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Here at the-Coaching Blog-run by Gerard O’Donovan, our aim is to constantly bring value to those seeking to improve their lives. Therefore we have a policy of publishing articles and materials by guest authors whom we value and appreciate. Today’s guest author is Cinnie Noble (Canada).
Conflict in organisations is inevitable, and if not well managed it can cost organisations enormously – financially and otherwise. For instance, the price tag for training new staff to replace those who leave, as a consequence of poorly-managed conflict, is just one high expense. Medical and stress leave, legal and related costs associated with harassment, bullying and other such claims, loss of clients and lack of productivity all add up and have a serious impact on the bottom line. Effects on morale, working relationships, team unity and even the reputation of the workplace are all at risk, too, due to ill-managed conflict.
Since conflict is going to occur, there is nothing to be gained by avoiding its existence. This, among other things, means acknowledging that conflict is a normal part of working interdependently and is the starting point consideration in building both conflict intelligent leaders and a corporate culture of conflict competence. Accomplishing both objectives requires a shift in mindset to understand that most conflicts have components that signal unrest that can have destructive outcomes for staff and the organisation itself if mismanaged or not addressed. It also requires the understanding that well-managed conflict can result in innovative solutions, collaborative problem-solving, and improved morale and teamwork.
What is more, identifying the issues that lead to conflict in organisations provides a barometer that reflects job satisfaction, calibre of leadership skills, and what is needed to strengthen the human and structural foundation of the workplace. A major key to adapt ways to build and sustain those objectives is to normalise conflict and facilitate conflict engagement. Here are some ideas on this in an effort to develop conflict intelligent leaders and organisations.
One major way to normalise conflict is to make effective conflict management a core competency with concrete descriptions of what that means for all staff. Providing whatever resources, training and coaching required to support and assess the expectations are, of course, vital. Similarly, evaluating and assessing conflict management skills for those applying to join or advance within the organisation also helps to make conflict intelligence a norm and a clear competency.
Another way to normalise conflict is the requirement that all new managers are coached to strengthen their ability to manage and engage in conflict. This not only adds to the acceptance of conflict as a real possibility in the workplace. It also supports leaders in their quest to advance and actively contribute to the objective of building an overall culture of conflict competence.
In addition to these initiatives, having one or more easily accessible systems in place – such as conflict management coaching, mediation, peer review panels and facilitative group processes – provide forum for staff to prevent the unnecessary escalation of disputes and address those that do arise.
What constitutes conflict with intelligent leaders?
Conflict intelligence refers, among other things, to the ability to regulate emotions, to have stellar listening skills, and to remain open to and inquisitive about the causes of workplace dissension. Leaders who are conflict intelligent also demonstrate empathy for and attunement to others’ interests and needs. They examine their own contribution to conflict and ways to improve, and they interact with dignity when provoked and under pressure.
Other signs of being conflict intelligent are reflected in leaders’ ability to deliver hard messages effectively. Similarly, they demonstrate the ability to receive and respond authentically and appropriately to challenges they encounter among staff, clients with whom they interact, meetings they chair and attend, and so on.
Conflict intelligent leaders are also somatically competent. That is, they are aware of how they present and portray themselves – facially and in their bodies – and work on changing these variables when they are told or are otherwise aware of how they preclude a connection with others. Conflict intelligent leaders model ‘grace under fire’ and are conscious they do not use their power in ways that undermine, dismiss or threaten staff, clients and the many people with whom they interact.
Coaching that focuses on some or all of the above goals is often necessary for new and seasoned leaders alike. Skilled coaches employ tools and coaching models that focus on each leader’s particular idiosyncratic ways of being in conflict and assist them to identify what they need to become conflict intelligent.
The CINERGY® Model of Conflict Management Coaching
Most coaches find effective conflict management a common goal for leaders and others and employ executive coaching frameworks in which they are trained. It also helps to consider components specific to the specialty known as conflict management coaching. Here is one to consider.
The CINERGY® model of conflict management coaching was created in 1999 after significant research. It can take an average of 6 hours to effectively complete this model for specific disputes that clients present. This model is based on principles from coaching, conflict management, and neuroscience and is comprised of the following seven steps. (The intention of each stage is also indicated.)
Interpersonal conflict is typically complicated and fraught with challenges for those who do not manage it well. Poorly managed conflict can have a huge impact on organisations by having an adverse impact on productivity, working relationships and morale. However, coaching leaders and others to develop conflict intelligence by unbundling their disputes and ways of managing them is critical to their success and the health and well-being of the workplace. Using coaching skills and a specific frame that increases self-awareness and intentionality about constructive ways for clients to “be” intelligent when in conflict serves them, those around them and the organisation itself.
About Cinnie Noble
Cinnie Noble is a certified coach and mediator and a former lawyer. She is Senior Partner of CINERGY® Coaching, based in Toronto, Canada. CINERGY® coaches and trains coaches, mentors, HR, lawyers and mediators worldwide in the use of this model. Cinnie is a pioneer of conflict management coaching (also known as conflict coaching) and is the author of 2 coaching books, “Conflict Mastery: Questions to Guide You” (2014) and “Conflict Management Coaching: The CINERGY™ Model” (2011).
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