Russ Volckmann

For there to be effective coaching with integral leaders, it follows that we need to develop an approach that is, itself, integral. Much of the writing that is about Integral Leadership, including the coaching tips, in The Integral Leadership Review is intended to guide leaders who wish to take an integral approach to their work, organizations and development. It is also intended to be the basis for integral coaching with these leaders.

In addition to the approach offered here, there are several others who are bringing and integral perspective to working with leaders. One is Fred Koffman, whose work I hope to feature here at some point in the future. Another is Mike Jay of B\Coach systems, Mike’s work includes integration of Susann Cook-Greuter’s Leadership Development Profile and a growing integration of the work of Clair Graves and Spiral Dynamics so that his very clear emphasis is on development as fundamental to business and executive coaching.

A third person that is working in this field is James Flaherty of New Ventures West. Recently, I received a copy of a short article in which he introduces the work he is doing on integral coaching. I understand he is writing a book on the subject. While acknowledging his debt to the work of Ken Wilber, he indicates that his approach adds a great deal of material that is drawn from his own work. I found the following to be an interesting summary of what I think most of us involved in thinking about and evolving integral coaching and Integral Leadership need to consider.

“The point of Integral Coaching is to have a comprehensive enough, adaptable enough approach and structure so that we can understand our clients and their worlds (in all their immense variety and particulars) sufficiently to design coaching programs that shift their developmental level. Integral coaching is developmental in intent. The products of coaching that we have long spoken of (a client who’s excellent, self-generating and self-correcting) are brought about by the client having a deeper, more comprehensive, embodied (in their nervous system), socialized (in their conversations and relationships), individuated (in their own thoughts and feelings) sense of themselves and their place in the world. The central notion is that unless we always attend to the individual, social, relational and environmental aspects of a client’s life-world (that’s the Quadrant model), then that which we leave unattended will undo (sometimes immediately, sometimes gradually) whatever progress, gain, or shift has occurred for the client (regardless of the topic of coaching). Maybe what we as coaches have considered to be lack of commitment by the client or client resistance or client back-sliding were really manifestations of our lacking this integral approach in our coaching.”

James Flaherty, Integral Coaching
–A Primer or Coaching Keeps Getting Better, More Realistic and Challenging

I hope we will learn more from James Flaherty about his ideas of integral coaching. Given his earlier work and his reputation (someone described him as the most integral person they had ever met–and they have met Ken Wilber and many others in the integral community) I am sure we can expect a very valuable contribution in his book and teaching.

I do have some areas worthy of additional exploration. I am not clear that the four quadrants are individual, social, relational and environmental. Social and relational, for example, seem like the same thing to me. And the distinction between internal (implicit) and external (explicit) seems to be missing. I would also suggest that in coaching it is more important that the clients understand themselves than that we understand them.

What are your notions of integral coaching? Perhaps we can share them with the readers of this review.