In today’s high-pressure environments, the emphasis is often on getting things done, finding a ‘solution’. With pressure, defences tend to be heightened and psychological safety low. It’s easy to avoid or step around the conversations necessary to reveal and explore underlying issues and enable change. Potential consequences include people disengaging, overt conflict, poor team dynamics, collaboration not happening, circling around on sensitive topics…the list goes on. The good news is that people can learn to engage with others about what’s really going on, where things need to get to, and how to get there – and to do so in ways that are safer, clearer and more authentic.

Safe Space Work Conversations


Speak up with greater safety

Gain confidence and skill in speaking up while reducing risk and threat for yourself and others.

Safe Space Work Conversations


Avoiding Misinterpretation

Learn to express yourself more clearly while minimising misinterpretation and misunderstandings – and help others do the same.

Safe Space Work Conversations


Being Yourself

Share more of what’s true and relevant for you while staying engaged with others.

Conversation is Key to Enabling Successful Change and Different Behaviours

Think of the things that get in the way of healthy workplace cultures, productive working relationships and successful change: misunderstandings, unresolved conflicts, people avoiding difficult issues, poor behaviour that goes unchallenged, no-go topics…among others. One common thread is the quality of conversation.

While there are no magic bullets, it is possible to help people develop the mindsets and skills to enable higher quality conversations; conversations that are safer, clearer and more authentic, and that better enable change and other business and people-related outcomes.

We support businesses and organisations to help their people become more interpersonally effective, especially through learning how to converse about potentially difficult and sensitive topics.

And these are capabilities that your people can apply anywhere – at work or outside – with virtually any issue where there are differences of view.

People can utilise these methods with “big” conversations (multiple stakeholders and complex change-related and other issues), smaller yet potentially delicate conversations (e.g., when someone’s performance or behaviour inexplicably changes), or for giving feedback, including corrective feedback.

Users can even apply the same methods as an aid to self-reflection, the conversation you have with yourself.

Remember, better work conversations lead to better business results and effective change.

Grow personal and interpersonal skills for enabling change

Grow personal and interpersonal skills for enabling change with our in-company course, ‘Change Conversations: Safer, Clearer, More Authentic‘. The course is also available in a healthcare version.


Welcome from Don Dunoon, Better Work Conversations Founder

Key Points from Don Dunoon Welcome Video

  1. To achieve business and people related outcomes, how people work together is vital – and a key factor is the quality of conversation, in all directions.
  2. People at every level need to feel safe to speak.
  3. Research at Google in 2014 identified psychological safety as the biggest differentiator between the most and least effective teams in the company.
  4. Although you might think your organisation or group is different, defensive behaviour patterns are common, e.g., people reacting, judging others adversely or side-stepping difficult issues.
  5. Such patterns, which undercut safety, are likely to be especially prevalent in tough times such as we’re now in – think, e.g., pandemic-related pressures, economic worries.
  1. Yet it is possible to shift the dial, and help managers, professionals and others to create safer, more open and energized workgroup environments.
  2. They can learn to recognise defensive patterns – especially their own – and get better at communicating in ways that are safer, less risky and more open – helping others feel safer to speak, too.
  3. Importantly, your managers and professionals will be more able to achieve the cut-through needed to make progress on critical issues for achieving outcomes.
  4. These are the capabilities we help people develop. Welcome to the site.

You might object: “But We Have the Broader Area of People Skills Covered”

Maybe you’re confident this is so in your organisation. But are there risks that your offerings:

  • Are oriented more to knowledge and awareness raising than deeper development?
  • Cover lots of topics but without a unifying methodology for action?
  • Look good and are well received but lack the power to shift attitudes and behaviours in a high-pressure business environment where psychological safety might be lacking?

If any of these points raise doubts for you, this is where we can add value.

Change Conversations: Growing Psychological Safety and Performance

Our Signature Course

Wellbeing, psychological safety and performance: all things critically important for organisations to cultivate in contexts of pressure and continuous change. A common thread is the quality of conversation. This in-company course is designed to assist managers and professionals improve their effectiveness potentially in all these areas through engaging safely and productively with others on change and other topics.

Available in Foundations (6 hour) and Applications (2 day-equivalent) versions, the course combines short, sharp and engaging self-paced learning modules and reflective exercises with highly interactive virtual (or face-to-face) workshops. The course can be adapted and customised for your organisation’s needs.

All managers and professionals need these skills!

Our Approach

Our approach centres on the OBREAU conversation model, developed by Don Dunoon. OBREAU is a composite of the first two letters each of three critical words:

  • Observation
  • Reasonableness
  • Authenticity

Each of these are practices, and they come together as a strong structure, the OBREAU Tripod, that can be used to support conversation on virtually any topic on which there are differences of view. The OBREAU practices are each remedies, counterweights, to three default behaviours that tend to inhibit productive conversations:

Colour Tripod
Reacting to work conversations


Responding immediately, without pause, as if we know for sure what the problem is.

Reacting to work conversations

Judging others negatively

Blaming or holding negative attitudes towards others, especially when things are not going well.

Reacting to work conversations

Dancing around

Avoiding or stepping around what needs to be talked about, such as by saying “everything is fine” when it is not.

Our challenge, in particular situations, is to move past these default responses and instead observe (notice as far as possible before interpreting), attriubute reasonableness to others (imagine their view, accepting it makes sense to them) and speak with authenticity (from the heart as well as the head).

tennis conversation back and forwardAt one level, these are simple ideas and easily grasped.

Yet, so are the rules of tennis. With tennis, it takes most players a level of training and/or coaching as well as ongoing practice to become adept.

The same is true with OBREAU. But once you do gain proficiency, you’ll potentially be able to ‘play a decent game’ with pretty much any issue you come up against.

One difference with tennis needs highlighting, though. With a sport like tennis, the objective is to win, defeat your opponent. With conversation and OBREAU, yes, we want to be influential, persuasive. But we also need to be curious and learn from those we are engaging with. Conversation is not just about ‘winning’; it’s not a game.

What People Are Saying

Sandy Pagotto is Director of Strategic Solutions with CHA Learning, part of HealthCareCAN (Canada)

Dylan Forbes is Director Leaderskill Group Pty Ltd

Participant 5

OBREAU is a practical framework to apply to change conversations… The framework enables structure and confidence to lean into change

Participant 4

The Change Conversations course provided an insightful view into how best to approach not only conversations about change but also

Participant 3

Don’s ability to engage and trigger thoughts around being more conscious and mindful about how we approach daily conversations is

Participant 2

The OBREAU principles helped me look at change management from a whole new perspective. The principles are relatable and can

Participant 1

I enjoyed the format of learning about the principles of OBREAU prior to attending the workshop and allowing the space

Gena Major

Gena Major
I experienced the effectiveness of OBREAU back in 2018-19 when I was involved in strained conversations with our union leadership regarding the introduction of a new technology for bus pre-trip inspections.

Deputy Chief of Safety & Quality Assurance
MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority)

Trisha Gott

Trisha Gott
Since 2019 I have been engaged in work with Don Dunoon and specifically, the OBREAU Tripod. For a practitioner committed to leadership learning through adaptive practice the OBREAU Tripod offered an avenue into adaptive work on the personal and organizational level.

Associate dean, assistant professor
Staley School of Leadership, Kansas State university

Clare Drake

I have had the pleasure of working with Don Dunoon since 2017 in the leadership and management development space for our organisation with a focus on improving relationships through conversations and building leadership capability.

OD consultant
scientific organisation, New South Wales

Human Resources Manager (New South Wales government agency)

Don has presented many leadership workshops with staff across my organisation to embed a culture of staff thinking about leadership and their role as leaders and how they can make a difference. I love it when I go into a manager’s office and they have a picture of the OBREAU Tripod on their wall or when a staff member tells me about a challenging situation where they framed their discussion around the Tripod.

Human resources manager (identity information can be shared on request)
NSW Government agency

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Don Dunoon

About Better Work Conversations

Better Work Conversations is established by Don Dunoon, a Sydney based leadership and organisational development expert with 25 years-plus experience and a long-standing focus on the quality of conversation in work settings.

Better Work Conversations is fully owned by Don’s company, New Futures Pty Ltd.

Don works with a range of specialist consultant colleagues on assignments, depending on project needs and consultant skills.

For more information on Don’s background and skills, see his LinkedIn profile here.

Let's have a conversation about how we can work together.

Better Work Conversations consults with businesses and organisations around the world. We welcome your interest, wherever you are located in the world.