This is a letter intended for anyone who may wish to hire me for conflict resolution training in their organization.
When an organization approaches me for conflict resolution training or negotiation training, I find that there are certain conversation threads that come up again and again. So, I thought I would mention them here, in anticipation of a future time when we may speak about your organization’s conflict resolution and training needs. I hope they’re helpful to your thinking about what you need from a trainer and to your assessment of my fit for the assistance you seek.
The length of training will have an impact on results. While short trainings of an hour or two usually can fit more easily into your employees’ busy schedules, they cannot usually produce much, even in the hands of a gifted trainer, in the way of real behavioral outcomes. It may be fruitful for your organization to plant a seed or two in your employees’ minds; please understand, though, that if a goal of the training you seek is actual change in conflict management behaviors, this cannot be achieved in a couple of hours. No ethical conflict resolution trainer can promise you that. I am not saying there are no 2-hour trainings that would make sense for you. I am saying that together we can explore your most important behavioral goals for your group and creative ways I have found with other organizations to achieve them through training with me.
What people know they should do and what people actually do are not always the same. Your employees will discover that the conflict resolution ideas and approaches they learn from a trainer will make sense and not seem intellectually difficult to grasp. However, if they are fortunate enough to have a conflict resolution trainer that trains using a practice-based approach, they will also discover that understanding a conflict resolution idea intellectually turns out to be quite different than having something useful come out of their mouth in the midst of tension. The best conflict resolution and negotiation trainers will be able to tell you very explicitly how they can help your employees bridge the gap between knowing and doing. Together we can explore how this can best be done for your particular group and how to make your training not just interactive, but results-driven.
Conflict resolution training is not necessarily the right substitute for conflict resolution services. Sometimes, I get calls from organizations that request training when what they really want is to resolve an ongoing conflict in a team or between a few members of a department. If this is your situation, it is important that you consider the difficulty of trying to train your way out of conflict. There is absolutely a place for conflict resolution training in organizations, even those experiencing a stubborn conflict, but these situations warrant careful consideration first. Together we can explore the options and figure out what will best help you achieve your short- and long-term goals.
Marian MacDowell, wife of composer Edward MacDowell and the driving force behind the creation of the MacDowell Colony in 1907, once said, “My purpose was to prevent the non-writing of a great poem.” My purpose as a conflict resolution trainer is similar — to prevent the non-success of a great business, to prevent the non-sustaining of an important business relationship, to prevent the non-continuation of an otherwise great employee. I look forward to partnering with you.