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Using the 'Autodidact' Subject-Object Interview in coaching

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1 Using the 'Autodidact' Subject-Object Interview in coaching
Flo van Diemen van Thor


3 SOI Academic research tool rooted in constructive- developmental theory of psychology Psychology – not coaching! 'assessment procedure' – Lahey et al Measures an individual's mental complexity Uses 10 index cards with key words/phrases Trained interviewer and second scorer Recorded, transcribed and analysed using a scoring 'card'



6 Constructive Developmental Theory
What forms of meaning making can be discerned What IS the experience of meaning-making constructive What are the costs to the individual Why do people shift between systems? development

7 How the SOI works (1) Seeks to uncover the meaning-making system at work in the individual Meaning-making = “what really happens in the personal construction of interpersonal and intrapersonal experiencing” and “self- constituted apprehensions of the truth” (Lahey et al., p1)

8 How the SOI works (2) The SOI maps what the interviewee can take a perspective on (object to them) and what remains beyond their field of vision (subject to) It is easy to confuse story content with structure in the interview: Content are words Structure is the syntax, interpreting and ordering the words to have meaning

9 Kegan's Orders of Mind Stage Embedded in Stage 1: Impulsive Mind
Family Stage 2: Imperial Mind School and family Stage 3: Socialised Mind One-to-one reciprocal relationships Stage 4: Self-Authoring Mind Group involvement in career and/or public life Stage 5: Self-Transforming Mind Self-surrender to intimacy in love and work

10 Subject-object relations
Stage Key Characteristics Subject Object Stage 1: Impulsive Mind Impulses, perceptions, social perceptions Reflexes (sensory) Stage 2: Imperial Mind Point of view, enduring dispositions, needs, preferences Stage 3: Socialised Mind Abstractions, mutuality, inner states, self-consciousness Stage 4: Self-Authoring Mind Relations between abstractions (abstract system), multiple-role consciousness, self-regulation Stage 5: Self-Transforming Mind Dialectical interpenetration of self and other, inter-individuation Abstract system, multiple-role consciousness, self-regulation


12 Stages and inbetween Five stages, of which three in adulthood
“Midzones” (Berger, 2012) or “disequilibrial developmental positions” (Lahey et al., 2011) in between Kegan is most interested in the midzones – this is where the movement is Four positions between two stages – 21 positions in total

13 Stages and midzones - scoring

14 SOI = psychometric British Psychological Society (BPS) says that a psychometric test is one that is based on psychological theory Method of application is not as important as validity and reliability Test must be standardised – can be applied and scored consistently by different practitioners Assessment: “a serious and meaningful intent and which, if misused, may result in personal loss or psychological distress” – ITC (International Test Commission)

15 “the SOI offers a window into someone's meaning-making system”
Why does this matter? “the SOI offers a window into someone's meaning-making system” (Berger, 2012, p.50) “a given system of meaning organises our thinking, feeling and acting over a wide range of human functioning” (Kegan, 1980, p.374)

16 Why SOI in (developmental) coaching?
Measuring mental complexity is useful: Coachee: finding out about blind spots – where the things are that keep them from moving on Coach: those blind spots are the playing field – the edge of meaning (Berger, 2004): getting the shift (the shift represents the holy grail) The SOI approach appears to be suitable for coaching: it's an interview, not a test But: why measure anything? Do we need all that detail?

17 The 'problem' with the SOI
It takes a 3-day intensive workshop to learn the basics It takes months of practice runs to hone the skill And then: use it or lose it! Considerable knowledge of the theory is required It takes a second scorer to complete the procedure – takes time, no instant results the procedure is labour intensive This makes the SOI expensive to use in coaching – pay-off? It's the relative unknown in the psychometrics market Also: human interviewer prone to limitations and error Second scorer will not know about missed opportunities in the interview Much depends on rapport with the interviewee Very little data in the guide on stage 5 – it's the stage we know least about

18 Part II The project

19 The research project Teaching myself the SOI with just the guide and Berger and Kegan's works Try it out on some brave people See what happens

20 The research question What does it take to master the SOI on your own?
Can it be self-taught to an acceptable, professional degree? How do we know we've reached that level? Ethics? What would be the benefits to coachee and coach?

21 Implications for the profession
Is the autodidact SOI (ASOI) acceptable as a psychometric? What would it add to a coach's practice? On ethics: how is inviting a client to do the ASOI different from doing the MBTI for ex.? How to contract on it? When to do the ASOI? Can the ASOI be considered an assessment at all?

22 Methodology: Heuristic Inquiry
Concepts and processes: Identify with the focus of the inquiry Self-dialogue Tacit Knowing Intuition Indwelling Focussing Internal Frame of Reference (adapted from Hiles, 2002)

23 Data generation, collection and analysis
Initial Engagement: discovery of the research question Immersion: intense engagement with the question Incubation: withdrawal and detachment from intense engagement with the question Illumination: new insights emerge through tacit knowing as a result of detachment Explication: bringing new insights into consciousness and reflection Creative Synthesis: integration of data, resulting in new insights and knowledge Validation of the heuristic research by checking meaning and sharing with others (Hiles, 2002)

24 Limitations of the HI Timeframe – always too short, poss. impacts on validity Biased – limited by the principal's own ability (in my case my own mental complexity on top of limits to my patience, discipline, resilience, intelligence, academic rigour...) BUT: still replicable

25 The ASOI 4 weeks of solid immersion in the guide
Reflection journal kept throughout – insights came at unpredictable times Unable to read anything else at that time Wrote mini-guide – 6-7 pages of notes Index card with questions for interview Index card with ASOI 'Big Five' for interview

26 Participants Coachees Age, gender Managerial level Coaching ‘status’
Bill 34, male Mid-level ‘Coaching-on-the-job’ Ted 30, Male Junior level Sally 50s, female Senior level Pre-coaching Alex 48, female Lewis 46, male Post coaching Coaches Coach type Internal/external Diane 43, female Executive coach External Emma Lead coach; supervisor Internal Andy 50, male Developmental coach

27 ASOI - words Angry Sad Anxious/Nervous Success Important to me
Strong Stand Torn Moved/Touched Lost Something Change

28 Mini-guide to the ASOI (1)
‘Big Five’: (Adapted from Berger, 2012)  Authority Conflict Responsibility Perspective taking Assumptions about the world

29 Mini-guide to the ASOI (2)
ASOI 'Four Steps‘ Step 1: identify a Big Five theme Step 2: ask questions to formulate a hypothesis Step 3: move to the upper edge Step 4: ask the same question in a different way (Adapted from Berger, 2012)

30 Mini-guide to the ASOI (3)
ASOI Analysis 'Three Steps‘ Step 1: What structural evidence leads to these hypotheses? Step 2: What would narrow the range of plausible hypotheses? Step 3: On what grounds are plausible counter-hypotheses rejected?

31 Interview 2 Part 1 – about the experience itself
1. What was your experience of the interview? 2. What thoughts or insights did you have after the interview? 3. What did you perceive to be the real value for you of the interview to be? 4. Thinking of coaching specifically, what are your thoughts on the value or use of this interview in a coaching context? 5. How might the interview help kick start a coaching relationship? 6. What might the value be of doing the interview at the end of a coaching relationship? 7. How might you carry forwards what you have discovered during the interview? 8. How did the interview differ from coaching conversations? 9. Would you recommend the interview to other people?

32 Interview 2 Part 2 – findings
10. What would you like to know about the ‘results’ of the interview? 11. What concerns do you have about this interview – ethics for example? Did or does anything about the interview worry you? 12. How did you experience the probing questions? Uncomfortable? Can you see a scenario in which this might be wholly inappropriate or even dangerous? 13. What was my role in the interview? How would you describe what I did in the interview? 14. How much did I tell you about the interview beforehand – was this sufficiently detailed? Could more detail have put you off? How well was the introduction positioned? 15. If I had positioned it differently, how would this have influenced the experience?

33 Interview 2 Part 3 – coaches only
16. How would you describe your own coaching practice? 17. What is the value from your professional point of view of this interview? 18. Would you expect a practitioner to be fully trained in conducting the SOI? 19. Let’s assume the SOI could be part of a coach’s offer. How would you position the SOI to (potential) coachees? 20. What would you use the SOI for yourself in your own practice, assuming for the sake of this interview that you would? 21. What could a SOI feedback report for a coachee look like? 22. Considering the SOI is very labour-intensive, that would translate into cost. What are your thoughts on that?

34 Learning on the job Heuristic approach means you can learn along the way and adjust how your research accordingly You also don't have to 'hide' anything from co- researchers The only thing I kept until interview 2 was an explanation about it being an assessment of sorts, as I feared it might push them to 'perform' – more about this later, as it turned out to be a major theme

35 Part III Findings

36 Findings No participants were harmed during the research...
... in fact, consistent with the literature they said they enjoyed the experience 'cathartic' 'questions coming from the left field' 'I enjoyed the surprises I got along the way'

37 ASOI vs coaching conversation
Andy: ASOI is developmental coaching situation Diane: 'similarity in level of curiosity I got from you' Alex: ‘made me think about the coaching I am about to start’ Sally: ‘I now think the coaching may be more useful than I thought up to now’

38 ASOI vs coaching conversation
ASOI is not limited to work – crosses into personal life Broader: also focuses on emotions; not solutions focused (Bill) Level of challenge – Lewis found coaching more challenging

39 Concerns from co-participants
This is a psychometric assessment – you need to make that clear beforehand This will influence participants' perception of it Could 'get to the nub of things so quickly it almost becomes raw' Its non-directive appearance is can be misleading – the interviewer has an agenda Ultimately the assessment passes judgment

40 Concerns from co-participants
Diane, interview 2: 'It is only now that I realise that it is a directive technique. I think I now understand the importance of feedback, based on the interview, because this is quite a reflective process. Without the feedback I think it would be quite unethical, because this is a diagnostic'

41 Themes for coaching Timing the ASOI in the intervention itself
Contracting Treat it as a psychometric: without the feedback it remains a nice, possibly cathartic conversation Which coachee benefits? Coach duty of care Coach-coachee relationship both helps and hinders SOI does not feature in the mainstream coaching toolbox

42 Part IV A model

43 Using the ASOI in coaching

44 'Live' ASOI Listening out for the Big Five
Score sheet with three steps Range of hypotheses Scoring live in the interview

45 'Live' ASOI ‘Big Five’ Range of hypotheses Notes Socialised
Socialised Self-Authoring Self-Transforming What is the structural evidence? What other stage could it be? What is the most likely stage? Authority Conflict Perspective-taking Responsibility Assumptions

46 Thank you! Q&A


48 Selected references Berger, J. G. and Atkins, P. (2009) ‘Mapping complexity of mind: using the subject-Object interview in coaching’. In: Coaching: an International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, Vol. 2 No. 1 pp Berger, J.G. (2010) 'Using the Subject-Object Interview to Promote and Assess Self-Authorship' In: Baxter Magolda, M.B., Creamer, E.G. and Meszaros, P.S. (eds.) Refining Understanding of the Development and Assessment of Self-Authorship. Exploring the concept across cultures. Sterling, VA: Stylus. Berger, J. G. (2012) Changing on the Job. Developing Leaders for a Complex World. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Kegan, R. (1980) 'Making Meaning: The Constructive-Developmental Approach to Persons and Practice'. The Personnel and Guidance Journal, Vol. 58, No. 5, pp Kegan, R. (1982) The evolving self: problem and process in human development. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press Kegan, R. (1994) In over our heads. The mental demands of modern life. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. Kegan, R. (2013a) ‘The Further Reaches of Adult Development: Thoughts on the ‘Self-Transforming’ Mind’. Lecture at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, London, 23rd May Audio podcast: transforming-mind [accessed 13th September 2013] Lahey, L; Souvaine, E; Kegan, R; Goodman, R and Felix, S, (2011) A guide to the subject-object interview. Its administration and interpretation. Cambridge Massachusetts: Minds at Work Press

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