11 Nov

Zooming in and out in coaching

Zooming in and out in coaching

At the beginning of last year, my trainer and mentor Peter Dalmeijer asked me if I would like to write a review for his book, 10 steps in systemic coaching, that he wrote together with his partner Yvonne Stams.

My heart jumped with joy! At first I didn’t believe he asked me to write a review, but he did.

He had trained me together with Paul Lenferink to become the trainer and coach that I am today. He always said, coaching without the heart is not coaching, that is manipulation. I learned so much from him.

For days I dived into the script and loved every second of it.  I love learning something new. One thing I loved from the book is the connection they made between NLP and Systemic (constellation) work.

In NLP, we speak about the surface structure and the depth structure of coaching. They added a third structure: the reference structure.

There are many models in coaching: the NLP coach model, the growth model, the 6 steps model etc. These are about the how; how do I coach? which questions can I ask to create awareness? etc. They make you zoom in to what is happening and the challenge on a deeper level.

The 3 structures of the book give you an overall insight and structure as a coach to really take a deep dive with the client. It goes from zooming in to zooming out. Let me expand a bit more on this;


1. The surface level (zooming in)

This is the content of the question.

– What is the question of the coachee?

– What is the coachee experiencing as the challenge?

On this level we observe, hear words and see behavior. This is the layer where you will apply the coach model to analyze what is going on . On surface level it’s about what the coachee is doing, experiencing. It’s about the behavioral connecting  to the neurological level.

2. The depth level (zooming out)

On this level you are aware of the following:

  1. Underlying emotions, beliefs and values
  2. The system/context that is aligned with the question of the coachee

This is the level where the obstacles are the most prominent. If you ask the questions to find out about the problem behind the problem, you will reach the depth level. You reveal the under stream of the question. The coachee most of the time is not aware. It’s for you to have your ears, eyes and intuition open. The coachee will tell you about their inner processes.


3. The reference level ( even more zooming out)

To discover this, it’s wise to determine in your session if the problem is part of a bigger whole (systemically). You enter the field of history of your client. Answers can be: my parents are divorced, my grandpa committed suicide etc.

Next to the history of your coachee, you ask also for the history of the system  You are going to look for where the coachee is entangled with a story of the past in the family system or in the organization system.

At the reference level, you’ll notice your questions going in circles during coaching. You will ask the same things and get the same answers. You’ll realize their level of the entanglement in the family or at work.

When we only focus on the challenge of the client, we might not get to the sustainable change they wish for. To involve the reference layer, the family history or the history of the workplace, challenges become even more insightful. The change we want for our coachee will get to another level.

What is your story? Where do you come from? How does your family of origin look like? What do you recognize as a pattern?


This is a fundamental concept in Kuunganisha trainings

Join us in person on the 27th of November for a day of meaningful conversations and practical experiences. You’ll get to learn what does zooming in and out means for you and the people you work with.

Many thanks to Peter Dalmeijer and Yvonne Stams for writing the book “10 steps of systemic coaching’ and giving me the opportunity to review. (book only available in Dutch)

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