Better Conversations and Feedback

A high-impact, dynamic and flexible face-to-face or virtual program to build your people’s capabilities in engaging more safely and authentically on critical challenges.

Research consistently shows that the way managers communicate with their staff and those around them and, especially, the degree to which they create psychologically safe environments, is a key driver of team effectiveness and employee engagement.

This program is designed to help your managers – and potentially staff – speak with others in ways that foster safety for everyone, that cut through to the underlying issues, and that promote authentic interactions.

Better conversations for managers

Program Overview

Participants learn to utilise the OBREAU structure (for Observation, Reasonableness and Authenticity), enabling them to get ready for, and engage in, conversations on just about any “tough” (thorny, sticky) issue with greater confidence and composure. They’ll become more adept at both giving feedback constructively and receiving it non-defensively.

The program described here is an “Express” version. It’s designed to get your people started in applying the OBREAU structure for better conversations and feedback in as little as one three-hour face-to-face workshop or two 90-minute virtual workshops, together with an individual consultation.

As with acquiring any skill, practice is essential. Accordingly, suggestions for additional supports are also offered to help your people in furthering their practice of conversing on tough issues.


OBREAU structure

Express Program

Designed to get your people up and running quickly in improving their conversations and feedback, especially in a context of uncertainty and change, the Express program involves:

  • A three-hour face-to-face workshop or two 90-minute virtual workshops with highly interactive and experiential sessions whichever the preferred format. Group sizes of up to ten participants are recommended, especially with the virtual workshops. The small group sizes help create an environment of openness and trust and enable responsiveness to individual needs and concerns.
  • A one-hour virtual consultation with each participant, to help the individual apply the concepts and tools introduced, in engaging on their own challenges.

Participants learn how to:

  • Recognise and overcome default behaviours that get in the way of conversations on tough issues
  • Ground the conversation in evidence and working from observation
  • Shift perspectives, to better appreciate what others might see
  • Tap into, and express, more of what matters personally
  • Prepare for a significant challenging conversation they need to have.

Structure of the Express Program

As noted, the program includes a three-hour face-to-face workshop or two virtual 90-minute workshops. The content is the same, whichever format is chosen. The virtual sessions can be conducted either back-to-back or at an interval of one or two weeks.

Workshop 1

  • Common default behaviours that impede conversations on tough issues
  • Introducing the OBREAU structure
  • Applying OBREAU with pre-planned scenarios.

Workshop 2

  • Personal practice in getting ready for a needed conversation, with feedback from colleagues
  • Strategies for dealing with unexpected challenges
  • Translating learning back to the workplace and developing one’s practice in conversing on tough issues.

The workshops, which are personally facilitated by me (Don Dunoon), draw on interactive sessions that have been highly regarded at international conferences. A workshop on OBREAU at the 2016 (US) Conference of the Association of Leadership Educators was awarded “Outstanding Educator Workshop”.  Another workshop at the 2018 World Conference on Quality and Improvement achieved “10/10” evaluations.

Individual consultation

    In addition to the workshops, participants have a one-hour, virtual consultation with me. The purpose is to help the participant get ready to speak with greater safety and authenticity on an issue that matters personally – either the issue shared with colleagues in the workshop sessions or another. I assist the participant to more clearly ground their thinking on the issue in data and evidence, to contemplate the possible perspectives of stakeholders, consistent with them as reasonable, and to take a deep dive into the mental content they bring to the issue personally.

    The consultation provides individuals with an opportunity to raise aspects of an issue they might prefer not to reveal in a workshop session, as well as to explore an issue and approaches to speaking about it in greater depth.


    Building on the Express Program

    While the Express program equips participants with the foundations for conversing more safety and authentically on issues of concern, additional practice opportunities can help to consolidate and extend learned skills. Two options are offered:

    • Peer learning sessions
    • Individual coaching

    Peer Learning Sessions

    These are 90-minute, virtual sessions – usually three in total – conducted at monthly intervals following the initial training. The purpose is to enable cohort members to explore their conversation-related challenges in a safe environment, to try out different approaches and to sharpen their practice. These sessions also can incorporate a light-touch content component, e.g. working with conflict, and asking deep-reaching questions to learn about others’ perspectives. With the primary focus being on working through actual challenges, these sessions are experienced as practical and highly relevant.

    Coaching Sessions

    These sessions extend the work done in the individual consultation forming part of the Express program. An additional two sessions (possibly more) can help the participant deal with underlying mindsets and worries that might be leading them to avoid or sidestep conversations on tough issues, as well as prepare for, and step into, particularly tough conversations. Frequently, this additional support and guidance can make a significant difference in helping people not only plan for, but actively engage in conversations they have been putting off.

    Better Conversations and Feedback is a high impact, flexible program designed to equip your participants with the skills they need for engaging with greater confidence and authenticity on issues which need to be talked about, but which currently might not be. The Express Program equips participants with the skills to get up and running in conversing on tough issues, while the additional options of Peer Learning groups and coaching sessions are designed to extend and deepen their practice.

    You’ll find Better Conversations and Feedback to be a reasonably priced means for building the capabilities of individuals in conversing about tough issues. And, participants can potentially apply the method anywhere, including outside of work. What’s more, as participants practise having better conversations, they’ll be contributing to building a more positive organisational culture. As is often said, culture change happens one conversation at a time. This is a toolkit for enabling those conversations.

    To find out more about how Better Conversations and Feedback might help your people converse more safely and authentically on critical challenges, contact me, Don Dunoon.


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