Focus on mindset and behavior


The development approach explained here is to a large degree based on the constructive-developmental ideas shaped by Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey (Harvard University, Adult Learning and Professional Development).

This theory and subsequent practice focuses on building deep self-awareness, the development of new mindset and behaviours, plus strategies to sustain the behaviour change. It all works together to identify the root cause of the challenge and dig beneath the surface to tackle out-of-awareness thinking, feeling and doing.

This approach is not ‘the only show in town’ that is available to support the realization of adaptive adult learning goals. I am also not ‘ideological’ about it. At the same time, it is one that I have come to appreciate for its client centeredness:

  • From the start, the coachee / team is in the driver’s seat of his or her development journey.
  • In addition to being client-centric, the approach is structured yet flexible, profound yet simple, and it has a broad span of application.
  • It allows for weaving in elements that are important to the client such as: specific leadership skills, career development, strategic initiatives, and organisational development.
  • Finally, my clients have noticed that there is no risk of an unhelpful dependency on a coach who ‘does his/her magic’. Or one who ‘picks you up from where he/she ended the previous session’. The client actually does very important work in between development sessions.

Getting started


Clearly, trust and the motivation to collaborate in a development trajectory is a pre-requisite. We can get started by getting to know each other, to learn more about the challenges and to determine the fit between the coachee (or team) needs and the coach / approach.

A coaching engagement then typically follows three steps:

  • Goal setting
  • Diagnosis using the Immunity to Change™ Map and/or a Growth Edge Interview
  • On-the-job experiments using the related coaching arc Overturning Immunity to Change’ and Growth Edge Coaching practices

The client and I will work together in 90’ development sessions (the number to be agreed upon up front). Each of these sessions results in a tailored assignment that the client will carry out and send back to the coach prior to the next session.

We can meet face-to-face or through a virtual meeting.

Click here for background on this constructive-developmental approach that I use.

Goal setting

Getting clarity on an individual’s or team’s adaptive improvement goal is an important first step. I help them verbalise their ‘One Big Thing’ they would like to get better at. A good improvement goal to work with, usually meets criteria such as these:

  • The goal gives you a persistent experience of some frustration, dilemma, or quandary
  • The goal is perfectly designed to cause you to feel the limits of your current way of knowing
  • The goal is in some sphere of leadership that you seriously care about and want to find the courage to overcome

Where appropriate, I can include The Leadership Circle Profile™ in this step (as well as in the next steps).


The next step after goal setting is to identify the root cause of why you don’t consistently do what you need to. You can do that by creating an Immunity to Change ™ map. Kegan and Lahey designed this mapping process so people can see that even when we have a sincere commitment to move in a new direction, we simultaneously and unconsciously hold competing commitments that lead us to act inconsistently. These two forces work in opposite direction with the net effect of no change. We display an immunity to change.

We talk about an ‘immune system’ because we believe that the mind, like the body, has an immune system.
It is an invisible, ceaseless dynamic that exists solely to protect us. However, our immune system can get us in trouble when it makes mistakes. Then it ‘protects’ us from the very awareness we need in order to thrive.


Building on the Goal setting and subsequent Diagnosis of the Immunity to Change, “ the Overturning the Immunity to Change” Coaching Arc is a series of up to nine interrelated exercises. They help an individual or team to gradually deepen their understanding of their current mindset and its limitation. By observing and testing the assumptions that sustain the psychological immune system, the client can overturn the immune system. In doing so they make making room for the new behaviours and transform their mindset to meet the new demands. All exercises are designed around the daily practice and life of the client, making real transformation on the job possible. In all cases we will be selective and creative here, combining them with other resources, and never losing sight of working on both mindset and behaviour. After the cycle, the client will often be able to continue to perform tests in other areas without the coach, which supports a sustainable impact and on-going development.