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Case Study: Resolving Conflict through Coaching

Posted October 17, 2020 • Case Story • by Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler, Ph.D.

The problem: Shannon and Daphne were both analytically-minded, high-achieving, Type A executives.  They were also both passionate and determined to make a difference through their work at one of the world’s most prestigious non-governmental organizations. Their CEO sought out coaching to help grow their leadership capacity, and to address issues they were having in their working relationship. While they generally got along well, 60+ hour work weeks and the intensity of their work made it increasingly difficult for them to collaborate effectively. The CEO wanted them to better manage their unhealthy relationship dynamics so they could continue to produce stellar work.

The underlying problem: According to the organization chart, Shannon reported to Daphne. However, in reality, Shannon and Daphne were on equal footing in terms of their ability and experience.  As a result, there was a lot of unspoken disagreement about who reported to whom, and who could control how each spent her time.  Added to this was a stark difference in their communication styles: Daphne was very direct and expected others to act the same.  Shannon, on the other hand, did not like being on the receiving end of Daphne’s direct feedback, and had a hard time being direct herself, especially with someone whose behavior intimidated her.

The solution: Through one-on-one coaching with Shannon and Daphne separately, we helped Daphne strengthen her ability to manage Shannon effectively—primarily by learning how to lead while giving Shannon much greater autonomy. We helped Shannon learn how to identify and directly articulate to Daphne what she wanted and needed to do her job effectively.

In addition, through a series of facilitated conversations, we helped Daphne and Shannon engage skillfully in the tough, honest conversations they needed to have not only with each another, but also with their CEO and other colleagues.

The results: As a result of the 1:1 coaching and facilitated conversations, Daphne and Shannon exponentially increased their leadership capacity.  They were able to make sound decisions about who would work on which projects, on what timeline, and what each could expect of the other.  They each honed their leadership styles to fit with one another’s needs and expectations.  This helped prevent the unhealthy dynamics of the past, enabled each of them to operate with greater freedom and ease than ever before, and allowed them to focus their attention where it was needed most: on their work serving the world’s most deserving populations.

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