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A Developmental Perspective in Coaching

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Steve found himself tempted to try out the first idea that stumbled upon him – a call from a well-respected nonprofit agency in his community. But with the help of his coach, he stepped back and allowed himself to take a broader look at his options before settling on his next steps. Ultimately Steve decided to test out a dream he had many years ago to start a small business enter- prise of his own. Once he moved into this new decisional place he was in the first quadrant we term “Go for It” – that place where we feel most alive, most aligned with our sense of what’s most important at this time in life. Steve’s stay in this place could be a long while, and it will inevitably lead him to that “Out of Sync” place a few times and require some adjustments in order to maximize this chapter. Then at some point it won’t be enough anymore or some major external change will rip him out of this chapter and require another longer journey through “Repurposing”.

A Leadership Passage

Jill’s story is quite different. It begins when at age 42 she moved into a leadership role following the sudden death of a colleague. She was honored to have the position offered to her and willingly agreed to accept it, but once in the position she was overcome with challenges coming both from her leadership team and from her own personal sense of inadequate capacity to do the job. What’s more, she found herself questioning her decision and wisdom of the big leap she had signed on for. Her new role demanded toughness and an in-the-moment decision making style that was well outside her comfort zone. And in the language of the Cycle of Renewal, Jill had been happily engaged in her old role and likely enjoying a long stay in the “Go for It” quadrant until this big change came along, catapulting her into that “Out of Sync” place where things don’t feel ‘right’ and there’s a sense of fear about what’s to come. Jill could have refused the promotion and dodged these challenges. Instead, she willingly took it on, and her success required some significant shifts in her perception of self and concomitant capacities.

In the end, Jill succeeded, and she would be the first to say she’s a far better leader. She has developed new capacities and confidence that simply didn’t exist at the same levels before this change transpired. Jill is more alive and engaged than ever – no longer second-guessing decisions, taking remarks too personally, or deliberating on strategies too long. Jill’s journey required what we term a “Mini-Transition” – a series of adjustments that enabled her to operate effectively at a new level of leadership in her organization. Her identity hasn’t fundamentally changed. She’s simply deepened her skills in order to be fully equipped to step into this new role.

Levels of Change: Transformational and Adaptive

Steve’s journey was likely transformational for him – it required letting go of an old identity, coming to terms with a new time in his life and creating a new way of being in the world – all the work of the lower half of the circle on the Cycle of Renewal uncovering a new level of differentiation and a new stage in the adult journey. Jill’s journey included a series of smaller changes that didn’t require an ‘overhaul’ of self but instead an increased capacity in her leadership role – the work of the upper half of the circle.

Life today breeds endless change and our ability to map the way, understanding an ongoing and normative change process that is always present in our lives allows us to make far more intentional choices. Simply put, change is a ubiquitous force in today’s world. Leaders and organizations have only a handful of choices in this new terrain – to react, resist, or leverage the inevi table change as an opportunity for development – allowing us to reinvent ourselves and our systems as we remain engaged, agile and vibrant.

The central function of coaching is facilitating development in individuals and systems. Leveraging change to foster development is the domain of coaching in today’s change-dominated world.

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