Facilitator as Agent of Coherence

Brian Turner

Brian Turner


I first encountered Diane Musho Hamilton in 2006 at an Integral Weekend Experiential Training (iWET), where we explored Integral Theory, experienced Big Mind, and worked with shadow.The most vivid memory I have of that weekend was her definition of shadow: “anything that is not me.” And I considered following her training to become a more skilled facilitator, because I felt that the facilitator skills that were being developed were cutting-edge, world-changing, vitally important, and yet…not me.

I realized my identification as facilitator was deep in shadow. I was too introverted. Other people were so much better at it. My ambition for power couldn’t be trusted. I lacked the nuance to really inhabit other’s perspectives. The list went on and on. Then a funny thing happened on the way to the Zen center….

In her Zen teaching, Diane emphasized coherence. I understood this as participating and cooperating within practice, and with life, in such a way as to enhance the Whole’s experience of One Mind. As I began to practice with the intention of creating coherence, I found myself feeling first into the physical space, then the interaction between the space and the Zen practitioners, and finally, the interactions that facilitated a more unified experience.

At first, this looked like assisting at the Zen center, making sure the meditation room had straight lines and anticipating the right number of seats in order to minimize energetic leaks and distractions. Then, every task or activity became about creating more coherence. In other words, I was helping to facilitate the experience in the meditation hall.

Eventually, I began to appreciate myself more fully as a facilitator. I was getting feedback that the strong physical container and example I was setting was adding value to others’ practice. Around the same time, my daughter was diagnosed with ASD (autism spectrum disorder), and I needed to facilitate for her within the school system and at home. I felt able to attune to the situation and collaborate significantly in helping her navigate this potentially debilitating issue.

Meanwhile, in my place of work, I had joined a committee that was attempting a more intentional approach to the corporate culture. We used a model from Partners in Leadership (PiL), which was based on the idea that creating results depended on making corporate values explicit and having them validated through people’s experiences. As a result of this and other initiatives, the company’s revenue was increasing, and goals were being met.

At the beginning of a new planning cycle, the CEO asked our team for recommendations on how to start to develop a new set of goals and values. But nobody was willing to make the first move.

I realized that others on the team simply didn’t have the capacity to hold the multiple perspectives needed to even start the conversation. I felt a an obligation to act. I suggested that we reduce, consolidate and revise our existing eight values into four. I called them the “Four Fors:”

● For the customer
● For each other
● For quality
● For profit

I adapted “for each other” from Diane’s ground rules during trainings with Ten Directions, which was drawn from Lloyd Fickett’s Collaborative Way work. “For each other” is a salve for the “it’s business, not personal” mindset in profit-driven environments. Integrating these commitments to be ‘for each other’ and ‘for profits’ allowed for the creative dynamic tension between ‘wins’ for the employee and ‘wins’ for the organization. I trusted that when people supported each other’s personal and professional success, institutional processes would naturally become more efficient and flexible.

One day, the CEO pulled me aside. My business unit was not doing well and I was convinced I was about to be fired. Instead, he said, “Brian, I can’t get the ‘for fours’ out of my head. Frankly, I can’t remember our old values, but these… they work!”

Since their adoption, I have seen a change in behaviors throughout the organization. People are routinely appreciated for doing things that are typically outside their job role. This recognition creates a virtuous circle of noticing more how efficient and fun it is to be in an environment where people measure themselves not on just how many widgets they have created, but also by how they have made the people up and downstream better and happier.

Our profits are now at record levels, and they appear to be fair and represent the value we provide. It allows the stakeholders to be confident in our direction, it provides the opportunity to reward the employees and makes for a truly sustainable business.

For me, through this experience in particular, a shadow has been reclaimed, releasing bound energy and limiting beliefs. I’ve reframed my role as a spiritual practitioner from a “Dharma Roadie” (i.e. the muscle that takes care of the gross needs of the situation) to that as an agent of coherence- the one that freely flexes and flows to enhance Reality’s direction. And what better definition is there for a facilitator, than an agent of coherence who brings ease to the flow and flux of challenges and change?

Brian Turner is an inventor, physicist, husband, father, Zen monk and astronaut wannabe.
He is passionate about big questions – like how to uphold individual and collective human dignity in the workplace while turning a fair profit.

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