Vertical Development Coaching: The Art of Making the Invisible Visible Coaching Model


A Coaching Model By Nele De Peuter, Vertical Development Coach, BELGIUM

Vertical Development Coaching Model Nele De Peuter

Vertical Development

Every now and then something happens in your life that changes who you are and how you think. Major life events or crises such as starting a first job, becoming a parent, divorce, burnout, loss of a loved one,…  create shifts in who we are.

Does that sound familiar?

It is a universal story of development that we all experience throughout our lives. At different times we make progress, start to plateau, get stuck, and then have a breakthrough.

The first researcher to notice this was the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget. In a fascinating series of experiments, he demonstrated how children’s thinking abilities develop through different stages as they grow. Piaget observed that with each new stage, children are able to think in more complex and sophisticated ways. This means they become increasingly adept at tackling challenging problems.

For a long time, conventional wisdom assumed that these stages of development would stop once you reach adulthood. After all, you are a grown-up, right?

We now know this isn’t true.

Contemporary theorists Robert Kegan, Susanne Cook-Greuter, and Bill Torbert have extensively studied the ways adults grow and evolve, even after they are chronologically mature or ‘grown-up.’ Working on their own streams of research, but coming up with similar results, these three mapped the distinct stages through which adults can grow, if the conditions are right. Yet, it is not the same as in children; adults go through the stages differently.

Whereas children move rapidly through the stages, an adult’s pace of development slows dramatically, almost to the point of plateauing. We spend most of our adult lives between two stages. In addition, while a child’s development appears to happen automatically, it is not so in adults.

Research into adult development tells us that there are broadly two ways development happens. First, life does it to you. Difficult life experiences can have significant developmental benefits. And secondly, you deliberately engage in your own development and invite others to support you in the process.

Like ever-expanding rings of a tree, these stages offer people the chance to grow into more extensive and more complex versions of themselves while still holding on to the inner rings or earlier stages through which they’ve developed. Thus we call it a ‘transcend and include’ model, much like nested Russian dolls that are successively bigger but still include successively tinier versions of themselves.

Evolving through these stages of mental development is called vertical development. It’s about changing your mindset, transforming the way you think, and affecting what you do and how you behave. Vertical development means rising to a higher level of thinking. It requires you to look at your beliefs and assumptions with a magnifying glass and look at the world entirely differently. That does not always come easy. Yet, it is gratifying and rewarding to engage in your development for yourself, your environment, and the world.

Vertical development enables you to understand and hold multiple insights and viewpoints. It gives you greater adaptability, more self-awareness, and a greater chance for good relationships and efficient cooperation with others. You become wiser and leave an (often unconscious) mindset that you may have been stuck in for a long time.

Deciding to engage deliberately in your development is challenging and stretching, but also incredibly rewarding. Just like working on your fitness creates discomfort, deliberately engaging in your development is uncomfortable, but the benefits and rewards make it worthwhile.

Leadership Development Profile: Mapping Your Own Stage of Development and Illuminating Your Blind Spots

Vertical Development is the process of learning to see the world through new eyes and changing the interpretations and meanings we ascribe to life experience. It is by reflection, awareness-raising, and personal insight.

It can lead you to changes in perspective and an increased capacity to see, understand, empathize, and be in stronger contact with yourself, others, and the world.

The LDP maps your current journey and gives you an idea of how you make meaning, and which action logic you act and think from.

Action logic is a form of meaning-making and relates to our meaning-making capacities that determine how we approach, understand, and respond to the world and our experiences.

Everything we do, in every context in which we interact, is shaped by the meaning we are making in each moment. We, humans, are ‘incessant storytellers’. Meaning-making is a core human faculty that influences how we make sense of our experiences, how we make decisions about the world, and therefore almost everything we do. This is vertical development, distinct from horizontal development, which expands knowledge and skills but at the same level of thinking and logic.

The Leadership Development Profile proposes 9 distinct forms of meaning-making on a continuous developmental spectrum.

Your unique Leadership Development Profile allows you to discover and fully understand where you are now in your developmental journey and what your most active Action logic is, shaping your current thinking and behavior.

How Vertical Developmental Coaching Works

Every coaching package is tailored to your needs, but in general, the process looks something like this:

Discovery Session

In this first session, we’re having a first glance at what brings you to coaching, your challenges, and who you want to be in this chapter of your life. We’ll explore whether now is the right time for you to invest in coaching and whether I’m the right coach for you.

LDP Debrief

During the debrief, you will get more insight into your most active Action Logic and how these show up in your different roles and shape your current everyday life. You will discover the expansiveness and richness of your current meaning-making, its limitations, as well as your leading growth edges.

This conversation will provide you with a deeper insight into what Vertical Development really looks and feels like, and what it is that actually grows and changes.

An LDP Coaching Debrief is not just a feedback session. It is a developmental conversation, one-on-one, in which your Developmental Inquiry gets going.

The debrief is where your developmental inquiry starts. I will help you weave together the unique data from your LDP report and your current situation and challenges. Together we will choose the development practices tailored just for you.

Vertical Development in Action

Blending your developmental inquiry process into your everyday life and work is key. The process is specifically designed to help you develop and transform your meaning-making. New opportunities will emerge creating for you a space to experiment in.

We will design your developmental inquiry to your needs. The process will help you develop and transform your meaning-making. Development is fluid. The LDP will show you how your developmental needs, dilemmas, and practice can evolve as you grow. It’s not an extra activity but will be integrated into your work and life. The process will grow and evolve just as you do.

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This model was first published on the author’s website:
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