I met Cinnie Noble the new-fashioned way—we connected on Twitter. What attracted me to Cinnie from the first Tweet was her apparent comfort with the topic of conflict and with the idea that conflict was a normal and healthy part of life. But like many other normal and healthy things, productive conflict doesn’t always come naturally to us. To remedy this, Cinnie has spent many years pioneering an approach to conflict management coaching.
There is no doubt that she is well qualified for the task. With early training in social work, a law degree, and certification in both alternate dispute resolution and coaching, there are few who are more knowledgeable about the theory and practice of conflict management. This interdisciplinary almost 360 degree view of conflict is apparent in both her tone and her teachings. She’s got the conflict monster surrounded!
Cinnie’s book, Conflict Management Coaching: The CINERGY™ Model, 2012 is written for those who guide others through conflict. I recommend it for coaches, team facilitators, HR practitioners and others whose job it is to harness the power of productive conflict.
The real gold in the book is in Chapter 2 where she presents her model, which is appropriately labeled the “The (Not So) Merry-Go-Round of Conflict.” What’s important about the model is that it addresses not only the observable behaviors that are part of what she calls the “external dispute,” but also the internal reactions and assumptions that form the “internal conflict.” It is my experience that people dramatically underplay these internal struggles. By making explicit the trigger points, underlying values, and assumptions that happen internally, she has provided a framework to help break the vicious cycle.
By dividing conflict into its external and internal components, Cinnie’s method gives control back to the person who is likely feeling trapped by the conflict. In this sense, the method is very well aligned with my messages in You First about taking control of your own experience of the relationships on your team.
For those of you who coach people through conflict, you will love Chapter 4. In it, she outlines the entire 7-step process from clarifying the goal of the coaching to getting to the commitment to act. She tackles the difficult questions such as when and how to let the client vent, what happens if the client isn’t getting insight, and how to call the offending behavior when it appears. These skills are further explored in Chapter 5 as Cinnie provides core coaching techniques including the use of empathy; employing metaphors, and supporting accountability.
If I have one complaint it’s that I need a book to give directly to my clients—to the members of teams who are not seeing their own role in creating, exacerbating, and perpetuating conflict. Cinnie Noble could write a very powerful book for everyone who is struggling to make conflict a positive part of their relationships. Maybe if enough of us send Cinnie a “pretty please with sugar on top” message, she’ll write that book next.
In the meantime, pick up Conflict Management—you’ll be glad you did.