Want to Implement Vertical Development? A Guide for Organizations

Ryan Gottfredson

by Ryan Gottfredson

employees sitting at the Desk

One day last week, I got the same question from two different potential clients: Where does an organization start if they want to integrate vertical development into their development efforts?

I want to not only answer this questions, but provide additional layers to consider.

Step #1 – Awareness

In vertical development work, the starting spot is always awareness. We need to help those being developed learn what vertical development is and why it is important.

I generally start with two basic sets of ideas:

Idea Set #1

Idea Set #2

I generally convey these ideas in a workshop or two. And, laying this foundation has the following benefits:

  • Introduces people to a new way to develop
  • Deepens one’s self-awareness
  • Increases one’s desire to improve themselves and become better
  • Allow them to be more receptive to engaging in deeper vertical development work (which is what I’ll describe next)


employees hold a workshop

Step #2 – Taste-testing Vertical Development

I don’t do this for all groups I work with, but some groups are very disconnected from the notion of vertical development, and they need a steppingstone to doing more sophisticated vertical development work.

At its core, vertical development is about elevating our ability to make meaning of our world in more cognitively and emotionally sophisticated ways.

So, in this step, I help people awaken to some of the ways that they make meaning, and I work with them to elevate how they make meaning.

For example, I might help someone awaken to how they make meaning of constructive criticism. If they get defensive, this suggests that their body automatically makes meaning of constructive criticism as an attack (an unsophisticated way of making meaning). Then, I help them to explore other, more sophisticated ways, of making meaning. This might involve seeing constructive criticism as an opportunity to learn. Then, I help them practice this.

After this work, I help them to see how this work (1) has a positive impact on how they operate, and (2) is connected to their BEING Side and not their DOING Side.

Step #3 – Exploring Mindsets

When individuals are ready to dive into doing vertical development work, we do a more programmatic dive into how they make meaning of their world by exploring the world of mindsets.

This includes the following:

  • Helping them learn what mindsets are
  • Taking my Personal Mindset Assessment
  • Awakening to the current quality of their mindsets
  • Exploring why they have the mindsets they currently have
  • Structuring a program for them to improve their mindsets
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Step #4 – Advanced Vertical Development Work

As individuals go through these different steps, they are going deeper and deeper inward. In fact, I have learned that the deeper one goes inward, the higher they can go in their vertical altitude.

So, if individuals are ready to go even deeper, I start to help them to see the connection between vertical development and the following concepts:

Ultimately, if someone really wants to vertically develop, they are going to have to get to this level, and deeply explore the makeup, quality, and functionality of their body’s nervous system (i.e., their internal operating system). And, it is most likely that this will uncover that for them to continue elevating, they are going to have to focus on healing and upgrading their body’s nervous system. Sometimes this takes a coach, sometimes this takes a therapist, and sometimes this takes tapping into neurological improvement techniques (e.g., neurofeedback therapy, psychedelic-assisted therapy, and possibly medication).

For me, at this stage, I leverage Kegan and Lahey’s Immunity to Change process to help people awaken to their implicit assumptions, fears, and insecurities, and work with them to develop a personal vertical development plan.

Want to Employ Vertical Development in Your Organization?

If you want to start the process of integrating vertical development into your organization, I would love to help you.

As I indicate, this generally starts with explaining the ideas and then building and improving from there.

If find it particularly helpful to start a development program by talking about BEING Side/DOING Side and Vertical/Horizontal Development, to set the stage for the program (e.g., “In this program, we are going to focus on both sides, which is unique and will be a special experience for you”).

If you would like to explore using me to help you in employing vertical development efforts, let’s connect.

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