When the focus is on mindfulness, authenticity and the expansion of consciousness, the facilitation of meaningful dialogue sessions can help groups of people discuss their core values, develop unity between diverse stakeholders, and can bring a deeper and collective sense of soul.
For this reason I am pleased to introduce this guest article from Giles Hutchins who explains the Way of Council, a modern dialogue practice based on ancient wisdom.
The most exciting breakthroughs of the 21st century will not occur because of technology, but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.
John Naisbitt, futurist
It is now patently clear to many leaders and change agents in business that for our organisations to thrive in these times of fast-paced volatility, they need to shift their organisational consciousness. This shift is from mechanistic separateness to living connectedness.
It’s a shift away from the logic of separation, control, domination, dog-eat-dog hyper-competition, power-based hierarchies, bureaucracy and win-lose relational dynamics where the organisation is perceived as a machine with assets to be sweated, and where ‘human resources’ are to be managed for maximum short-term output.
And it’s a shift towards the embodied awareness of interconnectedness, with personal and collective responsibility and empowerment, coupled with self-organising emergent team dynamics, heterarchy and synarchy systems, with synergistic relational dynamics of openness, authenticity and empathy. The organisation is viewed as a living system continuously inter-relating with the wider world. Employees are perceived as purposeful meaning-seeking contributors ignited and aligned by the purpose of the organisation as a force for good in the world.
This is not some far-off utopian dream to be dispensed with when the going gets tough. It’s the reality that each of us need to call forth now, in terms of how we show up, listen, share and engage in our organisations; we manifest our future through today’s actions and interactions.
This is the reality of the future of business spawning before our very eyes. By example, the B-Corp movement with now over 2,000 organisations around the world signing up to voluntarily change their legal constitution away from being beholden to short-term returns for shareholders to creating value for all stakeholders including society and the environment. Hand-in-hand with other for-purpose business movements such as Teal and Conscious Capitalism, this is testament to the emergence of business-as-a-force-for-good at the leading edge of a revolution in consciousness from separateness to connectedness, with profound consequences for ourselves, our organisational systems and our civilisation.
In order to shift this consciousness in our own organisations, there are a multitude of things we can do differently. Fortunately, there also some simple – yet profound – liberating structures we can embrace with ease amid the day-to-day thick of it, without the need for business case sign-off or complex solution implementation.
Here is one powerful yet simple technique we can bring into our decision-making dynamics and day-to-day meeting conventions, with a bit of courage and some light-touch facilitation: Way of Council.
Way of Council is an ancient indigenous practice of sitting in a circle and speaking and listening from the heart. There are some simple ground rules, to remind us to be present, to be in our hearts, to not judge what is said, and to empathically open to self/other/field, to really listen attentively and deeply, and to share authentically. This sharing activates the wisdom of the heart, a wisdom that is all-too-often skipped over in the busyness of our business, and yet without it authentic business is yet another ‘thing’ out there to be grasped at, rather than a ‘way of being’ to be embodied within each conversation, each inter-relation.
In applying Way of Council to business, we provide a space for exploration, open-hearted sharing and collaborative inquiry into the practicalities, challenges and opportunities related to the strategy and operations of the business. We can also use this dialogic practice in tandem with other exploratory activities such as future scenario planning and future search workshops to help us envision and embody our future today.
The learning style/atmosphere of the sharing circle draws on a blend of action research, appreciative inquiry, dialogue and non-violent communication methods.
- Action research – every interaction, emotional response and relational tension is an opportunity for deeper learning through self-reflection, feedback and an intention to move beyond blame, projection, judgement, fear, scarcity, into a mind-set of openness, emergence, acceptance, compassion, self-inquiry and learning;
- Appreciative inquiry – the intention here is to encourage the positives and go with where the energy is flowing, rather than focusing on the negatives or the blockages;
- Dialogue and non-violent communication – ensuring we are listening and speaking with an open heart and open mind, empathising with others perspectives even if it feels challenging, being aware of how we are reacting (fear/defensive/offensive) versus responding (sensing/exploring/empathising). And its OK to be defensive/reactive, as long as we recognise it within ourselves and seek to learn and move beyond – it’s the self-awareness and intention to learn that enhances our ability to metamorphose.
What this simple Way of Council practice does is allow us to form a relational field within the circle. From this circle we seed a relational field within the wider organisation.
By holding a safe and sacred space where we can explore the day-to-day challenges while being present and focused on heart-based awareness, we help shift the relational dynamic between us and also within the wider organisational field: we seed a shift in the consciousness of the organisation’s culture.
In complexity theory this is referred to as setting up a new attractor-field. By embodying heart-awareness in an appreciative and constructive way, we help call forth the future potential of the organisation in manifesting a step change in its cultural consciousness.
This is difficult to describe in words, and yet pioneering scientific studies in social fields, quantum physics, living systems and complexity theory are beginning to prove what the ancients long understood – that we can better manifest the future we desire by spawning social fields here-and-now through the quality of our intention and attention. Our being in-forms our doing.
This sharing circle helps the organisation better adapt to the future (to become more ‘future-fit’) as the relational dynamics and heart-felt sharing uncovers insights that can be implemented more successfully due to a deeper buy-in and understanding of the problems and solutions. Also, the participatory social field created through the circle enhances the social intelligence of the group and with it the ability to sense synchronicities, sense into blockages and their root causes, remediate out-of-kilter areas and bring forward a more intuitive, empowering, forward-thinking, adaptive and responsive culture where we each take personal responsibility for how we are engaging through our relational dynamics. This leads to a more efficient and effective way of operating and organising, and allows the living system to thrive even amid increasing volatility and uncertainty.
Creating a synergistic social field opens us up to a more curious attentiveness, a less judgemental and more empathising, mutually enhancing relational dynamic. We shift from reactivity, separateness and complicated linearity to responsiveness, connectedness and complex synchronicity.
Interestingly, pioneering sociological studies are indicating that as a threshold is crossed within the consciousness of the organisational living system, a shift occurs in the culture which enables the organisation to more easily move away from the traditional yet out-dated ways of management through dis-empowering control-based hierarchies and hyper-competitiveness, into a more alive, purposeful and altogether more-human approach to operating and organising. This organisational threshold can often be crossed with as little as 10% of the people in the organisation deeply resonating with the organisational sense of purpose while embodying mutually enhancing relational dynamics.
Way of Council as a meeting convention can help us embody our own quality of presence while discussing work challenges with colleagues, activating our ability to really listen to the other beyond judgement, to be more vulnerable, open and authentic while at work. From this heart-sharing we seed new levels of being-and-knowing within ourselves and within the social field of the circle, which can then seed new levels of consciousness within our organisational field. Hence, the circle can act as a super-conductor that enhances the coherence of those within the circle and also those beyond the circle in the wider inter-relational field of the organisation. It’s a simple yet powerful practice that helps enable our organisations to become future-fit.
We can each take these simple steps as leaders and change agents today. All we need is a bit of courage to challenge the status quo. For more on some of these liberating structures and new ways of being-and-doing in business, see Future-Fit.