Why another coaching course?

Published by matt on

2nd June 2015

This week we are officially launching our Certificate in Psychosynthesis Leadership Coaching programme (which means starting to promote it beyond our immediate contacts and networks to a wider audience). If that promotional activity has brought you here to this blog, then I extend a very big welcome!

But why are we launching another coaching training programme – aren’t there enough coach training companies and courses already? Why are Paul and I so passionate about psychosynthesis coaching and what does this approach bring that’s different to others? Maybe you are already an accredited and experienced coach, so why should you look at taking another course? You may already have picked up some answers from looking at our website, but in this post I want to expand upon the context for our course and provide some fuller answers to these questions.

The organisational and leadership landscape has changed significantly since coaching first started to become accepted and even commonplace in our organisations. As we all know and are frequently reminded, organisations are being increasing impacted by change, uncertainty and complexity and need to become more innovative, collaborative and adaptive. What isn’t talked about so much is how the fundamental relationship between the individual and the organisation is changing and what this means for both leaders and coaches. The typical individual leader is facing mounting organisational challenges and performance pressures that bring corresponding personal stress and psychological pressures. The boundaries between business and personal are becoming blurred and harder to manage. More to the point, being a leader these days has a very personal dimension that needs to be recognised and supported.

What does this mean for coaching? Most coaching books and training courses are primarily focused on performance improvement, modifying behaviours or managing change, with a secondary focus on personal development that may support the leader achieve their objectives in these areas. To the extent that psychology or psychological approaches have become part of the coach’s context, method or toolkit, the emphasis has been on behaviourally oriented psychologies, such as CBT and NLP or the newer positive- or neuro- psychologies that can also be highly effective at supporting performance improvement. There is a place for all of this and performance improvement is not a bad focus for a coach beginning their practice, particularly when working with Achievement-centred leaders (see below for more on this). At the same time, many leaders need a more balanced approach which places equal emphasis on the inner and outer dimensions of their lives as leaders, than can support them in dealing with the business and the personal, with the light and the dark, with higher purpose and meaning as well as the murkier shadows of the psyche.

To be capable and comfortable working in this broader territory, the coach needs to be grounded in a psychological approach (whether we call it coaching psychology or psychological coaching). We would go further and say that in order to work with leaders in the inner domain of personality and self, of mindsets, attitudes and emotions, coaches need to be grounded in an holistic or expansive psychology that is concerned with the whole human being; with the inner dimension of feelings, motivations, meaning, purpose, values and identity as well as with the outer realm of behaviour; with all levels of consciousness including post-rational or spiritual levels of self-experience. Basically we are describing a psycho-spiritual psychology such as Psychosynthesis. Of course there are other psychologies and approaches that might describe themselves as concerned with the Transpersonal or with Being, and many excellent leadership coaches draw from these too. In fact it is important to say that most experienced coaches working successfully at the level I am describing (and I have met many who are members of APECS over the last year) have arrived at their current state of personal and professional development through their own unique learning journey, in which they have brought together different eclectic experiences (e.g. as leaders as well as coaches), approaches (e.g. leadership, OD and coaching models) or disciplines (e.g. backgrounds in psychology, counselling or therapy) – in effect they internally create their own holistic or integrative approach. By offering a leadership coach training and development course that is grounded in the context and method of Psychosynthesis, we are providing a more direct path to internalising an holistic psychology. There are currently no other psychosynthesis leadership or executive coach training programmes that we are aware of, and although there are psychosynthesis coaching programmes in the US, these are aimed at the life coaching market.

To explain another important aspect of how our course is positioned differently, we need to return to the evolving landscape of organisational leadership, from a developmental point of view. Readers of this blog will be familiar with how the developmental psychology perspective provides a map of how individuals, teams and organisations evolve and develop over times, as described in terms of organisational paradigms and leadership styles (e.g. see post on Frederic Laloux or the my leadership profiling tools for more background) In a nutshell, Laloux describes seven organisational paradigms that broadly follow the emergence of human consciousness and societal worldviews over thousands of years of human history, but also mirror the developmental stages that individuals follow as they grow up and mature in adulthood (at least in potentiality). These are; Reactive, Magic, Impulsive, Conformist, Achievement, Pluralistic and Evolutionary. It may help to think of these as ways of thinking and operating in the world, which are more or less activated within an individual, group, organisational or society depending upon history, circumstance and situational factors. With his book “Reinventing organisations’ Laloux explores examples of the emerging Evolutionary paradigm and examines the three common principles of self-organisation, wholeness and evolutionary purpose that he finds help activate this paradigm.

Without getting too drawn into the whole developmental narrative here, how does this relate to coaching and the choice of coach training courses on offer? In three very important ways. First, most coaching books and courses are more or less blind to the organisational paradigms they operate out of. The great majority are grounded in the Achievement paradigm (naturally mirroring the dominance of this paradigm in most types of organisation) and correspondingly emphasise the performance improvement role of coaching. As mentioned earlier, this is OK, particularly for middle management coaching where this is often what is needed, but many senior leaders are transitioning either to Pluralistic (Individualist in the LDF system) or Evolutionary (Strategist/Alchemist) and need support from a developmentally aware coach who understands the personal development challenges of these stage transitions (e.g. crises of meaning). Our course explores fully the Evolutionary perspective and seeks to help you establish or enhance your own developmental awareness of your clients. Secondly, if you are lucky enough to have a client who is activating the Evolutionary paradigm, you may well benefit from the context and methodology of a psycho-spiritual perspective when working with issues of self-organisation, wholeness and evolutionary purpose. Thirdly, as your developmental awareness increases, you may start to see the need and opportunity to help leaders in their vertical development (towards an evolutionary perspective in many cases), for which the context, methodology and tools of psychosynthesis as a psycho-spiritual psychology will be invaluable (more on these last two points in another blog one day!)

Finally, I want to touch upon an important aspect of the context for our course – that coaching is as much about Being as Doing, as much about working with the mysteries of the self as the realities of actions and consequences. The cognitive bias and intellectual complexity of the developmental perspective (as discussed above) needs to held in balance by the simplicity of being, the power of presence. Coach training and education isn’t only about skills, models and tools, but can also be about learning to be present, to listen at different levels, to bring who we are to what we do. Psychosynthesis provides the psychological context, methods and tools to help us to explore working at this level, and although I know from my own experience that any experiential group can activate learning at this level of Being, it also helps to have the grammar to explore it more deeply.

These answers to my initial questions (why another coaching course, etc.) are only partial, I am sure I will find more! However, I hope I have provided a flavour of how our course might be different and encourage you to find out more.

Thanks, Aubyn


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