Sarah Hill is the co-owner of Dialogix and she describes herself as a dialogue facilitator and behavioural dynamics interventionist. The focus of her work is on tackling some of the toughest and most demanding behavioural challenges. She works with CEOs and senior leaders from a range of different cultures and countries. She designs & delivers accredited training programs on structural dynamics, generative dialogue and childhood story. Sarah is the Author of “Where did you learn to behave like that? A coaching guide for working with Leaders. She has also co-authored the book The Tao of Dialogue. Sarah holds a PhD and has published articles on collaborative research working with invisible realities & issues of integrity through the lens of Structural Dynamics. Sarah’s ambition as a thought leader is to help Leaders recognise that their unresolved childhood stories not only adversely impact themselves but the teams and whole systems of which they are a part.
Podcast episode summary: This episode explores the methodology of Structural Dynamics and Childhood Story. Sarah explained how the behavioural components of structural dynamics can help a team understand their communication patterns and resolve some stuck patterns. She distinguished between the 4 levels of structural dynamics and how practical a model it can be for teams. She also explored the very real invisible realities of childhood story and how shadow behaviours in high stake situations can impede constructive dialogue. Between us we shared our own childhood stories and the work it takes to re-narrate internal narratives.
Noteworthy points of discussion
- Sarah ‘s interest and passion for change and generative dialogue came after a chance meeting with an organisation called Prison Dialogue. There she witnessed the power of these processes to exercise change even in tough cultures.
- Exposed to the work of David Kantor and her PhD “Separate Lives silenced voices” is a theme through all of her work
- Sarah referenced the podcast I had with Dr. Paul Lawrence, episode 13 where he explored Structural Dynamics with me
- Sarah illuminated the 4 different levels of Structural Dynamics
- Level One: speaks to our action propensities in conversation through four different acts, the move, the follow, oppose and the bystander
- Level Two: These are the operating rules governing our behaviour, open, closed or random
- Level Three: describes the communication domain we use or attend to and they include, Power which is about action or task, Affect is about intimacy or a focus on relationship, Meaning is about sense making, thought or knowledge
- Level Four: relates to your childhood story that is often invisible
- If I were to self-assess using this model, I might consider that I am naturally inclined towards Move/Random/Meaning/
- Sarah shared her story about being uncomfortable with oppose having been in a family dynamic where oppose was used and where for Sarah as a child it was dangerous to oppose or be opposed. That was her internal narrative
- In high stakes we can react in ways that are embarrassing & shaming. Often something else is playing out behind the shadow behaviour, a fear or old narrative that is now not helpful
- The work involves understanding what happens in high stakes, what are the triggers that induce shadow behaviour? what are the themes or fears that lie behind our behaviour in high stakes? what are some of our formative experiences? The work is not to dwell on the story but to recraft a new narrative, knowing that the story does not change
- Structural Dynamics helps to make the invisible visible. It provides a way to understand what might be appearing in conversation and why often there exist model clashes between individuals on teams or in organisations
- Structural Dynamics is very proactive. It equips teams to change the nature of their discourses by having a common language to explore together.
- Sarah is of the mind that the work of Structural Dynamics and the associated behavioural change work necessary is still not central enough on teams
- Sarah appreciates that to do the work teams need to slow down to speed up.
- The Tao of Dialogue by Paul Lawrence and Sarah Hill
- Reading the Room by David Kantor
- Dialogue the art of thinking together by William Isaacs
- Where did you learn to behave like that? A coaching guide for working with Leaders by Sarah Hill
- Where did you learn to behave like that Podcast series on itunes