July 5th, 2015

Diagram of Person Juggling Many IdeasOver the past 10 years coaching leaders, I’ve seen people grow and transform the way they relate to others and achieve their goals. Most importantly, I’ve experienced people shifting the way in which they relate to themselves creating long-term sustainable change. This new relationship to self creates boundless possibilities for people to live more fully and more connected. Consequently, they become more powerful and effective leaders.

The coaching methodology I practice is “integral coaching,” in which I as a coach try to understand the world from the client’s perspective, so that we can identify the specific areas where possibilities will open up if the client makes a shift. One of the models that I use for this is called The Four Human Domains. I learned this model directly from James Flaherty, founder of New Ventures West, which is an international coaching training and certification organization where I serve as faculty. This model is based on Ken Wilber’s work on integral theory and adapted for the purposes of coaching. The Four Human Domains are as follows:

  • Domain 1: Individual consciousness and experience
  • Domain 2: The body and behavior
  • Domain 3: Relationship and culture
  • Domain 4: Environment, both natural and manmade

Rather than reviewing these domains in theory, let’s look at them from a practical perspective through an example. Last year I was approached by a client who wanted to become more effective and strategic as a leader. For the purposes of this example, we will call him Joe. As I did his initial interview I learned that while he loved his work, he was often feeling overwhelmed by the demands of his job (domain 1), He also felt responsible for resolving many of the problems that came up in the organization, which made it very hard for him to delegate and communicate the information that his team needed to succeed (domain 3). His posture was somewhat collapsed and seemed somewhat absent, as if his body were present but already moving on to the next task (domain 2). As we were doing the interview in his office, I noticed piles of paper everywhere, the monitor of his computer kept blinking every time a new email came in, and the phone kept ringing for his attention (domain 4).  So while Joe wanted to become more strategic and effective, by listening through this model we can gain insight into the stumbling blocks limiting his ability to become the leader he wanted to be.

As an integral coach my mantra is: “I coach the person, not the issue.”  What does this mean? If I were just coaching the issue in this case, I might have come up with some good tools and resources for him to read about how to become more strategic and effective. The reality is that none of them would have made a difference if Joe didn’t shift the way in which he related to his world. As long as he felt responsible to solve every situation in the company and his environment kept reinforcing this idea by all the distractions that kept telling him “you are indispensable” (emails, phone calls, papers, etc.), he could have read many books and gone to many trainings, but his reality would continue to be the same. Does this sound familiar? How many books or trainings have you gone through already that provided some good ideas, but were impossible to implement or easy to forget?

This is how integral coaching helps in achieving long-term sustainable change. In the case of Joe, we brought awareness to his “I am indispensable” narrative of himself and challenged it. As he noticed it, he started seeing all the ways in which he generated more work for himself than he needed to. Based on this awareness, we created practices for him to start communicating, delegating and distributing the work so that he didn’t have to be involved all the time. In addition, what created the most powerful shift is that he (with some help), changed his work environment to create space for strategic thinking and reflection. This meant tidying up his office, filing important papers and recycling the unnecessary ones, learning to use “do not disturb” mode on the phone, turning off the email alert and creating time in his calendar for strategic thinking every week. As you can imagine, Joe’s change had a very positive impact in his life as well as the company and the work environment.

Of course, not every coaching story is as straightforward as the summary I present here of Joe’s story. It is true, though, that as people are ready to grow and develop, this process provides a supportive structure to become more fully the leader you are meant to be.

If you want to chat with us about how this process could look for you, contact us for a free consultation!