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Conflict Coaching: Individuals and Teams

This module was created by Mark Baril and Mary Leichliter. It will provide concepts and tools to enable users to: 

This module will address the following Core Competencies

  • Establish conditions for learning and transformation
  • Support skillful communication
  • Evaluate and improve relationships and systems
  • Support healing and restoration during and after conflict
  • Restore hope, trust & a sense of belonging

Why Conflict Coaching in Social / Political Organizations?

Most of us have experienced coaching at one time or another, though we may not have identified it that way. Parent(s) acted as coaches to help us walk, or talk, or better understand the world. Perhaps a sports coach, spiritual guide, or teacher has helped you reach for your potential, along with an executive coach, a psychologist, a couples counselor, or other mental health professional. In all of these cases, the person receiving coaching needed additional support to arrive at the next stage of learning and development in a specific area of their lives. Whether you are a leader, staff member, volunteer, or otherwise involved in a social or political movement, you are bound to encounter challenges where additional support would be welcome. Working with other committed, passionate people in a team can easily lead to disagreements or team performance issues that can often be transformed with the help of a conflict coach.

What is Conflict Coaching?

Conflict coaching is similar to working with other coaches, though the focus is on assisting either an individual or a team to work through a specific conflict and/or learning conflict resolution skills to be more effective in handling conflict generally.

The conflict coach works with you (or your team) to determine what your concern is regarding your dispute, others’ role in the dispute, and your role in the dispute, along with your desired outcome. Once that has been assessed, the coach can provide support, emotional guidance, and practical teachings about how to move more effectively in and through this conflict, and, ideally, in future conflicts.


Individuals and teams are seeing increased performance using a variety of coaching models. For example, Team Coaching International reports the broad range of teams whom it coaches see an average of a 20% increase in team performance. Even though the effectiveness of the coaching models is proven, the process may not be right for every individual or team. Timing, budget, available coaching expertise, and the willingness of participants can all be factors in deciding whether or not to engage in coaching. Several areas for consideration are listed below in the Next Steps and Practice area.

Next Steps

Reflection Questions to provoke thinking about how you or your organization manages conflict, and perhaps lead to exploration about whether to engage the services of an individual or team coach

Examine these questions within the context of your own work or a contemporary global issue that relates to your work in social change.

  • Are you facing a challenge you have not encountered before and are not sure what direction to take?
  • Are you feeling stuck in a situation or challenged by a particular individual?
  • Do you know where you or your team needs to get to but just can’t move the needle?
  • What are the three areas the team most needs to work on? Can you/they do it alone?
  • Is the leader(s) of the team on board for outside support of a coach?
  • Does the organization and the team have the time, patience, budget, and resiliency for a sustained effort to make the change?
  • Why change now?


Conflict Coaching for Individuals

This is a one-on-one process where a trained coach helps an individual gain more competence and confidence to engage with interpersonal or workplace conflicts. There are many coaching models, as unique and varied as the coaches who coach.

Cinnie Noble has pioneered a well-respected model of individual conflict coaching, the Cinergy™ Model. It is a goal-oriented, future focused process concentrated on supporting the individual in reaching specific conflict management objectives. The Cinergy Model distinguishes itself from other coaching models through its focus on conflict competency, meaning that the individual working in this model grows more competent with her conflict resolution skills as part of the coaching process.

The Stages and Intentions of the Cinergy™ Model are:

  1. Clarify the Goal: Determine what the coachee wants to achieve in coaching.
  2. Inquire About the Situation: Hear what interactions precipitated the conflict or dispute.
  3. Name the Elements: Deconstruct the elements of the conflict and build self and other awareness.
  4. Explore Choices: Uncover potential plan of action items to meet goal.
  5. Reconstruct the Situation: Coachee confirms a choice and develops a plan of action.
  6. Ground the Challenges: Check the plan for potential action stopping challenges.
  7. Yes, the Commitment: Confirm the coachee’s next steps.

Another coaching model, developed by Tricia Jones of Conflict Coaching Matters, offers the following process:
Stage One: help the coachee get a fuller/deeper understanding of the conflict.
Stage Two: help the coachee analyze the conflict by taking three perspectives, in other words, engage in viewing the conflict through three lenses.
Stage Three: help the coachee to discover what s/he believes would be the best outcome of the conflict.
Stage Four: teach the coachee the necessary skills to prepare to take action.
Stage Five: The coaching relationship ends when the conflict is resolved and the coachee assesses the process and what they have learned that may be useful in the future.
In working with a conflict coach, the coach can help you decide which method may work best for your particular situation, goal, or need.

Conflict Coaching for Teams

Team coaching applies similar conflict coaching methods to a team of people. In teams where conflict competency has been identified as an area for improvement, individual conflict coaching is often used in combination with team coaching, to improve each individual team member’s ability to engage individually in the team conflict or team dynamic.

Team coaching has been around for many years and has commonly been led by an individual within the organization (perhaps a manager of the team who has an established relationship with the team) or a specialized coach (usually from outside the organization) who has a specific skill set and develops a relationship with the team over time. Certifications in team coaching are now available from many institutions including Team Coaching International, The International Coaching Federation, Co-ActiveTraining Institute, and others. Team coaches are also available through some of the large consulting companies like The Table Group and Deloitte, or through smaller boutique coaching organizations and individuals.

Team Coaching guides the Team through the steps of discovery, objective setting, change implementation, iterating, and learning. The team learns to see itself as a single system that is responsible for delivering certain outcomes. Team coaching explores and surfaces an understanding of both individual and group behaviors, assists with trust-building, and focuses on improved communication within the team. The objective of undertaking a team coaching process is to move a team from one level of measured performance to a higher level of performance.

General stages in the team coaching process can include:

  • Discovery and understanding of the team by the coach
Interviews and 1:1 meetings with team members
  • Diagnostic Assessment(s) to measure and understand the team dynamic
  • Customized strategy and process design
  • Coaching sessions with the team
  • Workshops and training sessions with the team
  • Decisions and planned actions by the team
  • Measurement of the team system and progress toward change
  • Follow-up coaching sessions with the team and modifications of actions
Celebration of success!

One recognized team coaching methodology, established by Team Coaching International (“TCI”), suggests that a high performing team results from two measurable dimensions: 1) Productivity, which refers to  the “business” side of things, such as accountability, alignment, goals and strategies, etc.; and 2) Positivity, which refers to the “people” side, such as trust, camaraderie, respect, conflict interactions, and other elements of relationships among people in organizations. (Many of the CTF ten core competencies fall within the Positivity side of this model.) Experience with the TCI model shows that teams which focus on both dimensions--productivity and positivity--perform the most effectively.

Measuring Performance

This is the elusive factor for many teams and is not always considered in the social/political team building realm. What does it mean to be high performing? To be able to work with volunteers, organizers, staff and others as a cohesive, functional, and effective team. In one way or another, is important.

Two examples of measuring team performance are included here. Both are trusted by a large number of conflict coaches, and both use actionable results in the form of measured system variables. One is the Team Coaching International Model that focuses on overall team performance rating fourteen individual competencies, and the other is The Conflict Climate Inventory which focuses on team communication and conflict and measures sixteen dimensions of team performance. Team coaches use these types of measurements to start conversations with teams and to develop strategies to deliver approaches for change.

Source: https://teamcoachinginternational.com/
Source: https://www.conflictclimate.com/

The Conflict Climate Inventory, reflected in the graph, above, allows teams (and their coach) to assess and analyze a number of key factors in their team dynamic, such as power differences, comfort with the risk of disclosure, listening and responding, along with the other categories shown in the graph. These can be extremely helpful in determining what coaching methodologies to use and what will work best for each individual team.