Leading with Dialogue

Building Conversational and Competence


The conversational choices sessions focus on the art and science of conversation, using a variety of perspectives and effective conversational tools and processes.

In these sessions we will explore how to use conversation to maximum effect, as well as what it means to be learning and refining this skill together. How many of us get it right, particularly when the stakes are high and our emotions are triggered? Conversation is the primary form we use to relate to each other, collaborate and coordinate action in order to get things done. It is our most powerful and under-utilised tool. If we can change the way we talk and listen to people, we can become more effective overnight.

The topics of conversation can be anything we choose, but they will inevitably fall into various areas of human concern: sociability, leadership, relationship, family, work, play, education/learning, career, money, membership, the world, situation, spirituality, body.

The foundation of our conversations is the appreciation of dialogue (dia logos – flow of meaning) and how this is distinct from discussion or debate and what it takes to build a safe context for this to happen. We will practise slowing down our exchanges, deep listening, respecting, suspending and voicing. We will explore different levels and fields of conversation and will experiment with a host of conversational perspectives, tools and processes that will build personal capacity and will add great value to our practitioners’ tool box. 

Some of these will include advocacy and inquiry, the role of the mover, supporter, challenger and observer in group contexts; the linguistic actions of declarations, requests, assessments, assertions, offers and promises; how moods and emotions are intertwined with language; the role of intuition; speaking up versus silence and avoiding conversation; doing conversation well and doing it poorly; shifting the conversation, breakdowns and breakthroughs.

‘A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in baskets of silver’ – Proverbs  25:11

These sessions are designed to deepen our practice as community members, leaders and change catalysts. We will draw on specific conversational tools and processes representing a diverse range of thought practitioners. These include Dialogue (Bohm & Isaacs), Theory U (Scharmer), Ontology (Sieler), The Thinking Environment (Kline), Conversational Intelligence (Glaser) Group Dynamics (Kantor), Standing in the Fire (Dressler), The Art of Conversation (Krisco), Engaging Emergence (Holman).

What you will gain:

  • A context to experiment with conversation and dialogue
  • Exposure to a broad range of leading edge and well researched material
  • Being part of a community of exciting thinkers and practitioners
  • Learning and growth opportunities experimenting with repetitive practices
  • Insight and perspective from the various conversations
  • An opportunity to observe your own thinking processes, emotions and physical sensations
  • Understanding and learning from witnessing others in their process
  • Discovery of where our conversational choices take us and their impact
  • Knowledge of how to use the tools in both personal and work contexts.

Broad themes and practices:

  • Personal observation and centering practices
  • The types of conversations available to us
  • Keys to mastering conversations
  • Managing our listening and speaking
  • Creating structured conversational contexts
  • Pointers for handling difficult conversations
  • The interrelationship between thinking and emotions
  • An exploration of ‘way of being’ vs conversational tools.

Who should attend?

Those who predominantly work in a facilitative capacity with individuals, groups or teams and are committed to the embodiment of personal practice and transformation: managers, leaders, teachers, facilitators, coaches, mentors, counsellors; or anyone interested in refining the art and science of conversation.  

Learning approach

We will  work mainly in a circle setting, to practise the art of thinking and conversing together. This will be interspersed with short learning sessions to expose us to a new specific skill or practice. The group convener will provide some helpful direction and light facilitation for some of the short learning sessions, with a view to being an equal learner and participant in the circle. We will include relevant reading material and draw on individual expertise and diversity from within the group as our sessions progress.

Overview and Duration

Half day seminar: There will be a half day seminar at the beginning of the cycle to set the stage for our journey and learning cycle together.

Conversations: We plan to have a two and a half-hour session every two weeks for the duration of a six-month period which will include regular times of reflection to see how the cycle is going for each of us. There will be the potential to extend the cycle to a year if we choose.

NB: At any point individuals can choose to leave the group.

Venue and dates: To be discussed.


Vicky Coates runs her own consultancy, Transformer Leadership. She is committed to the work of personal leadership development and capacity building, which she has offered as a facilitator, coach and mentor. She has worked with individuals, groups and corporates in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, USA and England.