Background & Theory
My coaching & counseling work is based on the constructive-developmental approach shaped by Robert Kegan & Lisa Lahey (Harvard University). Based on more than 20 years of research, this approach is well-founded in psychological theories & experiments and has been applied practically in a broad range of individual & institutional coaching situations, ranging from work with Fortune 500 (and other) companies & professional service firms to work with schools, hospitals, associations & public institutions.
In their highly influential book "Immunity to Change" (2009), Kegan & Lahey explain: "No leader needs convincing that improvement and change is at the top of the agenda. And no leader needs a book of sympathy for how hard it is to bring change about – whether in oneself or in others. We all know that change is hard, but we don't know enough about why it is so hard and what we can do about it". They continue to write: "The field of 'leadership development’ has overattended to leadership and underattended to development. An endless stream of books tries to identify the most important elements of leadership and help leaders to acquire these abilities. Meanwhile, we ignore the most powerful source of ability: our capacity (and the capacity of people who work for us) to overcome, at any age, the limitations and blind spots of current ways of making meaning".
The theory and corresponding practices developed by Kegan & Lahey and refined & applied by many of their colleagues at Harvard University and beyond are grounded in four fundamental beliefs about our ways of being & acting in the world:
- Development does not stop with adolescence: Adults can (and do) develop towards greater mental complexity as they move through adulthood
- Our way of making meaning of the world actually constructs the world that we live & act in – higher mental complexity therefore opens up new & different ways of relating to the world
- Higher mental complexity correlates with greater personal & professional effectiveness – this has been researched for a wide range of occupations (e.g., for CEOs – Eigel 1998; for business consultants – Bushe & Gibbs 1990)
- Development of mental complexity can be facilitated & accelerated through a specific coaching process (which, accidentally, is the coaching process that I apply in my work…)
Further reading and references:
Jennifer Berger, Changing on the Job: Developing Leaders for a Complex World, 2011.
Robert Kegan, Lisa Lahey, Immunity to Change: How to Overcome it and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization, 2009.
Robert Kegan, Lisa Lahey, How the Way We Talk can Change The Way We Work, 2001.
Keith M. Eigel, Leadership effectiveness: A constructive developmental view and investigation. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Georgia, Athens, 1998.
Gervase R. Bushe, & Barrie Gibbs, Predicting OD consulting competence from the MBTI and stage of ego development. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 26 (1990), 337‐357.