Robert William Barner

Business & Investing, Self-Help

Author Profile

Robert William Barner

Executive coach & college professor, with 30 years of corporate talent management experience, and author of nine books, including Working Deeply: Transforming lives through transformational coaching (co-authored with Dr. Ken Ideus), and The Transformational Odyssey.


The Transformational Odyssey


The Transformational Odyssey shows readers how to take charge of their self-growth and development. It does this by providing readers with several applied techniques for engaging in deep self-learning in a more profound and fundamentally life-changing way. The word “odyssey” connotes a long, and sometimes arduous and meandering journey. Although an odyssey may present the traveler with unexpected trials and challenges, in the end it may yield increased wisdom and knowledge. Building on this metaphor, The Transformational Odyssey introduces readers to eight passages that they will inevitably encounter during their own personal odysseys of self-discovery. Each of these passages involves a uniquely different learning challenge that, as it is successfully navigated, increases the reader’s capacity for self-growth. The Transformational Odyssey is written in a conversational style, as if I were sitting down next to the reader to share my forty-plus years of experience as a personal coach and life transition counselor. Since different people learn in different ways, this book incorporates a variety of different learning methods, including actual cases, exercises, suggested actions, famous quotes, and metaphors. For those readers to would like to dig deeper on a given topic, at the end of each chapter I have included a separate section that introduces readers to related cutting-edge research in such topics as mindfulness, meditation, narratives, and future selves.

Book Bubbles from The Transformational Odyssey

Mindfulness & Decision Making

In this section of my book I talk about how many of the problems that we experience in life occur in those moments when we stop being attentive to the decisions that we are making. I am talking here not only about the major life decisions, such as leaving a long-term relationship, but also the hundreds of small, daily decisions that move us in the direction of either joy or misery. Mindfulness is our way of the trap of repeating our mistakes. It allows us to carve a new path forward in our lives, and to sense the full range of possibilities that lie before us.

Mindfulness & Decision Making

In this chapter of my book I talk about how we can easily become stuck in the past when we cease being attentive to those hundreds of small, daily decisions that either direct us to joy or misery. Mindfulness is the path out of this trap, and the tool we can use to stop repeating those "mistakes" (life choices) that no longer work for us.

Transformational Change - Going beyond personal in

I use the parable of Saul's "road to Damascus" moment to illustrate a fundamental aspect of transformational change, which is that self-awareness is only the starting point for deep personal change. Experiencing a "road to Damascus" moment - the sudden flash of insight that something isn't working in our lives -- can serve as a catalyst for change, but it is not enough. We also need techniques and methods that can help us overcome deeply ingrained habits, and explore new options in our lives. Chapter 7 of my book, "Staying on the Path", explains how to take these steps.

Breaking Your Chains

I use a lot of metaphors in my book, because I believe that a powerful metaphor can capture a concept at many different levels. The metaphor of "the chained elephant" is an important life lesson. It reminds us that we often allow ourselves to be chained down and constrained by old beliefs or assumptions that no longer represent who we are. If you want to move forward in yourself but still feel the tug of that imaginary elephant chain then I invite you to read my book. Perhaps you will find that you are far more powerful than you know. Break the chain!

How Labels Limit Our Personal Growth

This excerpt comes from Chapter 3: Crossing the River. In this section I describe how we all too often box ourselves in through the use of self-imposed labels. I then describe 5 actions that can help you release yourself from these constraints, to form a more positive picture of the person you want to become, and release your hidden potential.

Understanding the Story You are Living

I wrote this chapter, "Facing the Reflective Pool" to help readers understand how important it is to take good look at the story that they have been telling themselves (and selling themselves) about who they are, and how they operate in their lives. These life stories function as a "internal software" for our thinking, in that they cause us to form assumptions about our capabilities, weaknesses, and future potential. When you sense that there is a big gap between the story that you have been telling yourself and the story that you are actually living, you know that something needs to change. This chapter details how.

Working Deeply

Business & Investing

Working Deeply is a guide for those coaches and leadership development professionals who want to help their clients engage in deep, transformational learning. The authors introduce readers to theories, concepts, and applied techniques, for undertaking transformational coaching, and provide coaching cases and examples illustrating the use of these tools. They also discuss the application of innovate research studies on such topics as mindfulness, mindsets, future selves, and narrative analysis to the area of transformational coaching. With strong positive reviews from thought leaders from several countries, Working Deeply is an important resource for anyone who strives to help others fulfill their human potential.

Book Bubbles from Working Deeply

How to Encourage Transformational Learning

I love Emerson's quote because it applies not only to the practice of coaching, but also to a key ingredient in our personal relationships. When you think about it, those people in your life who serve as powerful catalysts for your personal growth, are also those people with whom you can "think aloud." You probably find that you don't have to censor your thoughts and feelings around them. You can be there fully in the moment with them - and that is truly a magically gift!

Understanding the Use of Self in Coaching

I have been conducing SMU's Executive Coaching Program for over 10 years now, and I tell my students that the most important thing that I can teach them doesn't involve coaching concepts or methods, but understanding how "use of self" impacts coaching effectiveness. At its hard this means understanding the value biases and assumptions that you bring into the coaching setting, being mindfully present in the session, and understanding how you can be "triggered" by your clients' words and actions. If you reach only one chapter from our book, this is the one that I would recommend.

If You Want to Change - Find Your Ally

As an executive coach, I quite often encounter leaders who are at war with themselves. The battle rages between the part of the leader who knows that deep personal change is needed, and the other part that is quite capable of rationalizing maintaining the status quo. Chapter 6 of my book addresses this battleground, and introduces four techniques for helping leaders overcome personal resistance to change. Working Deeply has received strong reviews from thought leaders in the US, Sweden, the UK, South Africa, India, and Israel.

The Role of "Unlearning" in Coaching

We believe that a necessary prerequisite to deep, transformational learning in coaching is that our clients are willing to remain open to what their life experiences can teach them. The hard part here is never in learning something new - rather it is in "unlearning." What do I mean by this? Simply that an essential part of coaching involves helping clients to submit to self-examination, and then let go of, those untested beliefs, faulty assumptions, and self-sabotaging habits that are holding them back from personal growth.

How to Open the Door to Deep Learning in Coaching

In Chapter 3, Opening the Door to Transformational Learning, we discuss why leaders often have difficulty in taking a fresh, honest look at those behavior that may be holding them back from success. We also introduce the actions coaches can take to encourage their clients to "think aloud" without self-censorship or self-evaluation, to take a deeper look at how they are working for, or against, their own success.

Practicing Good "Use of Self" in Coaching

This excerpt comes from our second chapter, which focuses on employing good use of self in coaching interactions. In part, this means learning to become less reactive to things our clients might do or say, that could 'trigger' feelings of anger or frustration on our part. The other aspect is understanding "what we bring into the room" in our client sessions, in terms of our voice, nonverbal behavior, overall demeanor, and mindset. The bottom line is that while we are professionals, we are also human beings. Acknowledging our humanity is an important part of being authentic in our work.

Finding Your Ally

In the chapter called "Finding Your Ally" we explain the internal tug-o-war that most people go through between the fear of change, and all those inner signals that tell you "Its time to change!" To move forward we must break through this mental impasse, and the secret to doing that lies in finding your ally. A good coach knows how to help clients "find their allies" and in this chapter we provide four suggestions for doing so.

What happens in transformational learning?

The coaching process can be viewed through the metaphor of entering into a client's "ocean of meaning." In the third chapter of our book we discuss what happens when coaches help leaders shift from exploring the surface of this ocean (behavioral change), to the deepest level of transformational learning.

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