Conflict Coaching Fundamentals 
Q&A page

Submit your questions using the form below, and answers will be posted here in the next day or two.

Questions and answers so far....

Steven asks: What are some strategies to create within the coaches the desire to engage in conflict coaching – often they will simply want to vent. 

Here’s my answer:

And a PS: One of the reasons we always ask a client/coachee for a goal at the start of each session is to get them to take responsibility for what they want out of the interaction right up front. It requires them to either state a goal or admit that they just want to vent. More on this in the coming modules when we look at the REAL Conflict Coaching System stages.

Simon asks:

How do you handle the situation where an employer comes to you as the Conflict Coach to work with a ‘difficult’ employee and during the process, you find that the problem is actually with the employer?
 
I notice in the Intake session for the ‘indirect and direct client’ that you suggest that the employer go back to the employee and stipulate what you want them or how they want the employee to change (their behaviour). There might be a power imbalance in that relationship?
 

Here’s my answer:

Ajita asks:

My question is about when a client has a lot of emotion (eg. anger) relating to the other party/issue. Should the conflict coach refer the client to someone else to help with this first or proceed with coaching with the aim that if the conflict is resolved, the anger will go away as a result. (The cause is taken away so the effect isn’t there anymore.)
 

Here’s my answer:

David asks:

I’m watching the “Action Steps” part of the course. Claire’s video is interesting because her character is trying to prepare for a difficult conversation. I think that coaching aims to draw out the client’s own views on what a well-managed difficult conversation looks like for the scenario. However, I feel that many people, even well educated, successful people, do not have experience or structures to work through a difficult conversation. I suspect there is a role for education here. How do you balance the needs to coach and the need to educate? Do you have an educational process?
 

Here’s my answer:

PS. If a client expresses an interest in more traditional “training” or wants some resources, I’ll help them find that. I am careful to separate it from the actual coaching though.

Tim asks:

So I guess what I’m wondering, and I’ve read some of the readings and tried to gain a more thorough understanding of the differences between counselling and conflict coaching and I guess I would suggest that I have a fairly simplistic understanding of the differences given this is an entirely new of course framework to be operating from – but I wonder if there is a way that you’re able to help me better understand, particularly as I look through the lens of narrative and dominant discourses in preferred stories and have been heavily influenced by Michael White’s (and others) works around narrative therapy (and contextualism) and the use of narratives as they may apply as helpful or hindrance to somebody’s experience within the theoretical frameworks of functional contextualism – fundamentally what would the key differences be between conflict coaching with an individual versus a challenging future-focused brief (if not solutions influenced) narrative oriented therapeutic more typical counselling relationship? 
I guess while I understand also that there are some obvious unique differences between coaching, conflict coaching and therapeutic modalities – I would also identify with brief solution focused narrative therapeutic frameworks (or aspects of multiple modalities that incorporate the broader concept of functional contextualism/postmodern considerations) with particular clients or even particular client groups, and within these therapeutic frameworks there is often an aspect of conflict coaching if not very much a major theme of conflict coaching that in some interpretations would not necessarily delve back into a persons past to the extent that some therapeutic modalities/individual practitioners may endeavour to.  

 

Here’s my answer:

Simon asks:

I’m really enjoying the ‘Other Perspectives’ stage in the REAL process. It’s starting to bring it all together……

In Claire’s case, you can see that she starts to self reflect and is becoming aware that maybe it’s not just Lucy’s problem.
But in Angela’s case, Angela is reluctant to self-reflect (or is not aware of her internal drivers) and when she is answering your questions, she is delivering based on her stance. Almost, to confirm her position. Which is understandable in a conflict situation.

How far do you delve, when tyring to assist the client in understanding their own self fullfilling position or stance?
Is it enough just to run through the questions, even if the client doesn’t become self aware? 

Here’s my answer:

David asks:

How do you determine whether someone is coachable or not? Do you have specific questions that you might ask? Is there evidence for this approach?

 

Here’s my answer:

Tom asks:

I am wondering what/if you do in terms of note taking to keep track of the details of the story during/between sessions.

I remember in the Mediation skills subject there was quite a lot of noting the exact phrases used by participants, so that they could be quoted directly back to them as part of the mediator summing up each sides presentation of the issues. Is that as relevant here in CC?

 

Here’s my answer:

David asks:

Do you work with only one preferred future in coaching? Then, do you explore all the possible paths to get there?

Do you ever work with two or more preferred future options?

I suspect that the action steps will be to test which preferred future is desired. Perhaps, generate criteria to evaluate the preferred futures. 

I guess my question is about mutually exclusive preferred futures. For example, a husband in an infidelity scenario might choose

Option A: Wife leaves her boyfriend and comes back to the family, ceasing the affair.

Option B: Wife leaves the family for good, ceasing the marriage.

 

If the conflict is over the infidelity, perhaps cessation of infidelity is the preferred future rather than option A or B. 

Do you have any thoughts? Is there only ever one preferred future?

 

Here’s my answer:

Jane asks:

In conflict coaching, it is presumed that the client is acting in an ethical way towards others.  How would you approach the situation where it is becoming obvious that a client wants to get the better of another, possibly even ” see them in the gutter”.  Your continuous questioning and/or delving into the why doesn’t change their view/stance.  What would you do? (Maybe this person is a true narcissist).

 

Here’s my answer:

Jane asks:

How do you ‘record’ the sessions?  What if a direct client ( in a direct/indirect agreement) comes back on you, stating that you the coach told them to do/say “x”. which resulted in them getting fired or disciplined in the workplace. I know in the agreement and what is verbally discussed states you do not give advice, but what if they have interpreted your discourse with then and their consequent action  as advice?  How do you protect your self against liable. 

 

Here’s my answer:

Elizabeth asks:

I wanted to know if a coach can use a whiteboard, take notes and provide a handout for the coachee after the session so they can remember what was discussed and what needs working on. Furthermore, do coaches take notes and the end of the session and file away so they can remember the issues of the client if they return back after a lull in sessions?

 

Here’s my answer:

Kate asks:

For the purpose of reflective practice and self improvment for the Conflict Coach, how do you manage this process if you don’t take notes or keep records?

 

Here’s my answer:

Kate, thanks so much for asking this question, as it has made me realise that I haven’t been clear enough in my comments about note taking and record-keeping!

While I don’t take detailed notes during a coaching session (in that I don’t try to write down a lot of the content that a client is sharing with me), I do have a notebook and pen in front of me.  I do take occasional notes.  Here are the things I am likely to write down DURING a coaching session:  (1) People’s names. I’m pretty hopeless with people’s names anyway, but when a client is telling me a story with a lot of different people, I can easily get confused about who’s who!  So I do write down people’s names, and perhaps a word or two to clarify their role in the story (e.g. “Susan – line manager; Tom – direct report; Henry – husband”).  (2) Important phrases.  If the client says something that seems really important, or they repeat a phrase a couple of times, I usually note it down.  I may or may not ever use that note, but sometimes it reminds me of the basis of a good question later on.  The danger of doing this is that I have to make sure that I don’t just wait for a gap in the conversation so I can ask that great question I’m planning, at a time when it’s not directly relevant to the conversation at the time.  However, sometimes I notice it coming up again and then I glance down at my page and see the exact phrase they said earlier and it’s the right time to ask a question about it in that moment.  (3) Data about when / where / for how long we met. (4) If anything comes up that raises an ethical concern, I will make detailed notes about this after the session and file it, in case I need to explain my response (or lack thereof) later on, e.g. if I have to report something due to disclosure of a risk of significant harm.

Separately from my actual coaching sessions, I do engage in self-reflection and debriefing/supervision, and this will often involve me writing / journaling about a coaching session to kind of “unpack it” in my mind. But this isn’t me “recording” the session, it is me reflecting on and learning from my experience in the session. I’m careful not to include any identifying information when I do this, to maintain confidentiality.

Tim asks:

Tim’s still a bit stuck (and probably many of you are as well) on the difference between coaching and counselling.  Tim’s question is whether the distinction is that the coach explores less of the psychological underpinnings of the client’s experience, and focuses more so on the client’s experience with the conflict with the view to future action.

 

Here’s my answer:

Yes, this is one of the distinctions. It’s not always clear cut, as a counsellor / therapist could probably do all of the things that a conflict coach would do (however, they would not normally be trained in conflict dynamics so may not be as skilled at asking appropriate questions to help people shift dysfunctional conflict behaviours).  A counsellor / therapist would be able to do more than a coach, and work with people who have more significant underlying psychological/emotional issues.

A quick google search of “comparing coaching and counselling” will give you lots of variations on that answer.  There’s also a nice overview of the comparison (although it focuses on life coaching not conflict coaching) is made by Tony Robbins here. 

Tim asks:

What evidence base is there that underpins coaching in general.  How do conflict coaches justify/prove their ability to help people?

 

Here’s my answer:

Often, a conflict coach justifies/proves their ability by client testimonials. That’s probably the main way we build credibility in this area at the moment.

There does need to be much more research on conflict coaching in particular. There is a building body of research on other forms of coaching.

Here are a few things to look at:

Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice

 An article by Dr David Drake called “Evidence is a verb: A relational approach to knowledge and mastery in coaching“.

An article by Dr Anthony Grant called “The evidence for coaching”.

An article by Laura Hauser called “Evidence based coaching: A case study.”

Jarrod asks: 

With regards to the REAL acronym, specifically REFLECTION, should coaches ask questions to open other perspectives?

Here’s my answer:

YES, definitely – that is what the Other Perspectives stage in the process is for!

 Jarrod asks: 

With regards to the REAL acronym, specifically ENGAGEMENT, why do we assume the things that Berg and Szabo suggest (in 4.1 The REAL Philosophy)?

Here’s my answer:

Basically, in order to be an effective coach, we need to approach clients with generosity and positivity – we need to assume they are doing the best they can, but also that they can do better with some support. I think if we don’t assume those things, then we are not in the right mindset to support clients to change in a way that they find supportive and non-judgemental.

Jarrod asks: 

With regards to the 5Cs, do you look at choices from both parties or just the client?

Here’s my answer:

Mostly, we look at the client’s own choices, because they are the only thing that they have control over. However, in the Other Perspectives stage, we may consider other people’s perceived choices, as a way of better understanding others, but we can’t have any impact on the choices of anyone other than our client.

 

Suzanne asks:

Questions about:

– How conflict coaching could make matters worse for a client?

– Why the CINERGY model is the most used in Australia?

– Distinction between coaching and counselling

 

Here’s my answer:

 

Michael asks:

Should you follow up with a client to check on how they are progressing?

 

Here’s my answer:

 

Jane asks:

In the law and ethics module, it talks about maintaining appropriate notes and records. What is appropriate?

 

Here’s my answer: