Bringing the practices of mindfulness and dialogue to leadership conversations

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Changing minds

Early last week, a friend sent an email: Am watching Brexit debate. Unedifying.

In response to this succinct appraisal of the parliamentary process, I rolled my eyes. While I should care more about such matters, I seriously question whether our current political system enables people to talk about our place in the world in a way that reflects the complexity of that world. And so I disengage.

As politicians trade opinions,

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Things are getting worse!

In a recent coaching conversation, my client declared ‘things are getting worse’. Whilst acknowledging his progress in being more skilful and human in his leadership, he was experiencing more occasions of regret, discomfort, awkwardness or embarrassment about his interactions with others. For me, this indicates that things are getting better!

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Conversation operating systems

Recently, I’ve been exploring how to better explain the relevance of my dialogue-related work, in which I draw attention to the relationship between the shape and quality of conversations and what happens next. Crucially, different ‘forms’ of conversation are more useful for some purposes than others. Therefore, it pays to understand how best to create the conditions for bringing about a particular outcome.

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Beyond words

Back in the day, I was a Director of Finance in the NHS. Long before I encountered dialogue practices, my deputy and I were preparing for an important meeting that she’d called. We had to gain support from a local peer group for a crucial development. We were expecting opposition. My colleague was very clear and animated about how to push our agenda through.

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Consider this…

Pause for Breath is five years old today! On Monday 4 July 2011, somewhat reluctantly, I held a launch party for this written manifestation of my dialogue-related work. I still find it hard to be visible in this way – to actively celebrate something I’ve produced. Yet I believe in the power of the practices in the book. I also believe that they, alongside similar approaches, are more necessary than ever before.

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The vision thing

In coaching supervision, a client was lamenting her lack of ‘a vision’ for her business. Two things flitted briefly through my mind:

• I’m not sure you’re strongly visual in your preferences; and
• who says we need a vision?

I let these thoughts slide by, as my client’s narrative unfolded along different lines.

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Dressing down

A recent swathe of adverse comments reminded me of an incident from my first job, in a merchant bank. After some initial training, I was placed in the treasury function. I speculate that this decision was based on my maths degree rather than personal aptitude! The dealing room was an alien world. Thankfully, some kindly-disposed ‘old hands’ helped me learn the ropes.

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Holding conversations

The more dialogue-related work I do, the greater my appreciation for the connection between the outcome of a conversation and the climate within which it’s held. By ‘outcome’ I mean not just the immediate ‘upshot’, but the impact of the conversation on relationships and the bigger system.

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