Why Dialogue?


Learning to Listen through the Art of Dialogue

by Dorothea Schönwiese


In our workshop “Listen and Lead” we will work with – besides music – the principle of dialogue as a means to enhance our listening skills and thus our communication and leadership skills.


Dialogue is a rewarding and at the same time efficient form of communication for all kinds of communities and organizations – such as companies, departments, families, NGO’s, schools etc. – which is very different to the way we are generally used to talking to each other.

It is particularly useful in corporate environments wherever innovation and change are desired. In crises and when things get too complex, dialogue can be of great help to untangle things, to kick off processes that have stagnated, to create connection, trust, depth and stability.



We are used to discussing, debating, getting our point across, asserting our positions.

Especially as leaders we tend to believe that our job is mainly to convince others of our opinions and to follow through with our concepts as quickly as possible.

– What if we suggested that an entirely different, even opposite way of communicating is actually both more productive and more satisfying?

– What if we experimented with a form of talking to each other which includes all opinions, which invites all differences and uses all potentials and resources that are present in the very moment?

In dialogue, we want to listen to other points of view that are new to us and to absorb them, so that ideally something new can develop. If we strive for innovation dialogue is the ideal means to our end.

In our workshop “Listen and Lead” we will get you acquainted with this form of communicating and we will practice it in a way which will enable you to implement it in your work and private lives by introducing to you some of the core skills of modern dialogue, such as

* Suspending assumptions – While someone else is speaking we keep our thoughts to ourselves and don’t give in to the first impulse of replying or interrupting.

* Empathic listening – Usually we tend to consider all kinds of things while listening to another person speaking: “What do I think of this? What will I say in response?”… When we listen empathically, we resist this urge and listen in a way that tries to truly understand the other person, almost as if we slipped into their skin for a while.

* Speaking from the heart – We speak of what is really important and meaningful to us in this very moment. We avoid highly intellectualized language which primarily serves to impress, to convince or to demonstrate superiority.

* A learning attitude – We enter a conversation with the goal to learn from others, to broaden our horizons through different points of view. The knowledge, wisdom and experience of others can enrich our lives enormously!

* True respect – We accept others as they are and try to see them from their perspective. We recognize their views as equally significant and justified as our own.

* Slowing down – In dialogue we do not aim for quick results. Everyone has their own pace. Silence is welcome. Paradoxically and surprisingly, this “extended space” of slowing down very often produces much faster results than lengthy debates!


Dialogue is about a process, not a product. We want to think and explore together and not to present what we have already thought: This is “thinking” instead of “thoughts”. Differences may, indeed should, remain side by side and are not standardized in order to obtain quick output. Diverging attitudes are valued as enrichment.

By applying these ideas to our conversations we will find that our relationships become deeper and more trustful, that our leadership improves and that there is no problem that can’t be tackled!


We look forward to engaging in this exciting new way of communicating with you!

Values and Attitudes at the heart of everyday life!

Thoughts on the art of implementing values, visions and the corresponding mindset in everyday leadership!


The major challenge in every realization, every resolution for change, and yes, every change as a whole, is their execution- we know this from our New Year’s Resolutions… Deciding on a change is often an intellectual choice, but implementing it takes a lot more. We know that we have successfully put it into practice when we no longer think about it, when we have internalized it.



In order to bring about change, it is necessary to be sure about two things: the starting point and the desired outcome. The second part, defining the overall goal, is not only easier, it’s even fun! We would all love to live in an ideal world – Hollywood thrives off of this… ;-)!

It is only human and reasonable to begin with the easier step when one wants to tackle a particular challenge. It is for this reason that there are numerous specialists who are skilled and well-versed in formulating corporate goals, values, and visions to paint a compelling picture of the ideal corporate world. It is indeed an important and necessary motivation for everyone, most importantly for the management!

The next step in clarifying is defining the state of the situation. This is already slightly more complex and challenging to do. It requires the cooperation of all parties of the company, from top to the bottom, even including external stakeholders… and naturally here lies the difficulty! There are numerous specialists and companies available for identifying the existing situation who do not shy away from this huge undertaking. Once there is a general feel for the state of things, the definition seems no longer important – but maybe it should.



The big challenge here, especially for the majority of employees who do not usually concern themselves with vision, goals, and strategies in their everyday lives, is to recognize the need for change and to also WANT to live change. One obstacle is often a lack of emotional understanding. Just because we understand intellectually where we want to go (sometimes with great effort), this does not always mean that we are emotionally ready to embark on the journey. At this point, when I reflected on this and especially when I started my research….., I found myself faced with a bit of a divide – quite parallel to these reflections – when I started my research on fundamental values and the topic of this article.

Beside other things, I focused on the fundamental values of human relations and came across the experiment conducted by Shalom Schwartz (along with Wolfgang Bilsky) in the 1980’s to formulate universally applicable human fundamental values – originally there were ten (in 2012, with the help of a team of internal scientists he expanded the list to include nineteen):

Power– Social status and prestige, control or dominance over people and resources

Achievement– personal success through demonstrating competence in accordance with social standards

Hedonism – pleasure or sensual self-indulgence

Stimulation– excitement, innovation, challenges in life

Self-Direction– independent thinking and doing, choosing, discovering

Universalism– understanding, recognition, tolerance, and protection for the well-being of all humans and nature

Benevolence– preserving and expanding the well-being of those with which one has regular contact

Tradition– respect, commitment, and acceptance of the customs and ideas passed down by traditional cultures and religions

Conformity– restriction of actions, tendencies, and impulses which may offend or harm others and which go against social expectations and norms.

Security– safety, harmony, stability of society, of relationships and of oneself (Schwartz and Bilsky, 1987)


All this sounds good  and certainly interesting- BUT it’s the same for me as for a lot of employees who come across their corporate values on a sheet of paper or on the intranet and wonder, how does this help me?


In the course of my work with leaders (“The Sound of Leadership”), I asked my colleagues in my role as an orchestral musician, as an employee, to write down the principles they value the most in a successful cooperation with our leader, the conductor. They mentioned qualities such as trust, respect, working selflessly with the material at hand (in our case music), fairness, clarity, candor, transparency, communication with everyone, having a sense of responsibility, etc. As an average employee, this definitely sounds better to me, this I can work with!

I often rather catch myself identifying with exactly those qualities than with the smart and well thought out insights of specialists! Like many coworkers in my field, I do not want to concern myself with fancy words and lofty values. I have other “worries” and challenges, particularly of intellectual nature! Enough is enough – done. Over. Finito. Finished.

Suddenly all the good concepts, strategies, visions, resolutions, and changes no longer stand a chance…

So what to do? How can corporate management make people interested in these important topics?


Basically there is only one way: we must combine the contextual level with a certain level of experience! This is certainly not a new discovery, even science has supported these claims for a while (e.g. behavioral economics or sociology), but this fact has to be remembered again and again! And we have to look for opportunities to make this intellectual knowledge gained through experience perceptible, to really anchor it. It is exclusively through this manner that an emotional investment and bond can be created, which makes change possible.

So, find projects and topics that are close to you and that personally move you as a leader, as executive management, and tap into them whether they are suitable for all the values and attitudes you expect from or at least wish to be shown by your employees, and whether it is possible to experience, feel and live them – and internalize them.

As a musician I can naturally highly recommend the power of classical music, which touches every person (whether or not they believe it!). Particularly effective is working in combination with established professional musicians and their experience in adjusting exactly to company-specific situations. For one thing, this is how the most important issues of the new direction are perceptible, noticeable and experienced. For another thing, it reinforces implemented changes through a sense of achievement.

The most common feedback we receive for our work (“The Sound of Leadership”) is the incomparable speed and intensity with which leaders experience, adapt and develop their values and attitudes.


Let’s start talking, I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

With kind and spirited regards,

Florian Schönwiese

Come on! Feel it! Let it go!

– finding the balance between trust and interference in leadership


Managers, conductors, parents, soccer coaches, etc. continuously ask themselves the question: “How active do I need to be in leading my team? And – on the other hand and in the same time – how much can I trust them as specialists (yes, our children are also specialists!) to know what to do once I give them clear directions?”

I remember one particularly remarkable leaders who had taken part in a Pratobello Workshop in Norway who had pushed this topic to its limits. He was a very successful, well educated, and charismatic CEO of an international firm. He was rhetorically convincing, demonstrated healthy confidence, and made his expectations clear- the prototype of a successful manager.

As per the usual for our seminars, he had no prior experience or any sort of background in classical music (no idea if he had ever been to a concert either… 😉 ), however, he could perfectly depict his vision of a short musical piece to us musicians- a pretty picture, which, for us fit perfectly into the music. We could hardly wait to portray his vision for the piece using our expertise. It was a peaceful and beautiful piece by J.S. Bach. He gave us a convincing downbeat (at the second attempt…), and we were off! Then all of a sudden…

As we progressed through the calm quiet piece, he began to push us. He kept coming closer to us, all the while yelling phrases in attempts to motivate us: “Come on! Feel it! Let it go!”  The wonder that we had initially felt at the beginning of the workshop was fading and dwindling more and more until finally after a few minutes, we had stopped playing completely and refused to play on.

Naturally, he was confused! He had given his best, put all that he had into it, given us clear expectations, motivated us, and believed that he could pull the best out of us and really push us to our limits- and this had resulted in the complete opposite! We had no room left to work!

In this special situation, we were able to explain to him immediately what had happened. We explained to him that it is necessary that he trusts us as professionals to do our work well. Of course it is necessary to present a clear vision and give direction, but we ultimately need to be the ones to interpret what he asks for.

In this setting we could test how much energy he needed to put into his team, but also test how much he could actually step back and simply let us – still observing closely – do our work. Above all, he could experience that we could create a spectacular performance all together, without him being the one to do the whole work – as he had previously believed.

After a short while he had experienced and indeed found the balance between the necessary inputs, suggestions, demanding initiations on the one hand, and the joy of trust in his team on the other. He could still take a step back and give us the room to work our own abilities, expertise and creativity into the project, and he would still be in charge and focused on that. In the end, this “tough manager” was moved to tears from what we had accomplished all together and the teamwork with which we worked.

It was clear to us that he had the same situation in his company: He would hire the best highly-motivated personnel, who, in the beginning, were ready to follow his directions and put out their best work. He thought that he needed to run a tight ship and give strict direction in order to get the most out of his team. Then, without fail, a few months later they would quit. He knew this was his problem, but had not managed to find out what the appropriate balance felt like up to this experience.

As workers, we want to understand what is expected and required and we want to – we have to! – be challanged. However, we also want the chance to be able to prove ourselves and to show that we really are the best that one could hire. We want new impulses and surprises, but also need the space to show off what we are capable of and bring our own creativity into the project. Because only in an environment where we are free to express our abilities, creativity, and experience actively to joyfully work towards the vision given to us by our leader – until we have fully exhausted ourselves… and then we go celebrate! J

Give us clear guidelines and monitor closely – and we will accomplish great things together!


Wishing you all this with swinging regards,


Florian Schönwiese