Archive | September, 2011

Shift Happened Last Night – Conscious Leadership @ Work

Yesterday was World Tourism Day and history was made in Canada. A tourism event pulled in 1000 people.
Watch the web cast here.

#Futourism renewed my hope and commitment to the cause of co-creating an alternative vision for tourism. Even though I wasn’t there and, due to a lousy Internet connection, could only experience part of it through the tweets in the twittersphere, I knew it marked an important milestone on the SHIFT towards a healthier, more balanced travel sector.

As I wasn’t there, I will quote from someone who was – Flight Centre Canada published this summary earlier today here.

The energy in the room was high as David Suzuki kicked off the night with his talk about how tourism not only introduces people to other cultures, but raised some bigger questions about how tourism can create a positive impact and how we, as travellers, can reduce our ecological footprint. This was further highlighted with Erica Harm’s presentation on how sustainable tourism can turn vanishing cultures to enduring ones.

Travel Blogger Gary Arndt also known in the twitterverse as @EverywhereTrip, stressed the importance that if we want to understand the changes in travel, we need to understand the changes in technology first. People are literally picking up their lives and working from different parts of the world as WIFI is becoming widely available in many countries.

But the anticipation rose throughout the night for ‘the big announcement’  to be made by Bruce Poon Tip. And big it was! With a series of videos and a heartfelt story from Bruce about his 21 years building his company, Bruce addressed a topic that’s been in chasing him for the past five years regarding the lawsuit between Gap Clothing in the US and his brand.

In 1990 Bruce Poon Tip launched Gap Adventures with the belief that other travellers would share his desire to experience authentic adventures in a responsible and sustainable manner. They’ve since grown from a one-man show to a company of over 500, and from a handful of trips in Latin America to hundreds of adventures spanning the globe. Which is why as a company, they’ve decided to take a step forward together and ‘free themselves’. Effective globally October 1st,  the company formally known as Gap Adventures, will now be ‘G Adventures’

“The decision is liberating because we are confident in our product and people. I need to focus on the company and what I do best. We only dropped two letters, everything else remain the same. One of our fundamental principles here is to change the lives of anyone who comes into contact with our company. Our business model isn’t about bottom-lines and turnover. It’s about happiness, freedom and independence,” shares Poon Tip. “I’ve always believed that the secret to happiness is freedom, and the secret to freedom is courage. This year, we are taking a bold step with our identity – a change that’s an evolutionary step into the future.”

I am excited because here we see Conscious Leadership @ Work and heard  a Conscious Host in action

1. Serve a Higher purpose. Bruce Toon Pip created his company in order to change the lives of anyone who comes into contact with it.

2. Create Transformational Experiences – G Adventures was out there doing “transformative travel” before it became a buzz word and bandwagon

3. Show You Care: G Adventures is a company that young people in travel long to work for and has created a culture that respects that fact that its employees are the brand. As a consequence its adaptive, nimble and innovative. Guests are happy.

G Adventures  recognises that it must also put something back – It created The Planeterra Foundation for that purpose and assembled one of the best teams possible led by Megan Epler Wood one of the brightest lights in sustainable tourism.

G Adventure's Brand Is Its People Photo Source: Flight centre CA

4. Bruce’s company  understands that all business is now social and their success in attracting, engaging and supporting travellers is due to their intelligent application of social media. They get “Conscious Marketing”

5. Last night at Futourism, G Adventures  showed that it has what it takes to be a change agent and serve a larger community – in this case tourism as a whole

I felt a breath of fresh air blow across the country.

Dear peers in travel (ie those of you over 55 – let these guys shine. It’s their future and their turn. Our job is to hand over the reins and support as best we can.

Now sit back and enjoy their video – spread the word.

How is this Program Different?

The last thing we want to do in Conscious Travel is undermine or compete with the good work being done by a host  of other travel-related organizations that are trying to build a better future. We fully applaud and support the efforts and achievements of such organizations as  the International Centre for Responsible Travel (ICRT) and especially the pioneering work of Justin Francis, founder of; the various agencies involved in Sustainable Tourism such as Sustainable Travel International; the achievements of many eco-tourism and activity providers where great leadership has been shown by The International Ecotourism Society and Adventure Travel Trade Association. The work of Tourism Concern is also much appreciated and deserves more support.

What we are trying to do though is add value, impetus and encouragement by focusing on building the internal leadership skills within the tourism community to navigate the turbulent waters of change and grow high yielding, stable businesses.  Our intent is to make it easier for “SME” providers to access the knowledge, information and tools they perceive as relevant to their development.  As such, we will be pleased to work in partnership with others.

The concept has been based on a belief that within a sector as labour intensive as tourism, all the intelligence, drive and imagination exists within any destination community to adapt and thrive. It is the task of leaders to challenge, inspire, draw out, support and reward the innovations that will come from customers , employees, suppliers and the host community. Most tourism entrepreneurs have brought their skills as restauranteurs, hoteliers, activity providers, attraction and event managers to the sector but have not necessarily had the opportunity to develop leadership skills that are appropriate for our times.  Unlike the employees of Fortune 500 companies, few travel providers have had the time, money or opportunity to develop the managerial and leadership capacities of their personnel or access emerging thinking.

What differentiates Conscious Travel is our initial focus on the inner world of those who would afect change. If the tourism community is to have the capacity to thrive in turbulent times, it requires leaders who can make accurate sense of their world, adapt to changing conditions and demonstrate resilience. We reject the notion that concepts such “mindset”, “values”, “culture” and “character” are soft. On the contrary, they profoundly determine the extent of a company’s success.

Our vision is for Conscious Travel to become a global learning community in which participants recognise their interdependence and help themselves and each other. We’re looking to attract business owners, such as the ones Seth Godin describes below, who want to grow themselves and enable their employees and the host community to grow in a qualitative sense.

Heretics are the new leaders. The ones who challenge the status quo, who get out in front of their tribes and who create movements. Seth Godin

The Conscious Travel e-learning program is not for everyone. We wish to attract heretics and change agents, the curious and those willing to stretch themselves so that they can better serve their communities. The full scope of the program is summarised here and will be refined in greater detail after expensive consultation with travel-related suppliers and potential participants.

Success will have been achieved if participants in the program:

  • feel better able to make sense of the changes affecting their business, their community and the tourism sector and more confident in their capacity to respond and thrive;  and
  • are able to create the conditions whereby their own teams can collaborate with others to delight the Conscious Travellers they attract; provide tangible net benefits to the host community such that its residents wish to actively participate in welcoming visitors; can attract responsible suppliers and investors; and generate above average profits.

Conscious Hoteliers Show They CARE

The essence of what being a Conscious Host or a Conscious Traveller is all about can be summed up in two words:

they care

Conscious hosts create places that care simply because the people at each place (be it a B& B, a boutique hotel, the site of an activity, tour or event) genuinely CARE about their guest, the environment on which they depend and each other. They also care about the vitality of the local economy; the culture of the host community, the viability and responsibility of suppliers, and the needs of shareholders to see a return on their investment.

When all these needs are met and, none at the cost of another stakeholder, profit flows.

The evidence of the soundness of such an approach is becoming indisputable and is coming from a variety of sources. Those businesses operating with a culture of care for all stakeholders outperform those with a focus primarily on shareholders as discussed in the book Firms of Endearment.

Since the act of providing “hospitality” and “re-creation” is also essentially an act of caring, we should assume that those companies,  which are overtly engaged in the business of extending hospitality,  could and should be pioneers of a more conscious way of looking after all stakeholders. One goal of the Conscious.Travel movement will simply be to identify hoteliers who do really care in this way and bring them together.

As far as applying the term conscious is concerned, two hotel companies have already “staked their turf” in this regard: Kimpton Hotels and the small but perhaps better known Joie de Vivre group of boutique hotels, operated by Chip Conley who has become a leadership guru in his own right and poster child for the Conscious Capitalist movement – see his book called Peak – How Great Companies Get Their Mojo From Maslow and website of his consulting and training organisation.

Leaders of the two organisations have similar mindsets. They have shifted from an industrial mindset that focuses on products and efficient processes to one that:

          • recognises that all companies are run by and for people who have physical, financial, emotional, social and spiritual needs;
          • all people and the lifeforms on which they depend are connected and interdependent; and
          • the encounter between guest and host occurs at a unique point in time and place and is uniquely shaped by each – i.e., the more an experience is infused with a “sense of place and occasion” the more value and meaning it will generate for the participants.

As Chip Conley states:

“Life and business is all about where you pay attention and most businesses neglect the fact that we are all humans. The minute we neglect to show deep human respect to each and every person who crosses our path, we lose a little of ourselves.” 

An earlier recession that occurred at the start of his career as a hotelier necessitated an innovative way of surviving. Chip Conley was prompted to draw on his college education by bringing Maslow’s heirarchy of needs to the business world and making theoretical psychology practical and uplifting for thousands.

Conley combined two powerful concepts to create a unique approach to service design and delivery:

First he applied Maslow’s heirarchy to the three kinds of people involved in his hotel: employees, investors and guests suggesting that each could aspire to more. Employees might start out wanting a job and the security that came with a paycheck but then graduated to wanting a career and finally a calling, a vocation or sense of purpose. Similarly, guests might be happy under some circumstances to have just a comfortable bed, but once they were assured of that would ascend Maslow’s pyramid and want more,  finally seeking a boutique property that reflected their own values and tastes. Investors also want more than a financial return – many want to enjoy a sense of pride or create a legacy. Conley’s genius was that he also took a long hard look at what he called the “Service Profit Chain” before combing both approaches into a powerful model designed to deliver maximum value to all stakeholders.

The following slide presentation – sourced from – illustrates Chip Conley’s thinking.

PEAK: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow

The Kimpton Hotel Group may not have approached the act of becoming conscious hoteliers quite as methodically as Conley but have placed similar emphasis on employee care and ensuring their employees find fulfillment in their work.

Michael Dapatie, CEO of the Kimpton group, says that one of his jobs is to help his 7000 employees “connect with themselves”. Caring for his employees creates a “chain of caring” that runs down throughout the organization and makes a stay at one of Kimpton’s boutique hotels a “transformative experience” for customers. “If you grow the people you’ll grow the organization” says Dapatie.

Employees at Kimpton are surveyed to help determine their strengths and weaknesses, and “personality style”. By allowing employees to pursue their passions and interests within the framework of their jobs, the “caring” is expressed in loyalty to the company, an uncommon and highly acclaimed experience for the customer, and an organic, employee-driven effort to embrace core tenets of conscious capitalism: social responsibility, sustainability and environmental awareness.

Kimpton’s Earthcare program is supported by self-described “greenies” who become the “Eco-Champion” (pdf) for a particular hotel. They take their role seriously and help integrate the ‘meaning’ of the customer ‘experience’. Core corporate values match the core values of the employees, and the authentic message of Kimpton embraced by the customer. Their Corporate Social responsibility program is, in fact called simply “Kimpton Cares”  based on a belief that the company has:

“a responsibility to positively impact the communities in which we live. We strive to be conscious of our impact on the environment and to make a difference where we can. We strive to help and provide leadership for those around us, both inside and outside our company and our industry. Ultimately, we believe that when we are more successful in our business endeavours, we have more resources to make a positive difference in our communities”. 

Depatie provides further insights into Kimpton’s approach in a 3 minute video accessible by clicking here.

Is Conscious Business “Capitalism 3.0”?

Jean Houston

Dr. Jean Houston, scholar, philosopher and researcher in human capacities, and one of the foremost visionary thinkers and doers of our time and principal founders of the Human Potential Movement sent me a summary of the major mindset shifts taking place at this point in history. What an amazing time to be alive!.

If you are interested in and committed to envisioning and co-creating a fresh new vision for the travel and hospitality community, now’s the time to find fellow kindred spirits and get started. Many brave souls have prepared a path before us. All the  great work in sustainable tourism, ecotourism, geotourism, and responsible travel is building towards the same end – ensuring our travel activities don’t cost the earth. Conscious.Travel is not designed or intended to duplicate or fragment but to integrate and support. Our focus is on people not product; on helping nourish and grow leaders with courage and imagination. It was Victor Frankl who said,

When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.

Here are Dr. Houston’s five shifts with my comments in italics..

1. We are changing our understanding of who and what we are and what we need to become in order to be able to deal with the complexity of our time. It was Theihard de Chardin who coined the phrase – “we are not human beings having a spiritual experience but spiritual beings having a human experience”. That being the case, there are no limits to what we can achieve. In the same way that we can acquire superhuman strength when in a dire emergency and loved ones are trapped, so can we find the power in ourselves to cope when the stakes get really high – and they are increasing every day. 

2. Human societies are in the process of re-patterning. Social constructs are dissolving and whole new stories are trying to emerge, such as the rise of women to a full partnership with men across the globe, and many others. Women are a vital and significantly important part of the travel community and are driving the movement towards conscious consumption. Time we stepped forth in our own communities. It’s not about seeking to climb to the top of decaying institutions but being a change agent at the grassroots level

3. How we conduct business and commerce is shifting. This is perhaps the most important social event of the last five thousand years, because commerce impacts almost everything in our lives. Capitalism as practiced in the past is seriously flawed. Even Alan Greenspan had to admit it contained flaws he hadn’t acknowledged. Now is not the time to discard the only means of sustaining ourselves but to re-think, re-set- re-create a better version. Simply put, Conscious Business is Capitalism 3.0

4. The rise and fusion of different cultures–we are swiftly moving towards a planetary civilization that accentuates the uniqueness of each culture while blending them together. Think of the great fusions of food and of music and of beliefs. Now if travel & tourism had a higher purpose, then this is it. But we won’t make our contribution to building a planetary civilisation so long as we continue to displace vulnerable cultures in our attempts to secure the few remaining unspoiled, remote spots of beauty left where indigenous cultures have existed for thousands of years. To be involved in travel means to care about the disappearance of a language every two weeks and to speak out where the actions of the travel community have created injustice.

5. Whole new orders of spirituality are emerging that are not about religion. The new cosmologies are giving us a view of ourselves that we never had before. For the first time ever, we find that we don’t live in the universe, but that the universe lives in us. In other words, for the first time in human history we’re consciously aware that our own evolution as a species is in our hands and not left to random chance. That’s both wildly exciting and terrifying. Isn’t that enough to jump out of bed with passion and enthusiasm?

Time to wake up folks. Fresh, organic coffee lovingly grown by a cooperative is brewing!

To quote our friends at Interaction Associates:

ROI = Return on Involvement

It doesn’t matter whether you get involved in Responsible Travel, Sustainable Tourism, Green Travel, Geotourism etc. what matters is that you participate and take a stand for what you believe in.

Conscious Business A Big Hit with Women Chiefs of Enterprise

I had the opportunity and privilege of sharing my thoughts on Conscious Business with over 100 women entrepreneurs at the WCEI2011 event in Sydney last week. A good omen was that I discovered the endnote speaker of the day, Linda Dunkel of Interaction Associates, a very well established, international consulting firm, was also speaking about Conscious Leadership. We became good friends and made great “bookends”.

Interaction Associates invented the word facilitation and now specialise in “Facilitative Leadership” – a process of managing, navigating and capitalising on change through collaboration and sharing responsibility for success.   They have found that the best Facilitative Leaders are strategic thinkers; believe strongly in collaboration and are skilled at creating the right conditions for innovation, building agreement, structuring decision-making, and convening the appropriate stakeholders. These important skills ensure that collaboration occurs seamlessly and doesn’t get bogged down, lead to consensus paralysis, or fail entirely. Surely,  all skills and attributes that will be needed by a Conscious Host in a travel community that is is becoming ever more complex and volatile. For more information, read this excellent introduction to Facilitative Leadership here.

I retitled my presentation “Crossing the Chasm – Women Entrepreneurs as Agents of Change” and took the liberty of suggesting that it is business, especially grassroots, local small business that will make the greatest contribution to innovation and and our ability to breakthrough rather than breakdown under the converging forces of change.

An added bonus was that Linda Dunkel kindly made an introduction to Raj Sisodia, author of a book, Firms of Endearment,  that has really encouraged me to persist with the concept of Conscious Travel; and Jeff Klein who in addition to being a founding trustee of the  Conscious Capital Institute operates his own marketing firm, Working For Good . Jeff has produced a six week course on the Power of Conscious Capitalism and Working For Good that you can access here. It starts on September 22nd – so hurry!

The Conscious Capital Institute is holding its annual summit in Texas in October and, somehow, I will be there. Thus far, most of these innovative new ways of doing business have been undertaken by fairly large firms – or ones that through their success grew into large firms. I am hoping to show that their message is perhaps even more applicable and important to the diverse enterprises that comprise the global tourism economy and that tourism could play a major role in diffusing these improvements to the biggest change agent on the planet – private enterprise!!

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