Three days is quite a long time to spend at a conference, stepping away from all the routines of daily life and immersing yourself in people, ideas, and possibilities. I was a bit tentative about going to this conference even though it was on in Sydney, right at home but duty prevailed and off I went. I am very glad I did because I had a fabulous time at the conference. There were many highlights, but for me it was a workshop I attended on the Immunity to Change program developed by Dr Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey. I have most of Kegan’s books, and Immunity to Change has sat on the shelf for at least a couple of years, despite the fact that I loved reading ‘The Evolving Self.’ Now Immunity to Change is back at the top of my reading list.
The Immunity to Change workshop was the longest of the conference at 3 hours, facilitated by Alison Cameron. It ran parallel to a number of other sessions, but nonetheless the room was soon full to capacity. Given it is their stock-in-trade, you would expect coaches to be very self aware. So when we were asked to write down a goal – zap – as quick as a flash pens met paper. Then were asked to write down a few more, and this time we were asked to examine our goals through the filter of four questions:
- It’s true for you.
- It implicates you.
- There is significant room for improvement
- And it is important to you.
For many people, their first goal was substituted. Next, came a short period of deep reflection on behaviours – those we were doing and those we were not doing which prevented attainment of that goal. So far, it was quite straight forward. Then, things got a bit more hard hitting. What were the hidden competing interests that were preventing us from achieving that goal? We were being invited to confront them, to write them down, to discuss them with a partner in the room. In Kegan terms, this was a process of making our subjective thoughts the object of our consideration. It was quite confronting and people were generally looking rather more serious at this point. Then we came to examine our ‘big assumption’ – what was the BIG ASSUMPTION which upon which these competing interests were founded.
Now a room full of coaches should not have great difficulty with this process, but by the time we all wrote down that big assumption, many of the participants in the room were in tears, myself included. Women and men. Something very powerful was at work. It was this big assumption that was our immunity to change – the reason that our best efforts fail.
It is two days since the conference finished. There is a lot to absorb and reflect on. Developmental coaching is not for the faint hearted. It can be arduous and painful, but there are riches at the end.