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A Developmental Perspective in Coaching

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Several important characteristics are inherent in a holistic and cyclical view of adult life. First, the cyclical view portrays life as a complex, pluralistic, multivariate flow, with ongoing cycles in nature, societies, and people. Familial systems, companies and nations are all part of a larger, often chaotic flow that can be influenced and shaped but not completely controlled. Second, the cyclical paradigm assumes life ‘develops’ through cycles of change and continuity rather than in progressive, linear, straight lines. It concentrates on understanding both what persists throughout our lives and what necessarily changes. Each time we relinquish an old stage of life, we differentiate one more time, and a new level of development and individuation emerges for us. Third, the cyclical picture honors the polarities in life and in our organizations – the up times and difficult times are incorporated into our understanding of the very undulating rhythm of opportunities and obstacles. Fourth, continuous learning is essential to the constant retooling of our multi-layered human systems.

We have been informed by this view of adult life during our many years of practice, writing, model building and research. This broad developmental perspective and approach has guided our work and understanding of the coaching paradigm and the change process. Over time we developed a model for understanding and normalizing the ongoing cycle of change that occurs at an increasingly rapid pace in our lives today. This model provides us with a normative and development framework for conceptualizing where an individual or system might be at any point in life’s journey.

The Cycle of Renewal

Change creates the crucible for development, and change can be triggered by internal or external forces and events and circumstances in our lives. It may be a promotion, a firing, a major shift in roles with new demands at hand. It may be a performance review that requires some adjustments, a promotion that requires a move to another continent, a first career position or the final capstone, a death or a challenging illness at home. All of these changes catch us off guard and the bigger the surprise, the greater the opportunity and invitation for our own development. We’ve built a model we term “The Cycle of Renewal” (see Figure 1 below) to provide a framework for viewing a cyclical and normative cycle of ongoing change that intersects with the human systems at play at any point in the adult journey. Unlike the older linear models tied to specific ages and stages, we view development throughout the adult years as continuous and growthful. This same cyclical change process occurs in the individual and larger systems – so it’s equally applicable to individuals, teams and organizations.

Pam McLean Cycle of Renewal

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