Interview with Sari van Poelje

A magic of transformation through TAO

It was three years ago. I was on a crossroad in my life, re-examining purpose and how to leverage the knowledge and experience I have in Transactional Analysis. And I was reading a book Keeping the TAO Torch Alight: Berne After Reading by Sari van Poelje. It was after a long period that I got back my interest in TA.

”I’d love to meet the author!”

This book was more than just a knowledge sharing. There were both insights and implications – an eruptive source for applying TA in workplace. It was calling me for more. I have visited the website of the Intact Academy that she founded, and later on we met. Sari is an international team coach and expert on agility and innovation. She creates transformational learning experience in synergy of rich business experience and enormous knowledge as licensed Teaching and Supervising Transactional Analyst.

Let’s discuss applied Transactional Analysis in organizations

Here a piece of our conversation that inspired me to consider Organizational TA as a powerful source of my learning and practice.

World is crowded with development opportunities. Why Intact Academy(link to Intact Academy)? 

Sari: Intact Academy has been giving accredited training for coaches, leaders and consultants for more than 35 years in ten different countries. We are all trainers with both training and coaching experience, but more importantly we have all been leaders in business. So, when we train, we speak from experience and we are focused not only on what to do but specifically how to do it. Because we believe that coaches, consultants and leaders are ultimately the tools of their own trade, we make sure that personal development is as important as professional development in our training. Our participants come out as kick ass professionals and as aware and compassionate individuals.

How does TA contribute to business to thrive?

Transactional analysis is a method and a tool for transformation of individuals, groups and organizations. At the individual level TA helps you to know yourself better, communicate effectively, and change your story to be empowering and inspirational to others. At the group and organizational level TA allows you to work on performance improvement, better cooperation and creating a culture based on values and ethics that will help you thrive in your environment.

When is a right time to develop as a coach?

Sari: I would suggest that people need some life and work experience to coach others professionally. However, for me you can never be too young to learn coaching skills. I started at 22, and I am still learning 35 years later J

How team coaching program contributes to professional development?

Team coaches need to be good at individual coaching and systemic coaching. This systemic point of view helps you see the team as a whole as your client. To think in terms of how boundaries, roles, dynamics, culture influence us as individuals. How individuals sometimes „carry“ issues for the group. Team coaching helps you think about step-by-step ways to create clear structures, cooperative relationships and innovative cultures.

World is changing, we transform and live new reality. Why team coach program today?

Sari: Organizations are not collections of individuals. They are collections of teams. Team coaching is more important than ever. “If we manage to switch from a paradigm of individual gain to a paradigm of collective responsibility, we will be able to solve the big problems in the world today together”.

Zovemo se tim - team coaching - growth code

We call ourselves a Team, but are we one?

At work I have often been a part of a team. For decades. Context, people and demands may have changed, but the notion of „a team“ has been constant. I have worked in companies where teams were spoken about at all levels and team work had a special place as one of the company’s values and the highest behavior standard or as a competence necessary to get the job done. Although it was an everyday part of leaders’ vocabulary, team work within these companies was not neccessarily a living reality. By the way, managers are prone to call the employees in their sector a team in order to highlight the need to achieve success, the importance of atmosphere of team spirit and interdependence. Since they wish to build a team, they organize trainings or team buldings, and the effects are indeed tangible, although unfortunately short-lived.

How to make a team the real Team and the effects invested in team development sustainable?

In their book The Wisdom of Teams, J. Katzenbach and D.Smith say that a team is a small group of people (less than 20) of complementary skills, who are devoted to a shared purpose and goals. The members are devoted to one another and hold one another responsible for achieving team results.

Lately there has been a lot of talk in business world about purpose – why do we do something, why do we exist, what do we contribute, how does our work change the world? When we begin working with clients, we often notice that the employees know little about the company history, vision, mission and values, which makes it difficult for them to connect and determine the purpose of their team. Although a company has their purpose defined, a team needs to find their own purpose within the company and strive for it in their everyday work. Without a purpose they believe in, a team misses clear vision of what to strive for and what for or who for to put the additional effort in in order to achieve their goals. Unfortunately, not even the most inspiring purpose is often enough to move a team towards being a true team. What is necessary is for the leader and all team members to truly believe in their team and its purpose. What really makes a team is interdependence of its members and trusting that the team is capable of dealing with challenges and achieving results, where simultaneously everyone is willing to replace their own goals by team goals. This kind of trust is the hardest and some teams never overcome that challenge. Often the leader promotes reaching individual goals by their own example or a whole company functions by rewarding individual contributions. In such a culture it is difficult to form a team.

A team needs challenging goals to focus on. A while ago, one team member at a team coaching session said he had a solution for an existing conflict within the team ’’I know, we need team – building!’’. Actually – no.  A team needs challenging tasks in order to move towards fulfilling their purpose. A team – building can help while the team is forming, with clear goals for the team members to get acquainted, create synergies, define their purpose and goals. However, team – building on its own is not going to bring better results. Another important difference to make is whether the leader has a team below them or is the leader a part of the team. Have you ever encountered a situation where your leader is using the team to get the job done for them? In that case, the leader is showing an example of individual approach to work, regardless of how often they speak about team or expect you to be a part of it. Due to this sensitive, however important mark of a succesful team, at a team coaching the leader participates in it together with the team, they define change goals together with the team and they move towards the desired state together with the team.

Leaders often feel the team can do more. When I look back, I myself as a director in some teams have often asked what is it that would make us even a more productive team? Is there something that I do not see that would help our team achieve outsanding results that I instinctively knew it was meant to achieve? Do you wonder how to improve results of your team? Do you feel they could do better than they do, regardless of how good the results are? Team coaching helps you build the development path and create the necessary change in the team. This approach enables you to achieve the change you want within a set time period through a combination of individual and team coaching. We are there for you to meet your needs and development plans using the framework of Transactional analysis, systemic approach and integrative organizational development.

Would you like to know more?

3 zlatna pravila za izbor treninga - Growth Code

3 golden rules when choosing the training

You have just finished an important meeting. You are not happy with its results and you are determined to change something in your approach. You are googling: Training Leadership Belgrade – and you get over 35 000 results. You soon realize they all seem similar and it is difficult to choose one. If you have the option, you will seek advice and support from your HR colleagues, however, you are probably interested in choosing a training where the investment will bring forth wanted results.

1.Training is not enough


Working with leaders, we often come accross the subject of investing in team development. By the moment we meet, most leaders have invested significant effort in their team development. They invested in a variety of trainings for development of professional and basic competences and after a while they regretted it because there was no change. They are often surprised when I tell them 90% of knowledge acquired at trainings is lost during the first year after training if the knowledge has no application. Even Ebinghaus  in 1885 shared with the world about the process of forgetting and warned that 50% of information is lost during the first hour after learning. Of course, the process of forgetting does not end there.

2.The experience of learning

 The well known model of 70 20 10 presented in the 80’s by McCall, Lombardo and Eichinger speaks to the fact that training is not enough. In their research, they examined success factors of 200 top leaders and they concluded that 70% of the effect on their knowledge was based in experiential learning, 20% in social learning and 10% in formal learning. Experiential learning is achieved through activities such as: working on challenging projects, job shadowing, job rotation, etc. Social learning is achieved through interactions with other people, through activities such as: coaching, mentorship, asking for feedback from colleagues. Formal learning is achieved through trainings, various seminars and workshops, formal education, reading books, etc.

If you are now tempted to cross out trainings from your list of wanted developmental activities, wait. Although trainings have little effect on overall knowledge of an individual, they often bring necessary knowledge that can later be built upon by other developmental activities. For example, before you look for coaching for improvement of leadership skills, it is useful to go through a training of communication skills and leadership skills. This is the reason why when you are choosing the training it is better to plan the whole developmental program by the model of 70 20 10.

3.Transformational learning

 The discussion about the best trainings, workshops and courses most often stops when model 70 20 10 is mentioned. Although it is empirically not confirmed enough, this model gives structure to people development and companies often use it. Not everyone will feel content with this kind of learning, though. For those employees who consider working on themselves highly important, learning brings in additional quality if it offers an opportunity to reassess personal beliefs, to get in contact with one’s value system and purpose. Learning should actually encourage a personal transformation, an experience after which we do not look at ourselves, people and environment like we used to. Such kind of learning can be induced by professionals to whom investing in personal development and other’s development is one of their personal values. In case you are looking for such kind of training, your search results will drop from 35 000 results to a significantly smaller number. This kind of learning that really brings about change is just not popular. On the other hand, we are overwhelmed by instant tools and trainings.

Let us go back to the situation at the beginning of our story. You wish to improve your skills. By now you know you are searching for a good combination of training for a certain skill, mentorship or coaching to support the development of newly acquired skills through engagement with others and experiential learning through practical application. In order to add the quality of connecting with your purpose to your learning, you will choose a trainer who believes in development and who will lead you through the process of integration of knowledge acquired. To us, each opportunity for learning and development is unique and goes beyond the frameworks of basic trainings in communication, management and leadership. We are there for you to support you in establishing and realizing a full development plan for you, your team or organization. Contact us to create with us a solution that will bring about the desired change.

Zašto kažemo tim a mislimo na grupu

Why do we say Team when we mean Group?

Is team really a predisposition to get the expected job done? It depends on your expectations.

When I heard from PHD Sari Van Poelje at my first workshop within the education for Team coach that a work group is often enough to get the job done efectively, I thought, how many managers would feel better just knowing that and having a permition to feel just ok leading an eficient service, not necesarily a team?

Certain regulated systems, especially corporations, create a culture where individual contribution is rewarded, not the team one. Entire reward systems are most often set to monitor reaching individual goals and KPIs of individuals, not taking into consideration interdependencies within the system. If we move one step further, some jobs are such that they imply individual work and results. In all of these circumstances it is better to be an organized work group with clearly distinct roles and tasks of each individual, than a pseudo team (J. Katzenbach,  D. Smith) where there is no devotion nor focus either on team or individual achievements precisely because of this confusion where team achievements are propagated, but individual ones are rewarded.

Each group in its development can be transformed into a team and each team can remove the obstacles in their performance in order to become a highly productive team. This transformation is most easily started and achieved through a group or team coaching.

I was once a facilitator at a team building of a sales team where during the opening speach their director said „It is important to achieve our team goals for this year, but it is equally important that each one of us makes it to the finish line.“ A lot was said in this one sentence and the criteria was set for the team as a whole to be succesful.

This team has a challenging year ahead and they gathered to set their goals and arrange ways to achieve them. These are not goals of the leader or individual team members; these are their mutual goals. More than that, the criteria has been set by which the team will be successful if each member makes it to the finish line. A team where members support each other and rely on one another builds a synergy in which more is achieved than by individual or group work. It would be easier for the leader to set the tasks according to the responsibility of each member, however, this team obviously strives to achieve more than the set criteria. When it is necessary to achieve more than an average result, then a team is needed.

As long as it is expected that the system should function by the set rules, when the market and business are stable, it is enough to have the employees working in work groups where everyone is responsible for their own results.

What happens when the circumstances change? In case there are challenges in the organization’s performance, such as abrupt changes in the environment like the pandemia caused by the virus Covid 19, a team gets a purpose, i.e. vision, a challenging task and the employees and the leader often gather spontaneously, supporting each other. In such circumstances we encounter the situation where companies have a strong need for a team. According to E. Bern (The Structure and Dynamics of Organizations and Groups,1963) in situations where there is an external pressure, the forces within the organization are directed towards the defence from danger, where team members are directed towrads the external challenge. Although challenging, the current situation is indeed building circumstances where teams and team capacities are growing. On the other hand, the need for highly productive teams is growing and teams are going to need support in this transforamtion. Team coaching  is the method of choice for team development.