Peter Durand

Facilitator U: Don’t be an Allopathic Facilitator

In Journal on July 25, 2010 at 8:30 pm

"Stand by a holistic approach to your interventions."

Allopathic: The Western Medical model in use today, is based upon the concept that the physician is responsible for the healing, and that "disease" must be eradicated from the body using heroic intervention. 

I chose to use this term to describe an issue that often befalls us in our efforts to facilitate organizational interventions. We're often called in by organizations that are "sick," meaning that their dysfunction has become so untenable that something simply must be done about it…"Our organization is broken and we need to fix it!" Let me provide a metaphorical example. 

Some people mindlessly eat fast food and ice cream sundaes for years until one day diabetes sets in or their heart stops. They rush off to the hospital to get "fixed," with little thought about how they've been responsible for the day to day actions they took or didn't take that facilitated this emergency. 

Just as we can ignore our bodies needs at the expense of our physical health, some of us ignore ours and others emotional and social needs, at the expense of building our technical capacities, only to find one day that no one can work with this technical "genius" because now he's an emotional moron. Further, because the leaders for whom these individuals work have not been willing to moderate their venom for others, they now feel it's time to call in the "doctor." Someone with the power to hire and fire, whose given up the power to manage ineffective behavior, now feels it's time to have an expert come in to fix the problem!

So we get the call. Organization "ABC" wants us to come in and fix their severe dysfunction that's threatening this project or that. They want you to come in and give a one-day training in communication skills because that's what seems to be lacking around here with "these" people. 

You're tempted to say yes as this is a well-paying piece of work and well, you need work and you can come up with a great training agenda, deliver what they've asked for and be done with it. But in your heart, you know that this problem is far more complex than a simple training can remedy and contains issues, yet to be discovered, that will dictate alternative interventions.

Please fix this for us. It is central to Allopathic belief that the disease is stronger than the body, and that man must decipher disease processes and develop specific treatments for each disease. 

But even in Allopathic medicine, the diagnosis is left to the physician. Often as facilitators, we're called in to deliver the treatment diagnosed by the leader. Not only is the leader seldom equipped to render this diagnoses, they are often a contributing aspect of the disease.

Natural and Holistic practitioners maintain that it's the body itself that does the healing, not the doctor. The disease itself represents a body out of balance, or simply one that has reached the point where it can no longer compensate or maintain homeostasis given the level of toxicity, deficiency, or neglect. 

Be a Holistic Facilitator. Set the tone for the organization to heal itself by NOT coming into it as an expert. Show up instead with an attentive presence and clear desire to support their healing, self-awareness, and growth. Engage with your clients more as a student rather than an expert.

Listen to the Patient. The people in the system know better than anyone what's wrong in the system and with the system. Before diving into a pre-prescribed training or intervention, interview all the people involved at all the levels possible to get their candid reading on what's going wrong. 

Facilitate Commitments from Management. Many problems with teams in organizations are reflections of problems with management. Unless management is willing to acknowledge this and take the first steps to changing, systemic change is unlikely. Coach them to discover how they are contributing to the problem and encourage them to change first.

Discover Barriers to Wellness. Help the team clarify their positive vision for their organization and to discover the barriers to this vision. Facilitate their development of solutions and their commitment to action, including systems of accountability and measurement of progress.

Let Training/Coaching Needs Show Themselves. Prescribe training and coaching interventions after you and the group is clear on where it needs help. When they tell you what they need to learn and where they need support, they'll be ready to receive it.

What if They Want the Allopathic Approach? I understand that many organizations may not accept the above approach and will pass you over looking for an expert to quickly come in and solve their problem. In this case you have a choice, to pass on the work or try to bring some holism in with your "solution." 

Assuming you choose the latter option, do all you can to manipulate the schedule and apply the above strategies, explaining all the while the benefits (long term, real solutions) that will most likely result from a more holistic approach. 


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