Designing Environments for Innovation
Washington D.C. and Crestone, CO.

Leadership Development Through Dialogue


These sessions use a dialogue format in supporting participants to:

  1. Identify and develop their own unique styles as leaders while strengthening their relationships with colleagues and staff,
  2. Understand how they may be creating their own limitations by the way they think about a variety of work-related issues,
  3. Move beyond their limitation in considering how to intentionally create teams, projects, organizational environments and community development efforts in alignment with their highest visions.
“Significant conversation actually moves productivity along.”
A ‘Leadership Through Dialogue' Participant

These sessions have very real work-related outcomes. Groups use this format to explore, clarify, gain insight, come to understanding and then make decisions on concerns that directly affect the atmosphere and productivity of their companies/government divisions/communities.

We offer you two case studies to illustrate the power of Leadership Development Through Dialogue.

Case One: Dialogue for Sustainable Change

Case Two: Women’s Leadership: A New Conversation

Case One: Dialogue for Sustainable Change

The Invitation

Can The Crestone Institute design a process to assist Branch Managers in communicating more effectively with each other and their Chief? Can this be done in a way that especially encourages sustainable change?

The Design for Innovation

The Crestone Institute suggested a dialogue approach.

The group met for half a day, once a month, for a year. The first session was designed so that the group discovered the work-related topics that they wished to discuss. In the first session together, the group was asked to:

  • Imagine their Division as they truly wished it to be,
  • Describe the current realities of their Division: all that was working well and what changes were needed,
  • Identify, based on the above, the topics they felt most important to explore in order to move toward the positive image,
  • Prioritize these topics,
  • Come to a consensus on their ground rules or ‘terms of engagement’ for their future meetings.

The following is a selected sample of topics that were explored over the year:

  • Motivation of self and others
  • Developing trust and respect
  • Creativity
  • Communicating with each other
  • Gaining more staff involvement
  • How to move new projects forward
  • How to most effectively discuss ‘hot’ topics with each other
  • Integrating new people into teams
  • Customer/Client relations
  • Personal mastery, personal vision
  • Giving feedback up and down the hierarchy
  • Atmosphere
  • Inter-branch/section co-operation

The Outcomes

The Branch Managers reported changed relationships with their own staff:

Two Branch Managers decided to bring their staffs together to share information and better understand each other’s responsibilities. “It was like a breath of fresh air entering the room.” The two Branch Managers no longer felt like they were in adversarial positions; the staff of both Branches identified their common ground and found ways to help each other do their work more effectively.

“I now listen to my staff in a different way which means I am now more investigative. It is not about taking sides but about being honest. If my staff gets mad at another group, I will help to explain this group’s situation and my people get a new perspective. I feel more connected. For example, I feel that if another group is late, it is my problem too.”

The Branch Managers reported changed relationships with each other:

“These groups are good because we talk about what we want, what is possible, not just about what needs to be fixed. It is energizing.”

“I feel like I am much more comfortable being open and honest with the Chief. This has changed because I heard her tell me what was really important and I bought into what she was saying.”

“Now I feel that we are all in this together; we are allies.”

“I don’t feel like I am imposing my will on a problem but that we are solving ‘our’ problem.”

Case Two:
Women’s Leadership: A New Conversation

The Invitation

Can The Crestone Institute design a leadership initiative which encourages creativity and also fits the organizational culture and the wide range of participant leadership experience? Is it possible to provide an opportunity for all to learn from the wisdom of others who face similar issues? Can participants create a sustainable network as they move forward in their leadership challenges and career aspirations?

The Design for Innovation

The Crestone Institute designed a dialogue approach in order to assist participants to bring their unique talents and gifts to their roles as leaders, to create environments that will encourage their own and others’ full expression as leaders, and to set the stage for a sustainable leadership network.

Accepting an emphasis on dialogue, on exploration and learning, rather than on persuading and convincing, the group of fifteen came together from a Friday evening through Sunday noon. Through a variety of experiences they:

  • Spoke with pride about and listened with appreciation to each other’s contributions toward sustaining the national reputation of their organization,
  • Shared joys, challenges and lessons learned in their development as leaders,
  • Identified ways to continue their work with internally-generated motivation and pride,
  • Formed action groups to support the further growth and success of the organization.

The Outcomes

“I was recently [invited] to serve on … a comprehensive planning and implementation [team for a new initiative]. I’m absolutely certain that this group helped me position myself so that I could take advantage of such an awesome and unique opportunity. Thank you.”

  • Coaching, mentoring and networking relationships were established across organizational and hierarchical boundaries.
  • Knowledge of ‘personal-best practices’ were identified and shared across the organization.
  • Professional development opportunities were created which led, over time, to promotions, career changes and skill development.
  • Self-sustaining networks gave strategic input to targeted change initiatives.
  • A ‘wait-list’ and scholarships were developed for future dialogues.

If you would like to explore the place of Leadership Through Dialogue in your organization, please contact us.

For other Opportunities with Crestone, see:
Innovation in Leading Change| The Leadership Spiral | Personal Leadership