Lines of development

This is an extract from my book “Developmental Coaching”

‘What a man can be, he must be. This need we call self-actualisation.’ Abraham Maslow

 When we talk of people’s individual development, one fact becomes evident – we are all different. People can, therefore, develop differing abilities, and very often people become increasingly evolved within their own particular field. For instance, some people have natural abilities that automatically put a focus on one area of life, eg:

A politician may have brilliant communication and leadership qualities.

A sportsman may have great physical ability.

A businessman may be adept at making money.

An academic lecturer may have a highly developed mind.

A parent may have a high level of care and intuition.

It may be in many different fields of life that we come across particularly evolved people. The interesting observation is that you can have people who are highly developed in more than one of these areas – you don’t have to focus only on one in order to develop. And if someone is looking at moving on in life, they will do best by looking at the different areas. For the coach, looking to help the coachee choose between the many roads they could take, it is necessary to know which roads they are already on (and yourself, as coach, will have already developed in many different ways and so will understand the principle), eg:

If a person has developed across a number of areas, they may have the ability:

to grasp something intellectually (cognitive)

talk about what they do (interpersonal skills)

have good body awareness whilst doing it, and

make a contribution to the social system that they live in

However, there is no personal development or coaching path that fits all, so rest assured that the coachees you come across will be about to choose their own direction. But if you want to know more about the coachee’s profile (or focus of development within themselves), you can do so by looking at what is being done in their life and how these activities relate to different developmental lines (or ways that people can develop their abilities). So, this is really the essence of this session. Through knowing more about the coachee’s life you are able to map out which lines they are developed in and developing.

As Howard Gardner (author of “Multiple Intelligences”) says: “As human beings we have many different ways of representing meaning, many kinds of intelligence. Since the beginning of the last century, psychologists have spoken about a single intelligence that can be measured by an IQ test; my research has defined 8 or 9 human intelligences (linguistic; logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalist, possibly an existential intelligence). We all possess these several intelligences, but no two of us – not even identical twins – possess the same profile of intelligences at the same moment.”

Next let us look at the lines before returning to their application as a coach; I have chosen nine different developmental lines to show how different people may develop in particular areas:

cognitive – includes the ability to ‘grasp’ within the areas of mathematical thinking, logic, reasoning etc

affect (emotional) – this relates to feelings

interpersonal skills – this is the ability to relate to others (which, together with affect, are similar to ‘emotional intelligence’)

financial – relates to abilities to provide for needs

worldview – the appreciation of the differences between cultural perceptions

meditative awareness – concentration and awareness practices

natural talent and ability – this may include linguistic capability, musical talent etc

physiological development – sporting ability, physical awareness etc

moral development – includes level of concern for others

Let me use a metaphor which helps to explain the theory – imagine that a person is visually represented as a glass jar. In the jar are a collection of glass beads that represent the level of ability in a particular area. If the beads are stacked high, the level of ability is high – stacked low and it is low. Each level has a colour associated with it. From childhood, the colours progress to show the increase in development. But, and tying directly into the lines of development, not everyone develops in the same way. Some people will focus on different lines, lines which take them to a different level. So we have a jar that not only has beads of different colours, but also shows the focus of the person’s development.

The contents of the jar represent, therefore, two main concepts. The first is the person’s focus of development on the particular lines, eg moral, physiological, emotional etc. Secondly, it shows the person’s level of development in any particular line (see the next chapter for more explanation). The best way to understand this is to look at a few examples. In the examples, we use the following abbreviations:

C = Cognitive

A = Affect

I = Interpersonal

M = Moral development

T = Talent

Example 1

This situation represents someone who has developed a good level in four lines of development, eg cognitive, affect, interpersonal and a particular talent such as music (from which they earn their living):



Without one of these aspects, they may find themselves lacking the ability to be completely balanced. Or, looking at it another way, instead of balance we could see it show up as a challenge in life. There are almost certainly people that wouldn’t be balanced in this way:

Example 2

This situation represents an academic who has the ability to know, but the inability to express their emotions (and feel challenged on a personal level when someone challenges what they believe in):


(Indicates a low level of affect (emotional capability).

It is even possible that someone who is great at communicating could be made up in a way that leads to a lack a sense of moral concern (M).

Emotional Quotient and lines of development

As a coach, you will have noticed over the past 20 years our culture has become less concerned with a person’s Intelligence Quotient (IQ) as a gauge of their ability, becoming more concerned with their Emotional Quotient (EQ). At best, this will redress the balance because IQ was a prominent benchmark of abilities for a long time. In the same way though, focusing on any of these aspects alone may exclude other areas. Emotional intelligence consists of lines of development – primarily two lines, interpersonal and intrapersonal. In other words, it relates to how someone manages themselves and how they relate to those around them. But there is a danger in the EQ approach when it is taken out of context – that this is an aspect of individual development, not the whole focus of development. For example, if someone only focused on emotional development, they may gain a very high intuitive level of understanding, but fail to develop the higher level of cognitive ability that is needed by an evolving culture. They may, for instance, have a low level of technical skill that prevents them from attaining superb results at work. Similarly, they may become spiritually focused without a thorough grounding in interpersonal skills – this is often seen in the slightly woolly practitioner that cannot integrate into mainstream society.

Another very common condition in our culture is when people have a low affect or emotional level. When turning our attention to emotional intelligence, it is vital that we appreciate what low affect actually means in relation to emotions. For the coachee in particular, support in this area is one of the most useful things you may ever offer. We should never underestimate the role of a coach in helping people “get over” the feelings that are holding them back. This is not just changing the feeling but actually enabling the coachee to contextualise the feeling into a larger frame. This larger frame being a more comprehensive level of consciousness.

‘Affect’ then concerns your feelings and how you feel about how other people see you (so emotional stability would be included within this). It is a phenomenally important line of development as it also influences other lines. For example, people who are regularly challenged in a conversation may find that their “self-esteem” diminishes. In turn, they may fail to maintain their rational thinking – it is as if their sense of self is dependent on validation from the outside. When validation is no longer there, they experience a considerable challenge in keeping themselves together.


This situation represents someone who would benefit from working on their interpersonal skills and their level of affect.


They may still be developing other lines of development (W).

The question then is how does this show up when you are coaching? It will be through examples. Emotional intelligence, and development of this, will come about when the person is able to relate at a higher level interpersonally with others, e.g. not just nodding a head to a neighbour, but developing a relationship with them; or not just focusing on communicating a task for an employee, but developing that individual; and changing their internal structure in relation to their emotions, e.g. having the ability to ‘see through’ emotions instead of ‘being’ these emotional states.

The same goes for the relationship with other people – if a person is in a relationship and finding it hard to communicate while feeling ‘bad’ about the situation, their lines of interpersonal and affect (emotions) could be developed. If you see someone experiencing difficulty in any area, it is a sign that they can benefit from developing a line of development.

Applications in coaching

With the understanding that personal development breaks down into many different developmental lines, as coaches and as people, we can notice which lines need more work once we know what to look out for. When working with the coachee, notice carefully which lines of development seem to be developed more and which seem to be developed less – or not at all. As you build up a map of the coachee, you will become more aware of which lines contain their greatest abilities.

In a practical sense, if someone is very abrupt with people, they may need to work on interpersonal skills. We all know this but may not think of it as a “line” as we may see it as a “behaviour”, an “attitude” or possibly even a “skill”. Someone else may have a low emotional ability and feel that people are manipulating them and so need to improve this area. Some others may have a limited cognitive capacity and find problem solving difficult, and so on.

This is an excellent starting place to understand how coaching can help develop the individual. Development of the coachee is largely about them taking a number of lines of development to higher levels, with your support. Whatever natural abilities or talents people have, they will have already started to move further along that ability/talent line. As long as there is progress, life can begin to feel less of a struggle as each stage of development solves a problem. And as coach, it is important to note that whatever the coachee previously struggled with was simply a reflection that a line of development needed further work, and that with further development, the coachee will increase their abilties in that area. In my experience, without developing a certain line, it is likely that little will change.  As coach, you can point the coachee in the direction of the appropriate vehicle or learning experience that can help their development. Sometimes, however, this will not be comfortable for the individual. But your role, in this way more like a mentor, is not to help them feel more comfortable, it is to help them develop. This is where I see Developmental Coaching in this form becoming slightly different to many coaching approaches, especially when we want to “keep the client happy!” Instead, we need to have a strong enough relationship to allow a real stretch to occur.

Interactions with others

I have begun to explain, from the viewpoint of the individual, how their lines of development make them who they are, but now let’s turn our attention to development lines more in relation to interactions with other people. In this way, as coach, you will be able to help the coachee understand where other people are coming from and what they can do accordingly with what they find in front of them.

Lines of development in terms of finance and relationships, worldview or moral stance must take into account other people. A focus, for example, on understanding different perspectives of worldview will expand the reach of this line even further. Remember, people’s abilities vary according to the level of development of their particular lines. So some interactions may seem challenging for a person who has a high level of interpersonal skills (but lower cognitive abilities), while another person who lacks interpersonal skills may be confused why someone can’t understand something that requires high cognitive ability. All of this is determined by a level of development.







To state it another way: when someone has a particular internal structure, that structure determines the type of interaction the person has. When the person’s capacity in a developmental line increases, their interactions will change. In terms of the above example, one person may be unable to express their great understanding in a way that the other person can relate to, while the other may be more concerned about building the relationship rather than increasing the depth of cognitive understanding.

Through understanding this we can accept and be more tolerant in our moment-to-moment interactions with others. When we can intimately recognise where people ‘are at’, we can change our responses. The benefit being: these responses are often more suitable than those we would use if we did not appreciate what was going on.

At this point in the session with the coachee I am usually scribbling away these models in a notepad. Through engagement with the concept we are able to flesh out the content of their lives. They will often jump in straightaway with examples how this approach maps onto their own lives and relationships. This is great as it allows the coachee to really begin to internalise two aspects of Developmental Coaching. The first being the “lines”; the second being a gentle way into the “levels”, as we will discuss more in later sessions.


Lines of development and the 4 Quadrants model

To recap, anything you do in your life requires a certain level of development in certain lines of development – this may be interpersonal, cognitive etc. There is, however, another aspect to introduce alongside the lines of development, i.e. ‘balance’.

Certain activities in life focus on different areas more than others. Ken Wilber’s 4 Quadrant model focuses around four main areas, i.e. mind, body (brain and behaviour), culture and social. It is suggested that all four of these areas must be considered, and within them a person can focus their time and effort. As I have stressed, my intention is to introduce the concept of “integral” in a very gentle fashion and not take it to its true depths in this book. With this freedom to use aspects of the approach, we can really focus on key developments.

When people focus their energies in any one area, the necessary developmental lines can be seen. For example, every time you have a conversation with someone else, you use your existing level of development in the interpersonal, affect, cognitive lines etc. So your ability within life’s activities is determined by your development in whatever areas are crucial. Many personal development (or communication skills) courses are a blend of several skill sets that are relevant to many lines of development, e.g. improving relationships (e.g. rapport and appreciating individual differences), intrapersonal skills (self mastery), affect (e.g. ‘having’ emotions as opposed to being ‘had’ by them) and talents (learning to learn from others can help people to increase a line of development that is a ‘talent’, e.g. playing an instrument). Also, depending on the level of development of the person teaching it on the personal development course, it may even enable people to increase their moral development, e.g. through mentoring.

The following table shows a selection of activities in life’s four main areas*. As coach, you may want to consider if the coachee is active in any similar activities. This, once again, will help you build a greater understanding of the coachee and where they are at.




Exploration of feelings



Weight training

Hatha Yoga, Dance

Tai Chi

Things you do


Community service

Political service

Team activities

System within which money is made, eg Capitalist, Marxist, solely agricultural

And then operating within it

* Even though one activity has been emphasised in each area, all activities need four quadrants to exist.


So why is this important? It is said that if a person uses a balanced approach, they will develop their abilities far more than in any other way. Following a balanced approach, a person can use development lines to simultaneously develop their cognitive and affect (emotional) abilities, their interpersonal skills, their effect in the community and their place in the social system (e.g. influencing the business world). Let’s us finally consider the idea of “talent”. Whether the talent is sport, art or writing (to name but a few), the role of the coach is to aid the talent’s fruition. It is likely that the coach has an enlightened self-interest in seeing this talent displayed well – and this self-interest takes the form of a warm glow of satisfaction that the coach has helped someone achieve their true potential. As a Developmental Coach, it is your role to see when talent is being wasted – it could be within the context of a business role as much as any other. If someone has the ability to listen and appreciate their colleagues’ needs but remain at a low management level, even this could be seen as a wasted talent. But it could be anything from music to teaching to sport.

In the world of sport, with one coachee, I recall looking at ensuring the coachee was able to support themselves financially during the initial period of their talent’s development. This was a growth of the coachee’s ‘business’ line. Eventually this line of development developed further so that the coachee was able to take their talent further into the business world. Not only were they competing to a high level of athletics, but also going into organisations and giving premium rate speeches on their personal experiences A good result for all!