“The more I worked in organizations, the more I realized that other than individualized service provided by ombudsmen in some workplaces, there was a gap in ADR services for people whose unproductive conflict habits had an impact on them and others,” says Cinnie Noble, owner of CINERGY Conflict Coaching.
That realization led Cinnie down a career path I wanted Making Mediation Your Day Job readers to know more about. Cinnie graciously agreed to be part of my Success Leaves Clues series, occasional interviews with interesting ADR professionals who have successfully navigated the waters of ADR practice-building.
I first met Cinnie at an ACR conference years ago. I’d integrated conflict coaching into my practice and was delighted to find that someone – Cinnie – was presenting on the topic to a packed-to-the-gills audience. She’s uniquely positioned herself in the conflict resolution field with her focus on conflict coaching – indeed, Cinnie’s probably been one of the primary drivers behind the growth of conflict coaching as a segment of the field.
Here’s how Cinnie describes herself and her work: Cinnie is a social worker, lawyer, mediator, trainer and coach. She combined her skills, knowledge and experience of over 20 years in the field of conflict management, to create a model for Conflict Coaching. A pioneer in this regard, Cinnie united executive coaching and conflict management principles, to develop this model. Using this unique approach, Cinnie coaches individuals to engage more effectively in conflict, to proactively handle unnecessary disputes and to competently and confidently manage and resolve those that do arise. She also trains coaches, mediators, managers, HR professionals and others worldwide, to use the CINERGY® model of conflict coaching. Cinnie hosts the Conflict Coaching Special Interest Group for the International Coach Federation and Chairs the Conflict Coaching Committee for ACR’s Workplace Section.
Tammy: How did you get started in the ADR world?
Cinnie: Early on, after I first graduated from law school (1987), I realized that the adversarial world of courts and contest was not a good fit for me. Mediation was a relatively new field as an alternative dispute resolution process and as I read more about it, I realized that it aligned more with how I saw conflicts being addressed. So, I became trained as a family mediator and provided that type of work for a number of years until I went into a Masters of Law program in ADR at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. At that time (1996), I shifted my attention to the workplace and began to provide a wider range of ADR services.
Tammy: How did you come to choose a conflict coaching niche?
Cinnie: The more I worked in organizations, the more I realized that other than individualized service provided by ombudsmen in some workplaces, there was a gap in ADR services for people whose unproductive conflict habits had an impact on them and others. That is, other than by generic conflict management training, I realized that there were limited ways for people to consider and work on how to manage their specific disputes, much less to build their confidence and individual conflict competence. Also, some people do not want to participate in mediation and state a preference for managing matters on their own. Then there are cases when a party doesn’t show up for a scheduled mediation and the one who does wants assistance to manage the situation. I repeatedly saw that mediations are often not about issues but rather, the way that people communicate opinions and expectations. This led me to consider alternative processes and I was introduced to the field of coaching.
I became certified by the International Coach Federation (ICF) and after considerable research on what sort of process was most viable, I developed a model of conflict coaching also called conflict management coaching (I named it, the CINERGY® model).
The conflict management coaching added so much to my ADR practice and, increasingly, conflict coaching became a niche that took on a life of its own. Sometimes I coach people who want to manage a dispute independently and others who want to gain more confidence and competence to engage in conflict whether or not they have a specific dispute occurring. Conflict coaching also works well to assist people to more actively and effectively participate in mediation and other ADR processes. When I provide conflict management training now, I provide coaching to participants post-workshop, to assist them to develop their skills as they apply their learning to their specific issues.
Starting in 2002 until just recently, I had the privilege of being the Conflict Management Coaching Consultant for the Transportation Security Administration. Prior to and since that contract, I have helped other organizations design internal conflict coaching programs.
Tammy: What do you love most about what you do?
Cinnie: I love that all that I do. I feel quite fortunate that I have found work that is so fulfilling. I have always loved being in the ADR field and have found that conflict coaching is the most rewarding of all the areas I practice. I also love that I discovered that my conflict coaching model is grounded in neuroscience principles. I developed it mostly through research, as mentioned. That involved experimenting with a number of study groups over a few years and as it evolved it seemed to be a practice without a specific theory! The more I learned about how the brain functions, I discovered how the model is grounded in neuroscience principles and that helped explain more about why the model works so well. This has been both fascinating and legitimizing for me.
Tammy: What has been most successful for you in marketing and promoting your practice?
Cinnie: I try to use different methods for promoting my work and I keep track of things like from where I get coaching referrals, interest in the training, and so on. I always ask people how they heard about CINERGY Coaching and the source varies. I remain mindful that people have and use different ways of taking in information. In addition to writing articles and speaking at conferences and meetings, I use social media – Twitter (@CINERGYCoaching), LinkedIn (Conflict Coaching Guild, which I host; anyone may join). I cannot really say that one form of reaching potential clients has been more successful than another. I will add though that “word of mouth” has influenced a high number of training participants and clients.
Tammy: How do you make use technology for promoting and/or managing aspects of your practice?
Cinnie: I am finding that though very informative, Twitter can be time draining and is not the most optimum forum for marketing my practice. I have “met” some very interesting people worldwide this way, though. I have a website which is not interactive at this time, but will be in 2010. I think people are generally so attuned to Googling organizations and services that having a website has been really important. I do use Skype for long-distance coaching. I rarely use email for coaching other than to check in with clients, schedule appointments and send a pertinent article.
Tammy: What advice do you have for new and seasoned mediators who want to boost their own practices?
Cinnie: I often hear colleagues express the desire to try something different and not sure what it may be and how to go about it. That’s where I think resourceful people like you are so helpful. What I did was peruse many sites and see which ones were most interesting, fun and creative; I asked people who use various forms of social media what works for them and why, and I visited Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook etc. to see how I may contribute and how people in the field participate (without signing up for any at the time).
I encourage people to do this sort of research and then spend some time considering what really resonates as possible ways to expand their ADR practice. Once identified, developing the tools and techniques requires full concentration and the required time to make things happen. There are coaches, “Twitter tutorials,” and others in the growing filed of social media who may be hired to help facilitate the process.
One last thing I will mention is not directly in response to this question but tangentially related. Many mediators, facilitators and ADR consultants are, of their own admission, not always effective at managing conflict in their workplaces and personal lives. I also find many practitioners share that they are constantly depleted, stressed and saddened by the conflicts they regularly see and hear. Sometimes coaches, mediators and other ADR practitioners seek coaching to help them get more in touch with how this phenomenon has an impact on them and their practices. My experience, though not original by any means, is that unless we do some self-reflective work and take care of ourselves emotionally, physically, spiritually etc., we have limited energy and inspiration to really pay sufficient attention to our clients, our families and our friends, much less our practices.
Thanks, Cinnie, for the interview and the wisdom!