Characteristics needed to work in systems convening

Systems convening is an emerging and not well recognised activity which can generate challenges for individuals working in this way.

Individuals working in a systems convening way need to have the following which are developed and learnt over time and with experience:

  • Personal sense of mission with commitment to long-term sustainable results which provides their credibility and sustains them through the many challenges the role brings
  • Ability to work with and mobilise others to construct a shared narrative, agenda and actions often working behind the scenes guiding while others lead the adaptation and adoption
  • Legitimacy and credibility – deep enough to gain respect but wide enough to influence across boundaries and enable engagement
  • Networks with close colleagues whose networks they can tap into
  • An outward and growth mindset focused on the bigger system
  • Skills to work across boundaries and develop partnerships, focused around a shared purpose
  • Ability to identify opportunities to learn together, to bring diverse people together in an adaptive space to learn and develop together
  • A range of skills, importance of each varies depending on the situation.
  • Many characteristics needed of a system leader although they may not be in an official position of leadership

Working to convene systems requires individuals ideally to be:

  • Idealistic, have a pioneering spirit
  • Ambitious, bold, passionate, enthusiastic, energetic with pragmatism to make it happen
  • Comfortable at the edges of an organisation
  • Politically astute
  • Knowledgeable about the system, improvement, spread, adoption and sustainability
  • Impartial, trusted
  • Persistent and optimistic but realistic and resilient
  • Humble, not a hero, not a technical expert
  • Able to open their mind, heart and will, be reflective

Such individuals:

  • Think in interdependent ways
  • See systems, patterns and connections
  • Hold multiple perspectives at the same time
  • Take short and long-term perspectives, see big picture and the detail
  • Are comfortable with tensions, paradoxes and uncertainty
  • Manage polarities which may be in tension or even in conflict
  • Leverage personal and organisational networks, communicates and builds relationships
  • Make and take opportunities

Read the glossary

This guidance is primarily offered to support system leaders. Please send all feedback here.