Besides happening in four interconnected dimensions, even when we focus on one of them (the “I”), the individual development proceeds along several paths at different rates. For instance, a person might grow above average rate in cognitive capabilities, however having slow moral development.
Picture 2 illustrates a hypothetic individual’s growth at a certain point.
As an example of lines, recall a recent moment where you felt challenged, such as having difficulty to do a presentation to an audience or trying some new task that required a high level of specific technical knowledge. Now bring into your awareness an area where you are often more capable than your colleagues, such as seeing multiple perspectives at the same time on some complex situation, or having ability to express feelings.
Thinking about your personal examples of areas where you are more or less developed than people around you shows that each person has a unique combination of lines at various levels of development.
Levels of Development
Stages or Levels of Development represent the milestones of the development journey. Once you reach a state you can access the capacities of that stage (greater intelligence, more embracing love, higher ethical callings and greater awareness).
The individual values and the stages in each line of development naturally drive people to consider the need to change.
Application to Coaching
The integral theory can be very helpful to widen the perspective on which the coaching process happens from end-to-end, and leverage the success of the change process.
An essential part of the coaching process is the self-discovery, where the clients explore their internal contexts that rely in the Upper-left quadrant (values, beliefs, desires, etc.), and the behaviors associated to them (Upper-right). In parallel, he/she explores the life that they currently have, things that are working well and things that are not, goals, obstacles to achievement, how their own attitude contribute to all this.
An integral approach allows for complete coaching inquiry, and also for a wider understanding of client responses. The client’s answers come from their unique way of framing the world, which is highly influenced by the client’s cultural and social environments (Lower-left and Lower right quadrants).
Besides the self-awareness, the ultimate goal of a coaching process is the focus on planning and taking actions, next steps. This focus relies on the Upper-right quadrant dimension, and includes behavioral change that will lead to goal achievement.
The available amount of energy and how to make this step effective is a challenge. The close interconnection between the Upper-right and Upper-left is essential to overcome the complexity associated with trying new behaviors. What beliefs are behind the behavior? What limiting beliefs need to be understood and overcome?
Similarly, the client may have struggled with behavioral change in his or her way of engaging in relationships (Lower-left quadrant) or social system (Lower-right quadrant), and will be unlikely to make true progress unless those collective dimensions are considered and explored.
Sometimes the client’s goals may be misaligned with the collective environment where he or she is inserted. For instance, if the client’s values are not aligned with the values of the company where he or she works, it is likely that the client’s professional goals are not compatible with that environment, and one important action needed might be to look for another job.
In summary, if the coaching approach misses the perspective of one or more quadrants, it might be partial. Enabling new actions (Upper-right) without considering the impact on the social environment where the client lives (Lower-right), on the relationships (Lower-left), or on his or her values and consciousness (Upper-left) puts at risk the success of change and its sustainability.
Besides using the four quadrants approach to ensure a whole perspective on any aspect addressed in the coaching process, the concept of lines and levels of development are also useful tools.
Different lines identify distinct aspects of self-development. By being aware of this growth dynamics, a coach can better support the customer on identifying which lines are strong and which ones are in need of attention, leveraging the more developed ones (strengths) to assist in addressing the limits of the less developed ones (weaknesses). Getting awareness of these aspects provides the individual with valuable information about the realities of a given situation, and helps him/her align those realities for optimal improvement.
The usage of Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory in the coaching process may be an effective way to enable a powerful approach to self-development.
As more perspectives are considered through the overall process, the self-discovery may provide richer awareness. The definition of actions may be more realistic and their execution more effective, since they will consider the influence from and the impact on the client’s environment.
The identification of the lines and levels of development can also contribute positively, enlightening the client’s strengths that can be used with coaching techniques, as tools to leverage the client’s empowerment and achievements.
The Integral Vision, Ken Wilber – Shambala Publications, 2007.
A Theory of Everything, Ken Wilber – Shambala Publications, 2000.
Integral Psychology, Ken Wilber – Shambala Publications, 2000.
The Integral Operating System, Ken Wilber – February 19th, 2012
Transcending and including our current way of being, Joanne Hunt – Journal of Integral Theory and Practice – Vol. 4, No. 1
What’s Integral about Leadership? A Reflection on Leadership and Integral Theory, Jonathan Reams – Integral Review 1, 2005
An exploration of integral leadership, Susan Wright –‐ John F. Kennedy University – 2008
Level 5 Leadership, Maureen Metcalf – Article for Integral Leadership Review
Developing Leadership Capacity: Searching for the Integral, Mary Key, Ph.D. & Robin Wood, Ph.D.