Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

The Self as an Instrument for Change

Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

The Self as an Instrument for Change

Article excerpt

In the last decade or more the field of O.D. consultation has been increasingly interested in the personal resources a consultant brings to a client. These resources involve personal, philosophic and spiritual values and how these qualities are reflected in consultants Self-Concepts. This paper attempts to explicate concepts of the self as originally derived from clinical theorists and its current application to organizational consultation. Characteristics of the self that facilitate change are also addressed.


In the past decade there has been a movement among organizational consultants which encourages them to look inward to understand what personal resources they bring to their clients. Prior to present times the development of organizational consultation has been primarily focused on things, persons, and events relatively external to themselves - for example, the client, the relationship, the team, the organization, techniques, theoretical systems, selecting appropriate and hopefully effective interventions. The literature is now repleat with articles and books that are internally focused on the self, the soul, the spirit, and includes eastern philosophy and mysticism (Boleman & Deal, 1995; Briskin, 1996; Heider, 1985; Herman, 1994; Hunt & Hait, 1990; Schutz, 1979, 1989; Vaill, 1989, 1996). This literature has even borrowed from quantum physics (Capra, 1975; Wheatly, 1992; Zukav, 1979,1939). For example, Zukav (1989) distinguishes between external power and authentic power in which the former is based on the five senses while the latter is based on perceptions and values of the spirit.

The focus on the self as an agent of change has been an integral part of the psychotherapeutic process dating back to the work of Carl Rogers (1942, 1951) and more lately Deikman (1982). For Deikman, the "observing self takes on the quality of the "Witness" who notes what is going on within the individual but does not judge or evaluate. Indeed, in the early days the Humanistic Psychology movement was also called a Self Psychology. What organizational consulting has in common with the psychotherapeutic profession is that both involve helping relationships and rely heavily on a process orientation. That is, the processes between the two professions overlap considerably although the content and purpose may differ. For example, the helper's goal is to assist the client to explore the presenting problem and work with it more effectively. This process is facilitated by the development of an open and mutually trusting relationship. The helper also focuses attention on the process, i.e., how the client has managed the problem in the past, how he or she is managing it now, and how it will be managed in the future. Throughout this process the helper needs to maintain a clear image of self and his or her needs and boundaries - a "border position" (Margulies, 1984) - both outside the relationship and involved in the relationship.

Most of the literature on the self and its development is psychological in nature and has been the province of clinical theorists. When the subject is presented in organization or management literature, the authors are usually clinicians (e.g., psychologists or psychiatrists) who have added organizational consulting to their areas of competence. When the self is presented by organizational consultants there is frequently very little discussion of its development and what it means. There appears to be an assumption that concepts of the self are commonly understood and shared by everyone. One example of a merger between the two disciplines occurred when Warren Bennis, an organizational consultant, encouraged Nathanial Branden, a clinician, to write a book applying his concepts of self-esteem to the workplace (Branden, 1998).

The purpose of this paper is to explore how a better understanding and use of the self can increase consultants' effectiveness in working with clients. …

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