William Perry offers yet another insight that is particularly poignant for those who are coaching clients moving from one of these perspectives to another one. Perry suggests that this movement inevitably involves a grieving process. One is, in essence, moving from one sense of self and one sense of the world in which we live, to another self and another sense of the world. In moving from dualism to multiplicity we are losing some of our innocence, while the movement from multiplicity to relativism requires the abandonment of irresponsibility. We must now seek to understand and appreciate other communities and recognize that there are standards with regard to truth and reality—even if there is not one absolute standard. Finally, in the movement from relativism to commitment in relativism we are grieving the loss of freedom. We must now make hard decisions, knowing that there are several (perhaps many) good choices that could be made. We must take action in a world that does not yield easy answer or offer us assurance that we are doing the right thing for the right reason. Perry would probably suggest that professional coaches are in the business, at least partially, of assisting their clients through this grieving process and helping their clients recognize the value inherent in one of the more mature perspectives. This valuing of relativism and particularly commitment in relativism may be particularly important for those clients who are operating in a leadership position. They must make particularly difficult decisions and take particularly challenging actions in a world that looks a lot like Las Vegas.
Finally, we find a related analysis of postmodern challenges offered by Kegan—the same author we cited earlier about the opportunity for multiple sources of illumination being brought together in lighting a room. Kegan (1994, p. 185) suggests that the relativistic perspective, when engaged to make decisions and take action, is indeed quite challenging:
When we look into this collection of expectations for success at work we discover that each actually demands something more than particular behavior or skill. Each is a claim on our minds for a way of knowing. Each amounts to a slightly different way of demanding or expecting a single capacity for psychological authority. This capacity . . . represents a qualitatively more complex system for organizing experience than the mental operations that create values, beliefs, convictions, generalizations, ideals, abstractions, interpersonal loyalty, and intrapersonal states of mind.
It is qualitatively more complex because it takes all of these as objects or elements of its system, rather than as the system itself; it does not identity with them but views them as parts of a new whole. This new whole is an ideology, an internal identity, a self-authorship that can coordinate, integrate, act upon, or invent values, beliefs, convictions, generalizations, ideals, abstractions, interpersonal loyalties, and intrapersonal states. It is no longer authored by t he, it authors them and thereby achieves a personal authority. Despite the surface differences between the various work expectations, they require a common underlying capacity, a common order of consciousness.Download Article 1K Club