How to Build Conflict Resolution Skills
When Training Time is Limited
or Participants are Far Away
Conflict has much potential to waste energy and disrupt relationships. So time invested in learning resolution skills can have big payoffs. But. Training time is hard to get. Worse, colleagues increasingly work remotely and rarely meet face to face.
Even in the most challenging circumstances there are ways to use conflict styles training to have an impact on the culture of your group or organization. I'll start with easy situations and progress to more difficult ones:
- Choose a conflict style inventory that is available in several formats (online, in PDF, and in print) and supported by online secondary materials for maximum flexibility. We've made that a priority with Style Matters and the Thomas Kilmann inventory also provides an online version. See this comparison of the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument and Style Matters and draw your own conclusions between these two leading products.
- Have people take the inventory at home before they arrive at a training event. Both the Online Version and the print version of Style Matters are self-explanatory, so you can instruct your users to come to the workshop with the inventory already taken and a score report in hand. Bingo, you just saved at least 15 minutes of time required for taking the inventory! In your workshop, start with the Intro to Conflict Style slideshow (see Free Resources in top menu on the front page of www.RiverhouseEpress.com) and continue with input on topics covered in the Trainers Guide.
- If you're really squeezed for time, you can have users work through selected topics in the Tutorial (top menu on front page of www.RiverhouseEpress.com) as well. In this scenario, in the workshop itself, you might still do a quick run through of the Intro to Conflict Styles slideshow as a 5 minute warmup, but you could skip other topics covered in the Tutorial and just go straight to discussion of score reports.
- Maybe you're working remotely with people and can't even gather them in a workshop. You could however, still have them take the inventory and work through the tutorials on their own. Then schedule a videoconference and discuss results, using one of the exercises described on the webpage "Resources for Group Discussion of Conflict Styles".
- In all circumstances, you will have the greatest effect on relationships and the culture of an organization or group if you interact with participants repeatedly across time rather than in a one-off event. For example, you could probably have a greater positive effect on the working relationships in a team of people on the other side of the world via a series of regularly scheduled video conversations than with a single one-off face-to-fact event. Use discussion ideas in our free Trainers Guide on the webpage "Resources for Group Discussion of Conflict Styles" to structure these sessions.
- You could do a one-hour webinar with a group and then assign them to follow up on their own as pairs or as a group in discussing topic in the above resource pages.
- Can't even do a web conference? You could have an individual, a team, or a whole group take the inventory and work through the inventory on their own as individuals. Then assign them to have have a series of conversations based on assignments/topics you create for them drawing on the above resources. If you want to be really thorough, you could ask them to send your a written summary of key insights they learned from the experience. In that case, make it a conversation by replying to their summary.
- With any of the above, you could have people do journal entries, just for themselves, or to share with you as trainer. Ideas for topics:
- "Key Insights about my conflict styles that I learned from taking Style Matters"
- "Three things I want to try to do differently with others in my group (and why) as a result of learnings from Style Matters"
- "Reflections on a week/month of effort to apply insights from Style Matters in relationships to others"
- "My strengths and weaknesses in conflict styles - reflections following taking the Style Matters inventory".
- "Two successes and two challenges I faced this week in applying insights from the Style Matters inventory."
- "A personal response to Principles of Wise Response to Conflict".
- In all cases where you are working with reports or reflections sent to you, if your purpose is to facilitate learning, make at least some reply, even if only a few sentences or paragraphs. If you fail to do this, the writers are more likely to experience your presence as that of an authority figure to whom they are reporting rather than as a coach. The coaching role, of course, is generally more likely to facilitate reflection and learning role than an authority figure role.