The importance of developmental coaching
We have been fooling ourselves pretty much for the past two hundred years. Ever since the industrial revolution took off, we have come to believe in the malleability of almost everything. Not only our actions but also our thinking has been ‘mechanised.’ We have also continued to specialise so that we have lost sight of the connections. They became invisible but didn’t disappear. And now we suddenly realise, with a shock, that everything is connected. That it is as the Scottish-American naturalist and environmental philosopher John Muir wrote: “When we pick one thing out, we find that this one thing is attached to everything else in the universe.” The complexity we now ‘suddenly’ face is defined by the mutual interactions between those ‘things,’ and it is precisely those interactions that have fallen between the cracks of our thinking. To see them again, we have to learn to look anew — differently and from multiple perspectives.
A “flaw” in the model of the world
The American economist and former chairman of the Federal Reserve (‘The Fed’), Alan Greenspan, shows this is far from easy. When questioned by a committee of the US House of Representatives in 2008, shortly after the start of the 2007 credit crunch, Greenspan said he had found a “flaw” in what he had considered “for 40 years or more” to be the model for how the world works. ∆
Greenspan is by no means a stupid man. Even so, he painfully displays the consequences of linear thinking, being trapped in a self-fortifying system and having a myopic worldview. Even after discovering the flaw, he considered it nothing more than a mere imperfectness in a system that “was working exceptionally well.”
Greenspan is anything but unique. We see this way of thinking — linear and irrefutable — everywhere and at every level in our society. In government, in politics, and also in our boardrooms.
What do I know?
What we need today are leaders who embody the opposite. Who look beyond their immediate environment, ‘industry’ and interests. Leaders who see and understand the bigger picture, break down barriers and forge connections.
This isn’t something you quickly learn. It is not a matter of acquiring new or deepening existing skills — or repairing a flaw. Instead, it is about changing deep-seated beliefs or generalisations with which we interpret the world. And that may be the hardest thing there is. It requires that we trade our certainty for doubt and curiosity. That we relentlessly question what we know or think we know. Like the 16th-century French essayist and philosopher Michel de Montaigne who summed up his motto in the question Que sais-je? What do I know? His essays are a continuous quest for meaning.
Developmental coaching ‡ is exactly that: a search to penetrate deeper into your core and, by doing so, find your way in this ‘new’ complex reality — with confidence & clarity of mind.
∆ “I found a flaw in the model that I perceived as the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works”. (Alan Greenspan in response to a question from the Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Henry Waxman; Washington D.C., Oct. 23, 2008).
‡ Developmental coaching is grounded in constructive developmental theories, such as Robert Kegan’s Theory of Adult Development and Susanne R. Cook-Greuter’s Theory Of Vertical Growth And Meaning Making. What these theories share is the notion that the systems by which we make meaning and understand complexity grow and change over time.
I live in the Netherlands but work across Europe. So regardless of where you are, if you want to know more about my work or explore working together, let’s start a conversation. We could go for a walk or visit a museum if distance allows. But there is always time for an unhurried (online) conversation.