Heiligenfeld

Heiligenfeld have weekly, large group reflective meetings.

  • Q : SANTÉ HUMAINE ET ACTION SOCIALE
  • Allemagne
  • > 500

  • à but non lucratif

Teal Practices

Large group reflective meetings:

Every Tuesday morning 350 employees come together to engage in joint reflection. (Some colleagues need to stay with patients.)

Every week a new, relevant topic is put on the agenda. Topics have included: conflict resolution, dealing with failure, values, and similar.

The meeting kicks off with a presentation to frame the subject matter.

The heart of the meeting is when small groups engage in self-reflection. As for instance, the topic ‘dealing with failure’: A short presentation introduces ways to deal gracefully with failure – how new possibilities open up when we stop being judgmental about our failures, etc.

Then people shuffle chairs around to create groups of 6 to 10 people. They reflect on the topic, guided by a facilitator they elect.

At some point, a microphone goes around the room and people can share what came up in the discussion.

There is no scripted outcome to these meetings: no expected end product. As well as personal learning, collective insights emerge. Initiatives are then carried out when people go back to work.

It’s a time-consuming practice, but people at Heiligenfeld say the benefits far outweigh the costs. These meetings are like a company-wide training program on steroids.

The common experience also fosters community and a common language. To approving chuckles in the room, an employee of Heiligenfeld once stood up at the end of one such meeting and said ‘ You know, I wish I could have more Heiligenfeld at home.

Example for Reflective Practice

At Heiligenfeld, every Tuesday morning, 350 employees come together for an hour and a quarter to engage in joint reflection. Every week, a new topic that is relevant at the moment and conducive to self-reflection is put on the agenda. Recent meetings have reflected on subjects as diverse as conflict resolution, dealing with failure, company values, interpersonal communication, bureaucracy, IT innovations, risk management, personal health, and mindfulness. The meeting always kicks off with a short presentation to frame the subject matter, followed by self-reflection in small groups. Every group elects a facilitator who enforces a few ground rules to create a space where it’s safe to explore, to be authentic and vulnerable. In the confines of the small group, helped by their colleagues’ listening, people dare to dig deep and gain new insights about themselves and others. Colleagues are exposed every week to a space made safe by ground rules that invites them to truly be themselves. They learn to see each other in the light of their deep humanity, in the beauty of their strengths and vulnerability. The trust, empathy, and compassion that build up in the meeting expand well beyond the confines of the meeting room. These feelings start to permeate the whole organization.

Example for Team supervision

Heiligenfeld has developed a simple practice of team supervision. The company works with four external coaches who each have their domain of expertise (relationships, organizational development, system thinking, leadership). There are a number of time slots with the coaches every month that teams can sign up for. The recommendation is for every team to hold at least one session a year; on average teams hold two to four. In the discussion, with the help of the outside supervisor, colleagues can explore what a tension reveals about themselves and how they can grow to resolve it.

At Heiligenfeld every Tuesday morning, all 350 employees come together for an hour and a quarter to engage in joint reflection. Every week, a new topic that is current and conducive to self-reflection is put on the agenda. Recent meetings have reflected on subjects as diverse as conflict resolution, dealing with failure, company values, interpersonal communication, bureaucracy, IT innovations, risk management, personal health and mindfulness. The meeting always kicks off with a short presentation to frame the subject matter, followed by self-reflection in small groups. Every group elects a facilitator who enforces ground rules that create a space where it’s safe to explore, to be authentic and vulnerable. In the confines of the small group, helped by their colleagues’ listening, people dare to dig deep and gain new insights about themselves and others. Colleagues are exposed every week to a space made safe by ground rules that invites them to truly be themselves. They learn to see each other in the light of their deep humanity, in the beauty of their strengths and vulnerability. The trust, empathy and compassion that develop in these meetings expand to permeate the whole organization

Heiligenfeld uses large group meetings at regular intervals to sense into its future. From one such session, the vision emerged of bringing Heiligenfeld’s holistic approach to mental illness to families with children and adolescents. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if patients could be treated together with their close family members, in a way that would specifically address and honor the family ties in the therapy? A year later, they opened, a new mental health hospital specifically dedicated to therapy for families.[1]

Among the great number of innovative management practices Heiligenfeld has introduced over the years, employees often credit one practice in particular for making the company an outstanding workplace. Every Tuesday morning, 350 or so employees come together for an hour and a quarter to engage in joint reflection (as many as don’t need to be with patients and as the size of the room will allow). Each week, a new topic that is relevant at the moment and conducive to self-reflection is put on the agenda - subjects as diverse as conflict resolution, dealing with failure, company values, interpersonal communication, bureaucracy, IT innovations, risk management, personal health, and mindfulness.

The meeting always kicks off with a short presentation to frame the subject matter. But the heart of the meeting happens in small groups engaged in self-reflection. Let’s take the example of the topic “dealing with failure” to illustrate how this event plays out at Heiligenfeld. The short plenary presentation introduces ways to deal gracefully with failure— how new possibilities open up when we stop being judgmental about our failures; how from a higher place of consciousness we can view failure as life’s invitation to expand our skills and awareness and grow into more of who we are.

After this short introduction, people shuffle their chairs around to create groups of six to ten people. In the groups, people are asked to reflect on the topic— how they deal with failure in their lives, at work and at home, individually and collectively. Every group elects a facilitator who enforces a few ground rules to create a space where it’s safe to explore, to be authentic and vulnerable. In the confines of the small group, helped by their colleagues’ listening, people dare to dig deep and gain new insights about themselves and others. At some point, a microphone goes around the room and people who feel inclined to do so share what came up for them in the discussion. There is no scripted outcome to these meetings, no expected end product; everyone comes out of the meeting with his or her own personal learning. Often, collective insights emerge, as well as decisions and initiatives that are then carried out when people go back to work.

It’s a time-consuming practice for sure - 75 minutes every week for more than half of the company. But people at Heiligenfeld say the benefits far outweigh the costs. These large group meetings are like a company-wide training program on steroids; the whole organization grows its way through one topic after another, week after week.[Laloux, Frederic (2014-02-09). Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness (Kindle Locations 3409-3430). Nelson Parker. Kindle Edition.]

Notes and references


  1. Laloux, Frederic (2014-02-09). Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness (Kindle Locations 4460-4463). Nelson Parker. Kindle Edition. ↩︎