A couple of months ago Marion contacted me about a challenge she faced with a client of her successful small business. This is the third post in my Marion series, where I chronicle the conflict management coaching experience for and with Marion (links to the first two article are at the foot of this one).
One of Marion’s three primary goals for the conflict management coaching experience is to learn how to manage her hot buttons and keep her balance in conflict moments at work. As part of our initial exploration of the ways she engages conflict, I had asked her to complete a conflict style inventory and begin to take note of the kinds of moments that got under her skin.
In our next conversation, Marion reported that of the most common four conflict triggers, she noticed that she was bothered a little bit when she felt excluded in some way by those close to her. And she particularly noticed that when someone seemed to be questioning her worth, she was really bothered.
We also discussed the results of the conflict style inventory, which were pretty revealing and not surprising to either Marion or me by that point. Marion’s inventory suggested that she has a strong tendency to avoid conflict; she’ll also accommodate another’s demands in order to avoid overt confrontation that could get uncomfortable. Stylistically, she’s very focused on meeting the needs of the other person and minimally focused on getting her own needs met.
Marion’s own observations about what presses her buttons, combined with the result of the conflict style inventory, helped explain the way things unfolded with the client she found difficult: He questioned the amount and details of her invoice, Marion experienced that as a negative statement about the value of the work she’d done, and she was thrown off balance by it. When she discovered she’d actually under-charged him, she decided not to raise the matter further (some of which makes reasonable business sense, too). Having the bad taste of a difficult conversation in her mouth, she’s understandably concerned about future dealings with this client.
I suggested to Marion that, as a first action step, we identify a few simple ways to either keep her balance or get her feet back under her in circumstances that challenge or fluster her. We strategized several simple methods for regaining her balance and I asked her to experiment with three or four of them over the coming weeks.
One of the terrific things about coaching Marion is that she’s really self aware and willing to try things out for size before accepting or rejecting them. I’ll write next about the results of Marion’s low-risk experiments and the courageous step she took with another client.