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Changing on the Job: Developing Leaders for a Complex World Hardcover – November 30, 2011

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Changing on the Job: Developing Leaders for a Complex World + Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization (Leadership for the Common Good) + In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life
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Editorial Reviews

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"Helping leaders grow to meet the challenges of today's business environment is a project that has been taken up by many writers. Our world is complex and it presents many risks and threats, and it gives rise to behavior that is aggressive or defensive, self-interested, and frequently destructive. The question is whether it is possible for people to develop beyond such behavior. Berger's book offers a practical answer by providing a developmental framework for learning and an approach to guiding people towards more empowering forms of thinking . . . The key question is: how do people develop from one stage of thinking to the next? How do they change their view of the world and their way of thinking? The great value of Berger's book is that this is the central focus. Having presented examples of situations where different modes of thinking lead to conflict, she walks the reader through processes that can help to bring the differences in thinking to the surface, and thereby make room for new approaches. And perhaps this is the most important work that needs to be done in workplaces."—Glenn Martin, Journal of Spirituality, Leadership, and Management


"A significant contribution towards re-imagining how we go about developing leaders. Jennifer invites leaders and those of us engaged in developing leaders to be more precise in our support and to think anew about the role that organizational context plays. This book calls on us to become more capable, agile, and better aligned with the increasing complexity of a global economy, while showing us how to stitch together an approach to our work that is fit for this task."—Sally DeWitt Miller, Director, Leadership Development Group, Microsoft Corporation


"People have been asking for years, 'Where can I go for a rich, practical, and incisive guide to the relationship between adult-developmental theory and coaching?' Now there is an answer. You are holding it, and when you start reading it, it will hold you."—Robert Kegan, Meehan Professor of Adult Learning and Professional Development, Harvard University Graduate School of Education, author of In Over Our Heads, and co-author of Immunity to Change


"What are the three hardest things in the world to do? How about: 1) transform the culture you're part of; 2) transform a meeting or conversation you're in; and 3) transform your own mind? Want to learn how? A great way to begin is to read Jennifer Garvey Berger's Changing on the Job and begin looking at your own work/life through the lenses she provides."—Bill Torbert, Boston College Leadership Professor Emeritus and Director of Research, Harthill Consulting Ltd.


"In increasingly complex times, it really matters that more people are able to think in complex ways. Jennifer Garvey Berger shows how we can change and grow, as adults and leaders, to better handle complexity in all aspects of our lives and work. The ideas in this book are critically important and Jennifer presents them as a compelling story."—Robyn Baker, CEO, New Zealand Council for Educational Research
"Destined to become a classic in the field, this is quite simply the best book on leadership and adult development out there. In addition to offering the clearest explication of adult development theory, this book breaks much needed ground in applying the deep insights of theory to practice, and in offering numerous suggestions for working with leaders to expand and transform their ability to cope with complexity. Managers, HR professionals, coaches and others involved in helping leaders grow to meet the demands of our day will greatly benefit from reading this book. So will their clients!"—William H. Hodgetts, Ed.D., Vice President of Enterprise Talent, Fidelity Investments
"Buckle up—your world is about to change. Garvey Berger's groundbreaking work at the intersection of adult development, coaching, leadership development, and organizational change have transformed my thinking, practice, and impact. Here, Jennifer makes her astonishing insights readily available to practitioners, managers, and theorists alike—just in time for the needs of our complex world."—Mark Leach, Management Assistance Group

About the Author

Jennifer Garvey Berger uses her expertise in complexity of mind to support leaders around the world through coaching and leadership development programs. She is a Partner in Cultivating Leadership, a leadership development consultancy. For more information, please visit www.garveyberger.com.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford Business Books (November 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080477823X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804778237
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #661,315 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

As a teacher, writer, researcher, and coach, Jennifer Garvey Berger helps individuals and teams to transform themselves and their organizations, to see bigger perspectives, to think in more creative ways, and to collaborate to come up with collective ideas. With her partners at Cultivating Leadership, Jennifer runs transformational leadership programs and supports organizations to use their leaders (and leadership development) to encourage and support whole-of-organization change. Jennifer has worked with executives in a wildly diverse set of organizations like Microsoft, Fidelity Investments, the New Zealand Department of Conservation, and Lion, helping leaders increase their own capacity to think well about problems and people.

Jennifer blogs about leadership development for the Center for Public Leadership at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and at becomealeader.org. She has published articles and books on leadership, coaching, adult development, and individual and organisational change. She also teaches coaches and consultants about these ideas at universities all over the world. Jennifer has a masters and a doctorate from Harvard University.

Formerly an associate professor at George Mason University in Virginia, Jennifer learned about deep change in 2006 when she turned down the tenure offer and moved to New Zealand with her husband, two kids, and the family dog. Now she lives on the beach, raises hens in the back yard, and often looks forward to the writing she can do in a fourteen-hour plane ride. Eschewing work/life balance for a life that feels like fun across the board, Jennifer loves that her life is a blend of watching the sun set over the Tasman sea and supporting leaders in the public and private sector around the world.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Steven Michael Carpenter on October 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jennifer Garvey Berger has a clear and distinct voice. The larger discourse that this book tackles -- complexity, constructive developmentalism (CD), and their application to leadership -- speaks to a wide range of debate amongst a wider range of readers. The author leverages her experience in the constructive development world in a way that those who are not experts will be educated. She uses the context of CD theory to lay the groundwork for applying the concepts of complexity, coaching, and change in today's work environment.

The book is well organized into three parts; Growing complexity, where she sets the context and backstory; Helping others grow, where she addresses how individuals grow differently and how to work within that individualism; and Changing on the job, where she applies the developmental theories to leadership within the workplace and within the structure of organizations.

Jennifer's style is straight-forward and easy to comprehend. If you are a novice to CD theory, she will intrigue your interest. If you are graduate student or CD practitioner, you will find new insight about applications and developments in change and leadership theory. The most compelling aspect of her book for me has been her ability to make sense of complex theory in a practical, pragmatic application. Most specifically, Jennifer asks the most important question that should be asked of any theory, and applies that to her work, "So what?" Jennifer is critical of CD theory, of her own application of the theory to the workplace, and it is this critical view that makes here work more valuable in that it is practical and applicable.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By mnomalley on January 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I don't know where to start. I got so much out of this thoughtful, beautifully written book. Importantly, it provides a comprehensive definition of what it means to be a transformational leader (referred to as self-transforming in the book): in the way they think, take action, and interact with others. Additionally, I appreciated the balanced treatment in that Garvey-Berger doesn't assume that a high level of thought necessarily translates into better leadership since, like everyone, even transformational leaders have their blindspots and have to deal with people who are dissimilar -- and not all goes smoothly. Above all else, the author provides leaders and coaches with guidance on how to develop and function more fully and expansively on the job, in meetings, and in any other endeavor where people are called upon to work harmoniously and productively together. This is a one-of-a-kind book that is a prototype for what business writing should be. Michael O'Malley, author of Leading with Kindness; The Wisdom of Bees; and Every Leader is an Artist (forthcoming).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By factoid junkie on July 11, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The majority of leadership development still focuses on competence and seldom advances to higher order ways of thinking and being a leader. Many development cycles contain a series of activities or instructional periods (both in-house or staged at a university) that provide overviews of system-thinking. I know many a mid to senior level leader who can use terms like "systemic difficulties," ""unintended consequences," or "strategic ambiguity" without demonstrating how to use this level of thinking or communicating on the job.

The author provides us a practical and helpful look at how to coach against a familiar, but well developed theory of mind (mental stages) that helps individuals actually think in complex terms, not just use the terms conversationally. I believe the leadership development community is better at coaching individuals to move from self-authoring to self-transforming than we are at teaching them (in an instructional manner). Current teaching models and normal maturation allow many to reach self-authoring, but the paucity of available self-transforming exemplars means many plateau at self-authoring.

The author encourages a focus on listening to a manager's symbolic lines of reasoning (metaphor and story) as a way to map mental boundaries. Helping leaders communicate complexity through better stories and metaphor is the traveling companion to helping them think and calculate strategically.

A terrific book for those genuinely interested in helping maturing managers up their game to a more complex plane.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Messy Miracles on May 22, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm an experienced executive and team coach who's become interested in learning more about building leadership capacity for our more complex and VUCA world. This is one of the most in depth guides I've come across that's helping me learn and apply the concepts of the stages of adult development to my actual coaching clients. I took my time reading it and it's very content-rich, but not too complex to understand. I particularly like the way Ms Garvey Berger focused on supporting the 'growth edge' by helping clients discover it, then in Chapter 4 provides specific tools/coaching interventions to expand capacity. If you are really interested In leadership and adult development, this book is a good choice.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Terni Paolo on July 26, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was given the book "Changing on the Job" by a friend and a very esteemed colleague of mine. He is very excited about the ideas presented in this book.

Usually I read science-based psychology books, and then I do my best to apply what I learn to help my coaching clients. Even though developing leaders is what I do, I am not a fan of "leadership development" books per se, given the questionable premises of many of them. So please keep this bias of mine into account when reading the following review.

In the book I found something good, something bad, and a lot of gray.

Let's start with the bad:

- the whole book is built around Robert Kegan's theory of adult development. The theory identifies 4 kinds of "minds": the Self-Sovereign Mind, the Socialized Mind, the Self-Authored Mind and the Self-Transforming Mind. These constructs have yet to be scientifically validated, even though some efforts have been made in that direction. There are dozens of systems out there which categorize individuals as belonging to "types", either set or on a development continuum. They all make some intuitive sense. But none is supported by a substantial body of research and they are, for the most part, mutually exclusive. Contrast this approach to what science does, e.g. the decades of research that led to our fragile current understanding of personality (NEO-PI-R).

- the idea of set stages of development. It is telling that the author makes specific references to Piaget's work. Piaget's schema has been seriously challenged in the past few years by a three-pronged assault from evolutionary psychology, neuroscience and a careful analysis of Piaget's experimental methods - which were found to be lacking, at best.
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