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EP:28 – A Conversation with Dr Sari Van Poelje

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Sari Van Poelje

Sari is a renowned expert in the field of Agile, Business Innovation and Change. She is Managing Director of her own company Intact Academy that teaches 6 accredited programs for Leaders, Consultants and Coaches. A lot of her work is informed by her background in Transactional Analysis. Sari has worked for over 31 years, over 5 continents with in excess of 2000 Alumni from her programs. She has also worked in various director roles for companies like EMI Music, Shell, KLM and ASML. Sari is a prolific writer with 14 publications to her name. She has just completed her first book called “Agile Business Innovation & Design” which will be released later this year.

Show Notes

Podcast episode summary: Sari shared her wisdom on teams, her approach to team coaching and her definition of agile and how she supports companies adopt an agile model for business innovation. Sari populated this episode with numerous anecdotes and nuggets of wisdom for both leaders and practitioners of team coaching. Her insight into teams and what makes them great makes this a must listen.


Noteworthy points of discussion

  • Agile is not about leadership characteristics or psychological factors it is more about  how the business is structured, how leadership is created to have the energy of a start-up and to be coach like and how the business co-operates with its customers and how innovation is married to a commercial orientation.
  • Sari consults business to adopt an Agile Business Innovation design in 28 weeks. Business must want to change to think and be Agile.
  • Intact Academy offers a very comprehensive Team Coaching Program. Based a lot around TA (Transactional Analysis) using concepts like Voice Dialogue, Constellations, Group Dynamics all used to support the team change
  • Sari reminds listeners it is important to distinguish between Groups and Teams many people confuse the terms and forget what it means to work on a team
  • Members have to accept Interdependence and Collaboration. Also, it is important that people understand the roles of Leadership and Followership
  • Sari described the approach she uses to support coaches learn about team coaching. She is adamant about the order in which team coaches approach teams.
  • Level One is all about the Structure of a team -boundaries/hierarchy/Roles
  • Level Two is about relations on a team -how to improve the dynamics and improve social ranking between members
  • Level Three is about the team Imago or perception of the team and its culture
  • Sari shares an example of how Social Ranking when it is not equidistant can derail a team
  • Story is an important feature of teams and important to attend to the narratives teams hold and whether the current narrative will yield the change required for the team
  • Some trip wires novice team coaches fall prey include assuming the role of the leader, mixing up the order described above, being there “merely to help” as opposed to speaking the truth and helping the Leader and team get really clear about what is expected to innovate and change
  • Sari believes love is a wonderful energy for teams and helps a team change its story once care, attention and respect are in place
  • Sari uses the Hero’s Journey with teams. Joseph Campbells book is about the story of stories -all stories can be seen as 12 steps -Vogel’s work with the Hero’s Journey is perhaps more accessible
  • Finally Sari after over 34 years as a practicing consultant, coach and leader is returning to what she calls the essentials, helping create meetings between people/sense making of relations-this is what is needed in todays’ world – she is also going to do a lot more with stories and story -telling using dance and singing
  • Sari shares the resources she uses to inform her practice with teams ‘ but she also shares an invaluable resource, the everyday happenings. She suggests that we become better at everyday observation. Teams reveal themselves in the same way. Observation followed by conceptualisation to understand that behaviour means for change.


Resources: the following include the resources we alluded to over the course of our conversation

  2. Agile Business Innovation and Design to be published later this year
  3. Mary Beth O Neil: Executive Coaching with Back Bone and Heart
  4. Joseph Campbell: he Hero with a Thousand Faces
  5. Vogel, Christopher (2007) The Writers Journey
  6. Morton A, Lieberman, Irvin Yalom and Matthew Miles: Encounter Groups First Facts

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