The Path to Individual Transformation in the Workplace, Part Three

According to John Dewey, “We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.” Self-reflection is a part of Being, the third stage of individual growth and transformation—a stage that is often overlooked in learning and development programs across organizations today. This stage is a vital part of helping organizations foster agile workforces that are able to grow and adapt as business needs evolve.

In part three of this blog series, we will look at the final stage of individual transformation in the Learning to Doing to Being (LDB) model—Being—and why it is critical to successful talent development.

Stage Three: Being
As we learn and practice new behaviors, our brain begins to change in ways necessary to sustain these new practices. In the final phase of transformation, these practices become a part of our identity, and a resource we can both consciously and unconsciously access in our daily lives. During the Being phase, two significant developments occur:

Self-Reflection Solidifies Change. Individuals focus on self-reflection and make a conscious effort to look inward at the new way of being through practices such as mindfulness and journaling. Research from multiple fields has demonstrated that recognizing how one has changed helps solidify this new state of being and sustain lasting change.

New Behaviors Feel Effortless. Putting in the hard work and practice during the Doing phase changes the brain—creating new, increasingly rapid circuits across wide-ranging cognitive domains. Now, engaging in the new behaviors simply activates existing structures in the brain rather than building them. Newly acquired behaviors feel effortless rather than effortful—releasing mental energy for generative activities like teaching and coaching others, which help the individual sustain their own transformation.

The impact of the Being stage is therefore transformative, both for the individual and for the organization. Employees have made lasting changes that improve both their wellbeing and work performance. At the same time, all of the effort they have invested in making changes can now be invested in generative practices like mentoring or teaching others, thereby yielding an even greater return on investment for the business.

What’s Needed to Support Being
Most learning and development programs in organizations today do not design programs to foster this final stage of Being. As a result, they aren’t seeing lasting change. In fact, when I ask companies how long they think their current efforts are lasting, most say one to three months on average.

There are several ways that coaches work with individuals to help solidify change through attainment of this state of Being:

First, a key part of coaching is reflection. Reflection occurs at many points in the coaching process—including iteratively during the Doing phase. But in the Being phase, reflection focuses on digestion and recognition of the milestone achieved. At BetterUp, coaches will repeat the initial whole person assessment at the end of a phase of coaching to help individuals assess and appreciate the growth they have achieved.

Second, coaches can help individuals come to a new narrative about who they are. For example, people often carry “baggage” from one job to another, and may come to believe that some shortcoming from a previous role is a part of their identity. When an individual works to overcome these previous patterns, it’s important to reflect on that change and rewrite their own story to end in a new and heroic manner, reflecting that new way of Being.

Lastly, coaches work with individuals to identify generative practices. People need the opportunity to grow by giving and being in service of others, whether through teaching, mentoring, or coaching. The social motivation to teach others positively impacts the process of encoding new learnings into the brain and solidifying one’s growth. It also helps increase the return on investment for the organization.

For a more in-depth look at this process, read Learning to Doing to Being, which also includes a case study of an employee moving through these three stages of transformation in the workplace.