Keeping up with industry best practices is an essential part of a coach's professional development. However, learning as a way of being goes beyond attending the right annual conferences or getting the most popular subscriptions. It is more about digging deeper into the "why"; not only for oneself but also for others.
Guess who can be the most resistant population to learning? Highly educated and successful consultants! That's right. The people telling Fortune 500's what to do. The notion is that sustained success creates a false sense of reality, which then makes constructive feedback or learning something outside of what is already known almost unbearable.
Digging beyond the usual storytelling successful people tell themselves is part of the advanced practice of "triple loop" coaching. Even if the story is one of grandeur, it is important to differentiate if it is a "rut" or "river" dialogue in the coachee's head. A false sense of importance could be just as damaging and potentially derailing to the individual's future as the opposite. Triple loop coaching works with a client's "impossible future" rather than their current perceived reality which involves single and double loop questioning about real situations and existing mental models.
Asking questions like "what is really on your mind" in an effort to turn old and repetitive stories (ruts) into fresh and future oriented ones (rivers) is what can propel an already successful professional to their optimal self by increasing learning about the self. This is the true value of keeping a learner's mindset throughout all stages of a career path. Rather than quickening the pace to the end goal, this type of triple loop coaching enhances each stage of the learner's process.
Finding new strategies to keep an ever-evolving open-mind is the challenge with sustaining a true learning approach in day to day reality. A coach can help each individual uncover their unique triggers that cause them to close the portal to this constant flow of exploration and openness that is difficult to maintain due to biases, blind-spots and blocks. They key is to really take-on a beginner's mind, learn how to learn and at all costs, avoid the phrase "this is how I've always done it"!
1. Argyris, Chris. (1991). Teaching Smart People How to Learn. Harvard Business Review, 69(3), 99-109.
2. Hargrove, Robert A. (2008). Masterful coaching: Inspire an "impossible future" while producing extraordinary leaders and extraordinary results (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA; Chapter 7: Masterful Coaching is Transformational: Triple loop learning.
3. Vaill, P. (1996). Chapter 2 excerpt. In Learning as a way of being: Strategies for survival in a world of permanent white water (pp. 56-86). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass