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Updated: Apr 23, 2023

"It came from the inside out; everybody was involved. The aspect of every voice participating is so important and such a key in our culture. And that is key to the Core Resonance because it's what is inside of us individually that connects with what is inside of us as a group. And it is powerful."

- Susan Carter

Administrative Director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Vanderbilt University


Episode 4: Cultivating Healing-Based Organizations -

A Conversation with Susan Carter


Principles of healing can not only be applied to individuals, but also to organizations! In this episode, Marcel speaks with Susan Carter, the administrative director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Vanderbilt University. Listen as Susan and Marcel discuss their collaborative work in cultivating healing-based organizations. This episode introduces Core Resonance Works, a process Marcel created that supports that strategic alignment of an organization and allows for integration of principles of healing within the organization.

Susan and Marcel share their experiences of shepherding this process for a group of leaders, healing practitioners, and staff over a period of seven years. Listen in on the story of how an organization identified the "core" of the organization and worked from and with the alignment of that "core" as they grew.


Here are some highlights from the conversation with Susan to help you to understand the Core Resonance Process:

  • Core Resonance can help members of an organization identify together why they are there, what is most important to them, and what causes them to be engaged and nourished.

  • The ownership of the Core Resonance values determined by the organization was collective. Everyone participated to decide what those values were, instead of being told what the values were.

  • By understanding the Core Resonance process from each other's perspectives, members of the organization formed stronger relationships.

  • By having the Core Resonance values clearly identified and collectively agreed upon, it helped individuals stay connected to the culture and values of their organization.

  • Many times in organizations, credentials and power can determine who makes the decisions. With the Core Resonance process, the decision-making instead comes from culture, meaning, and value.


Please be sure to check out Episode 3, with Carrie Heeter, if you haven't already! This episode illustrates the importance of being aware of your values and connected to your conscious self.


Susan D. Carter is the Administrative Director at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Vanderbilt where she has participated in shared strategic leaderships and overseen operations since May 2009. Susan sees her role as helping to created and hold a space for thriving which includes having a healing environment in which to work, resources for growth and development, and an atmosphere that promotes creativity, accountability and respect.

Susan is a certified Reiki Master. She received her bachelor's degree in psychology from Wake Forest University and her Master of Management in Health Care from Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management. She is passionate about collective and individual healing and a meaning-based approach to work and leadership.


Core Resonance

The Core Resonance process is a strength-based approach that focuses on what is working well within an organization and encouraging the organization to align itself with those strengths. This process is a facilitated approach that integrates professional development, personal growth, and transformation. Some of the benefits of Core Resonance include: creating a work environment where you are engaged and supported, minimizing stress and energy drain, and staying focused on what is essential in the business.


Doing Differently - Episode 4 - Transcript

(Please excuse any typos or imperfections. This transcript was created with AI software.)

Marcel: [00:00:00] So welcome everyone. This is Marcel Alberton. And I have with me today, Susan Carter, who is a dear friend and colleague and someone who I've also worked very closely with over a period. Yeah. Around seven years. And Susan and I have been doing a lot of work together coming from principles of healing and applying these principles in an organizational context.

Working also with, with individuals in organizations as well as the whole organization. Thank you, Marcel. So, Susan, could you just say a little bit about your background and the work you do there at Vanderbilt? Sure.

Susan: I am the administrative director here and been here for right at 11 years. Celebrated my 11 year anniversary this week.

I have a background in, uh, psychology. And then I have a master's degree [00:01:00] in, uh, health care managers. What

Marcel: interested you in working with working in integrative health and working from principles of healing?

Susan: So my dad was a doctor and my mom was a nurse being in a medical environment was always really comfortable for me.

The language of it, the way it was thought about. Like that was just very natural. Yeah. I also was raised in the church and this idea and the sort of confluence of those aspects of being went hand in hand for me all my life. And one night I was having dinner with a friend of mine and she said that she was going to be interviewing the next day for her dream job.

So I asked her what it was, and she said being a psychologist at a new integrative health center that was being opened at Vander. And my first response was well, what's integrative health. And she [00:02:00] said, you know, it's mind, body spirit care. And I knew right then that I wanted to work there too. I've been here for over 11 years.

Now. You

Marcel: knew when you, when you heard that phrase, the mind, body, spirit integration, that something you felt just have this real feeling. That's, that's what I'm going to do.

Susan: I did. And I didn't have the language. You know where the understanding of what I would now call yes. That visceral feeling or that sense of home and alignment and resonance that I now can put language around.

But that's exactly what it was.

Marcel: We'll use this term resonance quite a bit throughout our conversation, because what we're talking about today is the work that Susan and I have done together. And it's called. Core resonance or a core resonance works and either to [00:03:00] individuals or in organizations, and sometimes Susan calls it something else to Hartson leadership.

I believe we've called it a meaning based leadership as well. Um, but we're going to unpack this in kind of a narrative way, sharing with you, our experiences. Applying core resonance, which is a process that comes from principles of healing and then applies those in an organizational context. The process that we engage in the premise of it is that when you look at organizations, normally when you do organizational development, what's most important is.

The problem you're trying to solve and the intervention or, uh, the method that you're using to get a solution. So when you come from principles of healing, what's equally important is where you're coming from and your discernment, how clearly you're seeing what's going on. And also [00:04:00] equally important is the context of what's occurred.

In summary, as opposed to the most important thing being the intervention or the approach we're using. And the problem we're trying on the sob equally as important is the practitioner, the manager or the consultant and how they're showing it. How they're relating to the context, the relationships that are occurring there.

And so I recall in this whole process, over these eight years, all of us involved were very brave and courageous by a lot of the decisions that we made. We were from the beginning, paying attention and listening in a feeling and an energetic way to it's almost like our, our instincts are our intuition.

Into what was the right approach or what, where we wanted this to work.

Susan: And for me, a lot of it was about feeling [00:05:00] into what was present and what was needed for the organization. And then working with you on bringing the two together. And

Marcel: the principle behind this approach we used was that if you can identify.

What the organization resonates with most strongly. In other words, the term resonant means when you make a sound about bration and it actually has an effect because of the quality of the sound, it reverberates our resonates. So that was the idea like what's most important to the organization. What are the sources of nourishment for the organization?

The premise behind this is instead of going in and looking at what's wrong, you look at what's right. And actually this comes from these principles of healing. You know, when you look at healing, it's kind of a theory of displacement. You're not really focusing on the problems as much as you are focusing on [00:06:00] the strength.

The possible emergence, the healthy, strong emergence of what's already there within the organization. And you're cultivating that, feeding that. So as a result, displacement, meaning once you grow those things, then there's not as much, there's not as much room for the problems. There's no space for them left.

Susan: Yep. Part of the beauty of this was, you know, we went into, I went into it looking for strategic planning and. As it in the traditional sense, but as it unfolded, it was something different. It was, it was what you have described. The experience that I had with her, or the experience that we had with it was identifying, as you said, what the strengths are, what the resonance is among this group of people.

And it allowed us then. To continue to touch into what those strengths are and to build on those strengths and the [00:07:00] ability to articulate them and to identify what these, this core resonance, these core values are, has allowed us to build everything else on top of it.

Marcel: I mean, you and I have often used the term touchpoints in that the process really is you're you're helping the people in the organization to identify together why they're there what's most important to them.

What really causes them to be engaged. Causes them to be nourished. And once you identify those things, it's a practice of cultivating the connection to those things. And like you and I worked on developing organizational systems and processes that were the focus of those systems and processes was to touch the core resonance.

And the value and, um, the meaning that was shared collectively and the work we did actually came from the [00:08:00] inside out. And, you know, the way we basically did this is we got everyone together from the organization. We asked these questions that were carefully worded and we had people answer them one on one.

In interviewing one another. We had them answer those questions in groups with one another, and then we had them also report out the smaller groups to the whole, to actually say yes to that amount of time for everyone in the organization to be brought together. This took a period of almost a whole day.

We did it initially over two days. And the process involves this kind of graphical facilitation of what people talk about and when people share their sharing the answers to these questions, which is the resonance. Then in the graphic facilitation, which is presented on the wall so everybody can see, we keep distilling down what everybody's sharing and summarizing it.

And so [00:09:00] eventually we ended up with a summary of a summary of a summary of the core resonance and the whole premise behind it is what's you're wanting the outcome to be is a short, several sentence description. The core for the organization.

Susan: It did from the inside out that everybody was involved and that aspect of every voice and participating is so important and such a key in our culture.

And that is key. To the core resonance, because it's, it's what is inside of us individually that connects with what is inside of us as a group. And it is powerful. The other thing that I'm reminded of as we're talking about this is that we were still a fairly young organization, just a few years old at that point and had some fairly strong leader.[00:10:00]

Who had gotten this off the ground and we're building it. And there was an awareness. I had an awareness at that time that this needed to have a life

Marcel: this whole notion, as you just said, of collective co-creation. So the core resonates. As it was identified was actually done by everyone together. It wasn't that the people in the organization were told, okay, here's what we're about.

And here's how we're going to work this. They all created it together. And as a result of that, there was a, I like to, to explain it almost as a convergence of meaning. The understanding of what the core resonance was and what it was about was actually experientially shared in its creation. And so the ownership was collected.

To Susan. It was so important with [00:11:00] respects to the people that work there at the integrative center there that do the admin work. They may not have be as specialized as the physicians or. The managers are the people delivering specific services, like the acupuncturist, the massage therapists, but those people, Susan recognized, they are the people that the clients interact.

And they are the first point of contact with relationships. And so if healing is all about relationships, then that becomes very essential. So Susan's choice as a, as a manager and as an administrator was to ensure that those people were supported equally, as much as the folks with degrees and specialized training in this whole process with the organization.

Susan: It is my fundamental belief [00:12:00] that we are all humans and as such, we are all valuable, equally valuable. Some of us have more education than others. Some of us have different training than others, but ultimately. Every person has value and brings that to the table. And everybody is a provider here. Everybody is a healer here because everybody is interacting with our patients, with our clients, with each other, we're all on a journey and we're all contributing to it.

And so it's important to me that all voices it's important to all of us, that all voices have the opportunity to connect.

Marcel: We were taking the, the values that are embodied in healing and in, in the notion of integrative health, the principles and values, and actually ensuring that those are [00:13:00] also informing the way the organization is functioning and operating.

So. It's not just that the practitioners and the admin folks were coming from a perspective of healing. And working from those principles it's that the whole organization was working from those principles in how, uh, programs were developed in how planning was undertaken. And then also just the way operations were functioning.

It's like they were always coming from these principles. That were identified. It was the core of the organization, but the core of this organization was about healing. So I want to say, this is what was really cool about this project. There are lots of things are cool about it, but the core resonates in itself self as an organizational intervention comes from principles of healing and we were using this and applying it to an organization that is about.

And that's its function. Yeah.

Susan: You know, that's [00:14:00] really part of the magic of it. That's one of my favorite aspects of this is the reflexive nature of it. And how, like, in any relationship, in any aspect of relationship, whether it's between two people or the small group or the large group, like it applies in every way at every level.

And that's, I think that's really powerful.

Marcel: I just want to quickly say a few principles that we worked from with the core as is process. And then the idea here is that where you're coming from is just as important as what you do. So how you're feeling, are you mostly coming from external stress and focus mostly on things that have to get done and execution, or are you coming from allowing a bit of space to see more clearly possibilities and options, different ways of describing this.

But when we look at healing and transformation, the work we do [00:15:00] on ourselves, like the practices we have. To ensure that our own patterning our own identification. Causing us to not see clearly what is happening in the organization. So this is a big part of this process, the leaders development themselves and checking how they're holding the process, how they're relating to it and how they're working it for

Susan: themselves.

You touched on something really important there, the health of the individual. Who are involved is connected to the health of the organization or the organism. And that this in essence is a practice. It's a practice for me as an individual. It's a practice for us as an organization and it support. That healing,

Marcel: you know, that word practice.

It's like when we talk about healing, we have practices that we do as individuals to ensure that we're working [00:16:00] with our own stuff. And we're able to be clear and not be so overwhelmed that we can't be present. And that we can't really see clearly and that we have some capacity to work with things. So we're not just reactive, but we're, we're more.

Responding and we can be more proactive. We also use the core resonance process and took individuals through the process. So we help them identify for themselves as an individual. What is their core resonance? And we did this also for both the admin people, as well as the practitioners there in the center.

And as a result, they also were connected even more. To the organizational core resonance process, given that they had this experience of individually. Going through the process themselves. I think you articulated it really well, originally healing and these principles refer to individuals and how they function within [00:17:00] themselves and their interactions with the world.

And we w when we look at organizations, it's how the individuals interact with each other and how the organization function. So we basically kind of took these healing principles, which usually apply to the individuals and then translated them to the whole organization in terms of how they apply there.

But your point about it's about taking care of the individual as well as the collective cause what is an organization? It's a group of individual people. So really the health and wellbeing of the organization can only be as good as. That of the individuals within the organization.

Susan: Absolutely. And to that it, the ongoing conversations that you and I had, we're so supportive of that.

So it was really important for me. To be able to continue to have those conversations with you, you know, intermittently and for us to touch [00:18:00] base on this. And, and that process, um, also was reflexive and co-creative. And so the individual work that I did with you mirrored the work that the organization was doing as well.

And. And helped it just to continue to grow and to the work that we did, how the organization continued to grow and to thrive. And

Marcel: when we work together, understanding this process of core resonance and, and even understanding healing, it only comes from having experiences and. Unpacking the, the meaning of those experiences in conversation.

And so I was able to actually, you already had a deep understanding of, of healing and how it works, but we were able to work from it. And with it much more deeply because we were working from specific context of what was unfolding. And when we applied these principles, we [00:19:00] applied them in context. You know, I think that's, that's one of the things that's really different when you come from these ancient systems of wisdom and, and healing in, in, in a modern context in the west, it's often about, well, here's the solution for this type of problem.

And often the context is left out because it's more challenging and difficult to work with. But when you're working with healing context is everything it's relative, you know, There are no prescriptive solutions for this. You do this. It's like, well, it depends on what's going on.

Susan: Exactly. And I think that identifying, articulating and having the core resonance, literally in front of us.

All the time, you know, printed on cards on our desks so that it's there helps stay connected to what the context is and stay connected to where we're coming from. So that regardless of what the context [00:20:00] is, we. No we're we're coming from and we can be nimble in the process. A lot

Marcel: of individuals and organizations, they know they have an idea of their true north.

They have an idea of their values, but what happens is you have opportunities, you have challenges and you have distractions. And when these things come up, they cause us to focus on those things rather than our core, or they cause us to keep revising what our core is. And actually that can not be so effective because like one of the things this whole process did was kind of short-circuited this self-censoring that we do when we, when we identify what our core is, you know, a lot of times we tend to come too much from external pressure from projects we have to get done, or from our judgment of ourselves or.

Our own feelings, et cetera. And those that energy from all those things gets wrapped up [00:21:00] in the statement and this call resonance process actually insulates from that. So it doesn't have that noise in it. It just has the strong signal. And as you said, the practice is really coming from that consistently over time.

And from an organizational perspective as the organization does that, because it is the core, it begins to get self reinforced. And as it gets stronger and stronger, the organization begins to begins to come more and more from that space almost automatically. So it kind of builds in the ability

Susan: to come from that.

You know, one thing that keeps coming up for me as we're talking about this, and we're talking about the group that was present when we did our first few sessions and identified the core resonance. And of course new people have come in since that time. People who are looking at oppor employment opportunities that we have we'll come and interview and the interview, but the core resonance is here.

And those people are [00:22:00] either going to connect with that core. Right. Um, or they're not. And so then we know like this is either a fit or it isn't, and most people don't identify it on the outside. I mean, they may say this place is different. I can tell there's something unusual here, but I think something inside of them resonates or doesn't, and then once they're here, they can be given to really grow that once they're here, that connection becomes deeper.

And it expands and, and they're a part of it. So it's not that they feel left out or that something happened before they came along is that they come along and they find that that is true for them as well. And then

Marcel: the individual then is able to look at the core, the organization's core resonance and say, how does this align with me as an industry?

So they translate it for themselves.

Susan: Yeah. I have a particular story. There's one of my favorites. We had a beloved team member who had a change in [00:23:00] her life situation and wanted to cut back from several days a week to one day a week. And so she and I sat down to talk about this and it was so tempting to say yes, because it just loved having her around.

But as we looked through the different components of the core reasons, Part of it is that it's relationship centered. That it's a team-based and that that team is interdisciplinary. And the plan that she had would not allow her the time to be interdisciplinary. It would not allow her the time. To be team-based and to continue to build and connect those relationships.

And so what we realized was that as much as we wanted her to be here, that it wouldn't work. And so the, the burden wasn't on me to decide about this person as an individual, the decision was held within the container of the core resonance that had been created. And it was easier for [00:24:00] both of us took.

Marcel: A big part of the core residency process was bringing everyone together and having everyone work with the core resonance with respects to envisioning the organization, as it moves forward, are working with them challenges the organization was facing.

So that's what we did often over the years is. Intuitively feel into what would be best to look at or understand coming from the perspective of the core resonance. There's another way you can use it. That's much more direct when you have these challenges or problems, or even when you're considering things that are very immersive.

You, you take it through the filter of core resonance and you, you ask for insights. So you are, we're trying to figure out how to work with education, educating everyone that works there and having them understand one another. So we basically came from the core resonance and said, okay, how do we look at education?

And [00:25:00] as a result of that, yeah. People identified the best approaches to take and working with education that came from that core resonance. So what did identified was a way to work with, with education that was going to be supportive, engaging nursing, and that you really had a good idea that people were going to be invested in.

You could kind of have an assurance. Yeah. It was going to work because as we said, it was from the inside out, and then it was aligned with what the organization cared about and why.

Susan: Absolutely. And conversely, there were other things that we have worked with that as we did. So. We didn't find that resonance and we didn't have that same kind of alignment.

And what it showed us was where that gap was. And the process just naturally brought that forward. We didn't have to point fingers anywhere. We didn't have to villainize [00:26:00] anything or make it into an issue. It just showed itself in a particular light. And then we could work with it from there to see how to bring it into

Marcel: the.

And then you also collaborate across departments on some of these, but oftentimes the agendas can become kind of competitive and then you have the individual and the ego behind it. And one of the real powerful aspects of the co-residents process, was it neutralize that because it made it not about it made it not about one department directive and them fulfilling that.

It made it about what are we all doing together and how does that align with what we're working on collectively in the same way that the core resonance helps to focus on what shared as opposed to individual agendas or individual ideas or projects. One of the ways we looked at this was that [00:27:00] in organizations often what's influenced and how the leadership takes place and how decisions are made often comes from credentials, territory, and power.

And other words, what's your position? How much power does it have? What are your con, what are your credentials? And what's your territory? What's your department. The core residents process is much more about coming from culture, meaning and value. So

Susan: part of what that did for us in being able to recognize, to look at it, each of us ourselves was to help neutralize those aspects that can be charged and that can feed the idea of the individual apart from the collective.

And so it was just a really gentle. And contained way to take a look at those aspects and to neutralize it without pointing the finger in any particular direction.

Marcel: That's the [00:28:00] premise underlying a lot of this was where we're coming from is in just, just as important as what we're doing. And this whole process helps the individuals and the organization check itself.

In that it's coming from, it's coming from some clarity and some alignment as opposed to being unduly influenced by what's happening. If you're coming from that place, you're going to have some capacity to see more clearly and work more effectively with what's going on because that core is. Strength base, but it's also what is engaging for the individual, the organization, what is supportive for what is nourishing for them?

The practices we have to check how we're discerning what's going on around them. Are super important because it informs our decision-making and the way we operate as an individual [00:29:00] and as an organization. And when we talked about practices, here's what you translate it, the organization. How does it see itself?

What are its patterning? What are, what are. Ways of identifying with itself that cause it not to see as clearly just like we were actually helping the organization develop practices that help it be healthy, have capacity and be able to understand how it's functioning as a collective entity and, and, you know, work in a way that's more supportive, I guess, more function.

Susan: You know, there are two things that come to mind immediately for me that there are two responses that we get consistently after we have a core resonance session. One that comes to mind is the delight that people have as they see the common threads emerging. And they see within, you mentioned the breakout.

Yeah. You know, when the breakout groups come back together [00:30:00] and they've all been working separately on a common question and the themes that emerge as they do their report out, there's just a level of delight that starts to little buzz that starts happening in the room. And you could tell that it's very meaningful.

And the other thing that happens consistently is when there are new people in the room, you know, they have the experience, they have the delight, but they also offer gratitude or some expression of appreciation that this investment has been made for the team. And. I think the people who've been doing it for years.

They also appreciate that. But it's the new people who are like, it makes such a difference. It means so much that the leadership is willing to make this investment

Marcel: alignment was there was true, was happening. They were all able to feel it as it was happening, as it was activated, they all were feeling the energy.

That collective [00:31:00] feeling of the activation of this core that everyone over the years had created and then was continually being cultivated. Susan, this has been so wonderful to talk with you, and I think it's just so amazing what we've done and the work that we've done together and what we've created and yeah, my enthusiasm, which, which never waned for this is even more activated now.

So. So, yeah. Thank you so much, Marcel.

Susan: Thanks for giving me a chance to, to talk about it with you. It's one of my favorite topics. I, I get very passionate about it and can proselytize when given the opportunity.



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