In this column on team coaching, Emily Jones and Carroll Macey explore the role that Dialogue can play in empowering teams to have more meaningful conversations.


In the intricate world of team dynamics, effective communication is essential for success. It enables people to understand their roles, avoid duplication, build trusted relationships, challenge productively and, ultimately, understand how to work better together.

Communication has many forms, from monologue to debate, from discussion to skilled conversation. As team coaches we find ourselves witnessing all of these, yet the one form that, when practised, appears to produce a fundamental shift in teams, is that of Dialogue. 

For us, Dialogue brings to mind stories of ancient traditions of communal understanding and decision-making. Imagine the setting: you, as an elder in a traditional community, sit in a circle with fellow elders, collectively striving to grapple with a pressing issue causing debate or conflict within the group. Traditionally, such gatherings involved voicing ideas and thoughts without judgment, allowing the community to comprehend the breadth of the issue before contemplating action or planning. 

In team coaching, the essence of Dialogue lies in creating an open space for individuals to voice their thoughts without fear of judgment, contributing to a shared pool of perspectives. Picture an imaginary pot in the middle of the room in which team members deposit their ideas, allowing everyone to see, be curious and make meaning of the issue. The emphasis is on fostering a mindset of curiosity and openness before moving into decision-making or strategising. This approach involves adding to the collective understanding rather than simply expressing agreement or disagreement. It cultivates an environment where team members build on each other’s thoughts, leading to a more profound and collaborative exploration of the issue.

When setting up a Dialogue with a team, Peter Garrett and Jane Ball of the Academy of Professional Dialogue, talk of four essential practices: 

  • Voicing without judgement
  • Holding a strong question lightly
  • Suspending immediate responses, and 
  • Listening with respect. 


Creating a safe space for Dialogue becomes particularly valuable when addressing ‘elephants in the room’: unspoken conflicts or hidden tensions in a team. Dialogue can provide a platform for individuals to express thoughts they hesitated to share in structured settings. 

The facilitator or team coach plays a crucial role here. The key is to encourage an emotive, topical question that invites diverse perspectives. The question serves as the focal point, and participants are invited to share their thoughts, ideas and reflections without judgement. Participants listen to what is being said but also delve into the underlying meaning and the way it is expressed. The process encourages a deep, authentic exchange in a respectful, inclusive environment. For this to happen the coach must build a safe container with the team with clear contracting around the four essential practices outlined above. The role of the coach shifts from facilitating a conversation to facilitating a space in which the team can collectively make sense of their challenges and opportunities.

We have found the impact of using Dialogue with teams is profound. Our experience is that it transcends discord and differences, fostering accountability, responsibility and trust among team members. Decision-making becomes more collaborative and efficient, and relationships within the team strengthen. The process slows down the energy in the room, leading to a more thoughtful and considerate exchange of ideas.

In conclusion, Dialogue emerges as a powerful tool in team coaching, offering a unique approach to understanding and addressing team challenges. Our curiosity is now piqued at how this approach can be used inter-team to impact the wider organisation or community. 
Watch this space…. 



  • Garrett, P. (2021). A New Kind of Dialogue. Dialogue Publications Ltd
  • Lawrence, P, (2019). The Tao of Dialogue. Routledge



  • Emily Jones and Carroll Macey are executive & team coaches, and graduates of the Team Coaching Studio’s (TCS) Diploma in Team Coaching. TCS is an organisation founded to provide a pathway to mastery for team coaches. For accredited training in team coaching, please visit: