Tag Archive for: adult development


Big Beacon Radio Ep. 8: Leadership Coaching in Higher Ed

BB Radio HeaderEp. 8 – The Leadership Coaching Revolution in Higher Education

The use of leadership coaches has exploded in corporations and other organizations. Eric Schmidt and Bill Gates say “everyone needs a coach,” and increasingly in the C-suite, almost everyone has one. And the reasons for this growth are becoming clearer. When individuals are coached, they become more effective with improvements in task & relationship orientation; and coaching is a good investment returning $5-$7 for every $1 spent. In this episode, Big Beacon Radio host (and coach) Dave Goldberg explores the growing usage of coaches in education with three other coaches. Dave is joined by Bev Jones, Kelly Lewis, and Daryl Nardick for a lively discussion to explore what coaching is (and isn’t), when it can be helpful for faculty and higher ed leaders, and the ways in which the ideas and practices of coaching can help transform higher education. Join Bev, Kelly, Daryl, and Dave for this important conversation on the future of coaching in the transformation of higher education.

Listen on VoiceAmerica or download on iTunes podcasts.

Learn more about Big Beacon Radio, here.

Big Boys Don’t Cry

The 21st century transformation of education is profoundly emotional, but why is “emotion” such an uncomfortable subject?:

The idea that we might acknowledge emotion directly in education runs up agains a taboo for men (in many cultures).  From an early age, men are urged to suppress their unhappiness, sadness, or other negative emotion that leads to the emotional display of crying.  Sometimes this is done with understanding and concern, but oftentimes boys are shamed if they do cry, and the shame continues until they stop.

Read more, here.

Self Judgment & Its Discontents

“What a jerk!”
“I’m an idiot”
“Yes, but…”
“That’s not the correct way!”
“It ought to be like this.”
“How could I be so stupid?”

We tell these things to ourselves and others on an all too regular basis, to the point where it affects our productivity at work and in everyday life. How can we make our self-talk healthier? David Goldberg leads us to question the source of our discontent:

What is the judgment about? Whom is the judgment about? To what extent is judgment of others mixed with judgment of self. What is the balance between positive and negative judgment? To what extent does the judgment serve the client? To what extent does the judgment lead to useful action? To unproductive action? A key in bringing it to light is to not judge the judging, but to be curious about it, wonder about its purpose, consider its sources, and the degree to which it serves the client. 

Read here for more ways to handle critical self-talk.


Shield and Shackle: The Paradox of Human Development Within Universities

In “Do Universities Retard the Development of Their Faculty?” (October 21, 2012), David Goldberg highlights a seldom-observed consequence of the modern academic organism.  Drawing on his review of literature in the field of adult psychological development, also known as constructive-developmental psychology, Goldberg concludes (in my own words) that universities’ focus on securing and strengthening knowledge comes at the expense of their own faculty members’ acquisition of greater wisdom.  Goldberg laments this limitation on an individual faculty member’s “yearnings to develop and move beyond the bounds of [Expert stage of development, as described by Jane Loevinger et al.].”

Inspired by such authors as Bill Plotkin and Margaret Wheatley, and roused to action by the current era’s well-documented, unprecedented complexity, I join Goldberg’s lamentation while suggesting a subtly different view of universities, a perspective informed by abundant appreciation for their gifts to humankind as well as their limitations:

Humankind is experiencing need for capacities greater than those cultivated by universities up until now.  Like a skeleton or a particular genetic sequence, today’s universities support certain forms of development and prevent others.  Their strengths are, paradoxically, also their weakness.  We ought to consider generating wholly new organizational structures, as well variations within universities, to support individual development beyond Expert stage.

Hooray for Universities and Education!

Let’s truly celebrate the contribution of universities to our species’ development of the capacity for self-authorship.  Once upon a time – and even today in some places on Earth – education has sought to generate sufficient knowledge and wisdom for a child only to conform to social expectations and not to exceed them.  Many girls and women today feel the press of this expectation more tightly than do boys and men.

Yet today, we largely take for granted the pursuit of intellectual independence, whether by man or by woman, if undertaken for the sake of discovering scientific truths that happen to contradict the prevailing mindset.  To an extent greater than before the advent of universities, parents today encourage their children to leave home, learn about the world, and strike out on their own independent paths.

Our educational systems and their flagships, universities, serve as defenders of both expertise and Expert-ism.  They form bulwarks against a society’s Diplomat-ist tendency to hold students and faculty alike within the constraints of deference, politeness, or social station.  We ought to appreciate the great evolutionary gift universities have given to our species: Universities have secured an individual’s right to develop an independent sense of self amid a world of tangled human commitments, statuses, and proprieties.

A Design Feature, not a Flaw

Seen in this light, we can return to the question of “retarded development” for university faculty with a fresh perspective.  Universities do not fail at the task of developing their faculty members (or students, or communities) to later stages of development so much as they excel at promoting development up to Expert stage.

Indeed, setting aside some approaches to continuing education, universities have accepted no developmental task beyond consolidating their learners at Expert stage.  The learning contract involves students absorbing data, acquiring a technique, or otherwise expanding their knowledge without having to change the fundamental ways in which they make sense out of the world.

Further, universities largely presume that their faculty members already possess Expert meaning-making capacities, and universities generally accept no claim to existence for the purpose of transforming the mindsets of their faculty-as-faculty (versus faculty-as-learners).  The faculty contract involves professors researching external and immutable truths, publishing communications about those truths, and imparting those insights to learners enrolled in their courses – all of which, I hasten to add, is noble, honorable, necessary, and transformative work in its own way.  Yet today’s complexity also demands inter-systemic capacities that conventional psychological frameworks cannot hold.

Ignore, Grow, or Evolve: Three Structural Options for Humanity’s Developmental Future

If we can agree that universities meet a crucial developmental need for our species, and if we can agree that they have not, up until now, met other vital needs, what options exist? I see three options for a way forward:

  • Universities can continue to ignore, actively discourage, or forcibly remove individuals who seek to develop maturity or wisdom beyond the Expert stage.  Such people, after all, just don’t fit fully within the organizations’ mission.  This is the current reality Goldberg describes, a future in which universities neither acknowledge nor adopt a mission of post-conventional psychological development.

Perhaps universities will assert that their way of approaching development is the only right way forward, that Expert mindsets crown the pinnacle of human sense-making.  Eventually, experience and universities’ own scientific Expert-driven data will require the abandonment of these beliefs, and the other stages of grief will follow.

  • Universities can choose to grow programs or approaches that address later-stage developmental needs for their adult members.  To some extent, Goldberg recommends this option, which I see resembling a genetic variation, the sprouting of a new appendage to meet an emerging need.

Some universities may choose to distinguish themselves by opening centers devoted to adult development within their communities.  This would be welcome news.  Most, however, are unlikely to experiment in that direction anytime soon; it just wouldn’t fit within today’s existing missions, funding conditions, or social support.

  • Communities of learning can evolve by creating new organizations outside the university structure. Communities could leave to universities the developmental task of supporting Expert-stage consolidation and raise up new structures, new “skeletons,” to address a new environmental demand of challenging and supporting individuals who seek to cultivate greater capacities.

The immediate barriers to this option are its novelty and consequent confusion about its meaning; resistance from people invested in the established way who might perceive a new species of organism as a threat; and paucity of available models to aid in initiating, crafting, explaining, or understanding a viable structure.

Whether through growth of experimental variants or through generation of wholly new structures, I expect our species to meet evolutionary demands by transcending the limited capacities of today’s universities.  The forms of that transformation will emerge only through our shared efforts.

Graham Segroves is an organizational change consultant and leadership development coach whose DevelopmentLens blog seeks to cultivate post-conventional perspectives on the human experience.  Cross-posted on DevelopmentLens.com

Do Universities Retard the Development of Their Faculty?

As I’ve read more on predictable patterns of adult development by such authors as Jane LoevingerWilliam TorbertRobert Kegan, Susanne Cook-Greuter, and others, I’ve been thinking about the ways in which universities encourage and inhibit the development of their faculty. For example, in a framework presented by Cook-Greuter (here), there are three conventional stages of adult human development in which  77% of adults typically find themselves:  diplomat, expert, and achiever.

  • In diplomat, an individual makes meaning by conforming with group norms, and a leader in diplomat will often use words, like “family” and “loyalty” to describe what is important to them at work.
  • In expert, an individual makes meaning through exercising and advocating the expertise of his or her discipline.  Other disciplines are typically less enlightened than the expert’s, and sarcasm and phases such as “yes, but…” rule the expert’s speech.
  • In achiever, an individual makes meaning through making goals and getting results with others, and disciplinary expertise gives way to working with others to get the job done.  Deadline and metric talk rule the speech of the achiever.

The stages following the three conventional stages (individualist, strategist, alchemist & above) involve higher degrees of system complexity, tolerance of ambiguity and diversity, and an ability to integrate across different systemic levels.

With these distinctions as background, we notice something almost immediately.  Because universities are organized strictly by discipline, and because universities value expertise within a discipline above almost everything else, it would be reasonable to assume that many faculty members are in expert from a developmental perspective.  The kinds of battles that break out within departments for the hiring of this or that subdiscipline, for example, support this inference, and the quotation (attributed to Kissinger and others), “Academic politics are so bitter because there is so little at stake,” may be interpreted as exactly the pitched battle among those locked in expert one would expect from a developmental stage that does not respect the knowledge and knowhow of those in a different discipline (or subdiscipline) than yours.

To those inside the university, none of this is particularly noteworthy, except to say that expert is a very early stage of adult development.  And here’s the rub. To the extent that universities are organized to keep their faculty in expert, they retard their development as adults, and keep them in a relatively immature stage.  In business, the move to achiever occurs relatively early for someone rising through the leadership ranks.  In universities, it is fairly common to enter as an Assistant Professor and exit as a Professor Emeritus and be in expert the whole time.

This is not good or bad news in and of itself, and developmental theorists are careful to say that later stages are not better or worse than earlier stages.  And clearly from the standpoint of research expertise, having a large cadre of experts is in the university’s interest; however, from the perspective of the individual faculty member, many faculty members may have yearnings to develop and move beyond the bounds of expert.  While only 3% of the population has a PhD, 48% of the population is in a developmental stage above expert. The faculty member who desires to grow and develop finds few organizational mechanisms for doing so.

Academic leaders concerned with the development of their people would do well to first understand the problem through an adult development lens.  Programmatically, a number of interventions are possible once the difficulty is seen this way, but as long as the university is viewed as a collection of experts, little can be done to address the further development of its faculty.