Friday, October 31, 2014

Coach, Know Thyself: The Developmental Consciousness of Professional Coaches

Kimberly Ann Perry, Fielding's School of Human and Organizational Development

This dissertation explores the developmental consciousness (DC) of a sample of certified professional coaches using Kegan's (1982) constructive developmental theory as its foundation. Kegan (1994) proposes five progressively complex stages of human consciousness and his empirical work has found most in the general population to be at the third stage. Kegan (1994) argues that, given the complex demands of work and life, adults need to be at the fourth order of consciousness in order to be successful. In order to facilitate the transformation of clients, professional coaches arguably will need to be at least the fourth order of consciousness. However there is little existing research exploring the DC of coaches. Thirty-six certified professional coaches participated in a Subject-Object interview (SOI), a validated measure of developmental consciousness (Lahey, Souvaine, Kegan, Goodman, & Felix, 1988). Results indicated that over a quarter of coaches (28%) had not achieved fully the fourth order consciousness. A majority of coaches (66%) had achieved at least the fourth order or was in transition to the fifth. Only six percent of the participants had achieved the full fifth order of consciousness.

The research also explored whether the extent of coaching experience and/or the level of professional certification was positively related to greater developmental consciousness and surprisingly, found no clear relationships. Finally, the study examined how coaches at the different levels of consciousness make meaning of their engagements with clients. A broad typology of coaches based on their stage of DC is presented. The study found distinct differences in how coaches at the different levels of DC construct their engagements via analysis of six themes (anger, conflicted, changed, success, unsuccessful, and unconditional positive regard). The results of this study point to the importance of attention to developmental consciousness in coaching education programs—including providing coaches with a developmental understanding of where they are on the consciousness spectrum and ways of increasing coaches' complexity of mind. This research suggests there are plenty of growth opportunities for coaches to achieve a greater level of developmental consciousness that will facilitate transformation in the clients they serve.

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