Conflict Coaching Down Under

December 1st, 2016


I have recently returned from a trip to Australia where I undertook a four-day training course on conflict management coaching. As well as having a very nice time in the spring sunshine I have successfully become a trained CINERGY conflict management coach. I have been aware of the CINERGY model for some time. The model is the brain child of Cinnie Noble and my previous expertise extended to having read her excellent book and followed the model in a self taught fashion. Having now had the opportunity to explore and understand the model in far greater detail, I am even more of a fan. Here are some of my learnings from Australia and reflections on how this new skill can be used to support those in conflict.


A bit about CINERGY

  • The model is based on research and principles of conflict management informed by both psychology and neuroscience. Essentially it works by unpicking a conflict situation in such a way that the individual concerned is able to make greater sense of it and to identify and explore what practical actions they may wish to take.
  • My first impressions (and those of my fellow pupils) was that this was a very slow and laborious process. However, having fully experienced it as coach and client, I can see the value and purpose of this approach. It allows space and time for the client to process things and enable learning and self-reflection. This is particularly important where a conflict is deep rooted or has been ongoing for some time.
  • The value of following the model in a sequential way became clear. This does not mean a slavish approach but there are a number of key steps that need to be followed in a particular order to ensure that the client considers the situation from their own perspective first and then from the other’s perspective.
  • I also appreciated the need for short questions in very simple language and the value of really probing by asking the same question a number of times but in different ways. This is important in any coaching but also in the mediation and investigation work that I do. In particular these skills can be used to great effect in the pre-mediation meetings so that participants are better prepared for a joint mediation session.
  • There were many examples within the group of the results that can be achieved by using this approach and we all felt that we had benefited on both a personal and professional level.

How can this help?

It was also of interest to me to learn how conflict coaching and mediation is being used in Australia and New Zealand. Alternative Dispute Resolution has been more widely accepted and practiced in these jurisdictions than in the UK so they are somewhat further ahead. Many organisations have trained conflict coaches in-house and coaching can be the first mandatory step prior to formal disciplinary action or performance management processes being initiated. This is not something that I am aware of in the UK and I think that there is huge value in such an approach.

Conflict management coaching be used in the following ways.

  • Pre-mediation – To prepare a client for a mediation process. The conflict coaching can go a long way to enabling an individual to reflect on the situation, understand the other’s perspective and the part that they have played. These are all important learnings that will transfer to the mediation session. Coaching can also be used to support an individual in gaining the confidence to take part in mediation and to manage themselves throughout.
  • Post mediation – Where there is a need for a behavioural change or to sustain a mediation agreement coaching can be a really useful tool to support those concerned.
  • Stand-alone – Many employees may be struggling with conflict situations or relationships with colleagues. This may not necessarily have become a dispute as such but it could still be causing real concern and impact. There is a clear link to health and wellbeing and often situations can be festering for some time. Coaching can enable individuals to reconcile a situation, identify an action and attain the skills and confidence to tackle issues themselves.
  • Where mediation is not possible – Where one party will not proceed with mediation, coaching can be used as an alternative intervention and support.
  • As part of a Neutral Assessment process – This is an alternative to a formal investigation and is particularly effective where there are underlying team conflicts. Conflict management coaching skills will be invaluable here to identify the underlying causes and highlight what each individual can themselves do to take some responsibility for resolving.
  • Disciplinary or performance issues – There are many situations where potential disciplinary or performance issues arise which are impacted or related to underlying disputes or conflicts. Using conflict management coaching in these situations seems to me to be a far better option for creating learning and changes in behaviour rather than to punish by using the blunt instrument of formal processes.

If you would like more information about how conflict management coaching could help you or your organisation please contact me at [email protected] or 07808 829545; I would be delighted to discuss how this approach could add real value.

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