Antoinette Braks: Executive Coaching in Strategic Holistic Leadership

Following her win in this years CEO Today Management Consulting Awards, we caught up with Antoinette Braks, from StageSHIFT to ask her more about her approach to coaching and consulting and how she's helping C-Suite lead their organisations. 

Antoinette Braks is building a global community of StageSHIFT coaches who enable C-suite and strategic leaders to expedite their vertical leadership development to later stages, so they can lead their organisations to realise their highest purposeful aspirations in creative, collaborative ways. She partners with CEOs to ignite a strategic culture evolution to green and teal that transcends disruption, energises people and liberates potential. She is the author of Executive Coaching in Strategic Holistic Leadership, The Drivers and Dynamics of Vertical Development (2020).

Antoinette has pioneered an accelerated pathway in Vertical Leadership Development to Synergist, a term used to denote the most mature 10% of leaders in relation to adult development or expanded consciousness. At Synergist, leaders have the presence of mind and visionary zeal to transcend the turmoil, set new aspirations, inspire stakeholders, trust emergence and re-invent their organisation to fulfil its evolving destiny.

Antoinette was born in New Zealand. After graduating LLB(Hons) and BA in Political Science, she completed a Dip Int Mktg (Hons) and an MBA from London Business School. Antoinette built a global career with Shell, Korn Ferry and Hudson leading People and Culture, assessing and coaching senior executives, and designing and delivering leadership and organisational transformation programs. She returned to university to complete an MA in Management Research, a PhD in Coaching Psychology and an Advanced Diploma in Coaching Supervision with Oxford Brookes while refining the distinctive StageSHIFT transformative coaching approach.

Instead of the expected five years, 80% of the strategic leaders in the StageSHIFT research project shifted a vertical stage in one year, and 20% shifted twice to Synergist. This 120% stage shift is four times more effective than most 20-day off-site leadership programs can attest to. Moreover, these transformations took place after an average of 8 coaching sessions i.e. a total of 2 days or just 10% of the time often invested in offsite leadership programs.

Given that Synergist leadership capacity has been growing at the snail’s pace of 1% per decade in each of the last two decades yet is urgently needed to reinvent systemic foundations and resolve wicked problems, these outcomes are inspiring. During StageSHIFT Programs, leadership effectiveness has risen by 20% in 12 months; people engagement by 30% in 6 months; and business revenues have doubled for small enterprises in just three weeks.

Antoinette sees and breathes potential. She is dedicated to inspiring and enabling strategic leaders to realise their potential to co-create a more sustainable, healthy and equitable world. She is currently based in London and travels extensively to design and direct vertical development programs integrating leadership transformation with organisational evolution. Leading reinvention is one of the secrets to realising the elusive Synergist leadership capacity. The growing community of StageSHIFT Coaches, all at later stages of vertical development, are based in Europe, North America, Asia Pacific and Australasia.

“Antoinette’s brilliant work creates an effective, practical and grounded approach to guide coaches and leaders in a pivotal arc in the developmental spectrum.” ~ Terri O’Fallon, Founder and Partner of STAGES International

“It is more vital than ever before that leaders develop the ability to think systemically and consider the long-term effects of decisions. Braks offers a path to help leaders acquire these later stage characteristics.” ~ Susanne Cook-Greuter, Strategic Adviser and Research Director, Vertical Development Academy

“Braks shows us how executive coaching can become a transformational dialogue; a holistic path that can humanise our world.” ~ Reinhard Stelter, Author of 3rd Generation Coaching and Professor of Coaching Psychology, University of Copenhagen

Following her win in this years CEO Today Management Consulting Awards, we caught up with Antoinette to ask her more about her approach to coaching and consulting.

What is distinctive about the StageSHIFT Coaching approach that generates such rapid transformation?

Three key elements. The first is that we integrate organisational evolution with transformative leadership development. The two are simultaneous equations. Conventional organisational norms inhibit vertical development while uplifting the organisation demands it. Evolving the organisation without Synergist leadership is not sustainable. We collaborate with leaders showing them exactly how to implement new strategic scaffolding that liberates and energises everyone. StageSHIFT coaching activates advanced knowhow so leaders can lead.

Secondly, we focus on identity, not behaviour. Identity is the source of behaviour. Leaders set purposeful aspirational intent and we delve into shadow resolution. This has the effect of realising inner growth and releasing reactive patterns. We go beyond emotional intelligence strategies of self-regulation and resilience, to foster a level of emotional healing that eliminates triggers and transference. The integration of spiritual congruence cultivates the self and attracts the challenges, resources, opportunities and people to reveal the Synergist self.

Thirdly, Synergist+ executive coaches are able to adopt the next evolution of coaching, transformative coaching. The prevailing coaching approach today, developmental coaching, is valuable in building awareness, but it’s insufficient to facilitate the shift to Synergist. Transformative coaching generates a safe, sacred and expansive space for a dialogical partnership where the coachee is directly invited to consider and interpret life experiences from a deeper dynamic perspective. This expands the mind, opens the heart and accelerates vertical integration.

What is Vertical Development?

Leadership development is Vertical if it involves expanding consciousness and the capacity to perceive and interpret the world at increasing levels of subtlety and complexity, rather than simply building leadership skills and strengths. Vertical Development is not linear. It involves a Spectrum Stage Shift. We each operate across an average of four stages with a Centre of Gravity (CoG) in our latest integrated stage. The self transforms every two stages: the first is an individuation stage of developing inner awareness e.g. the authentic leader at Catalyst, and the second is an integration stage of outward manifestation e.g. the quantum leader at Synergist.

Most strategic leaders default to their CoG at Achievist, the high performing heroic leader, albeit leaning into Catalyst, the authentic leader. As noted earlier, less than 10% of executives have their CoG at Synergist, the wise transforming panoramic leader, and the proportion of Synergists has only been growing at the rate of 1% per decade. The shift from Achievist to Catalyst and Synergist is from the conventional 3rd person perspective of a finite win/lose game, to the early 4th person of navigating inner authenticity and outer diversity at Catalyst. With StageSHIFT coaching, this seemingly endless journey is expedited to culminate in a new CoG at Synergist.

As we shift through the stages, we harness more of our human faculties. The heart opens at Achievist and enables us to tune into our intuition at Catalyst and heal the shadow of earlier stages that prompts our triggers and reactive behaviours. This leads to an open, calm and clear mind at Synergist where we first become self-validating. We cannot strive to become a Synergist; we simply arrive there once we have mastered the self-work. A mature Synergist is also leaning into the next stage of Constructivist integrating spiritual alignment.

How does Vertical Development relate to the significant changes taking place in the world today?

The world today is also shifting from the 3rd person perspective of “it” i.e. objective outcomes, results, revenues, costs, profits, capital, customers and shareholders, to the 4th person perspective of “we”, co-creating synergistic sustainable outcomes for all stakeholders. The tidal waves of crises in recent years illustrate that our current social, economic and environmental norms are no longer tenable. While the industrial revolution generated significant value, we’ve gone too far in exploiting the planet and people in self-interest.

The demand for the 4th person level of consciousness is evident in the way our communities have come together to help each other, provide support, enable people to make more time and effort to care for each other. It is up to the leaders at the helm of corporations and societies to orchestrate these new norms. They are already emerging in the health, education, social and business sectors. We need to harness this rising potential to transform the way we live based on more enlightened equitable principles that will better serve current and future generations.

To do this, we need many more leaders at Synergist. Their open expansive minds, warm compassionate hearts, and serendipitous spirits will pioneer transformative ways for all of us to lead more enriching, purposeful and fulfilling lives where everyone is encouraged and supported to realise their potential and thrive and flourish.

Why is the shift to Synergist so challenging?

At Synergist we carry enormous responsibility. You see, high performing Achievists are individually orientated. They learn how to compete and win and take responsibility for themselves and their families. Wise transforming Synergists are charged with reinventing the policies, frameworks and systems in the organisation so that people operating within the new holding structure are geared to generate ethical win-win-win outcomes for people and the planet, health and wealth. The Synergist’s mission is to transcend and transform the way we work and live.

This is no small task given that political leaders depend on voters and corporate leaders depend on investors. They must demonstrate significant transformative leadership presence to instil faith and confidence in new systemic structural solutions. It is a time of reinvention to liberate the next era of civilisation: a digital, globally connected world that is also locally grounded in community, where we care for each other and the earth. Individual, corporate, economic and social evolution are paramount for us to fulfil our destiny to uplift life for all in the 21st century and cultivate shared wellbeing, prosperity and joy in life’s potential.

Join the SHIFT to Synergist! The Strategic Holistic Inspiring Force for Transformation.

To generate a swift quantum shift in the evolution of your organisation and strategic leaders to Synergist, email Antoinette Braks to set up a meeting:

ABOUT StageSHIFT Coaching 

The StageSHIFT SYNERGIST Program incorporates Strategic, Holistic, Transforming and Inspiring Leadership. It uplifts the entire organisation by co-creating an inspiring purpose-led strategic agenda and instituting more radical levels of accountability. Adopting new norms of working and meeting in an orchestrated way increases everyone’s creativity, productivity and, even more importantly, their desire and capacity to contribute to creating a better world.

This has become even more critical and urgent in today’s increasingly volatile and digital world. For people to work effectively remotely, they need to be empowered. To resolve the interconnected systemic problems in the world, we need to collaborate more, to ideate strategic systemic synergistic solutions. To co-create a new more sustainable, heathy and equitable world where everyone can thrive and flourish, we need to liberate ourselves of obsolete economic paradigms and institutional norms, and dance with the new emergent possibilities that are arising in every moment.

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