Using Developmental Stages in Coaching and Personal Development out of people
We have recently had the
opportunity to assist one of South Africa’s coaches in
conducting her research for her Masters’ degree in coaching.
She is evaluating the impact of using Erik Erikson and
Daniel Levinson’s developmental stage theories in coaching
conversations. The stages relating to adult development are
Each of the above stages has identified typical life
challenges or psychological tasks that people need to
address and achieve at various ages within their lives. Take
a look at the questions for each stage. On reflection,
people will notice that these challenges and tasks have been
present in certain periods of their lives; how much more
useful could it have been had there been some prior
knowledge of what was typical to expect and achieve at
certain ages in life?
Carol has found it extremely valuable to reflect on these
stages when coaching her clients, and to share them with her
clients in order to enhance their awareness and
understanding, and to help create new ways of being and
doing. One client has decided to embark on a complete career
change at the age of 32 (refer to Levinson’s stage 3);
another client (early 50’s) is exploring a new role in more
of a mentoring capacity at work (refer to Erikson’s stage
7); while yet another client (40) is proactively setting
himself up for a career move in 5 years’ time, which will be
meaningful to him in the second half of his life (refer to
Levinson’s stage 5).
Also coming out of these Developmental Stages theories is a
really useful ‘Basic Strengths’ coaching and self-coaching
tool. In order to develop into a resourceful and fulfilled
human being, the following eight basic (and critical)
strengths need to be developed and nurtured:
the belief that our desires will be satisfied;
persistent feelings of confidence,
determination to exercise freedom of choice.
the courage to envision and pursue goals.
the exertion of skill and intelligence in
pursuing and completing tasks.
outcome of a cohesive identity; includes loyalty,
sincerity, genuineness and
a sense of duty.
mutual devotion to shared identity, mutual fusion of
oneself to other.
broad concern for others; manifested in the need to
teach, not only to help
others, but also to fulfil one’s
a type of detachment over life, culminating in the
ability to participate in heritage.
An awareness of the critical need of these strengths can be
enormously useful to coaches in helping clients identify and
develop the strengths they need to effect change in their
lives. If a particular strength is missing, or needs further
developing, this can be a key leverage point in a coaching
conversation. So too can leaders and managers apply this
summary of strengths to themselves and to members of their
teams through coaching and personal development.
In his article, ‘Executive Growth Along the Adult
Development Curve’, Steven Axelrod
identifies some of the ‘soft skills’ required by effective
executives. These include reflective and strategic thinking;
tolerance of ambiguity and paradox; ability to listen and
appreciate different points of view; prioritising and
leading broad efforts, etc. Steven describes the coach’s
role with executives as, “helping them ‘ride the wave’ of
development from early to middle adulthood. Some are natural
born surfers, but others need help spotting the wave and
Whether you are a coach, mentor, leader, manager or a member
of a team, reflecting on and applying the Developmental
Stage theories and principles will assist you in making
sense and taking ownership of your life’s challenges and