Reflection-in-Action Synthesis

If you can write a short narrative, a story really, of something that happened to you, you are ready to engage what I call the Three Point Practice. Wait a minute, this is the Reflection-in-Action Synthesis page. Why should you stick around here when you can easily find what you think will solve your problems on a page dedicated to method such as Three Point Practice, or, for quicker results, The Yellow Pad Discipline. My hope is that you will decide to really get to know the The Rev. Dr. William Carl Thomas (the WCT of WCT.coach) by reading my very personal doctoral thesis (the foundation of what evolved into WCT.coach). Yes, you’ve found the theory page of this website. Autoethnographic is the academic term that describes how my story is treated as I related three areas of thought (Organizational Development, Emotional Knowledge, and Educational Theory) in an honest (read “raw”) manner that made it possible for me to demonstrate the power of intrapersonal intelligence (self-knowledge).

Please read the thesis. You can find it this link: It loads well onto tablet and even has color graphics! I’ve been told the narrative that forms what is analyzed reads like a “page turning novel.”

Here are the first two paragraphs from the introduction to get you started:

When he came to himself describes the moment when self-reflection motivated change in the behavior of the younger son in the parable Jesus tells in Luke 15. Often called The Prodigal Son, his dire circumstances, namely imminent starvation as a result of his poor choices, presented the opportunity to find the maturity that leads to transformation as he learned to manage his anxiety. Some questions, not addressed in the parable, find application when posed from this premise: What happened after this younger son was welcomed back and restored to his former position in his loving father’s household?  Did he revert to his wastrel behavior? Did he continue to reflect from his experience and adopt new behaviors that helped him recognize and manage the anxiety that prompted the foolish request that brought him to the moment when he came to himself?

Is it possible for experienced clergy who have encountered years of personal and corporate anxiety in local parish settings to have a came to him or herself moment? Could a careful study of the events before and after such a moment provide understanding of the condition that triggered the anxiety inherent in that moment? How does one use the self-awareness of intrapersonal intelligence to adapt to such a condition? What new perspective must be ingrained in order to develop non-anxious reflection-in-action skills? Could the outcomes of such a non-anxious leadership identity become evident to others? In short, what does it take to transform a seasoned ordained leader from non-thinking or emotional reactive behaviors to non-anxious behaviors guided by the values and principles that inform a thinking perspective?

In exploring these questions about ordained leadership, this thesis is like a rope that has three distinct strands. One strand represents the importance of the spiritual dimension of ordained leadership. One strand represents the necessity of academic method that engages the work of Howard Gardner (intrapersonal intelligence); Ronald A. Heifetz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky (adaptive leadership, perspective from the balcony, bandwidth); Chris Argyris (ladder of inference, double-loop learning, uncovering personal frames); Edwin H. Friedman, Peter L. Steinke, Roberta M. Gilbert (Bowen systems theory, differentiation of self, non-anxious presence); Donald A. Schön (reflection-in-action); and Speed B. Leas (conflict management). And one strand represents the experiential within the discipline of autoethnographic research. As the thesis moves from chapter to chapter, the spiritual, the academic, and the experiential strands are woven together and transformed into a strong rope.

When does the page turner story begin, you ask. That begins, naturally, in Chapter One of the five chapters of a story of how I learned to lead by giving space (the sub-title of a wordy thesis title!). And, as you explore this website, especially the Three Point Practice page, you’ll find that I developed a set of self-reflective practices that live into the following understanding of why WCT.coach exists:

The main purpose of WCT.coach is to teach those in pastoral ministry how to be both in the middle of the action of parish ministry while observing and interpreting interpersonal relationships as a non-anxious party. The following expression, influenced by the work of Ron Heifetz, describes this skill as being on the dance floor while observing the action from the balcony. WCT.coach teaches an intrapersonal intelligence method for practitioners using narrative based examination of stimulus and response to the action on the dance floor. As practitioners integrate the method, they will be able to be on the dance floor with the benefit of a balcony perspective.

The Anxiety Response Chart (ARC), uses self-knowledge platforms such as the Ennegram and the Kraybill Conflict Style Inventory. The intrapersonal intelligence gained from these platforms informs the dance floor narrative posted to the ARC. A balcony perspective is gained when the practitioner further charts the narrative using the response filters from the human brain: Automatic Pilot (brain stem, reptilian); House of Emotion (limbic system, mammalian); and Thinking Cap (neocortex). This method uses Double-Loop Learning and weaves Governing Values into the conversation with Actions and Errors in order to live into the dictum: We don’t learn from experience, we learn from reflection on experience.

This method promotes self-reflective practice that allows the practitioner to move a system from one point to another by injecting the appropriate amount of anxiety into a system without that anxiety being the practitioner’s anxiety.

I hope you are ready to now read the thesis. And, I hope you will send me your thoughts on my journey (and how it might serve your own journey) to Bill@WCT.coach.

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