How coaching helps people to ‘do human better’

Published On: 18 October 2022|

“Doing Human Better” is what Dr Paddy Pampallis believes coaching can achieve as well as supporting massive social change. Her mission is to help people find ways to “being fully human” more skilfully which allows them to reach their full potential while becoming more fulfilled.

Dr Pampallis (right) is the founder director of The Integral Africa Institute and The (Integral Africa) Coaching Centre (TCC) and Ubuntu Coaching Foundation. Also a founding member of the Global Coaching Community (2004) and COMENSA (Coaches and Mentors South Africa), Dr Pampallis is a research fellow of Middlesex University, on the assessment board of the World Association of Business Coaches and is Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) registered. She was one of the first five people worldwide to get her doctorate in executive coaching in 2005.

She was one of the guest speakers at the final Higher Education Leadership and Management (HELM) ENGAGE session for the year on 11 October, which focused on coaching in the context of higher education.

This entails discarding the usual ways of being and doing. It is about finding new perspectives, changing the lens, enabling new interpretations and emboldening people through different conversations that inspire and invigorate both parties.

But equally important, it can eventually lead to a new experience of, and the re-configuration of, the higher education space and the individual’s role in it.

Explained Dr Pampallis: “Coaching can liberate our intelligence; it can help change our mindsets and open our hearts while it works with our soul connections. It allows us to really connect with people in the ways that they need.

“Our lives are so busy… something has to change. People don’t always shift until someone else holds up a mirror to show them what they are doing.”

She began the session by showing participants a slide of a picture (see below) and asked them to think what came to mind when they looked at it.

At no stage did she tell those taking part what they should see, think or feel, thereby demonstrating that a coach cannot influence a process so that the coach’s thinking becomes the client’s thinking.

She said people need to give themselves the time to examine their feelings and responses.

“We do this all the time with the ‘busyness syndrome’ – depriving people of the time to think, reflect and listen beyond words.” So, how can we have conversations that can really deepen our insight and have impact?

“The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds. Coaching is really about having those conversations that can help us interrogate our own thinking and actually challenge our own thinking pathways.”

She gave an example of people looking at a scene and taking numerous pictures on their cell phones to remember the event but when they looked at them, the photographs didn’t capture the essence of what they were feeling or experiencing when they were taken. The taking of pictures also didn’t allow them to live-in-the-moment.

“We need to do away with the distractions and really take in the moment and look around in order to find the best way to come to the spiritual. We must really explore ourselves and get out of the comfortable position of just taking a snap as we go along.”

Dr Pampallis emphasised that there are a variety of coaching methods and, that while they all have a place, they don’t offer the same things. The person wanting to take part in coaching has to find what is best for them at a specific time in their life’s journey.

“Is it an offer of tools and skills training? Is it an offer of a model plus skills and tools? Does it include frameworks? Or does it go deeper to include all the above plus a philosophical approach? And what is that philosophical approach? And then does it take the person even deeper, to really engage all of the things above, and even more? It is a real transformational learning when the very fibre of our being is shifted.

“Coaching can vary from being a simple questioning framework to a deeply transformative process that addresses the very structures of the way we do things in the business world, and importantly, the way we think about things. This, in turn, forms our very habits of action. A coaching process is something about you being able to partner with another human being in a way that I don’t think many of us have ever been partnered.”

She continued: “There’s something about building our awareness, building our inside, clearing out some of our blind spots, opening up to the real considerations of others’ conversations and to their potential for learning. And then being able to embody all of that, which we’re hoping to elicit out of others, inside of ourselves. That’s a big ask.”

‘The era of separate destinies has run its course. In that sense, the end of the world has indeed come for every one of us, because no longer can anyone live by the simple carrying out of what s/he him/herself is.’ – Cheikh Hamidou Kane

“We’ve been running a series called ‘What does it take to become a good ancestor?’ There are so many challenges in the education system both in this country and globally. We have to realise that our internal space impacts on our leadership behaviour. Leadership can no longer be a hierarchical set up; it is going to have to be a cooperative venture between many of us who can all bring our gifts to this complex world. We are having to learn a different way of being with each other and learn to have different kinds of conversations,” Dr Pampallis explained.

“Some days when we change the inside, we don’t get a shift on the outside; simple mathematics and vice versa. This is where we have to have a dialogic engagement with ourselves and through a coach, this can be explored further.

“The response of our inner world affects the outer world in our behaviours. And how does our behaviour impact others – that’s another dimension. And then what happened in the environment that has impacted us? So we’ve essentially got four lenses onto one thing; something happened inside and you behaved in a certain manner”.

integral u leadership impact map

Dr Pampallis’ company has developed a methodology known as Integral U Practice™ (above), a framework for understanding the full spectrum of human consciousness and development and providing a platform for vertical and horizontal development in all fields of human activity.

The differences between vertical and horizontal development

Horizontal coaching is supporting people to be better at what they already do and finding ways in which to make them better, more expert and with more techniques. In essence, it focuses more on their competency. Vertical development includes the development of both mental complexity and emotional intelligence. It’s about learning to change worldviews, value systems and beliefs. It gives the leader the capacity to see the world with new eyes. Transformations at these vertical levels are much more powerful and effective at developing transformational leaders able to navigate today’s rapidly changing environments. Neither one right or wrong but together both are much more progressive and transformative.

Explained Dr Pampallis: “It is not for nothing that the UN sustainability goals, which have not been met, are realising that the inner development goals must first be reached before change happens. It’s about mindsets and worldviews as well as the capacity to manage complexity. And, vitally important, we cannot bypass the complexity of our inner worlds that hold beliefs, fears, values, biases, drives which are possibly unrecognised and unexamined as they stand in the way of seeing and doing more, from wider and more conscious perspectives.

​“This Integral U Practice™ methodology enables and brings to the foreground the understanding that while diversity in wholeness is generative, divisiveness and forced separations lead to breakdown, isolation, and abuse of resources both human and environmental. As a human species we have to engage in #doinghumanbetter (Integral African Conference 2019) and the framework provides a powerful map to identify the exact points that things are not working, creating an accessible pathway towards re-generation and flourishing.

“This starts engaging us in conscious choice, being able to look at our leadership presence,  capacity for our teams, and then our shared values, our leadership behaviours, and our teamwork, how it shows up in systems and processes, policies, education and research and students and all the complexity. So it’s useful to have a tool, which can be used as a framework or a philosophical approach, which for us is about ‘I am the we’, in an Ubuntu tradition of ‘I am because we are’. We are not separate and neither is our internal self separate from the external. Being able to manage and understand all of this, really helps us function and perform as a leader.”

Coaching, she reiterated,  needs to enable you to be more able to manage, grow and live your life fully.

Dr Pampallis ended off by quoting poet David Whyte: “Start with your own question, give up on other people’s questions, don’t let them smother something simple. To find another’s voice, follow your own voice, wait until that voice becomes a private ear listening to another.”

Janine Greenleaf Walker is a contract writer for Universities South Africa.