Changing on the Job: Developing Leaders for a Complex World 1st Edition, Kindle Edition
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"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.
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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 --This text refers to the hardcover edition.
About the Author
- File Size : 1623 KB
- Publication Date : November 30, 2011
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print Length : 222 pages
- Publisher : Stanford Business Books; 1st Edition (November 30, 2011)
- Language: : English
- ASIN : B005Z24QS0
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #278,856 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Changing on the Job opens in the first two chapters with a description of that adult cognitive development is, outlining the intellectual frame of reference that is used throughout the book. This is a model of self-complexity borrowed from the works of many authors, most notably using Robert Kegan’s Subject-Object model and labeling of the stages of mind. It gives detailed descriptions of constructive development theory and of what the stages of complexity are.
Chapter Three provides a beginner’s guide to assess where our own form of mind is, which can be quite practical as a way to explore it with the help of exercises that a reader can experiment by herself. Chapters 4, 5, and 6, show us in very practical ways how we can apply this approach to adult development in our work at three increasingly expanding levels: coaching an individual; creating small learning environments for teams; professional development throughout the organization.
Chapter Four applies developmental theory to coaching and provides an insight into how to coach people with different forms of mind, what are the demands for both a coach and a coachee, and what are the best fits between the two if we are to coach with a client’s development in mind.
Chapter Five tackles the issue of professional learning programs: while they are rolled out with a desire to change the way a leader can make sense of things, they often fail. Berger provides a fresh perspective in her distinction between informational and transformational learning, and gives great advice on how to design them: she suggests that we make these learning environments psychologically spacious (making room for people with different forms of mind to take something out of it) and geared towards changing a participant’s form of mind.
Chapter Six advocates for (and gives tips towards) cultivating habits of the mind that can last even when a coaching intervention or a learning program have ended (and we have seen how often all we have learned defaults back to our super-busy normality). These habits of mind, the book argues, are inherently developmental, and are teachable: asking different questions, taking multiple perspectives, and seeing the whole systems, are recommended as core practices and hands-on advice is offered.
Chapter Seven gives advice on how to cultivate leadership around the three core areas of Vision, People, and Task. As leaders move up the ladder and their jobs become more challenging, chances are they are more likely feel “over their heads” (as Kegan would say) and overwhelmed by the complexity they face. This chapter helps in broadening the perspective of a leader in time-frame, stakeholder view, and in a more subtle appreciation of the non-linearity of consequences of our actions.
Chapter Eight begins with a compelling case for why we should create spaces where people can grow on their job, and outlines three areas where everyone (not just the leaders) can grow bigger in their meaning-making capacity. By growing curiosity (that is, broadening the range and depth of our questions); recognizing our nature as sense-makers; and by thinking together (where the author gives good advice on how to evolve the quality of our meetings).
::The Key Added Value (i.e., who should read it and why)::
At the heart of most leadership books and coaching interventions there is, in my view, a fundamental inconsistency: while they focus on “development”, only few can clearly articulate what this development is about, and fewer still can give us a useful map of the territory. If we are developing people, *from where to where* are we stewarding their journeys? While I believe it’s fair to critique any theory that runs the risk of putting people along a ladder or hierarchy of their mental capacity, adult development theory is perhaps one of the best frames of reference that we have at the moment (if not the best). Berger herself, also, is quite cautious in her approach presenting the theory not as a “theory of everything” but as a useful map to understand an otherwise messy and more uncertain territory. This book turns out to be extremely useful in making sense of the increased complexity of our world and gives practical tips to embrace this messiness with powerful tools of the mind that are at meta-level which I credit to be more useful when compared to the latest software, or management idea, or technological trend to make sense of our working environment.
Employers can read this book and consider themselves as sense-makers, and assess what are the demands that their difficult job is making upon them, and what demands are they making on their own employees which might be over their current capacities. Employers have a vested interest in increasing their employees’ effectiveness at taking upon themselves complex, unknown challenges with more autonomy while recognizing the interdependence with others. The speed of our learning must accelerate to cognize our complex world in better ways, and this book provides ideas on how to cultivate these adaptive capacities to “see” more of the systems we are in, and of our own thinking about them.
Coaches *must* read this book, for the simple reason that coaching has an inherently developmental vocation and yet there is relatively little conversation about this approach in the coaching community. Coaches are then left with the unspoken assumption that they are helping their clients to develop, without a useful guide of the territory, and without a developmental awareness of i) where the client is and what she needs; ii) where the coach is; and iii) whether the fit can actually work. As Otto Laske outlined in much greater detail (but without the gift of an enjoyable-to-read writing style) there is real danger in coaching someone without being aware of the developmental demands that the client is making on the coach.
Facilitators and educators will find the book extremely useful, too. Case in point: for a few years I served as one of the pedagogy faculty of an MSc in leadership for sustainability, and we have always had a developmental aspiration in the design and delivery of our program, knowing that it is an education geared towards the transformation of the participants’ minds. In this field, Mezirow and others have contributed a great deal, and yet this book offers a new perspective (again with an idea of what and towards where we transform) and provides useful advice with practical tips for pedagogy design.
Everyone else who is not an employer, a leader, a coach, or an educator, might still benefit from reading this book, for its insights go across the organizational boundaries and most of them, when taken to heart and practiced, can be inherently developmental.
::Pending questions, doubts, critiques::
I would definitely give five stars to the book: the added value in the fields of coaching, professional development, and leadership practices that we can bring into our daily work is too evident to be dismissed. With that in mind, I do have a few lingering questions and doubts.
The starting assumption of the book goes more or less like this: leaders with more complex forms of mind are better able to tackle the levels of complexity of the challenges that today’s uncertain world is giving us. While it is true that leaders with broader forms of mind act differently (see Barrett Brown’s PhD dissertation, and Bill Torbert’s Action Inquiry) there isn’t much recent research that I am aware of that clearly states the benefits and the added value of having a leader with X form of mind acting more effectively at facing a given problem Y. This is an important omission, in my view, because the book is working with a hypothesis that should be more clearly stated (or could let me know where I can find more research if that link has been studied elsewhere).
My second question is about yet another assumption –which in a way is a deepening of the first question, above. I have been reading about cognitive development theories for a while now, both from the integral community and from the (more academically sound, more reputable) community of Robert Kegan and his scholars. There is an unspoken optimism that if enough of our leaders grew a broader form of mind, the world would tilt towards a more sustainable, more compassionate planet. While I’d love to dream that it would be true, I want to hold that theory lightly as an assumption (read the very provocative “Assumption vs Assertion” piece by Susanne Cook-Greuter). Is it really true? How could we prove it true/not true?
My last doubt is perhaps more directly connected to the book’s own merit (since the previous two seem to permeate the conversation on adult development across the board). I would have loved to see more references to other, already existing approaches. The book could have more intentionally linked to other management traditions such as the work of the vast systems thinking school on uncovering assumptions, paradigms, mental models, etc. Likewise, in Chapter Five it could have linked to the existing work of transformative education of Mezirow and others. It would have made it easier to draw more links and explicitly place itself, highlighting even with a sharper clarity its unique added value. Which, I want to remind once again, is quite outstanding.
One of the great benefits of translating the book is that I have been forced to read and re-read it---and the more I read, the more I find many layers of jewels for me to keep exploring.
I have long been a fan of Robert Kegan’s adult development theory, which is a subject-object interview based analysis on how people, through their use of discourse, make sense of their world. I have always found this theory to be more useful to me than other adult development theories.
However, this wonderful subject –object theory was long kept in the academic world as a research tool until Jennifer Garvey Berger bought it to life, not only with easier to understand language, but with actionable methods and tools that she has developed together with her colleagues. The result is an incredibly useful and elegant adult development tool. So, for me, taking this academic theory and exploring and working with it for many years and nurturing it into something practical that we can use, fully earns 5 stars.
The first 3 chapters give a vivid illustration of the theory of what subject-object sense-making means. It is literally a repackaging of Kegan’s ideas, but in a way that is extremely accessible for everyone. In these chapters, Jennifer talks about the growing complexity of peoples thought structures and how stages of development impact everyday behavior. She stresses that it is particularly important to have a bigger mental capacity when faced with increasingly complex situations. It’s not about the acquisition of hard skills, like learning to use big data for our advantage, but rather, it’s about a slow and need-to-be-nurtured developmental side of our human brain. Part II “Helping Others to Grow,” is definitely a gem for all helping professionals, from corporate leaders to coaches and parents. The language Berger chooses to use is focused on coaches and training professionals rather than on researchers and academics.
As a Chinese person, I can see the importance of Adult Development Theory as a guiding theory to help people in our community.
Perhaps one of the most unexpected thing about Changing on the Job is how exceptionally poetic it is. I was a bit surprised that this ‘theory-based’ book, could be written in such a beautiful way—a style that is great for readers but often not for a serious translator.
Changing on the Job is a brilliant book that brings theory to life with an easy to understand writing style; I also sensed a great heart with a big mind in this little book. You might wonder “is this book too good to be true?” Happily, the answer to that question is “no.” The book just works.
The author's balance between theory and practical narrative, and particularly her careful balance to avoid the breathless utopianism so often associated with developmental theories in leadership, made it a wonderful read.
I teach and study management, leadership, and organizational design in the nonprofit arts and culture fields. And I’m already adapting and applying this book into my teaching and research.
I highly recommend this book to those who want a new lens and toolset to bring to their own development in the professional world, or to the effort to help others develop to their full potential.
Top reviews from other countries
As a cognitive-developmental coach this book reads as if it was written for me, as it gives a fantastic insight into approaches which work with clients operating at different levels. However, the book is cleverly constructed to offer plenty of practical insight into the theory to those who are taking a more personal interest as well as those who are looking to use the theory to help others develop. One of the best coaching books on my (groaning) bookshelf.