An important question to ask in a conflict resolution

Of many good stories since I started coaching, this one made great impact to me as the question raised was outstanding. My coaching client is the CEO and founder of a successful company in United States. He is a great leader and a lifelong learner and an example of the American dream.

It was an unusual coaching session. I noticed he had something on the back of his mind that he was bothered with. After a deep coaching conversation, he shared that one of his high-performing managers, who is also his close relative, misbehaved and he wanted help to resolve it. The situation he described was that this manager behaved badly to his staffs. The staffs were entering the gate and this manager did not pay attention to them when closing it, which almost hit them. They confronted each other and a small thing became a heated argument.

According to my client, this manager has a history of passive-aggressive manner and a lack of valuing other people. The challenge my client faced was how to make invisible visible to this manager and talk to him in a way that he would change to behave better. After brainstorming exercise, the CEO came up with several ways he would solve this issue. He would talk to his manager and show him how his bad behaviors would not help him. He would also use his coaching and leadership skills to find out what the situation was and coach his manager to come up with a solution. He would send this manager to learn soft skills. These options all sound like it would help.

By reframing my client’s mindset and asking what he would say if he was to be a coach, coaching a client in the same situation. After a long silence, he said slowly that he would ask “what are you doing or not doing that seems to add to the situation?” He had a big insight just by asking this question. He had a bigger insight after answering it for his own situation. It turned out that his manager was merely unlocking the gate and did not notice there were people, for he would not have done such an act that could have harmed his coworkers.

If you find yourself dealing with a conflict, ask the same question “what am I doing or not doing that seems to add to the situation?” and answer it sincerely. You will be surprised yourself at what insight you get.

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