Heron’s Six Categories of Intervention

Effective leadership is a key to success in any organization. Of course, that isn’t exactly breaking news – you already knew that you needed effective leaders to reach your goals. It is determining exactly how to deliver that leadership which is the real challenge. When should you lead with authority and command, and when should you be more like a teammate? These are hard decisions, and they can go a long way toward determining the success or failure of your company.

Heron’s Six Categories of Intervention

For some guidance on the task of offering assistance and leadership to your teams, you may wish to turn to Heron’s Six Categories of Intervention. This is a model, which as the name would indicate, includes six different types of intervention which can be used depending on the situation at hand. In this article, we will take a quick look at each of these six options.

Before we begin, it is important to note that the six categories are divided up into two styles. These styles are ‘authoritative’ and ‘facilitative’. If you are using an authoritative style, you are using influence to chart out a path for the subordinate. On the other hand, working in a facilitative manner is going to have you treating the other person or group of people more as an equal. You will not be issuing directions so much as trying to help them find their own path.

With that said, let’s get on to the six categories of intervention.

Authoritative – Prescriptive

This is probably the simplest form of assistance. In this case, you are going to be telling the individual directly what you would like them to do. You aren’t dancing around the topic here, and you aren’t really looking for input or ideas. You are just passing on advice in a way that allows the other person to take immediate action. This will usually be a desirable style when you need things to be done in a timely manner and you can’t afford to let the other person figure things out by themselves. Or, you may use this style with a younger employee who does not yet have the experience to carve their own path.

Authoritative – Informative

Here you are going to be passing along important pieces of information which you know will be useful to the other person as they continue on with their task. You have gathered this information through your years of experience, and you are going to put it to use here by making sure it winds up in the hands of those who need it most. Without the right information, your teams may not be able to reach a successful conclusion, so you are going to give them a push in the right direction.

Authoritative – Confronting

The most aggressive of the options included within this model. While this should still be handled in a positive manner – you aren’t going to be yelling at the person – this is still a way to get their attention. You will question the way they are approaching their work from a behavioral perspective, demanding that they assess the way they are looking at a particular project or task in a new light.

Facilitative – Cathartic

When one your team members is running into a wall in terms of productivity on a project, they may need you to take the cathartic approach. Here you are going to help them to express emotions or frustrations that they may not have been willing or able to express otherwise. With those feelings out in the open, you can then work toward constructive solutions in order to move forward in a positive way.

Facilitative – Catalytic

It can be difficult to learn from one’s own self. You are going to help your team member do just that when you take this approach. By offering them a way to reflect on their own performances – both good and bad – you will be helping them to improve. Ideally, you want employees who are able to self-direct, and you can help your people take a step in that direction by teaching them how to look at their own work in an objective way.

Facilitative – Supportive

This is essentially going to be a confidence-building session. Rather than using the confronting style as was mentioned in the authoritative section, this approach is all about making the individual feel as good about himself or herself as possible. You are going to remind them of their great qualities, their many qualifications, and the tremendous achievements they have recorded to this point. When this meeting is finished, the employee should feel like they are ready to take on the world.

Heron’s Six Categories of Intervention

As the leader of an organization, you need as many tools in your toolbox as possible. The reality of leadership is that you will never be able to use just one method in order to achieve the desired results. You are always going to have to ‘mix and match’ your techniques in order to get through to as many different people as possible. Each individual in your organization is their own person, and requires their own style of leadership to maximize their potential. Also, each situation is unique, so it would be foolish to approach your interventions in the same manner time after time.

There is a good chance that you will be able to put at least some of what is taught in Heron’s Six Categories of Intervention to use within your organization. Think through all six options when getting ready to approach a situation and decide which method – or combination of methods – is going to serve you best. With practice and experience, you should get better and better at applying these techniques to your own business.

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