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EP:07 – A Conversation with Bob Dunham

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Bob at workshop 2012

Bob Dunham is the founder of the Institute for Generative Leadership based in Colorado. The Institute delivers Leadership development programs and resources designed to enable leaders business owners, managers and professional coaches take their performance and the performance of their teams and organisation to the next level. Bob is co-author of the book the Innovator’s Way, the Essential Practices for Successful Innovation, which he wrote with Dr. Peter Denning.

Show Notes

Podcast episode summary: This episode describes what it means to be human and what it means to practice being a Leader and Team member in organisational life today. Bob discusses the important distinctions he learnt in his quest at Motorola to get at Performance. He shares his ideas on Generative Leadership and discussed questions like what is action? He reminds us that Leadership and teamwork is a performance art and that art is housed in conversations. To be congruent we need to develop skills and practices that support committed conversations. Bob illuminates 5 blind spots that I suspect most of us suffer in one form or another. This episode is a must listen if you want greater satisfaction and results on teams.  

  • Every culture has its history, stories, behaviours & patterns and every culture has its blind spots. In our culture one of our blind spots is that we think we know what action is and we think we know what a human being is and we might even think we know what a team is but when we ask more deeply there is confusion. 
  • Bob shares his own story at Motorola and the quest to get at excellence. 
  • On a course called communication for action Bob was asked -what is action? He Learnt that we don’t have a clear operational, shared interpretation of what action is. The first blind spot. 
  • Commitments are made in conversation. Commitments are made in language and yet curiously we often labour the idea that conversations are a waste of time. Commitments are acts, acts we do in language that evoke commitment. Acts of requests, promises, offers, assessments, assertions and declarations. 
  • All results come from prior conversations. Generative Leadership is leadership held in conversations that is observable, executable and learnable that gets at commitment. 
  • Leadership is about getting at a shared promise that we can all trust and people can really own. Get real about the power of conversations, be in a culture that values conversational excellence. Reframe what it means to be in a meeting. It is the conversation stupid!
  • This means becoming aware of our bodies, our fears, and hesitations, contractions that are internal states that are the edge of learning for leadership. To wit befriend emotions, they are precursors to action. 
  • Anything non-trivial will have changes and breakdowns and team members need to navigate conversations that are honest, maybe fearful but open. 
  • Generative Leadership is a leadership discipline that takes leaders into new territory, the body, emotions, habits and triggered tendencies. The learning & practicing to support Generative Leadership is deep but transformational 
  • At the Institute for Generative Leadership the programs speak to a list of blind spots Leaders suffer. For this show 5 Blind Spots were enumerated. 1. Our culture really does not have a good definition of action. 2. Our culture teaches us that learning is understanding.  Learning is an embodies practice in a performance art- you are your practice 3. The question what is a human being is a blind spot. 4. Choice, people live like they do not have choices. 5. What is a good life. 

Quotable Quotes: “it is the conversation stupid!” “Conversations are not just words they are full body contact sports”  “Hope is s positive irresponsibility” “ Emotions are a predisposition to action” 

Resources: the following include the resources we alluded to over the course of our conversation

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