“Big conversations are often typified by the same issues that bedevil conversations further down – a lack of openness, an inability to listen, a default to old patterns and behaviours.”

Margaret WilliamsonWritten by: Margaret Williamson

The Right Conversation: Spotlight on Dialogue,
What conditions enable effective conversations at work? 

Whether they are strategic conversations in the boardroom or conversations between front-line team members, two things matter: a conducive environment and well-developed skills.  The Right Conversation’s Spotlight on Dialogue, research report identified four necessary conditions and three essential skills for dialogue to take place.

“Dialogue facilitates multi-agency working in the criminal justice system”

Margaret WilliamsonWritten by: Margaret Williamson

The Right Conversation: Spotlight on Dialogue,
Promoting the right conversations at work

Over the past year I’ve been researching the impact of using Dialogue for organisational change, both in the published literature and in conversation with people working with dialogue in the public sector.

There are few, if any, systematic research studies of the overall impact of dialogue on organisational or personal change but there are many individual examples of where dialogue has been employed successfully to:

How do we know that dialogue is an effective way of generating effective change in organisations and individuals?

Margaret WilliamsonWritten by: Margaret Williamson

In 2011 The Right Conversation published a research report on the importance of the quality of conversations in organisations.   The organisations they interviewed all reported a positive correlation between the quality of conversation and organisational effectiveness.  The argued that the quality of conversation impacts directly on:

  • Employee engagement
  • Relationships with key stakeholders
  • “The richness and inclusiveness of strategy development”

Given that there is general agreement that conversation matters – what are leaders doing to develop the skills of dialogue in their organisations?

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Facilitator

One of the great benefits of our Facilitation Network is the opportunity it gives us all to connect with our peers in what can, at times, be quite an isolating role. The Edinburgh Facilitation Network met for the fifth time on the 26th September, and once again, we had a fantastic meeting of those interested in and practising facilitation in public services.

This is very much a collaborative network that uses an open space approach, so that those who are practicing and learning about facilitation are both hosting and participating in sessions.

We covered a range of topics including mindfulness in facilitation; both in relation to how to incorporate some mindfulness practices into any events we are facilitating; and also the use of mindfulness for facilitators. There are some resources on mindfulness at the end of this post if you want to find out more.

We also had a wonderful graphic facilitation session from Emer O’Leary and a stimulating discussion around how to engage a large number of participants. Our discussions also touched on women in leadership roles and the isolation of the lone facilitator. Many thanks to everyone who hosted and contributed. We were delighted that so many people new to the network joined us and were so willing to share their experience and skills. Here’s what people valued most.

  • The opportunity to learn about a new skill or approach.
  • Hearing about people’s experiences of facilitation in a safe environment
  • The opportunity to be with other facilitators in a room. There was acknowledgement that virtual spaces have their place but there was much to be gained by being and practicing together. There was also the recognition that facilitation can be an isolating experience so there was real value in coming together , particularly for those who work alone.
  • This tapped in to a recognition of the importance of support and encouragement people felt they had received.
  • There was also a theme around being brave, taking risks, trying something new, keeping it fresh. This can be particularly important if you want to try out a new approach. The facilitation network can act as a ‘testing ground’, allowing you to gain practice and feedback before you use the approach in your work.

If you are interested in out Edinburgh Facilitators Network, you might also be interested in the following opportunities:

  • We are excited to announce that due to demand, there is now a Glasgow Facilitation Network with their first meeting due to take place on the 27th October 2017.
  • We are also exploring the possibilities of a Facilitation Network in the Highlands. If this is of interest to you please get in touch: Karen.lawson@gov.scot
  • The next Edinburgh Facilitation Network is on 7th February 2018 in Edinburgh, and will be part of the Fire Starter Festival – so please hold the date in your diary. If you are interested in finding out a little more about the Fire Starter Festival you may be interested in attending one of our upcoming information sessions.
  • In between sessions we have a LinkedIn Group where people can discuss facilitation and ask for and offer help.
  • The Facilitation Network was born out of a need to support facilitation in and across public services to help support our Pioneering Collaborative Leadership Programme. If you are interested in this work please contact Karen.

Mindfulness Resources

Leadership Exchange – Don’t Miss Out!

Application Deadline – 29 September 2017 – apply now

We welcome you to apply to the next application round of our FREE Leadership Exchange Programme.  The initiative pairs leaders at middle, senior and executive levels to offer them brief cross sectoral exchanges to learn from each other, develop an understanding of other sectors, encourage collaborative working and improve leadership skill capacity.

Over the last 5 years, we have matched over 260 leaders across public, private and third sectors, including representatives from; Scottish Government, Local Authorities, NHS, Scottish Natural Heritage, various Scottish Universities and Colleges, Local and National Charities, Police Scotland, Scottish Prison Service,  and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.  With individuals from more organisations engaging with our programme every week, we can offer a wide range of exchange and sector experiences for all our participants.

We received 41 new applications in February, our first cohort this year, and look forward to exceeding this number in September.

New-LEx-branding-image smallSome of the key programme benefits include:

  • Insight into a different sector – its culture, language and environment
  • Seeing the challenges other leaders experience
  • Offering a fresh perspective on your own leadership role
  • Gaining peer support and the opportunity to share best practice
  • Developing your own leadership skills
  • Building relationships and connections in another sector
  • Collaborative partnership working potential

Testimonials from previous participants include:

“It’s a refreshing way to take time from the day to day of your organisation’s operations to reflect, share and learn from a leader from a different sector – outcomes on both sides are very positive.” (Geoff Leask, Chief Executive, Young Enterprise Scotland)

“Having people working together from different organisations and backgrounds is an incredible enabler of learning.  I would recommend the programme to anyone who genuinely wants to develop their professional practise. ” (Ian Elliot, MPA Co-Director & Senior Lecturer in Business & Public Services, Queen Margaret University)

“You’re not going to get many opportunities like this one, so I would take it right now.” (Louise Macdonald OBE, Chief Executive, Young Scot)

To find out more about the programme, watch our videos, phone Phili Wetton on 0131 243 2755 or email phili.wetton@acosvo.org.uk.

To apply in time for the 29th September deadline you can complete the short online application.

“I Know Your Dad Isn’t Really With Us”

As 30 May – 4 June is Dementia Awareness Week in Scotland, Karen Lawson, Programme Lead for our Pioneering Collaborative Leadership Programme, wanted to share her own experiences of dementia care, and reflect on what this means for how we can approach public services in Scotland.


“I know your Dad isn’t really with us.”

dementia blog1These were the words my cousin wrote to me in relation to my dad and his dementia. Of course, I knew what she meant, but it doesn’t really convey the complexity of what life is like for my dad or the changing relationship of those who are close to someone with dementia.

This is Dementia Awareness week, so I thought I would share a personal story that I hope conveys that each person who has dementia is unique and needs support and care tailored to their individual strengths, interests and needs.

Breakfast Club – new Edinburgh dates added!

We have new dates in the diary right through to 2018 for our Edinburgh Breakfast Club! We meet on the second Wednesday of every month at the Starbucks, Leith Street in Edinburgh – though we are open to recommendations of any good central Edinburgh cafes and coffee shops that can accommodate our lively conversations!

The breakfast club is open to anyone who sees them self as a ‘mischief maker’. Do you like to try new things at work? Do you like to question process to make improvements? Do you try and bring more fun and creativity into what you do? Or do you just want to meet people who are doing this and more at work?

Then the breakfast club is for you!

Topics for discussions range widely – they are always dependant on who turns up and what has sparked their interest and imagination that day! No matter the topic the conversations are always engaging, interesting and insightful. The breakfast club has given us all a great opportunity to expand our networks and our horizons –  whether we are regulars or just occasional visitors.‎ When times are hard and we are all feeling a range of pressures at work, it’s empowering to meet with others in similar roles and situations to share our experiences and stories.

The breakfast club will be meeting at , on the following dates‎ – follow @Workforce_scot for regular updates:

  • 14 June 2017 – 8.30 – 10 am
  • 12 July 2017 – 8.30 – 10 am
  • 9 August  2017 – 8.30 – 10 am
  • 13 September  2017 – 8.30 – 10 am
  • 11 October 2017 – 8.30 – 10 am
  • 8 November  2017 – 8.30 – 10 am
  • 13 December  2017 – 8.30 – 10 am
  • 10 January 2018 – 8.30 – 10 am
  • 14 February 2018 – 8.30 – 10 am


We’re also looking to set up a Glasgow Breakfast Club. If you might be interested in helping us get it started, email info@workforcescotland.com.

What I Now Know About Lighting Fires

The Fire Starter Festival 2017 drew to a close last month after 35 events which attracted around 1500 participants. Over the coming months we’ll reflect on the evaluations, and have many conversations about what went well, what could have been better, what inspired people, and what actions have been taken to light some small fires of change.  As the inspiration for the festival came from the Seven Steps for Lighting Small Fires of Change, I thought I would share seven things I now know about lighting fires and what it takes to light a Fire Starter Festival.