Episode 11

Published on:

16th Jun 2020

Dial in to dialogue

The Pursuit of Generative Dialogue

Generative thinking: the idea that there really is nothing new under the sun BUT when we put different combinations of that “nothing new” into a conversation, something generative happens and we see things from a different and unique perspective.

As a leader gains the skills needed to initiate generative conversations, the ideas shared will not only move you to a clarity of actions you can take but will also serve as a gateway to other topics where resolutions are not evident.

Questions for a leader learning how to dive more deeply into generative dialogue:

1.       Are you willing to create vulnerability and shared experience through your conversation?

2.      Can you take the time to generate a space where authentic dialogue has the potential for initiating meaningful relationships?

Generative conversations:

·        direct, honest exchange of sharing and inquiry between people who have released their need for certainty, for knowing that they are right,  and opened themselves up to hear possibilities and deeper meaning than either could have thought up individually.

·        marked by deep respect as individuals look at their deeply held assumptions and beliefs with curiosity. Instead of feeling a need to defend what they see as “right,” they are open to seeing things anew and from another perspective.

·        acknowledging all voices and perspectives matter; when you approach a conversation in this way your goal is to engage in dialogue to weave patterns together instead of defend positions or beliefs.

“We have to bring together the people who are co-creating the current reality to co-create new realities. We have to shift from downloading and debating to reflective and generative dialogues.” Adam Kahane – global facilitator of processes through which business, government, and civil society leaders can work together to address intractable issues.

Recommendations from Adam:

1.      Pay attention to how you are talking and listening.

2.      Reflect on your own role.

3.      Listen:

a.      To others who have a stake in the system

b.      To what is being said, not just by yourself but by others

c.      To what is being said through ALL of you

4.       Relax and be fully present

5.      Get ready to find yourself stuck! What? 


 1.      We can’t solve problems within the current context

2.      We can’t change the context we find ourselves in on our own or with our friends and colleagues

3.      The people we need to engage in order to shift the context don’t understand, agree or trust one another. 

Good news: you can seek the opportunity for generative dialogue that will help you stay real, and, as you feel stuck, be honest that you do not have the answers but that you are willing to engage until clarity comes with next steps.


Meet me at www.healthyleadership.online. Look for the course called Relationships Accelerate Results to complete a self-assessment of how you, as an individual communicates with others.  

Kahane, A. (2004). Solving Tough Problems. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.: San Francisco.

Show artwork for The Art of Leadership

About the Podcast

The Art of Leadership
The Art of Leadership focuses on soft skills... some of the hardest skills a leader will ever learn.
The Art of Leadership with Dr. Niña Ellison focuses on the soft skills of leadership, their value and the power of their influence. As a leader, if you are interested in moving from success to significance then balancing both hard and soft skills is essential!

Hard skills are demonstrated through technical expertise that results in clearly measured goals being reached. They are vital to the success of any initiative or program. On the other hand, soft skills emphasize the transformation of people. They highlight behavioral changes and making a difference in people’s lives.

This podcast is for leaders who are seeking a fresh perspective into some of the hardest soft skills a leader will ever learn. You can connect with Niña at https://www.ninaellison.com

About your host

Profile picture for Niña Ellison

Niña Ellison

In 2019, after years of leading teams varying from international disaster relief and healthcare to the US Corporate world, Niña founded Healthy Leadership to focus on her passion for partnering with leaders in their growth and sustainability. Her own journey into soft skill development has convinced her that while her technical skills helped her get her foot in the door, her soft skills moved the influence of her leadership from success to significance.

As a soft skill specialist Niña takes monthly deep dives in her podcast series, The Art of Leadership, to explore the underlying dimensions of soft skills. She knows that soft skill development is not so much about WHAT but HOW a leader leads.
• From a 10,000 foot view a leader pursuing soft skills asks, “How do I problem solve; How do I manage time and energy?”
• From a 1,000-foot view that same leader, as they dig deeper into soft skills, begins asking questions like, “How do I listen; or How do gain self-control?”
• From Ground Zero the leader recognizes that there are underlying dimensions of soft skills as they ask, “How do I model respect for all; How do I sustain hope; How do I demonstrate appropriate love in the workplace; How do I maintain the right attitude?” How do I lead by serving?

Nina believes that behind every wildly effective and sustainable system and process are leaders and teams who have interwoven soft skills into every phase of their work.