Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Growing Organizational Wholeness

In today’s ever-changing workplace, how do you maintain a sense of organizational wholeness? In discussing this concept, Dr. Ronald T. Brown breaks wholeness into four quadrants: head, hands, heart, and holy-heroic. By balancing the four quadrants and fostering an environment where the four work together, individuals and initiatives are able to thrive effectively.  

Here’s a closer look at how Brown defines the quadrants:

  • Head – This quadrant deals with the strategic aspects of an organization – seeing, hearing, thinking, speaking. This, then, encompasses executive leadership, strategic planning, policies, politics, structure, and knowledge management. Brown likens this to the archetype of a king, exercising overall leadership to set and enforce policies and plans.
  • Hands – Just as it’s the hands that carry out the work of the head, this quadrant deals with the operational functions of an organization. It’s the hands that manage and organize operations and human resources, develop funds and resources, measure and monitor progress, and manage performance and projects alike. Brown likens the hands to a warrior, boldly moving forward with confidence, strength, and ability to make things happen.
  • Heart – The heart is where we nurture relationships and care for ourselves and others, both in life and in organizations. This includes nurturing community as well as relationships, developing training and education, developing leadership, mentoring, networking, and developing both teamwork and a sense of team. The archetype Brown connects here is the lover, caring deeply for people and their development and well-being.
  • Heroic – Of the four quadrants, this is the least obvious. Brown defines it as the part of our nature that reaches out to transformational aspects of the organization – mission and purpose, vision for the future, courageous goals, mythology/identity and culture, and innovation. It’s a quasi-spiritual part of the group embodied by a prophet, catalyzing deep change with purpose and meaning.


So how do you engage these four quadrants? Be sure to balance your leadership team with individuals possessing strength in distinct quadrants. But beyond staffing, here are some additional ways to strengthen your organization’s sense of wholeness:

  • Tear down silos and walls that inhibit success – Far too often, the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, so to speak, in a business. Whether those silos arise from institutional challenges or a group’s fear of losing its power position, silos hurt more than they help. With increased communication, all stakeholders can more effectively carry out your organization’s business, and everyone benefits by the increased productivity.
  • Engage in a shared vision – The entire group will move together more cohesively if they have a common destination toward which they’re journeying. Setting measurable, fixed goals and then reviewing the group’s progress and benchmarks periodically helps everyone gauge how far they’ve come as well as what more is needed to hit the target.
  • Intentionally set ego aside – Some groups have difficulty seeing past personalities and position to appreciate the ideas that can come from any and all levels. Appreciate these fresh voices and viewpoints, regardless of the sources, and try to glean wisdom from even the ones that your first reflex is to brush off.

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