Conflict Resolution Training: Back of the Class

#100 Think Twice Before Bringing in Conflict Resolution Training

You may be surprised by the next sentence… If you would like your team or organization to be more competent in conflict, then you should think twice before bringing in conflict resolution training. It’s not that training isn’t needed. It is. But there’s more than the training itself to plan for. 

Firstly, consider some of the challenges:

  • People generally avoid conflict and most organizational cultures condone this
  • Communication skills are not difficult to understand, but they are challenging to use in a stressful conflict situation —when they are most needed!
  • Being more effective at conflict is in part a personal growth project and employment usually mandates professional, but not necessarily personal growth
  • Effective training in conflict competence — or any type of conflict management — requires practice 

If you don’t grapple with some of these challenges you are unlikely to significantly raise conflict effectiveness in your organization simply though training. 

Conflict Resolution Training: Back of the Class

My colleague Julia Menard and I have been attempting to look these challenges in the eye on the consulting side. We’re finding that the positive outcomes for training are expanded through additional practices that focus on the application of what has been learned.  

One-on-one coaching, one of these additional practices, is effective at integrating collaborative communication practices. Coaching facilitates conversations about how you want to be during conflict — something that generally requires one-on-one exploration, as one’s behaviour in conflict depends greatly on their own past experiences. Thoroughly preparing to address a conflict involves not only a review of communication skills, but also self-awareness, self-management, and strategies tailored to our unique beliefs, values, and habits. 

An alternative more cost-effective program that Julia and I have been using is to coach leaders on how to teach their teams about difficult conversations and conflict competence. One model is to coach a leader in how to “reteach” the material to team members who have had exposure to the fundamentals from training provided by us online. 

Through reteaching the material a leader establishes an expectation that the methods will be used in future team conflicts and uncomfortable conversations. The reteaching also gives rise to conversations that both respond to resistance and lead to collective consensus about how the methods will be applied. 

Several teams have developed their own ways of integrating skills. Some have used role play practice as a regular part of team meetings. One team has been trouble shooting challenging experiences that members are having as they try out various communication methods. Based on our work and observations to date, I think there are two elements of an effective integration program:

  • Practicing together
  • Having consensus-building conversations about how practices will be utilized 

In summary, the benefits of conflict resolution training can be greatly enhanced and sustained through additional practices that focus on the application of what has been learned. 

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