top of page
Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

Kegan's Stages of Adult Development: Socializing Knowers

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


June 11, 2018

In Chapter Ten of Cognitive Coaching: Developing Self-Directed Leaders and Learners (3rd,2016), Garmston and Costa delve into “seven of the human variables that influence the quest for meaning.” One of the seven variables that they explore in regards to coaching is based on Harvard Professor, Robert Kegan’s work around Adult Development. The authors point out that these stages are not “ways of doing” but are “ways of being.” The authors explain that knowing about the adult stages of development may provide the coach with insight into the coachee’s “container for all the other ways of making meaning.” Many of us think that being an adult simply means expanding our containers of the mind and getting better at what we do (i.e. acquiring more skills and knowledge). Kegan would disagree. He believes it’s about transformation — changing the way we know and understand the world (changing the actual form of our ‘container’).

Here are Kegan’s Stages of Adult Development

Stage 1: Impulsive Mind (early childhood)

Stage 2: Instrumental or Imperial (adolescence, 6% of adult population)

Stage 3: Socialized Mind (58% of the adult population)

Stage 4: Self-Authoring Mind (35% of the adult population)

Stage 5: Self-Transforming or Interindividual Mind (1% of the adult population)

Socializing Knowers: These individuals are steeped in interpersonal relationships; they are influenced by others’ opinions. They are influenced by others’ perspectives and they seek approval from others. They can think more in abstract terms and are capable of reflection. They are concerned with the ideas, agreements, norms, and beliefs of the people or the system around them. They look for external validation and desire acceptance from their colleagues. These knowers are sensitive to conflict and do not see it as a possible agent of change. Conflict to them may be all “affective conflict” and they may feel responsible for hurting others. They are often their emotions instead of realizing that they have emotions. For example, they might say, “The district office made me mad.” Instead of realizing that when the district office does x, y, or z, it makes them angry.

How might you support colleagues whose world view is in the Socializing Stage?

Which States of Mind might you draw on to further their thinking?

Which structures and protocols might you utilize in meetings to engage them in dialogue?

bottom of page