and resolved.

The red flag
Rob, healthcare professional in elderly care, came along with the following:

He does his job with great pleasure. He has heart for ‘his’ clients but 1 person has the effect on him like a red flag on a bull. He can’t get along with the older man.

Rob tells me that he feels increasingly uncomfortable with this situation. ‘This man always has something to grumble about’. He makes me feel small. Whatever I do, it never seems good enough,’ Rob adds despondently.

As you would expect, the ‘love’ was mutual. Rob was increasingly reluctant to visit the older man to look after him. The older man, in turn, also reacts surreptitiously and dismissively to his arrival and even asks about his colleague – whether he can just send her in……

Table ( Systemic) Constellation:
Rob and I set up a constellation with the wooden dummies I sometimes work with. Rob positions the wooden dummies for himself and one for the old man.

When he positions the dummy for the older man, Rob immediately shows a physical reaction. In short: he ‘shrinks’ on the spot, gets a different look in his eyes, almost begging for approval. He doesn’t speak the words out loud but we both feel the question in the air: Am I doing it right?

K: Who does this man remind you of?
R: My father.


What is this ‘Double exposure’?
A ‘double exposure’ means that we unconsciously exchange the person with whom we are currently dealing with, with another person from our past who we still have a claim on.

It is superimposed as two images resulting as one blur image. Both persons are not perceived as independent, completely different persons. We do not see the person we are dealing with now, the way he or she really is.

In other words: We interact with the new but react to the old. We no longer respond as adults, but as the small child we were in the past.

Indications are:
– You do not behave in a way that fits your age / position
– You react unusually violently to the other
– You feel ‘treated as a child’ by that person
– He or she reminds you of …..
– The relationship gets an inappropriate emotional charge/undertone

The solution:
Realizing that you are mixing up the person in question with someone else is a first step towards the solution. Sometimes this is enough. If not, a simple but effective intervention is the next step:

Take the two mixed up people and set each of them apart. (In the example of Rob we put the two dummies on two different spots on the table. ) Define exactly who is who. Separate the emotions and  feelings. Make sure you associate the right emotions and feelings with the correct person.

Check your reactions and adjust where needed. Try and repeat. Practice until you feel  you have enough clarity to see the two persons for who and what they, individually, truly are. 


For Rob:
In Rob’s case, he had exchanged the older man with his father. Something the man did triggered an old pain in Rob. A huge eye opener for him as it never occurred to him that a part of his youth could play such a big role in his current work: Although Rob has a good relationship with his father, he realizes that he still is looking for approval.

The above described intervention allowed him to see his father as his father and the client as a client.

He now sees the older man again ‘as he is’ and knows that from now on, while interacting with the man,  he is able to and will leave out the ‘reaction to his father’.

He will have a look into the need for approval, the ‘father part’ later, but for today  the question has been solved. Rob receives tips in case he still has the tendency to fall into the old patterns.

Some time later I talk to Rob again.
It’s a lot better. Occasionally he had to use the tips to get out of his pattern again but in general it is going well and the relationship with the older man has improved a lot.

Rob feels good about it: ‘ The air between us is clear now. I am able to see the man as he is and I can react and interact with him accordingly.’  Just like with his other clients.

And the client in turn? He sees and feels the change and today, as we speak, he accepts Rob’s help almost gratefully and without grumbling.

The Curling Mum

Since I learned about this word in the Netherlands word I use and play with it during coaching and training with my various clients. It’s a word for mums who swipe away every obstacle for their children. Of course they do that out of love. That’s not the issue here.

But, my question is, are they really helping their children by doing that? Most of the time the answer is, no.

What kind of person do you think that particular child will become? I am sure I don’t have to tell you what the answer to this question is. I am sure because the answers I get are always the same.

– Everyone knows you should not take away every problem for the other person.
– Everyone knows we all can, even must make mistakes to learn.
– Everyone knows we even have the right to make them.
– Everyone knows letting people do things themselves is much more empowering than taking away the opportunity.

And yet we cannot help ourselves to (over)help others. I bet there are not only curling mothers, but also curling fathers, curling managers, curling employees, curling bosses, curling friends, curling neighbors, curling colleagues, etc. who swipe away every little obstacle for others.

Again, helping in itself, is a fine quality. But here I wonder again: do you really help by doing so? And are you helping yourself?

I see many people suffering from this. They are always worrying about others. Afraid of what could happen. Afraid the other will not learn. Always busy, even stressed to save others, or the project. I see people burn out because of this. Not being able to let go. Not being able to deal with not knowing if all will be ok.

Here it is: By overhelping you don’t only harm the other but also yourself by doing so.

Think about this: What is ‘helping’?

Is helping taking away the opportunity for others to learn and grow


Is helping more like supporting as people execute on their own.

I am sure you know what the answer is. I am also sure you know what to do to prevent yourself or others not to ’overhelp’ other people.

What advice would you give when you see someone ‘over’helping?

Please leave your answer in the comments below. You never know who you help with doing so 😉

Work hard, Play hard

Do you remember my friend?
My friend with the 50 euro note attached to his coffee machine in his cafe? ( see previous blog) He had pursued his big dream: a cafe in the main square in his neighborhood. Two years later I spoke to Simon again. I saw his empty terrace. A single person at the bar. What happened? Simon doesn’t know. As from the moment he started the cafe he had worked hard to make it a success.

He had worked day and night. The first summer had been fantastic. The terrace had been packed all day and people loved to pay him a visit, for a coffee, a drink and to chat a bit.  In the months following that summer, things continued the same way. His turnover was far above expectations.

Since then things have changed and everything has gone down. The terrace remains practically empty. Even the regulars just come sporadically.  The turnover is dropping radically and if this continues Simon will soon be forced to stop his activities. Poof, a dream gone!

Simon sighs deep when he shares his story.
Although he would love to turn the tides, he can’t. He tried everything. Coupons. Discounts. Extended opening hours. Reduced opening hours. Another menu. Different music. Hosting weddings and other festivities. Even karaoke, something he does not even like.

Simon states he would like to investigate what he could do to improve his situation.  
He is acquainted with (systemic) organisation constellations and tells me he would like to use this methodology. That is possible of course and I invite him for the next constellation gathering in which he can portray and examine his situation and test some solutions.

Here is a short version of the constellation:
That evening we come together in a group of 10 people.
First, from this group First Simon chooses the representatives for his company, the clients and himself.

One by one he places the persons in the room where we are. When all three persons are placed he joins me. This way, Simon has the opportunity to look at his situation from a distance. I invite him to walk around a bit, to have a look from all angles. What does he see?

What Simon notices:
‘The client’ stands somewhat disappointed on the sideline and takes a step backwards. ‘Himself’ looks exhausted, his eyes strictly focussed on the ‘cafe’.  ’The cafe‘ staggers and feels very uncomfortable with the staring of ‘Simon’. ‘The client’ states that she doesn’t know what to think of ‘Simon’. In the early days you were available for a chat, these days the only thing I see is you in a hurry. You don’t see me. I don’t feel seen and appreciated. You don’t have time for me, she continues.

For Simon it’s hard to see and hear this but he acknowledges that this is the situation.
Since he opened the doors of the cafe, the only thing he had done was slogging. He acknowledges that he became more and more exhausted. Out of fear the success would slip away he worked harder and harder to keep the success up. That this is counterproductive, well, that’s something you don’t have to tell Simon today.

Simon understands that through his actions he turned his back on his clients, literally.  The numbers controlled his mind.

The key to his success:
When we continue with the constellation we add a representative for ‘the key of success’. This seemed to be ‘having time off’. Real time off. To sleep. To loaf around. To play, as the corresponding representative told us. To take good care of himself. With the result Simon relaxes. Allowing his fun and creativity, sociability to come back. 

The test:
The introduction of ‘time off’ has the result that ‘Simon’ is capable to turn around and to have attention for his clients again. Attention for that part of the company that he likes the most and what he does best. The representative for the company blooms, happy to be able to breathe again. ‘The client’ takes a step forward, happy Simon is back.  

When Simon sees this, he feels emotional.  He realizes that hard work is good, but there also has to be a equal part of play time  That  it is good to have a balance between work and relaxation.  The harder he works, the harder he should play.   

And this, allowed him to have some free time, to have time to disconnect from his cafe, that he had forgotten.

At the end of the constellation Simon switches places with his representative and experiences the impact of that insight. He notices it gives a boost of energy.  He feels happy and that moment he commits to allowing himself to have some time to relax from time to time. To be able to do that it became obvious that he should outsource the accounting.

In addition he made some resolutions to keep his head fresh, his body healthy and his level of energy up.

  • Eat good and healthy food  
  • Exercise
  • Time out regularly  and do nothing  
  • Stay social
  • Enjoy the small things in life
  • Do something you truly enjoy doing

Simon can use all the help he can get. What tip could you add to this list?

NB. A constellation is a complex process to explain. To understand how it works it is best to experience one. People who’ve just experienced a constellation ask no questions about how it works. They are too occupied with a new sense of spaciousness and resolution around the issue or question they had previously struggled with.   

Would you like to experience the phenomena of constellations?
st of June 2019 I will conduct a special event on this tool in Luxembourg.

There are limited tickets available.
Please book your ticket via this link.

If lobsters would have doctors

They always hurt. At least a little.

The question is whether the ‘change’ itself hurts, or whether the pain actually makes you change. An interesting question that can be answered in several ways.

How do you deal with it?
Isn’t it so that we always try to avoid pain? As well as the change that is connected to it as a consequence? But if you decide to, bravely, go through it, what would be the best way to do ?

By coincidence I came across a short film which touched upon this question. In the short film, Rabbijn Twerski mentions that he had read an article about how lobsters grow. He did not find the topic itself to be very interesting but there was something about the story which caught his attention. And mine too.

I will tell you what it was:
He read that lobsters are very soft animals. They live in a hard shell which is so hard that it cannot expand. But also lobsters grow. You might think that this would be impossible because of the hard shell but the lobster found a solution to this:

When a lobster grows, its shell becomes very tight. The pressure increases and this very soft animal is starting to feel uncomfortable. He searches for shelter under a rock so that it cannot be attacked. Then it lets go of its old shell and produces a new one.

The lobster continues to grow and eventually this shell will become too tight as well. He returns to the rock, releases the shell, and rebuilds the next one. And so the process goes on.

The objective of the story is:
The lobster is motivated to grow because it does not feel at ease anymore. The discomfort it experiences, makes it take the steps necessary for growth and change.

If lobsters would have doctors
A smile appeared on my face when the Rabbi expressed his idea that if lobsters would have doctors, they would never grow. He thinks that the doctor would give the lobster medication so that it would feel fine again and would not feel the need to let go of its shell. It would remain the same way forever.

I had not seen it that way before but I think that the Rabbi is right. Isn’t it exactly the same with us humans? If you do not feel the discomfort (anymore), the urge to change disappears.

What you can take from this:
Times of setbacks are times of growth. Pain or other feeling of unease make you take the steps that are needed to feel good again. In the meanwhile, it is fine to look for protection and help. It is even recommended to do so. A safe environment gives you the opportunity to let go of the ‘old’, and to make place for the ‘new’.

Enabling you to go on afterwards.

– Karen van Hout

Why, what, when and how to delegate -tips

Do you remember Susan? The main character of a previous blog? She was extremely busy. Probably overburdened as well. But after she learned how to leave her team’s tasks and responsibilities up to them, she saved more time and space for her own tasks. As a manager she started to feel more at ease and the relationship between her and the team increased every day. Her department flourished. Susan was happy, but again she faced the issue of time, which she still lacked.

Reasons not to delegate
Until now, the word ‘delegate’ was not a part of her dictionary. She was convinced that it was not done to pass some of her tasks on to the team members. They were already caught up in work, remember? In addition, she also thought that it would cost her too much time to explain what needed to be done. That it would be more effective to do it herself. Also, what if the result of the delegated task would not meet her standards?


Reasons to delegate
The prospect of having more time was the decisive factor. She knew which qualities were present within her team and she wanted to make use of these qualities. An additional advantage was that she could simultaneously encourage and motivate her employees to grow. As individuals but also the team as a whole.


Decide WHAT to delegate
First of all, she made a list of her tasks and divided these tasks into categories:

  • Which tasks do I have to perform myself?
  • Which tasks are suitable to delegate, and what would the risk of this be?
  • Which tasks could somebody else perform better?
  • Which tasks could somebody else perform just as well as I could?
  • Which tasks could someone else learn how to do?
  • Delegating which tasks would lead to more spare time?

She placed these answers into a matrix.
The green squares represent the tasks she felt comfortable about to delegate.

Decide WHO to delegate to
With the help of the following questions she approached the list she made before:

  • Who would like to perform this task?
  • Who has time and space for another task, or who would be able to create more time?
  • Who would be most suitable for this task?
  • In what will this person have to improve?
  • How could I contribute to this?


Instruction and guidance
Because it was new to Susan, she first began to delegate the smaller tasks. This allowed her to practice how to discuss the task in question. We explored how she could give instructions most effectively. How she could share her expectations of the results, the why, how, who, and when. She practiced how to let go of some of her tasks, the accompanying responsibilities and authorizations. She learned how to step in when needed.

After a while she noticed the enthusiastic feedback and positive results. This gave her the confidence to increasingly delegate more bigger tasks.


Not much is left of her initial concerns. Admittedly, sometimes the outcome could have been better but she also knows that ‘good’ is good enough. She has learned to expect fine results instead of perfection. Of course it costs time, especially when a task is being delegated to an employee who is not yet competent enough to do the job. Particularly at the beginning this requires instruction and guidance.

And maybe that would be a reason you do not think that delegating a task would be something for you. That is fine.

But Susan now strongly believes in the value and effectiveness of it. It is of mutual benefit to Susan as well as to her employees. It required some preparations but the employees now enjoy developing themselves. The collaboration has led to many improvements. The trust on both sides grows every day and Susan has more time. That was what she wanted.


Karen van Hout

‘Will they still like me?’

In this blog I would like to introduce you to Susan.
She is team leader of a team which consists out of seven people: four women and three men. Susan is extremely busy. She feels like she has a lot of weight on her shoulders and she cannot find the time to work on her management tasks.


She asked me to take a closer look at her team.
Susan says that she often thinks that her team members do not take her seriously, which places her into a difficult situations.She finds it difficult to accept this because she does the best she can. She knows how busy her team members are so she helps them by taking work out of their hands whenever possible. Susan works her tail off for them. Still, every time this approach seems to end up in conflicts. It seems as if her team crumbles down every day. ‘Exhausting’, she sighs. She doubts whether she is actually suitable for this position.


The (team)constellation
During our conversation, we literally take a closer look at her question. She places props to represent her situation. First she decides where to place her team members and then she places herself. When she positions the prop for herself in between the team, she immediately sees it. As a result of placing herself in the middle of the team she does not  take her own position. So regardless of the fact that Susan is officially the leader, she does not take the lead at all.


The system
She is quite disappointed. Susan wonders, does she have to place herself out of the team? She says that she considers herself to be a part of the team. She does not feel any better than the others. ‘We all should be equal to each other, right?’, Susan asks herself.

‘How can you answer this question  if you take a look at the broader context, Susan?’, I ask her. You are a part of a system consisting out of a leader and its seven team members. And yes, everyone is equal to each other but, and this is the most important part, everyone does have his or her own spot. Every spot, or position if you like, comes with own individual responsibilities, tasks, and privileges.

You are the leader and therefore you should fulfill the spot of the leader. Not the place of one of the other 7 members. Or as an eighth team member. Beware of the fact that if you do not fill in your own spot then sooner or later someone else will. This always lead to conflict. In this particular case, conflicts about who does what. It’s a logical course of action.


The spot of the leader
It is very clear to Susan. After trying to figure out what would be the best place for her, she picks up ‘her’ prop. Susan’s ‘what feels best’ outcome is a place not in but next to the team. From this position she thinks that she will stand close enough to the team to be a part of it and yet being able to be a good leader at the same time.

Immediately she experiences a feeling of calmness. Her body lets go of tension as she relocates her prop. Susan mentions that this place feels a lot ‘better’ and that she feels more secure. She also thinks that this move enables untangling everyone’s functions, tasks, and responsibilities. This will result in the needed clarity.


But… will they still like me?
This is Susan’s next question. Her new spot feels less personal than she is used to. And she wants her team members to do well. We further talk about these thoughts and along the way she finds her own answers. It has come to her attention that:

  • She currently turns everything into something personal- while it is not.
  • It is unnecessary and impossible to be friends with everyone
  • By taking work out of their hands she takes away the responsibilities of her team member
  • Her team members are perfectly capable to do the job
  • And last but certainly not least: A change within the team starts with yourself


Trough time I see Susan changing. During our last conversation I noticed she walks differently and comes across as more confident. Even her voice sounds different. Susan feels good and says that because of the arrangement and accompanying conversations she had almost automatically taken the place that belongs to her.

At first Susan was not aware of it, but something about herself changed which led to a different attitude of her team members. She noticed this by the declining of conflicts within the team.

It became clear to her that it can be very alleviating to leave the team members’ tasks up to the team members and to have time for her own agenda.

She then experienced one of the biggest eye-openers: the work continued and the desired results were easily achieved.


A happy team
Susan learned that her position within the team is different from her personal relationships. Also, she realized that she can be herself while being a leader at the same time, and still be respected as such.

The team members have expressed their happiness about Susan taking the spot of the leader. The result is that everyone has the time and space to perform their own tasks and to take their own responsibilities.

I consider the best comment to be that she can now focus on her own work, while the others feel like they are more supported than ever before.

Susan’s confidence continues to grow every day.

–    Karen van Hout

From a systemic perspective: The story of Laura

Laura works in a department with six other colleagues. She is busy. Too busy actually, but deep in her heart she loves it.

She knows this. She has always been this way. One look from your side and she has already done it for you. No matter what it is. As if she has a sense for it and exactly knows what you need. Indeed, Laura is doing well.

Initially the other colleagues accept it. Sometimes Laura’s behavior is irritating but at the same time it can be useful. She takes a lot of work out of their hands. So nothing is being said about it.

Why do I feel I am not in the right place
After a while the situation becomes uneasy. Small conflicts arise. It seems as if Laura runs the department and this was not the idea. Deep down Laura knows it too, but do you remember? She cannot help it. She does not understand it either.

In the end, it is too much, she cannot handle it anymore. She does not enjoy her work as much as she used to and sometimes she even considers searching for another job. At night she is exhausted and on Sundays the following week comes across as an enormous challenge.

Why does she feel like she is not in the right place? Why does she always think that she has to do everything for everyone? Having to care for them? Having to take the tasks out of their hands? If she will switch to another job, she is afraid that she will experience the same thing so she chooses to find out more.

The systemic perspective
During a conversation it becomes clear that she comes from a broken family. Her parents divorced when she was about ten years old and as the oldest child she was considered to be responsible for her two younger brothers. Her mother shared many things with her, including the anger and concerns that went along with the divorce. Laura knew everything. Her mom needed to work hard to keep everything going but together with Laura’s help they were fine.

During a workshop a (systemic*) constellation underlines this image. A bell starts to ring in Laura’s mind. Because of the divorce and the absence of her father she ‘placed’ herself in his spot at the age of ten. With all the consequences that comes with this. She never got rid of the sense of responsibility that she felt at that time, leaving her to carry it around for 25 years.

Laura’s solution
Until now. Now she has been given the opportunity to leave the place of the parent, give it back to whom it belongs, and place herself in the spot of the child. Also, to let go of the weight she has been carrying on her shoulders for such a long time. She takes this opportunity!

She feels like she has been set free. She describes it like emptiness. Space! A space that is hers again. Relieve. The tension has disappeared and a realization of freedom arises. She has not experienced this freedom for a long time and she embraces it.

She learns to use this space for herself and to exclude everything that does not belong there. While at work, she also notices that she has improved in leaving things the way they are. She does not take responsibility for the tasks of others anymore. She enjoys it.

What happened next
Her colleagues also notice the change. They compliment her and feel like they can approach her freely, knowing that Laura does not ‘mother’ them nor the department anymore.

Laura chooses to stay and continues to enjoy working for a long time together with her colleagues.



NB: Name and (possible) situation are fictional.

– Karen van Hout
Systemic Coach/Counsellor and Trainer