Dear Son

Your commitment to environmentally sustainable communities and your desire to provide an enriching experience for National Lifestyle Village lifestylers is a testimony to your vision for what is possible in the commercial world and your loving nature as a man.

Thank you again for your invitation to contribute these ideas on your organisation taking further steps in creating more self-sustaining communities and a more sustainable organisation responsible for those communities.

What follows is based on insights around the concepts of Possibility and impossibility, my trials and often, tribulations over decades in creating community. Moreover, my advocacy for the primacy of seeing one’s business (and life) from the realm of Possibility – and the resultant kindness, understanding, wisdom and common sense that flows from that realm.

The process outlined for ‘Creating Sustainable Community’, although developed specifically for lifestylers of National Lifestyle Villages, has – with simple adaptation – applicability for all businesses, organisations and communities looking in the direction of achieving both societal and economic success in their endeavours and the long-term sustainability of the organisation or community.

As you read through the document, remember it is just an idea from the realm of Possibility, and for that idea to materialise and bear fruit, much open discussion, deep listening, tweaking and some trialling would need to take place  – and for all of that to be successful – facilitated from within the realm of Possibility.

INTRODUCTION

The company, National Lifestyle Villages (NLV), creates residential communities that are dispersed over an ever-expanding geographical area in Western Australia.

They aim to provide sustainable communities that are affordable, safe, fun and provide an enriching and healthy lifestyle for active over-45-year-olds.

Creating sustainable community is an age-old pursuit. All groups of people of all ages, including families and people of like mind, face the challenges of living and working together harmoniously (and thus sustainably).

It seems to make little difference what community we talk about, as the challenges faced are common to all. Whether the group is a common-interest group, a sporting body, trade association, NGO, private business, workers’ union, government agency, or public corporation, lifestyle village, commune or kibbutz, the challenges in creating and sustaining a healthy, happy community are as one.

The human-relations issues all groups face, large or small, are universal; the challenge is in knowing what it takes to grow and maintain sustainable relationships (the essence of the sustainable community).

How your village lifestylers might create closer and more sustainable relationships (while remaining non-intrusive)  can be distilled into a handful of key elements. These, if genuinely and thoughtfully addressed within each community, create the context for long-term harmony and satisfaction within each village.

Moreover, what makes that possible is the yearning for harmony that already exists within the minds and hearts of all of us, however dormant it may be.

Village lifestylers are no exception; rather, the fact that they live in such an environment is a testimony to their desire for community.

On the other hand, if these key elements (outlined below) are not experienced by the village lifestylers, disharmonious outbreaks will occur; these occurrences hold the potential (particularly over time) to make life much less pleasant for lifestylers, and more difficult and challenging for NLV management in delivering on their promise of providing an enriching lifestyle.

If not in place, these key elements will inevitably lead to:

  • A reduced return for shareholders, as the NLV concept will not realise its potential to enrich the lives of their lifestylers.
  • The cost-free word-of-mouth endorsements to potential new lifestylers of NLV will not be as great in number or as rich in passion.
  • The implicit promise of NLV will not be delivered to the various stakeholders involved – lifestylers, their families, staff, investors, the industry as a whole, the broader community, and governments looking for alternative sustainable and affordable community housing options.

The elements referred to above (which can be expressed in many different words and phrases) that would resonate with most village lifestylers:

  • The feeling of being an integral and truly valued member of the village community.
  • The experience of being seen, heard and considered by others (company staff and other lifestylers) within the village.
  • Knowing in one’s heart that kindness, understanding, wisdom and common sense are core values embraced, fostered and lived by NLV team members and fellow lifestylers.

The preceding ideas are expressed and summarised as follows:

Sustainable design stems from the union or convergence of ‘doing what works’ with ‘doing what matters’. (What this statement means specifically is explained later.) When this union originates from within the realm of Possibility: the meta-context for creating what really works and what really matters – amazing things happen to the individuals and their relationships.

OVERVIEW

NLV has grown from one village to many. With that growth, the organisation faces the inherent challenges in moving from what was essentially a sole-leadership structure to an organisation with many distinct leaders. Each of the leaders equally needs to sustain good relationships with each other, with their suppliers of goods and services and, most critically, with the growing resident/client population – now counting in the mid four figures.

As important, but not as apparent, this resident/client population needs to sustain positive relationships with each other, with NLV personnel and, if the organisation is to capitalise on the lifestyle, you create in one village, to create it also with the other NLV communities across the state.

Of fundamental importance is that, for the NLV community to be sustained at an optimal psychological level, all stakeholders in NLV need to understand, at a level of conscious awareness, what you are endeavouring to achieve beyond simply earning a sustainable return on investment. And that is to add to the psychological richness of the lifestylers’ experience in living in a National Lifestyle Village.

More than ever before in the relatively short history of corporations, the 21st-century organisation must be based on sustainable principles to survive and prosper into the increasingly uncertain economic future. To achieve that, businesses need to understand more completely what sustainability means. And there is more to that than appears obvious.

In this context, apart from being economically viable, it is defined as being capable of staying healthy in relationship; without exhausting each other’s or the planet’s resources, depleting each other’s energy, or damaging other stakeholders in any way.

Being sustainable in the broader and deeper sense of that word is the way to maintain the NLV brand and its social licence.

PART ONE:

THE CONTEXT NECESSARY FOR CREATING

SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY –

NLV’S BOARD AND TEAM

‘Create a great culture, and you create a great company.’

What immediately follows will, I trust, create a context for examining the relevance of what is proposed in this document. It will introduce the concepts underpinning the ‘Four Elements of Business and Organisation’.

THE FOUR ELEMENTS OF BUSINESS AND ORGANISATION:

It appears that NLV (or any business or organisation) is sustained by the skills, systems and capital utilised throughout the organisation for it to function.

These three elements certainly do apply and are essential to the proper functioning of all the internal and external activities of any business or organisation.

Looking deeper, we see that elements one, two and three are either created and sustained or underutilised, sabotaged or even destroyed within a fourth, all-powerful meta-element, which is Thought. [Thought: element four is comprehensively explored and expanded upon in the book: Possibility … a state of mind.]

For this purpose, the following abbreviated explanation will suffice:

Via Thought, we create, along with everything else in our businesses and organisations (and in our lives), elements one, two and three. Simultaneously, we think into existence our personal reality and the experience we have of that reality in each moment.

Thought is the source behind all human functioning and activity, the good, the bad and the indifferent.

Element Four -Thought, is the power within our mind where the spark of creative genius, innovative capacity, inherent decency and depth of understanding resides. I refer to that facet of Thought as ‘Possibility’.

Thought is equally the source and power behind our accumulated knowledge, opinions, judgements, fears and insecurities – the totality of our beliefs – and of our family and cultural conditioning. This accumulation is stored in memory. I refer to that facet of Thought (the form our thinking has taken) as the realm of ‘impossibility’. All of that is stored in our conscious and unconscious memories.

Why I call our memories and recycled thinking the realm of impossibility will, I trust, become clear as you read on.

I name these four elements to create a conceptual framework to assist in our understanding of the workings of the human mind as applied to business and organisations (and all other aspects of our life).

‘DOING WHAT WORKS’ AND ‘DOING WHAT MATTERS’

WITHIN ORGANISATIONS

‘If we don’t understand our culture, our culture will reflect that lack of understanding’

Two of the infinite number of ways in which Thought is at work each nanosecond within NLV are when people are thinking about or enacting what they think works and/or what they think matters.

Put another way, utilising Element Four; they will work with elements one, two and three from and through their thinking as this works or this doesn’t work; this matters or this doesn’t matter.

One way of getting a better handle on the concepts of ‘doing what works’ or ‘doing what matters’ is by considering the examples below. Keep in mind, as you consider these two lists, that each point in both lists, depending on your perspective, might just as readily be moved to the other list. As the old saying goes: ‘One man’s meat is another man’s poison!’

Doing what we think works in businesses: (This list is indicative only.)

  1. Keeping the capital requirements and the borrowings of the business within sustainable limits.
  2. Making certain that the income generated exceeds the expenditure required to sustain the business.
  3. Optimising profit to achieve a sustainable return on investment.
  4. Optimising profit margins and minimising costs to ensure competitiveness.
  5. Maintaining wages and conditions within the capacity of the business and the market at supportable levels.
  6. Minimising wastage.
  7. Keeping investment in staff training and development to sustainable levels.
  8. Being highly competitive by working tougher, smarter and more creatively.
  9. Buying the best-quality stock, materials and services at the lowest prices available.
  10. Optimising the selling price of the goods or services so they meet both what the market will pay and the level of profit required by the business to be sustainable.
  11. Driving the growth and development of the organisation to 1) recognise and meet what the market demands now, and in the future, 2) innovate to expand the market, 3) do that within the absorption rate of the marketplace, and 4) maximise the organisation’s capacity to meet that growing market.
  12. Ensuring a strong and clear management structure and style utilising high skills, sound systems and sufficient capital.

Doing what we think matters in business: (This list, except for points 1 to 3, and with some minor modification, is from research entitled ‘Simply the Best’, 2003, University of New South Wales.)

  1. Being creative and innovative – coming up with leading-edge ideas, new projects and fresh ways of operating.
  2. High-quality customer service and retention – ‘delivering the promise’ to the client.
  3. Taking care of all stakeholders, not just the shareholders – caring for the environment and the broader community.
  4. High-quality working relationships – people relating to each other as friends, colleagues, and co-workers. Supporting each other in getting the job done and achieving the outcomes of the organisation.
  5. Workplace leadership – how the immediate supervisor, team leader, manager or co-ordinator presents him or herself. Their focus is on leadership and organisational energy, not management and administration.
  6. Having a say – decisions that affect the day-to-day and future of the business and the workplace.
  7. Clear values – the extent to which people can see and understand the overall purpose and individual behaviours expected in the workplace.
  8. Being safe – high levels of personal safety, both physical and psychological. Emotional stability and a feeling of being protected, not exploited, by the system.
  9. The built environment – a high standard of accommodation and fit-out, with regard to the particular industry type.
  10. Recruitment – getting the right-minded people is important. They need to share the same values and approach to work as the rest of the group.
  11. Pay and conditions – a place in which the level of income and the basic physical working conditions (hours, access, travel and the like) are met to a reasonable standard, at least to a level that the people who work there see as reasonable.
  12. Learning – being able to learn on the job, acquire skills and knowledge from everywhere, and develop a greater understanding of the whole workplace.
  13. Passion – the energy and commitment to the workplace, high levels of volunteering, excitement and a sense of wellbeing. Actually wanting to come to work.
  14. Having fun – a psychologically secure workplace in which people can relax with each other and enjoy social interaction.
  15. Community connections – being part of the local community, feeling as though the workplace is a valuable element of local affairs.
  16. Getting feedback – knowing what people think of each other, their contribution to the success of the place, and their individual performance over time.
  17. Autonomy and uniqueness – the capacity of the organisation to tolerate and encourage the individual sense of difference that excellent workplaces develop. Their sense of being the best at what they do.
  18. A sense of ownership and identity – pride in the place of work, knowing the business and controlling the technology.

Again, the above list is not definitive, but it is indicative of what people (who work in organisations) think matters to them – at least back in 2003.

What now follows takes a close-up look at the needs and values within the thinking of the various leaders involved in NLV who are either primarily motivated by ‘doing what they think works’ or by ‘doing what they think matters’.

This is the invisible meta-context of what really drives the organisation in whatever direction it goes.

THE TWO LEADERSHIP TYPES DRIVEN BY ‘DOING WHAT WORKS’

Although a shift is occurring within the world of business and organisations towards ‘doing more of what matters’, the emphasis on ‘doing what works’ remains the primary focus of the majority of leaders, particularly in business.

The proponents of ‘doing what works’ are those that see the function of production and administration as having unmatched importance in the success of a business. The Producer and Administrator both put their focus on things from the doing-what-works list. They do that almost exclusively when under pressure, to the exclusion of doing or fostering anything that would fall into ‘doing what matters’.

The archetypal Producer is all about doing, achieving and output. The archetypal Administrator is obsessed with i-dotting, t-crossing, getting it right and keeping it tight.

The heavy conditioning (overriding belief system) of the Producer and Administrator has them leaning strongly towards the worldview of doing what works, and they have limited time for, little understanding of, and clash with proponents of doing what matters.

The extreme versions of the Producer and Administrator are ruthlessly hard-nosed and think that doing what matters doesn’t work, wastes time, has no place in business or organisation, and ought to be confined to one’s private life – if that!

They argue that the only things that matter are tight control, pushing output to the max, and making a profit at all costs.

This is an extremely narrow perspective and one that assumes that the solitary purpose of business is exercising power and control to maximise profit.

They don’t see that profit, particularly profitability that is achieved and sustained over a long period, needs any other inputs. They fail to recognise that ‘doing what matters’ is equally crucial to realising and sustaining that outcome.

THE TWO LEADERSHIP TYPES DRIVEN BY ‘DONG WHAT MATTERS’

While numbers are growing, there is still considerably less support for ‘doing what matters’ within most commercial organisations (and within government and not-for-profits as well).

However, the number of leaders looking at the world of business and organisations in this way is on the rise. It is often referred to as ‘conscious leadership’, and the intended end result is ‘conscious capitalism’.

Two types that fall into the worldview of doing what matters are the Entrepreneur and the Integrator.

With their commonly held predisposition towards ‘doing what they think matters’, they can easily upset the outcome-oriented, task-directed, more structured worlds of the Producer and Administrator.

Neither the Entrepreneur nor the Integrator seems to grasp that, for sound profits to be sustained, high production and sound administration must be kept firmly in mind when making all decisions. Neither the Entrepreneur nor Integrator views balancing budgets as a priority as they passionately go about expending resources on what they think matters – including many of the things outlined in the second list above.

The archetypal Entrepreneur, with his often loose, unpredictable and creative ways, even drives the Integrator to desperation with the constant state of change he (quite innocently) inflicts on the organisation, a state in which, of the four leadership types, he alone is comfortable.

By comparison, the Integrator’s overarching concern is to ensure the workers don’t become cannon fodder in achieving the ever-changing big-picture and organisational direction envisioned by the Entrepreneur, the pressure-cooker environment created by the Producer, or the red tape and nit-picking world of the archetypal Administrator.

The archetypal Integrator is genuinely concerned about people’s welfare, and the extreme version will gather staff together, link arms and sing kumbayah as the liquidator walks in to wrap the organisation up.

So we have four different personalities: two for primarily ‘doing what they think works’ and two for primarily ‘doing what they think matters’.

THE INHERENT CHALLENGES BETWEEN THE FOUR TYPES

The naturally occurring tensions created by the four differing worldviews can, unless understood and respected, affect the relationships between these four types when they don’t understand, value and embrace the separate reality in which each of the others lives.

Both the Entrepreneur and Integrator tend to be ‘loose around the joints’, valuing process and the day-to-day joy and thrill of the human journey rather than the nose-to-the-grindstone approach of the Producer and Administrator.

The latter two tend to be ‘very tight around the joints’, outcome-oriented with day-to-day discipline, procedures, protocols, achievement, meeting targets, etc. high on their list of what works.

Without understanding each other’s separate realities and what critically important and essential contribution, each type brings to the table, the strains between the four can be palpable.

The Entrepreneur and Integrator are often seen as being ‘away with the fairies’. What these two think matters is often considered a waste of time and money down the drain by the Producer and Administrator.

The Producer and Administrator are often seen as being ‘uptight, driven and rigid’. What these two think works is considered as being counterproductive and a block to the organisations proper functioning by the Entrepreneur and Integrator.

The conundrum is that the Producer and Administrator equally think that ‘what they do really matters’, and the Entrepreneur and Integrator think that ‘what they do works best!’

The fact is that, without the contribution of all four – the Producer, Administrator, Entrepreneur and Integrator – in an integrated way within the business and organisation, mismanagement occurs, sustainability is undermined, and the organisation flounders.

A FIFTH TYPE TO CONSIDER

I suspect you will recognise the Producer, Administrator, Entrepreneur and Integrator types in NLV, or in other organisations, you are familiar with, or even within yourself.

While we all have some of each, most of us are strong in one and weaker in the others.

In every moribund (failing/waning/seen-better-days) business or organisational environment, a fifth type, Deadwood, has assumed great influence or even control and direction of the enterprise. The Deadwood type has become disillusioned, disaffected and cynical. Self-survival is of paramount importance. Deadwood is not motivated to produce, is slack on administration, devoid of entrepreneurial spark and gives little heed to the human integration of others. Deadwood is alive physically but psychologically dead.

(This schema of the five types is from Ichak Adizes’s book, How to Solve the Mismanagement Crisis: Diagnosis and Treatment of Management Problems.)

THESE FIVE TYPES SHAPE BUSINESSES – OR IS A META CONTEXT PULLING THE STRINGS?

In considering which management types are shaping NLV, at least three questions arise:

  1. If the conflict or disharmony created by the thinking of the five predominant personalities is at the root of leadership mismanagement and of indirectly causing a high percentage of businesses or organisations to flounder or fail, why can’t the four essential types get their acts together for the sake of business harmony, success and organisational sustainability? You could say, for the common good!
  2. In those businesses and organisations that don’t fail, why do so many still become dysfunctional and horrid places in which to work or with which to do business?
  3. Moreover, why, even in businesses that are going quite well, is it so hard to get cooperation, people ‘delivering the promise’ of the organisation and maintaining the ongoing creativity, innovation and renewal?

POSSIBILITY (ORIGINAL THOUGHT) CREATES THE CONTEXT FOR SUSTAINABLE LEADERSHIP

The union of doing what works with what matters really does work and really does matter when experienced within a context of kindness, understanding, wisdom and common sense – the realm of fresh Thought and Possibility.

High-quality, sustainable relationships are created with organisational outcomes, achieved and sustained when there is a convergence of ‘doing what works with what matters’.

As they are at the heart of creating the context necessary for sustained success, I define the four non-business terms just used:

  • Kindness is the feeling of, and expression of warmth, unconditional respect, goodwill and regard for all others. For example – love or kindness is our instinct when we see beyond our need to be right and to make others wrong.
  • Understanding is our innate (and mostly under-utilised) capacity to explore any subject, question, concern, problem or dispute free of our opinion, belief and judgement without being hidebound by our specific knowledge or expertise. It is being present to another’s worldview free of the need to correct or change them.
  • Wisdom: The capacity to act from a coalescing of insight, perceptiveness, clarity and discernment.
  • Common sense (like wisdom) is a coalescing of our inherent natural intelligence, accumulated knowledge and experience of life in general. It is honed within the realm of Possibility.

Operated in a context of kindness, understanding, wisdom and common sense, the business maintains:

  1. its creativity/entrepreneurship;
  2. its people focus/integration;
  3. high output/productivity;
  4. sound bureaucracy/administration.

Having these four make-ups employed is essential for growing a sustainable organisation. Such an organisation, operating in the cultural environment of Possibility won’t fall prey to the fifth element – Deadwood leadership – but rather will continue to move to a new level of operating. This is the level of conscious leadership, the state of awareness necessary for Possibility to be seen ever more clearly.

Without a context of Possibility existing within the minds of the leadership, the organisation is not sustainable over the medium to long-term and will ultimately fail or be taken over. (See in Possibility … a state of mind the chapter, ‘Of Two States of Minds – Conscious and Unconscious Leadership’.)

Conscious leadership results from us becoming self-aware – waking up to how our moment-to-moment reality is created, to the fact that we think into existence the reality we are seeing or seeing.

In that awakening, we recognise our primary type and what we bring to the table. We also recognise what others’ primary types are, and respect and acknowledge what they bring to the table and their critical importance to the organisation.

In becoming more conscious, we also become aware of others’ thinking and the danger inherent in taking our thinking as being ‘the truth’, and seeing that when we do, we shut down to Possibility in that moment.

Our understanding will continue to deepen, provided we maintain our intention of looking further within that state of unsullied awareness. And provided we hold our intention, our insights lead inevitably to a deeper level of self-awareness and into a realm of understanding that brings forth an experience of kindness towards and an embracing of ourselves and others.

The wisdom and common sense integral to that state lead us to live sustainably in relationship with ourselves, with others and with the environment. It’s as if our eyeballs are cleaned, and we see what is rather than seeing a reality reflecting our imaginings.

We increasingly see and experience life from the context of ‘what really works’ and ‘what really matters’. We see life beyond our conditioning and into the realm of Possibility.

THE VANTAGE POINT OF THE CONSCIOUS LEADER

Taking points from the two sample lists produced earlier (‘Doing What Works’ and ‘Doing What Matters’), let’s consider them again.

This time let’s look from the state of awareness in which we see what really works and what really matters, the home of conscious leadership – the realm of Possibility.

Point two from the ‘What Works’ list states: Making certain that the income generated exceeds the expenditure required to sustain the business.

Point three from the same list states: Optimising profit to achieve a sustainable return on investment.

From the vantage point of the conscious leader: it is still crystal clear that income must exceed expenditure for a business to be sustainable and that optimising profit to achieve a sustainable return on investment is crucial. Having those two factors in place is axiomatic for any business to be sustainable. A clear case of ‘doing what works’.

And equally, ‘it really matters’ that a business is profitable and that income exceeds expenditure.

However, the conscious leader is ever mindful that if and when maximising rather than optimising profitability becomes the overriding consideration, other critically important considerations are often, in fact, more often than not, disregarded. When that happens, undesirable practices sweep in and dominate the organisation. Short-term-ism rules the thinking of the leadership.

Profitability, in its unbalanced pursuit, will ultimately be destroyed (in a number of ways) by the very people obsessed by it. Such a narrow approach certainly doesn’t work.

The corporate landscape is littered with the debris of such businesses, large and small. One high-profile international example is Enron. The leaders’ thinking doing what they thought worked, in total disregard of doing what matters destroyed the business and negatively impacted tens of thousands of individuals. The collective thinking of the big four banks in Australia (and other financial institutions), while not destroying them, is also an example of pursuing profits at the expense of the greater good and ultimately at the great cost to the reputations and the bottom line of the businesses involved.

So, while profitability and ensuring that income exceeds expenditure must be kept front and centre in our thinking when leading a business, it is only one of the vital ingredients to be kept simultaneously at the forefront of our thinking.

IN A STATE OF POSSIBILITY, WE SEE HOW TO CONVERGE ‘WHAT WORKS’ WITH ‘WHAT MATTERS’

Let’s turn to point four from the ‘What Matters’ list: High-quality working relationships – people relating to each other not only as colleagues and co-workers but as friends as well. Supporting each other and helping to get the job done.

Few would argue that quality working relationships really matter and really work for the business or organisation in many ways: increased productivity, enhanced customer relationships and an improved bottom line are just three that immediately come to mind.

On the other hand, unprofessional relationships will result in affairs, gossiping, mucking around, time wasting with endless storytelling, personal boundaries being transgressed, clients being ignored and entire departments becoming unproductive.

You probably have personal examples in your own working life where this has occurred. Once respect has been lost, high-quality working relationships break down. The symptoms are: workers start arriving late, leave early and don’t give a damn about delivering the promise of the enterprise.

While high-quality relationships matter and are at the heart of sustainable businesses and organisations, the conscious leader is attuned to recognising poor-quality relationships masquerading as the other.

Consider the following:

  • Both the benefits and limitations of ‘what we think works’ and ‘what we think matters’ are revealed to us when seen from the level of conscious leadership, the realm of Possibility.
  • We see that what we think works and what we think matters only ever works and only ever matters over the longer term if our decisions and actions come from the state of awareness that manifests kindness, understanding, wisdom and common sense.

It is that state of awareness that brings about the union of both ways of looking at business: the ‘what works’ way and the ‘what matters’ way. Convergence rather than divergence is the sustainable way forward.

WHERE DO YOU SIT RIGHT NOW?

What do you make of what is being said? Importantly, which one of the types do you feel best describes you? For example, the archetype of each may have read this proposal to you in the following way:

The Producer – an archetypal ‘what works’ Producer, having no time to waste on such matters, would likely have thrown this letter aside well before now as so much fluff. There is no place in business or probably anywhere else for this BS!

A more self-aware Producer would see that production, in NLV’s case, more harmonious and thus more sustainable communities springing up, is being driven by demand for the lifestyle being enjoyed by the NLV lifestylers.

He or she would also recognise that the more harmonious environment would both free up organisational resources as a result of the lifestylers becoming increasingly self-managing, making the business more profitable and sustainable.

The Administrator – an archetypal ‘what works’ Administrator would read this as a duty and be preoccupied with thinking about where there might be proven examples of these concepts having worked before, how much it might cost to implement such ideas, and how to control such fanciful ideas.

A more self-aware Administrator would see that management costs would be cut, effectiveness increased and profits improved with self-managed, self-sustaining, self-propagating, self-promoting communities. He or she would see that while control can be important, self-control is the ultimate form.

The Entrepreneur – an archetypal ‘what matters’ Entrepreneur could very well think this is THE ANSWER and introduce it straight away, without thinking it through – certainly without allowing sufficient resources to test the idea and introducing it slowly, providing the testing demonstrated its effectiveness.

A more self-aware Entrepreneur would see how, if soundly implemented, this would set NLV apart from all other competitors and give the company a monumental point of difference. One point of difference and a marketing advantage would be in existing happy lifestylers talking in glowing terms with prospective new residents on village open days. Equally, NLV would be attracting top staff as a result of the friendly and inviting culture. Again, the result would be to make the business grow and be more profitable and sustainable.

The Integrator – an archetypal ‘what matters’ Integrator would likely be repelled by the heady nature of business-speak, profit motives and the heavy emphasis on commercial success. At the same time, all Integrators would be attracted to people-oriented concepts like kindness, understanding, wisdom and common sense. He or she could be in a quandary (as Integrators so often are), thinking this was just another attempt by capitalists to manipulate, control and take advantage of consumers.

A more self-aware Integrator would see that creating truly sustainable communities would deliver the NLV promise to lifestylers like nothing else could and achieve a new level of sustainable community and integration throughout the whole organisation. NLV would become a truly client-centred organisation, thus ensuring its success and sustainability.

The Deadwood – an archetypal Deadwood leader would be saying something like, ‘Here we go again; we’ve tried everything, and nothing works, and really nothing matters and here is some more crap to put up with.’

Once a manager has reached this state of mind, his or her thinking has atrophied and is lost to society, unless a Copernican revolution takes place in their head and creates a massive change of heart. If this occurs, welcome back to Possibility and contributing to the common good!

AND THERE’S MORE

Yes – taking this a step further, there is the more conscious leader, self-aware individual living and working from a state of Possibility beyond the archetypal five stereotypes but still with a propensity towards being like one of the first four.

The conscious leader embraces both ‘doing what works’ and ‘doing what matters’ in their organisational life. They will operate increasingly from the context of ‘what really works’ and ‘what really matters’ (kindness, understanding, wisdom and common sense) and see from the perspective of all five leaders above – yes, including that of a Deadwood leader. Everyone has a contribution to make even if it is to make us aware of what’s not working and what isn’t seen to matter.

Well, Son, the above lays out an approximation of how I see the psychological and philosophical context in which NLV as an organisation lives, works and might respond to its clients and therefore to the marketplace. The next part of this long missive details how your stated purpose of enriching the lives of lifestylers might be greatly enhanced. And at the same time as creating more life-enhancing communities, to simultaneously improve the bottom line and dramatically grow the desirability of NLV as a lifestyle choice for increasing numbers of over-45-year-olds.

PART TWO:

CREATING AND SUSTAINING HARMONIOUS COMMUNITIES

WITHIN EACH VILLAGE

PLACES WHERE PEOPLE ARE ENCOURAGED TO SEE POSSIBILITY

‘A harmonious culture fosters further harmony.’

NLV has a stated commitment to creating excellent internal and external communications. Even so, with growth, slippage is inevitable.

Breakdowns occur, and remedial action becomes harder as habits of thinking (beliefs, opinions, judgements and habitual ways of looking at the business) become entrenched, causing failures in communications and relationships.

If a visionary model (in keeping with your vision for NLV) for creating sustainable community is not introduced – because of the very nature of the NLV business – as you continue to grow, the organisation may find sustainability exponentially more difficult or perhaps even impossible as the lines of communication become longer and the bandwidth for reaching people becomes relatively narrower.

What follows will say in summary: any business that commits to living, working and delivering goods or services in a context of what really works and what really matters – a state of Possibility – kindness, understanding, wisdom and common sense – will be sustainable.

Unless creating sustainable community is embraced by the board and staff of NLV, the business will fail to achieve its optimal potential. At best, it will operate at a level below what is essential for it to thrive as an organisation. At worst, it could fail. More to the point, as the hosts of the villages, you would be out of sync with your lifestylers if you decide to introduce the suggested program for your them and not introduce a similar one for yourselves. In effect, saying to the residents, ‘do as we say, not as we do’ will fail, as any wise person will attest.

NO ORGANISATION CAN CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT FOR ITS CLIENTS THAT IT CANNOT CREATE FOR ITSELF

Providing and implementing such a model for the entire NLV team is not only desirable but essential. Doing so is beyond the scope of this paper, but there is no escaping that requirement, should you decide to proceed with this or some other form of creating a sustainable community. A specifically created program for the company would be along the same lines as that created for the villagers. We’re all people looking for a supportive community.

THE EVOLUTION OF SUSTAINABLE NLV LIFESTYLER COMMUNITIES USING VILLAGE CIRCLES

A Village Circle is a group of 10 to 15 village residents (maybe more with a more skilled and experienced moderator and more experienced group members) meeting on a regular basis to converse.

Introducing Village Circles to NLV holds the potential to create sustainable relationships within the resident populations and with NLV personnel.

In such Circles, lifestylers may participate on a regular, planned basis, speak from their hearts, listen deeply to each other and thus be truly seen and heard.

Sounds simple, right? It is! However, it takes time, coaching of the Circle members and conscious facilitation.

The operational success of the Village Circle model lies in the following seven simple ideas. They are based on the philosophies, human dynamics, and the understanding of Thought (the realms of both Possibility and impossibility), which determine all human thinking, feelings and behaviour.

The purpose of each idea is to create a context for authentic dialogue and sustainable relationships within each and between each village and the NLV company members. The following seven points are the essential ingredients:

  1. The willing involvement of sufficient numbers of village lifestylers in the Village Circle process.
  2. The heartfelt intention, commitment and support of the NLV board, management and staff in introducing a pilot Village Circle to their resident communities.
  3. Providing the pilot is successful, the ongoing commitment and support of the board, senior management and staff to Village Circles is integral to the sustainability of the Circles.
  4. The efficacy of the philosophy, protocols and methodologies used in training participants and convening the Circles that point toward sustainable relationships.
  5. The quality of training the members of the pilot Village Circle receive in understanding its purpose and process. Establishing the pilot to function as intended is critical to those that follow.
  6. The selection, maturity, training, skill and capacity of the convenor of each Circle.
  7. The ongoing availability of a suitable venue in each village for lifestylers to meet for the Circle.

[D] THE SEVEN IDEAS FLESHED OUT

  1. If there were insufficient lifestylers interested in participating in the initial training (the pilot group), the Village Circle idea would lapse. The clearest determinant of the value or otherwise of a Circle is the level of interest in its formation from potential participants and its ongoing usefulness in supporting the sustainability of the community.
  2. In setting up the pilot Village Circle, the NLV board, management and staff would need to hold and sustain the intention and motivation of allowing the naturally inherent goodwill (the kind, understanding, wise and common-sense nature) of human beings to be realised and nurtured. If, on the other hand, the intention or motivation is to facilitate or lead the lifestylers into compliance or trouble-free behaviour, then the concept simply won’t work. Any form of manipulation (a not-infrequent occurrence in business/organisational group facilitation) or coercion (leading a group with control in mind) is as distant from what this paper is pointing towards as the Sun is from Earth.
  3. NLV is developing sustainability models for the physical environment of each new village. This letter is the first draft of a model for creating sustainable community within the lifestyler populations. It addresses the psychological/sociological well-being of lifestylers as members of a sustainable NLV community. As a landmark concept, it will need the board, management and staff of NLV to understand fully, support, and embrace the process. All tiers of NLV leadership will need to understand the value of having self-managed, self-sustaining communities in each village for the ongoing sustainability of the NLV business model. They would need to recognise that this approach, if successful, would take NLV to a new level of operational ease and excellence while manifestly increasing its attractiveness to potential lifestylers.
  4. The philosophy, protocols and methodologies to be used in setting up and convening the Circles and the format for the initial session would be provided in detail should this idea move forward.
  5. At the heart of what is proposed is the role of facilitating the Circles. Critical to the success of the Village Circles is that the facilitator would have to be in a state of kindness (a warm feeling of connectedness and goodwill), understanding (exploring and comprehending without judgement), wisdom (acting from vision and insight), and common sense (an understanding of life and the human condition).
  6. For this sustainable community model to ‘really work and to really matter’, my experience is that the convenor of each Circle would need to meet the following criteria:
    • Be 50 or older.
    • Demonstrate in their daily life they already have a high level of listening capability and engagement with others.
    • See the possibilities for fostering harmonious, sustainable community by utilising the concept of the Village Circle.
    • See the value to themselves and to others of developing sustainable relationships within the village.
    • Be willing to undertake additional, separate and ongoing convenor training.
  7. A suitable venue within each village would be:
    • a quiet place;
    • private for 3 to 4 hours;
    • available for a regular, scheduled day and time;
    • equipped with comfortable chairs;
    • air-conditioned;
    • set up with self-help tea and coffee facilities;
    • within easy access to toilets.

CRITICAL STEPS IN SETTING UP THE PILOT AND VILLAGE CIRCLES

  • Finding lifestylers (say, 15) supporting the concept of a Village Circle would be ideal in getting the first trial Circle in motion.
  • A letter of invitation could be sent to every resident, containing sufficient information about a Village Circle and inviting those interested to a meeting at which the purpose and process would be outlined.
  • This meeting would outline the purpose and philosophy of the Village Circle in some detail, then invite and respond to questions. At the end, volunteer participants would be sought to attend a training program. If more than 15 apply, a ballot would be held for participants in the first training weekend.
  • Based on a satisfactory outcome from the training weekend, a trial Village Circle of 12 x 2½-hour sessions would be run.
  • Based on the success or otherwise of the Village Circle training and the subsequent trial Village Circle, the project will either proceed in the existing form, be modified, if that was considered wise – or lapse if the trial failed to achieve the outcomes sought.
  • The training weekend would cover the creation and maintenance of a sustainable community including, but not limited to, the following:
    • The Circle: The Circle has been used throughout human history when people want to speak in an environment of equality. Every member of the Circle can see and be seen by each member. Listening in the Circle is made easier by seeing the speaker’s face and body language. There is neither a beginning nor an end to the Circle, neither physical hierarchy nor privileged place.
    • Listening: A listening program, designed to suit the lifestylers, will be a central part of the training weekend. The essence of this training will be for lifestylers to be able to:
      • be attentive and quiet when another member speaks;
      • let go of their thoughts and listen with an open mind and heart even when what is said is not consistent with their own beliefs, opinions and judgments;
      • be truly open, i.e., to neither agree nor disagree with what is being said by others in the Circle but simply be engaged;
      • listen attentively, respectfully, not interrupting, acknowledging the speaker when he or she has finished and waiting for some seconds before the next person speaks;
      • eventually experience deep and unconditional listening, which is the key element of the Village Circle;
      • understand the point and purpose of the Village Circle: being SEEN and being HEARD is very often an uncommon experience for most human beings. Most of us know how affirming it is to be seen and heard. Being able to give voice to our thoughts and feelings in a safe environment is liberating, uplifting and beneficial to our psychological and physical wellbeing. When we are truly seen and heard, we feel acceptance and move into deeper and more positive feelings of warmth (kindness), compassion (understanding), perspective (wisdom) and discernment (common sense).

DOES A VILLAGE CIRCLE HELP CREATE SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY?

The success of the Village Circle model lies in lifestylers’ living and relating to one another increasingly in a state of Possibility.

How is that achieved?

Have you ever tried to describe the taste and texture of a nice ripe mango to a person that has never eaten one?

Trying to convey what occurs within individuals in such a Circle is about as challenging.

Transformation doesn’t come from the application of any technique, exercise or even from the process.

While tried and tested facilitation skills are utilised, and the entire program is a process, the effect experienced by members occurs within the awareness of each person when they shift into a state of Possibility.

The Village Circle is a simple idea yet potentially profound in its impact. It is not ‘touchy-feely’ or intrusive and does not invade the private space of any individual. It is not preaching, but it is self-educational in that it encourages people to quieten their minds, to become more reflective and to access their inner resources and deeper understanding and awareness of themselves and others.

A naturally occurring outcome, from the way the Circle is convened (coming together in a particular way over the weeks), is that each member progresses at their own rate through the following stages:

Weeks 1 – 3: Certain individuals, trying to assert themselves, command more time and space; they are more vocal and some more demanding. Others begin to feel that they belong in the Circle and are comfortable and at ease with what’s unfolding. Others still, not being willing to compete with the more robust, may withdraw from the conversation and consider leaving the group. All minds tend to be quite busy in these early meetings.

The convenor needs to display kindness, understanding, wisdom and common sense to hold the space for all. None of the foregoing is right or wrong. It is simply part of the inevitable process.

Weeks 3 – 5: Some members will observe that more time and opportunity will need to be given to the less vocal and less assertive within the Circle. They will be moved to assist these members to emerge, and some anxiety will be experienced in the group as a little human jostling takes place. Most minds are still busy. Certain minds, however, are starting to quieten and embrace what they are hearing and seeing unfold and the potential benefit to the common good of the village community.

Weeks 5 – 8: The group is now starting to coalesce, and a more even contribution to the conversation is being made by most members. The dialogue is becoming more intimate

(more real – less superficial) and relevant to more individuals. More minds are calming, and some are becoming quiet and reflective.

Weeks 8 – 11: By this time the group is starting to function in a very supportive and kind way for all members. There is a growing understanding of the differences in personality and an embracing of the diversity of various backgrounds and cultures.

The quality of listening is vastly improved. Most minds are calmer now, many are quiet, and some participants will be experiencing a profound sense of peace within and beyond the Circle.

Weeks 11 – 15: By now many members of the Circle have moved into a personal space of quiet, deep listening and reflection. Minds are at least calm, the majority quiet, and more are experiencing peace. Members readily access their innate kindness, understanding, wisdom and common sense, the state of awareness that ‘really works and really matters’ in creating and sustaining community.

Beyond week 15: Many members will be experiencing levels of heartfelt intimacy maybe never felt before. The result of this newfound level of functioning will manifest in many ways. From my experience of facilitating Circles, the following are among them:

  • Self-awareness will have grown. Beliefs, opinions and judgements about life and others will become more obvious to each participant. These lifetime-held conditionings start to be seen as simply ‘learned prejudices’. These blocks to sustainable community start to loosen up and fall away.
  • Thoughts and feelings of separation will be changing to thoughts and feelings of connectedness. Importantly, these will spill over to village life beyond the Circle.
  • As the levels of consciousness shift within the Circle, members move towards a level of personal conscious leadership. The usual sources of discontent, such as petty annoyances, rivalries and misplaced upsets possibly directed towards NLV, along with all manner of human irritants, start to give way to kindness, understanding, wisdom and common sense.
  • The listening of each other in the Village Circle will see the emergence of the authentic self. Members find their true voice.
  • At this point, it is likely that a member of the group will step forward to facilitate a new group within the village while still maintaining membership of their original group.

WHY VILLAGE CIRCLES WILL WORK AND WHY VILLAGE CIRCLES WILL MATTER TO THOSE INVOLVED

The Village Circle will work because it matters to people that they live in a safe, supportive community – a place where they feel they belong. That is one significant reason NLV has been as successful as it has been to date. Most of the physical safety issues are addressed in the design and management of each village.

The Village Circle concept has the potential to take living in a National Lifestyle Village to a new level, further enriching the lives of each resident and the community as a whole.

It is occurring because of the psychological and social issues, which each lifestyler creates, and the influence they have on each other is being addressed in such a simple and safe way. Doing so would strongly complement the safety the physical environment offers.

Moreover, the long-term impact of embracing Village Circles holds the potential for NLV communities to become increasingly self-managed, and therefore the cost of managing villages becomes the lowest cost of any similar organisation. Village Circles would be a powerful and unique element of the NLV business model.

The Village Circle would matter because it would work in creating a Circle, or Circles, of lifestylers that would contribute to the following:

  • The opportunity for any resident to give voice to and to be heard on any issue, and thus have a very powerful and positive influence on the psychological and social wellbeing of the total village community.
  • More specifically, the Village Circle would provide a forum for every Circle member to give voice and be heard on any matter ranging from joy and happiness to concern and upset. It would be the ideal forum for suggesting improvement to the village and thus eliminate the need for counterproductive gossiping or intrigue among lifestylers. It would alleviate a ‘them and us’ attitude.
  • The Village Circle would serve to assist lifestylers in clarifying their thinking and ensuring that decisions would be reached in a context of kindness, understanding, wisdom and common sense.

THE POTENTIAL IMPACT OF CIRCLES ON NATIONAL LIFESTYLE VILLAGES AND ON THE NLV CORPORATION

  • As a likely result of each Circle member’s shift in awareness, they would relate to each other and to the world outside the Circle from a developing state of kindness, understanding, wisdom and common sense – what really works and what really matters in creating a sustainable
  • The village culture would change with the healthier and happier perspectives of Circle members.
  • Relations with NLV management and staff would be similarly impacted.
  • Consequently, the costs of managing a National Lifestyle Village would go down and the desirability of living there would go up.

Son, what more could any client ask of their provider? What more could any business leader ask of their clients?

Reference Material

(1) Hull D & Read V 2003, ‘Simply the Best’, working paper, University of New South Wales.

(2) I Adizes 1979, How To Solve The Mismanagement Crisis: Diagnosis and Treatment of Management Problems, Adizes Institute, San Diego, CA, USA.