Bringing the practices of mindfulness and dialogue to leadership conversations

Things are getting worse!

Posts Tagged ‘Dialogue practice’

Things are getting worse!

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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! (more…)

Transforming conversations

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In seeking to better explain the relevance of my dialogue-related work, I’ve been stimulated by a ‘Capability Accelerator’ programme offered by the International Futures Forum. The programme outlines practice-based frameworks for Transformative Innovation (Graham Leicester) and offers action-learning support to participants, who engage in a project over nine months. (more…)

Conversation operating systems

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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. (more…)

Beyond words

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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. (more…)

Consider this…

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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. (more…)

Holding conversations

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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. (more…)

Sounds of silence

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Since my return from a silent retreat, I find myself talking a lot about not talking. The irony doesn’t escape me. While words can’t fully express the experience and impact of silence, I continue to explore how I might articulate its merit in embodying dialogue practices.

I’ve written about silence before – in my book, Pause for Breath, and in an article for Coaching at Work, about a visit to Bhutan. In the latter, I described silence as part of the landscape – a textural backdrop into which sounds seemed to fall and dissolve. (more…)

Being faithless

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One of the quotations on my office wall is from Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s poem The Invitation. The particular verse that serves as inspiration and support centres on our capacity to be true to self, and so risk disappointing another. It says:

‘I want to know… if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.’

Our choices about how to invest our energy depend on who we are, what matters to us, and who matters to us. (more…)

In another light

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As I begin to write this article, I’m in the Orkney Islands, which Andrew Greig, in his novel ‘In Another Light’, describes evocatively as ‘land like an old green tarpaulin dragged out of the North Sea, glinting pools of water in its folds’. My first impressions are of another place, qualitatively different in energy to any other part of the British Isles.

With other island communities, Orkney is keen to shape their own future. They’re in a conversation with the Scottish Government similar to that between Holyrood and Westminster about Scotland. More widely there are conversations about the UK’s relationship with the EU, and the options for an independent Scotland in Europe. I have a sense of asymmetry in these conversations (more…)

The grittiness of dialogue

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I recently found a new way to describe the experience of dialogue, seeking to convey a felt-sense of this kind of conversation. It came about because I was asked to contribute to a series of 90-minute leadership development sessions. I don’t often accept such invitations, preferring to host practice-based learning over time. However, sometimes it’s helpful to test my assumptions – my ‘ladder of inference’ – about the lasting impact of short inputs, and to stretch my prejudices about the value of one-off interventions.

In designing the session, I was keen to avoid two potholes:

• too much ‘presenting’ (advocacy) in a context of dialogue (balancing advocacy and inquiry); and
• giving an impression that dialogue is a form of sublime, zen-like conversation. (more…)