What We’re Reading Now

Billy shares his his thoughts on  a book by Jennifer Garvey Berger called Changing on the Job – Developing Leaders for a Complex World…

“I came across it by accident while researching another topic and was immediately drawn in by one of the themes of the book, ‘Growth Edge Coaching’ ” says Billy.

Changing on the Job draws heavily on Robert Kegan’s work on adult development and growth. This approach concentrates on how each person develops and makes sense of the world through their experience of it – hence the title. The author look at the ways in which, as adults, we attempt to understand the complex world around us. She describes adult development as “the changing capacity of humans to cope with complexity, multiple perspectives and abstraction” – sounds like the modern workplace!

The author builds on the leadership advice to “get on the balcony and off the dance floor” by adding that there are multiple balconies to be considered. I like this metaphor. Not only does the effective leader need to be able to step outside the action to get the bigger picture, she must also recognise that to get that bigger picture she needs to take multiple perspectives. This echoes the complexity that leaders must deal with in today’s workplace and the thinking that is required in order to effectively navigate in an increasingly complex world.

Without getting too bogged down in the theory of Forms of Mind, the basic premise in Garvey Berger’s book is that there are four distinct Forms of Mind and adult development progresses from one form to another (but not without considerable effort). These forms of mind represent qualitatively different ways of making sense of the world in adulthood. The aim of Growth Edge coaching is to work with leaders in moving from one form of mind to the next. Garvey Berger emphasises that as leaders develop, they become more skilled at considering multiple perspectives while taking responsibility for their own actions. They are able to move between the various “balconies” of a situation and still maintain a strong internal compass that gives them their true north when it comes to making decisions.

It’s not a “page-turner” of a book but there are ample insights to make it a valuable read for anyone who is involved in developing managers and leaders.