Science of Self ™ Knowledge Centre

Coaching Framework: The Growth Rings

Dec 13, 2019

“What makes you comfortable will ruin you, and only in a state of discomfort can you continually grow.” — Bill Eckstrom. According to Bill Eckstrom, there are 4 main zones of growth but only one where growth truly occurs. 

As a 30-year career veteran in sales and sales management, Bill Eckstrom was enjoying a nice, cushy salary and “all the perks” that go along with an executive lifestyle.

Then one day, he was fired.

Living proof of how the seemingly worst thing to happen to you can turn out to be the best, in his 13-minute TEDx Talk: Why Comfort Will Ruin Your Life, Bill recounts:

“… while that event [being fired] created the greatest amount of discomfort I had ever felt, it was that discomfort, the departure from my ordered life, that forever changed it for the better.”


Today, Bill is President and founder of the EcSell Institute, co-author of The Coaching Effect, and advocate of the “Growth Rings.”

There are 4 rings in this coaching and development framework.

610 - growth rings

1. Stagnation: low growth, low performance environments. For example, highly bureaucratic structures that inhibit creative thought and action.

2. Order: the most comfortable zone. “Knowing that what you do, or what is happening in your environment, leads to a predictable outcome.”

3. Complexity: the environment where growth really occurs. When order is changed, difficulty and opportunity for development is introduced.

4. Chaos: like the stagnation ring, these are low growth, low performance environments. Characterised by no predictability or control over inputs and outcomes.

The Growth Rings concept came about when working with a Ph.D. friend in trying to understand what caused the growth of living things in their environments (humans as well as non-human animals), but in particular the behaviours of high performing managers.

According to Bill, there are three main ways to trigger complexity, and therefore growth:

  1. It can be forced on you,
  2. Someone can help you,
  3. You can trigger it yourself.

Toward the end of the talk, he raises questions about what we might be missing out on individually and as a society if we continue to recoil at the sight of shock and pain, because that is ultimately what facilitates deep - way down in the soil deep - root-strengthening life, a sentiment captured well in a quote Bill shares from Dr. Serene Jones.

“The constant façade of order hides the wilderness that is craving to seep out and teach us that life wasn’t created to be what we think it is… we must experience the wilderness to be taught what cannot be otherwise known.”

Topics: Coaching & Mentoring

Theo Winter

Theo Winter

Client Services Manager, Writer & Researcher. Theo is one of the youngest professionals in the world to earn an accreditation in TTI Success Insight's suite of psychometric assessments. For more than a decade, he worked with hundreds of HR, L&D and OD professionals and consultants to improve engagement, performance and emotional intelligence of leaders and their teams. He authored the book "40 Must-Know Business Models for People Leaders."

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