Changing on the Job | Jennifer Garvey Berger

Summary of: Changing on the Job: Developing Leaders for a Complex World
By: Jennifer Garvey Berger


Embark on a transformative learning journey as we dive into ‘Changing on the Job: Developing Leaders for a Complex World’ by Jennifer Garvey Berger. The book explores the importance of personal growth and stages of adult development in tackling the challenges and complexities of modern leadership. Discover the three main stages of adult development – ‘self-sovereign,’ ‘socialized,’ and ‘self-authored’ – and learn how mastering each stage can enhance your leadership effectiveness. Benefitting both young professionals and seasoned leaders, this summary offers valuable insights on cultivating self-awareness, managing emotions, and embracing diverse perspectives. Prepare yourself for a thought-provoking exploration of how to become a more adaptive, mindful, and influential leader in an ever-changing world.

Frameworks for Advancement

As workplaces become more complex and uncertain, it’s crucial for leaders to have developmental maturity to navigate difficult decisions. Adults continue to grow and learn, and consciously advancing through the three stages of adult development can expand leadership skills. By considering reliable indicators, individuals and teams can approach issues with more experience and deliberate practice. Organizations should prioritize growth and development instead of solely focusing on productivity. The book encourages readers to think of workplaces as places of growth, and not just for delivering goods.

Stages of Adult Development

Harvard psychologist Robert Kegan has identified three key stages of adult development that people go through. Starting from the self-sovereign stage, where perspectives remain narrow and rigid, the journey progresses to the socialized stage, where societal norms come into play and a broader perspective is attained. Only a few adults make it to the self-authored stage, where decision-making is grounded in personal values. The ultimate goal is the self-transforming stage, where a person’s perspectives are balanced, and complexity is managed with curiosity and equanimity. The stages of adult development have immense significance in the modern workplace, where organizations need self-authored leaders and contributors who are adept in handling nuanced situations and diverse perspectives. Cultivating curiosity, learning, and asking questions that matter can further accelerate growth and development, leading to a more inclusive and productive work environment.

Stages of Self-Development

Explore the stages of self-development and discover your own with the help of tools like the Subject-Object Interview.

The book encourages readers to assess their stage of development and the stages of leaders they want to develop to determine what steps they need to take to keep growing. One way to do this is to reflect on an important situation, decision, challenge, or opportunity in your life and ask a series of “what’s the worst thing that might happen” questions until you have enough information to assess your developmental stage.

The book introduces two stages of development: the socialized stage and the self-authored stage. People in the socialized stage center their answers on disappointing others and worrying about their opinions. On the other hand, those in the self-authored stage revolve their answers around their feelings, ambitions, and standards.

The book recommends practicing this with others using tools like the “Subject-Object Interview” (SOI). The SOI involves asking worthwhile questions and listening to the answers with a curious mindset and with the expectation that you won’t understand anything the person you are interviewing says at first. This mindset helps you hear the subtleties in their stories and answers and seek the framework of their thinking: their decisions, how they describe conflicts, their perspectives, and their assumptions.

The book emphasizes that the self-authored form of mind is what adults are supposed to look like. Getting there involves understanding how you made certain decisions, how you weighed and balanced your options, whether you blame others or take responsibility, if you see other people’s perspectives, and how you describe your choices.

Overall, the book provides a path for self-development and emphasizes the importance of assessing your developmental stage.

Coaching Leaders through Growth Stages

This summary highlights the importance of coaching leaders according to their stage of adult development. The author identifies four stages and suggests coaching methods for each stage, emphasizing the need to understand and adapt to each leader’s perspective. The summary provides guidelines for coaching leaders who are at the self-sovereign, socialized, self-authored, and self-transforming stages of development, offering tips for promoting personal and professional growth, including developing the habit of taking others’ perspectives. Finally, the summary stresses the importance of aligning professional development to learners’ stages of adult development and tailoring content to suit their needs.

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