It’s a Change Showdown. Who do you think will win and why?

You know the story… The one where the Queen looks into the Magic Mirror and asks “Mirror, Mirror, who is the most beautiful in the Land?.” The Mirror answers “You, Oh Queen.” The Queen smiles. The Mirror lives another day. Then, one day, a new response. The Mirror takes a deep breath, “Another is more beautiful than you, My Queen.” The mirror nearly got smashed that day. Not just fired from the job, but completely destroyed. That’s the risk of being a Mirror. Unfortunately for the Queen, her awareness was centred on herself, not her whole Land. The news of something emerging on the edges of her realm came as a threat. As it so often feels. And her response was not only to fire the messenger but to send out the huntsman to destroy that new emerging thing that disrupted her world. We know how that all turned out in the end. It could have been different of course, but that is another story for another time…

People ask me, ‘if the job of systems work is to reveal the system to itself, and not take responsibility for fixing it, for waving a magic wand and “hey presto!”, then how do we sell the value of that to clients? Why will they pay you actual money for this?’

I confess I fell for the Fairy Godmother trap once of course, as so many of us do. For a brief while I imagined I actually had that much power that I could do some amazing stuff and change the client’s world for good. So what happens with this approach? Well, not a lot. The system becomes dependent on the Fairy Godmother to create safety, be the voice, help them cope, be their teacher and support. She may even bring relief or hope for a while. But then. The clock strikes 12. And the horses turn back into pumpkins. Nothing much has changed.

When we are the Mirror we reveal the system to itself. We make it aware of what is going on, how it is responding, where it’s wisdom is hidden and which solutions will work best. It becomes System Intelligent and learns to read what is emerging, where it needs to go, what it needs to do. That conflict is often a signal of the next change that wants to happen. It learns to be curious rather than afraid, resilient rather than dependent. It sets the path for its own change.

The quality of being the Mirror requires non-judgemental attention. All voices are heard. Everyone is right, although only ever partially. We do not know or judge what is good or bad. We hold the client and the client system as intelligent, creative and resourceful. Nothing is broken. It is a specific type of awareness and attention that requires significant mastery of emotions and triggers. I won’t lie, it’s not always easy. Coaches get triggered too, we have ideas of what an outcome should look like. We are often measured on successfully achieving a specific outcome. The system might have other plans. Personally, I have to really watch my over-eager “doing” aspect. The part feels like I am contributing and being of value only when I am actively engaged. I am slowly learning the trust and discipline required to step back and allow. Allow the individual or group to be present to both their discomfort and their genius. This is where real alchemy becomes possible.

Back to the fairy-tales. The Magic Mirror’s minimalist reflections disrupted an entire kingdom and replaced the existing, stuck order with fresh energy. I’m not minimising the Fairy-Godmother. She plays an important role too. But my vote is with the Mirror. What about yours?

To find out more about the resilience, intelligence and creativity already within your own organisational or relationship system – contact Tracy Brownlee at or

(This article was originally published on LinkedIn)

For up to date information about COVID-19, please visit