Coaching Integrally
In my last newsletter I wrote about the Integral Framework, how it captures my imagination, and gives me hope. I’m not the only one. In the last decade people working in medicine, business, ecology, healthcare, coaching, psychology and literally dozens of other academic disciplines have begun using the Integral Framework. In this issue I’d like to tell you how the framework underlies the method of coaching that I use.
Coaching from an integral perspective is all about supporting each person’s developmental journey. It makes change, real change, possible. There are many aspects within an individual’s life that can either promote or inhibit real change, things like health, typologies, or the assumptions we make about how things work. And we all live and grow within human community so need to be aware of and work within the four fundamental perspectives from which all experience arises. (I will discuss each of the four quadrants – the Interior and Exterior of the Individual and the Group – in later articles, but for now, those interested could read The Integral Vision by Ken Wilber. It is a short, clear overview of this framework – complete with pictures!)
“Integral” gives a formal structure that allows the coach to see how all those aspects work together in the life of one who is working towards change. In so doing, the whole of an individual is taken into account and so it is the whole of the individual that develops and reaches toward new goals and new possibilities.
As a coach, I assess your particular constellation of worldview, typologies, state of consciousness, competencies, and so on. This gives me an understanding of the lens – we call it the “structural lens” – from which you operate. A structural lens is your unique way of being. It the way you have approached life, the way you have solved problems, the way you’ve assessed your successes and failures in the past. It is what has helped you succeed and so it is to be appreciated. However now, because your structural lens is not helping you affect the change that you want to make, it has become what is holding you back.
You can’t change what you can’t see, and the interesting thing is that this structural lens is often invisible to you. Not only is it invisible, but it also unwittingly protects you from making the changes you desire. That is why our work together begins as I help you see the lens from which you operate. As you begin to see it clearly, you’ll come to appreciate both its strengths, (which you will want include as you grow), and its limitations, (which you’ll drop out as you change). Once your current way of operating is clear, our next step will be to chart a path toward a deeper and wider way of approaching your coaching issue. You will find that you are able to make the change you desire.
The coaching program I offer you is unique to you, because of your unique way of approaching your issue. This means that if I’m working with six people whose issue is the same, each program will be different. That's because each person’s structural lens varies from another’s. There are many reasons a person may not delegate authority well. There are many reasons for a person to become stuck on a vocational treadmill. Therefore the competencies that each person needs to develop have to be unique to him or her.
We know both from experience and brain science that it takes practice to change the automatic ways in which we behave. Therefore practices are carefully designed to increase your capacities and literally shift the way you operate in the world; often they address not only your coaching issue but also your life in general.
That said, my experience has taught me that though we are wildly different in our approach to life, many if not most, in our culture, lack some of the same crucial competencies. Number one on my list is the incessant chatter of “self criticism” which subtly holds us back. Running a close second is the capacity to clearly identify one’s needs and wants. Third is the capacity to slow down and find one’s center so that we are able to act rather than react.
With that in mind, I’ve selected three of my favorite practices for you to download free from my website. If you could use some work on one of these competencies, try a practice. Remember that it needs to be used regularly as changing habits takes time. My hope is that it will help you affect change in your life and give you some sense of what coaching from an integral perspective is like.

Integral Coaching honors both human complexity and the difficulty inherent in change.  Change is often challenging because each person has unique way of approaching life. Using a number of assessment lenses to gain insight into how one is addressing a problem is the first step to developing a strategy for change. That current way of operating is then expanded through the use of practices specifically designed for each individual in order to build competencies necessary to make the desired changes. 

Face to Face

Because I find the Integral Map so compelling, I love to offer it to others. In addition to teaching in the Bay Area, I've started teaching on line. In the spring I'll be offering two telecourses: Introduction to Integral  & Practical Integral for Helping Professionals. The intro course is designed to teach the basic aspects and whet people's appetite for deeper exploration.
Face to Face



In addition to the practice resources offered on my website, in this issue I'm recommending Robert Kegan and LIsa Laskow Lahey's new book Immunity to Change. The authors have been research and pracitce partners for 25 years at Harvard and their work focuses on one aspect of coaching which is fundemental to change: beliefs and assumptions. The jacket cover begins with this statement, "A recent study showed that when doctors tell heart patients they will die if they don't change their habits, only one in seven will be able to follow through effectively. Desire and motivation aren't enough: even when it's literally a matter of life or death, the ability to change remains maddenly elusive." We obviously need help in order to change! Kegan and Lahey's process uncovers the beliefs and assumptions that guide our behavior. Often these ideas are not well known to us despite their influence on our lives. Once the beliefs are made explicit they can be addressed. They explain how we often have competing assumptions which serve to keep us stuck even as we are desiring change. I appreciate their theoretical work and the fact that they have tested it extensively in organizations all across the US.

Copyright © 2011 Barbara Alexander, All rights reserved.

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Barbara Alexander · 238 Ridgeway Ave · Fairfax, California 94930 · USA

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