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Changing on the Job by Jennifer Garvey Berger

contjEvery so often, I work with clients who seem more stuck in their difficulties than usual. And my usual toolkit seems to be missing whatever would help them. Changing on the Job has given me a new way to approach their needs—and of course, as with all truly great books, a way to rethink my own.

If you’ve ever been tempted to think you’ve got the framework for coaching or for employee support or for mentoring, this book’s deep dive into stages in adult development will help you lose that mindset. While the author warns against quickly diagnosing others, I’m finding that staying open-minded about which of the following stages someone might be at very helpful in rethinking coaching strategies. Instead of judging people as “mature” or “immature” as you read these stages, consider the implications for how they might view their own efficacy, their role in change, how certain problems came about, or how your own favorite questioning techniques or other ways of helping could actually backfire.

The self-sovereign mind. While most people pass through this stage sometime during adolescence, some adults still struggle to take any perspective but their own. They know others have feelings and opinions, but work best on responsibilities or projects that are in their own best interest. Think how this mindset could be inadvertently reinforced in someone with vast expertise in his/her chosen area and you can understand how young high-flyers can end up in positions for which they haven’t developed the needed emotional intelligence. And they may not readily be able to consider strategies such as, “Put yourself in their shoes.”

The socialized mind. The majority of adults fall in this category, according to the author. People at this stage definitely are able to let the needs of others come first and are often devoted to causes outside themselves, whether it be family, religion, their place of work or others. However, often they lose themselves in these roles and may struggle either to be certain of their own needs or of how to make decisions when two ideals they support are in conflict. And, their self-esteem comes from external sources.

The self-authored mind. Adults in this stage understand others and their own needs. They not only are aware of different systems of rules or values, but can work among them and decide for themselves what is truly important. They may look for others’ wisdom but aren’t torn apart, like those at the socialized mind stage, when they are in conflict. They are self-guided, self-motivated and self-evaluative, but may struggle when others strive for black/white thinking and deny that many things are gray.

The self-transforming mind. At this stage, which very few people ever reach, adults realized that their own internal compasses do have limits. They can compare systems and find where seemingly conflicting values or laws actually serve similar purposes, for example. The fact that so few people reach this stage is evident by the difficulties humankind has in getting along!

This is just a quick, inadequate summary. I don’t want to summarize a framework that needs to be pondered in depth. However, I will be integrating this model with others that I use, including personality type and polarity thinking.

I encourage you to consider the book’s implications of these stages for learning, leadership, coaching, organizational development and overall good of humanity! Read and ponder where your own development helps and hinders you, think through the author’s suggestions for growth, and above all use it with grace to consider new ways to understand others.

Jane Kise

Jane Kise is a consultant and executive coach. The founder of Differentiated Coaching Associates and author of over 20 books, she works with schools and businesses worldwide to help create environments where everyone can flourish.

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