Have you ever worked with a boss or a co-worker who came across as intimidating? Have you ever worked under a leader who avoids conflict like the plague? We sure have! And we’ve coached more than a few of each of these leader types.
And guess what? We have had the most success coaching the “intimidating” people! We have discovered that it is easier to help those who are willing to put conflict on the table than it is to get people to stop avoiding conflict until it gets much worse!
When is conflict coaching needed?
Often! Conflict coaching is a specialized coaching area. But it’s not that conflict is so rare! The potential for conflict is present whenever two or more people rely on each other to get things done or just when two or more people communicate with each other.
- We provide conflict coaching when an individual who has poor conflict management skills is referred to us for coaching. For example, we coached a unit supervisor who was a classic “intimidator,” and we coached an area supervisor who was a classic “conflict avoider.”
- We provide conflict coaching when teams or groups are unable or unwilling to resolve conflict on their own. For example, we coached a team of three administrative assistants whose unresolved conflict had lasted so many years that the agency director was ready to fire one or more of the assistants, despite the fact that they were all fantastic workers.
- We provide conflict coaching when coaching clients who come to us with other “presented issues” have difficulty managing conflict. In actuality, almost all of our coaching assignments at least touch on a person’s propensity toward constructive or destructive responses to conflict.
- We utilize conflict coaching strategies when we help two or more individuals resolve workplace conflict through workplace mediation. Dennis and Camille are both certified in Workplace Mediation through the Mediation Training Institute (MTI).
- We use conflict coaching when we use “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” model to coach teams on how to build trust and mine for conflict so that they can become highly functioning teams.
Conflict as Normal – and Expected
Our work with leaders, individuals and teams nearly always shines a spotlight on patterns of thought and behavior about conflict. We view conflict as such an integral part of human interactions that we see it as normal. That doesn’t mean it is “pleasant” – but it should be expected. Several conflict “experts” also view conflict this way:
- Patrick Lencioni states that one of “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” is Fear of Conflict. Note that he does not say that the mere presence of conflict is a problem. Rather, he says that “The desire to preserve artificial harmony stifles the occurrence of productive…conflict.”
- Daniel Goleman is another author who “normalizes” conflict. In his highly-regarded book, Working with Emotional Intelligence, Personal Competence includes Self Control of disruptive emotions and impulses and Social Competence includes Conflict Management – negotiating and resolving disagreements.
- Dan Dana, our friend and colleague who founded the Mediation Training Institute (MTI), points out that differences in goals, values, strategies, or personal styles create conflict when people use “the wrong instincts” (fight or flight). Through conflict coaching and mediation, people can learn to manage their differences.
Utilization of Assessments in Conflict Coaching
Several of the assessments we use with our coaching clients examine patterns of thought and behavior when conflicting goals, approaches, or styles create tension or stress:
- The Conflict Dynamics Profile measures constructive and destructive responses to conflict. It also measures “hot buttons” – those situations and individuals that you find most annoying.
- The WorkPlace Big Five personality assessment assesses conflict “traits,” such as the extent to which a person has a tendency to get angry, seek harmony (at the cost of productive engagement), express one’s opinions, etc.
- Virtually every 360 Feedback survey we have ever administered states or implies something about a person’s propensity to create conflict, avoid conflict, put conflict on the table, etc.
Our Strengths in Conflict Coaching
- We are willing to put conflict issues on the table!
- We are not intimidated by most people who have a reputation for being intimidating. In fact, two of our strongest testimonials are from clients who were perceived as “intimidating” prior to receiving conflict coaching from us.
- We have a reputation of helping people who “avoid conflict like the plague” to develop constructive responses to conflict.
- We have the assessment tools and the “language” to help individuals, teams, and other groups gain insight into patterns of thought and behavior regarding conflict.
- We integrate conflict coaching into other types of coaching. Show us a leadership coaching client who doesn’t need conflict management skills! Show us an AD/HD coaching client who hasn’t created conflict by not keeping a commitment, not handing in a school assignment, or misplacing an important document at just the wrong time!