Book review by Michiel Pool

Marieke argues that "organizations revitalize when they reunite with their essence and original intentions".

It is an ambitious, wide-ranging task set by her readers, in which she succeeds in original and inimitable ways. 

A few months ago I was gripped by "Heel de Organisatie, 2022" (Healing Organizations will betranslated in 2023)" by Marieke van Voorn. The book exposes razor-sharp and recognizable causes that cause organizations to stagnate. With all its consequences (burn-outs, increasing toxic management, reduced zest for life, etc.). "Heel de organisatie" offers both the approach to bring organizations back to the essence -'to heal'- and a mirror for your own growth and vitality. Change management in essence.

Marieke states that "people and organizations revitalize when they reunite with their essence and original intentions. She guides us in this direction. It is an ambitious and comprehensive task she sets herself and her readers. Here she succeeds in an original and inimitable way. The parallels with pathologies, body parts and functions woven into the book serve as more than just metaphors in this regard: that working in unhealthy organizations strikes at the body shows the current unprecedented number of burn-outs, bore-outs and stress phenomena. On the other hand, the book shows how a healthy organization feeds your vitality and zest for life.

A book with such a tall order hinges on a clear structure and approach. This has succeeded and I suspect much attention has been paid to the table of contents and layout. This is directive and provides guidance. For example, each chapter in "Heel de Organisatie" can be viewed as part of the larger story or as a separate module, making the book flexible and applicable to situations that are relevant to you or your organization at the time. All this with pointed, sometimes painful, sometimes hilarious observations that everyone will recognize. With special mention of the beautiful diagrams and illustrations that invite and excite and add so much value as you get started.

'Heel de Organisatie' is applicable to all sectors, using the health sector as a starting point, the sector in which Marieke has had the most practical experience. Her approach is holistic and unique: she identifies both organizational and personal opportunities and obstacles which she connects to the human body. For example, she connects the kidneys as an indicator of both stress (weakness) and grounding (strength) and shows-as previously noted-that unhealthy work (brain) impacts your mind and body. In this, I saw many parallels with the teachings of the tao where the basis is your inner (physical) wealth, flow and shadow work.

The Energy model and the Resilience model for healing organizations

The core of the book and also the benchmark for seeing through the modules and making them your own is Marieke's energy model with seven energy points associated with life force and vitality. Together, these seven points form the basis for healing and seeing through system failure at different levels. For example, energy point 7 focuses on the return to "unity consciousness and overview" and energy point 5 focuses on authenticity, integrity and autonomy. Marieke's clever approach is to focus on the power of the unconscious in action perspectives and choice making; it is the unconscious that mainly determines your choices and life course (which is eagerly used by marketing) and to a much lesser extent the rational consideration.

This offers the opportunity to take a holistic and safe look at your own organization and activities if, for example, the following questions are on your mind: "I feel that something is not right, but I can't put my finger on it", "Why do I have the idea that I can't offer any added value", "Is my management really top-down or am I not taking the space to speak up". Organizational constellations can be a means to diagnose where the pain is and find the right remedy to heal it structurally. She answers the currently popular question "how?" in Chapter 5, balancing fields of tension within each energy point -for example, from closed and complaining to self-esteem and letting go- with a practical case.

The book thus provides "holding space" that is so important to be able to explore and name pain points: an approach in which, within a safe environment without judgment, you allow others to go through emotional processes in which things that are stuck or bothering come to the surface. And only then can a transformation take place that can lead to more vitality and self-care and love.

This allows you to use the energy model not only as a mirror for the state of health of your organization, but also for your own diagnosis and personal growth: where are your blockages, at what energy point can you still learn and grow? Especially the above mentioned point 5 (about authenticity) and point 4 (about essence, soul and identity) were a nice benchmark for me to work on my own areas of improvement and unconscious destructive patterns. And all that without being pushy or pedantic.

Where the energy model diagnoses and offers tools for bottlenecks in the organization and your personal development, the resilience model offers the approach to heal stuck/sick organizations. The complex force field of organizations is mapped, with special attention to the skills that change agents and key players inside and outside organizations - including self-aware professionals, engaged clients and connecting process facilitators - need to master. Returning to the essence of the organization is central to this. 

Narcissism in organizations

A special place in the book is reserved for narcissistic leadership, a destructive phenomenon that has surfaced so clearly in recent years. Chapter 3 analyzes the character traits of the narcissistic leader and the sophisticated divide and conquer techniques he or she employs, orchestrating mass formation either consciously or unconsciously. Recognizing this management style is the first step in being able to discern what your external and internal blockages and areas for improvement are in order to get back to your own essence which teaches you to set boundaries. It has helped me to see through my own experience with narcissistic management and mass formation, forgive it and give it a place.

I am still curious about what healing looks like. Is it possible by breaking through the defenses of the narcissistic leader with this person to 'get things back on track' or does an organization by definition first have to go through the five phases that lead to the inevitable intervention? And in such a situation -which in these times is the rule rather than the exception- is 'healing from within' still possible or do we have to move to a completely new organizational form after the healing has taken place? Perhaps points of attention for a sequel?

With her systemic/personal approach, Marieke anticipates a positive development that many organizations-not only within the medical sector-are beginning to embrace: the realization that employees will only contribute optimally when systemic/organizational and personal healing merge.

Chapter seven brings all the lessons together and shows how the way in brings us and organizations back to the universal essence of love, trust, unity and free will. The current social shifts and polarities are the best evidence that the time is ripe for healing and transformation.

Much appreciation

'Heel de organiatie' has given me more than I expected: besides a very welcome benchmark that connects body, mind and (pleasure in) work in an original way, the insight that gifted leadership can bring organizations back to the essence and pleasure in work, a lot of inspiration and spearheads to shape my own path and development with inspiration and inspiration, embracing the dark sides of organizations and myself.

For anyone who is ready for recovery, healing and resilience.

Are you interested in more? 

Marieke van Voorn wrote The book 'Heel de organisatie' (healing Organizations. Restore the self-healing capacity of your organization'. Find out more about the book and order it here.

Healing leaders

I am Marieke van Voorn and I guide visionary leaders and cyclebreakers to transmute the establisment to co-create a healing and sustainable organization. 

Healing Leaders (2022) originates from Een Heldere Zaak that was founded in 2010.  

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Healing Leaders

Healing Leaders is based in Amersfoort in the Netherlands.

Photo's: Pauli Puur

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