Notes From the Field: Integral Coaching in London – 8 October 2008

Stuart Black

Stuart BlackGenerously hosted by Indra in her home, it was literally full to the rafters at the London integral Circle’s October meeting as people sat on the staircase that leads to the roof.

Joanne Hunt and Laura Devine, the founders of Integral Coaching®, the only approach to coaching that has been accredited by the Integral Institute, were in London as part of a trip to Europe in anticipation of the beginning of their 1st European training programme, beginning in Amsterdam in May 2009.

Laura and Joanne originally met as neighbours who discovered they had a common fascination with development (their own and others), and had the same books on their bookshelves. Over a 10 year + period, pre-dating the Integral Institute, they have developed their coaching school, with a goal to “alleviate suffering”, and a coaching methodology based on Integral Theory.

At the meeting Joanne and Laura shared some of the presentation they made at the recent Integral Theory Conference in Pleasant Hill, C A:“Integral Coaching: An AQAL Constellation Methodology for Horizontal Health and Vertical Development”.

Joanne and Laura struck me with their playfulness, humour and the way they work so well together (they are now married). They seemed genuinely surprised (almost slightly embarrased) by how their approach is taking the Integral world by storm.

The January 2009 Integral Journal will be dedicated to Integral Coaching, and until then official publication of the approach seems to be effectively embargoed. These notes are taken from my own notes during the meeting.

Other approaches to coaching, Joanne and Laura suggested, do not take an ‘All Quadrant’ view, which limits their effectiveness. I noted their characterisations of the philosophies of single-quadrant schools as :

  • UL: all change comes from within the client
  • UR: by creating new actions (‘New doings’) and making the client accountable to the coach, change will occur
  • LL: it is the dialogue between coach and client that creates new meaning and transformation
  • LR: development is a predictable with a pre-defined model/path

Integral Coaching® addresses all Quadrants simultaneously with the following elements :

  • Awareness of how the client sees things (UL)
  • Exercises for the client to experience new ‘doings’ and ‘seeings’ (UR)
  • Creation of new insights through conversation with the coach (LL)
  • A clear coaching program (LR)

As these characterisations of ‘other’ coaching schools vs. the Integral school were described I found myself reflecting on my own coaching education. I was trained in John Whitmore’s school, which is based on psychosynthesis and a transpersonal view of individual potential, which might suggest an UL-bias.

It also feels vital to me as a coach to have an understanding of the practical actions a coach can take and can encourage a client to take in order to progress (UR), the importance of the quality of dialogue & relationship between coach & client (LL) and to have an understanding of the developmental models that a client may be passing through (LR). In other words, the need for an integral approach to coaching could seem rather ‘obvious’, but just because one can recognise the components doesn’t mean the model isn’t valuable.

I have no doubt that by drawing attention to the different elements of effective coaching that the Quadrants represent, the Integral Coaching representation makes it more likely that coaches understand the importance of, and therefore are able to take, an ‘integral’ and more effective approach.

They described their approach as Include & Transcend:

  • Include is  about recognising the strengths of the client’s Current Way Of Being  (CWOB) and building the `muscles’ to facilitate horizontal health;
  • Transcend is about using Metaphors to facilitate vertical growth from the CWOB to the NWOB (New Way Of Being) by objectifying the  CWOB.

They have a systematic approach to understanding a client’s ‘Lens’ on the world, which requires the coach to be able to ‘look as’ the client as well as ‘look at’ the client.

To understand the client’s ‘Lens’, or Current Way of Being they create an ‘AQAL Constellation’ for the client and their coaching topic (the thing the client wants to change). This includes a view of the client’s ‘psychograph’ (Cognitive, Internal, Emotional, Spiritual, Somatic, Moral lines of development), typical states and Typologies (including gender & Enneagram). The Typology assessment also includes a new concept, that of a Quadrant Orientation Typology—see below.

The school trains coaches to be able to develop this understanding of a new client, together with their coaching topic within a 2 hour session, so that they are then able to offer the client a metaphor for their CWOB. Coaches then can work with clients to help them to better understanding their CWOB through the metaphor, recognise current strengths in a respectful way and use this new awareness to build on these strengths (so developing horizontal health). Joanne and Laura referred to Robert Kegan’s description of the metaphor’s strength as a ‘soft clay’ interpretation that the client can ‘reshape’ into something more fitting to him/her.

By raising awareness, the client can objectify their CWOB (using Robert Kegan’s Subject-Object Theory their CWOB moves from an ‘I’ to an ‘It’), and the client now has the freedom to choose this way of being or to choose an alternative, the NWOB (so facilitating vertical growth), which is also described using metaphor. Example metaphors were the ‘Way of the Angel’ as a CWOB, which became the ‘Dancer’ as a NWOB for a client who wanted to work on more effective delegation.

The Quadrant Orientation Typology is recognised by Ken as a new contribution to Integral Theory, and my understanding of it is: we all have a favoured Quadrant perspective that we use to enter the other quadrants from. The concept certainly seemed to resonate with the people in the room and Laura and Joanne shared some examples of how different Types would interpret other Types.

It’s certainly an interesting take on the Quadrants that I found easier to understand than Myers-Briggs (being only 4 of them), but I did find myself wondering how valid these Typologies were over time and how they might relate to developmental stages? The LL Orientation emphasises the importance of belonging and shared values (Diplomat?); the UR Orientation emphasises action (Achiever?).

I figured I’m probably a LR, I like to understand how the big picture fits together, and that gives me the motivation and energy to take action, much to the consternation of my girlfriend who I’d say was an UR and can get frustrated by my need to understand before acting! Apparently there are a lot of LRs in the integral world, which would make sense to me.

In a conversation during the break I was interested to understand from Laura that they created the coaching model ‘drains-up’ from Integral Theory rather than try to understand what  the best coaches do and then map/explain it using the Integral model.

Joanne and Laura are both long-time Zen practitioners and this influence on their school seems strong. We didn’t really get into this because of time constraints, but I felt the real difference that this school provides isn’t the coaches way of doing (which itself is a breakthrough), but the coaches way of being. The training is intended to develop the coaches ability to be present to the client at such a deep level that the metaphors arise within the coaches from feeling, rather than cognition.

They were quite candid that some of the senior Integral people going through the program were finding this aspect of the program quite challenging—whilst many integralists ‘got it’ cognitively, developing the intuition to work at this deeper level was more than a mental task.

The school is seen by the founders as more of a martial art with its own lineage rather than a curriculum to be franchised. This is emphasised by the fact that acceptance on the initial module is by registration, whilst acceptance on the later module is by application.

I came away with the conclusion that although many of the elements are not new, this is a leading-edge transpersonal approach to coaching whose genius is two-fold:

  1. A very elegant integration of various concepts using Integral Theory to create an approach that is both highly effective and highly teachable—the use of the Integral model helps to educate trainee coaches about not only what works but also why it works.
  2. The recognition that the approach is only as effective as the coaches’ way of being as well as their way of doing, the development of which is embedded into the program.

I believe the best coaches embody a lot of the principles they  described (sometimes intuitively without cognitively understanding `why’ their approach works), but I don’t think there is another model out there that pulls all the dimensions together in such a comprehensive way and offers a map of why these approaches work. I’m sure there is more than one approach to integral coaching, but equally sure that none covers all basis as comprehensively as that offered by Integral Coaching®.

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Stuart Black, BSc (Eng), CEng, MSc, is a Consultant and Chartered Engineer with over 20 years experience delivering business transformation.

Stuart is the Managing Consultant for XCD Services Limited, providing change services and coaching to organisations and individuals. Stuart is particularly interested in the practical application of integral theory to understand, model, communicate and reproduce ‘best practise’, using an ‘Integral Survey’ methodology that XCD Services has developed.

Stuart has a BSc degree in Electronic Engineering from Kin’s College London, a masters’ degree in Coaching & Development from Portsmouth Business School in association with Performance Consultants, and is accredited as a Master Practitioner by the European Mentoring and Coaching Council.

Contact: Tel. + 44 (0) 7796 266 377.