Assessing An Interviewee’s Conflict Management Skills

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Being able to effectively handle challenging conversations is an essential leadership skill. But is there a way to assess someone’s conflict competence – or any other leadership competency, for that matter – BEFORE you hire them?


Here, as example, are some conversation-starters you can easily add to your upcoming interviews:

  1. “People don’t always agree. And those disagreements can sometimes become uncomfortable. Please share an example of a conflict you experienced at work…and how you worked through it.”
  2. (Part A) “Different things ‘trigger’ different people. Please share an example of a time that YOU were triggered by someone…and how you dealt with it.”
  3. (Part B) “What helps you NOT get triggered?”
  4. (Part C) “How do you help others who you’ve inadvertently triggered regain their composure?”
  5. “Please share an example of a time when you avoided addressing a work issue because of the conflict you felt it would’ve caused…and walk me through your decision process.”
  6. “Please share an example of a workplace conflict you unintentionally may have caused – or was blamed for causing…and how you dealt with it.”
  7. “Please share an example of how you worked through an issue with someone you disagreed with that resulting in something excellent happening.”
  8. (Part A) “On a scale of 1 to 10 (1=low; 10=high) how would you rate your conflict management skills? Why?”
  9. (Part B) “On a scale of 1 to 10 (1=low; 10=high) how would OTHERS rate your conflict management skills? Why?”

The key is in your thinking about whatever competency you want to focus on, where (what scenarios) that competency would be needed, and asking the interviewee to share an experience of theirs that illuminates how they thought, felt, and/or acted in such a scenario of their choosing – and then asking whatever clarification or followup questions you need to fully understand their example.

By doing so, you can then pretty easily determine if the answer they provided sufficiently demonstrates the competency you’re looking for – in a sufficiently relevant context – or not.

Give it a try and let me know what you learn.

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How to Fire Your Coach Without Being A Jerk

One of the coolest parts of coaching is the interpersonal relationship that develops between coach and client. Yet clients often continue to work with a particular coach long after the power of their coaching relationship has ebbed. So it’s always a good idea to regularly assess where you are with your coach and consider what might make the relationship even more beneficial for you. Maybe all that’s needed is a little tweaking here or there.

But it may also be that it’s getting to be time for you to make a change.

Telltale Signs That It May Be Time For A Change

So how can you tell? Well to be sure, you’ll need just the right mix of intuition, mood and consideration. To help, though, here are some telltale signs you may want to look for:

  • The reasons for hiring your coach to begin with are no longer as relevant as they once were
  • You’re wanting to work with more of a specialist
  • The energy you get from your coaching session isn’t lasting as long as it used to
  • You’re not pushing yourself as much as you used to – and you miss that
  • It’s been a while since you’ve had a major developmental leap or gained new insight or understanding about yourself
  • You’re thinking that you’d rather be your coach’s friend than client
  • The program you’re enrolled in is nearing conclusion

If a few of these items hit home for you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s time to quit working with your coach. And if you’ve got mixed feelings about making such a move, clearly you ought to talk with your coach about what you’ve realized. But say you now realize that it really IS time to make a change. What’s next?

Taking the Next Step

  • Make the decision on your own. Although your coach (and colleagues) can certainly help you work through the question, it is something that you ultimately have to decide for yourself
  • Don’t try and find a new coach before informing your current one. It’s about you being ready for a change, not about comparing one coach to another, so go one step at a time
  • Let your coach know. If you’re ready for a change, just say so. After all, your relationship is built on trust and honest disclosure and all coaches know that this conversation is an inevitable part of working together
  • As a show of respect, tell your coach about the value you’ve received from working together and help him/her see why it’s now time to move on
  • Agree to spend a month (or whatever) finishing up your work together. Maybe there’s something you want to circle back on; maybe your coach has a ‘completion’ process s/he’d like you to go through. Finish up with a smile and head held high
  • Get over any residual guilt feelings you may have. While, yes, your decision does affect your coach, it’s more about what’s best for you – after all, you’re the one paying. And your coach already knows that sometimes what’s best IS change. So celebrate your growth and readiness to take some bigger strides. Own the personal growth that this implies.

If your coach is cool, you’ll feel validated in having made a difficult – but appropriate – decision.

Next up: finding a new coach to work with.

Finding Your Next Coach

  • First, get clear on what you want your next set of goals and objectives to be. Think through the makings of that next big challenge of yours and what type of support would serve you best
  • Then, ask friends and colleagues what they like about their coaches. Not so much to see if their coaches would be a good match for you – which they might, by the way – but more so to reacquaint yourself with some of the language you can use in making your own assessments
  • Check out coach referral sites. The International Coach Federation has one and so do all the major coaching schools
  • Talk with several coaches before making a selection. Take advantage of any offer for a complementary sample session. They’re a great way to experience how a coach coaches
  • Consider your choices: How aligned are your personalities? Who had the biggest impact on you? Who made/helped you think the most? What emotional energy did you get from talking with each of them? Whose style of coaching and support feels best?
  • Make your selection and don’t look back – not for a while, anyway.

Now it may be time for you to change coaches. But then again, maybe it’s not. The important thing is that you make that determination by choice and not just by default.

I originally wrote this article in 2002. It was originally carried by the Association of Coaching & Consulting Professionals, The Coaching Zone, and the Online Consultancy Network – none of which, sadly, seem to be around anymore. I decided to republish it here as a tie-in to a LinkedIn comment I recently posted.

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Improving the Odds of Success

cube-769322_640Depending on the day or circumstance, success can feel like something completely out of our hands, can’t it?! Like a roll of the dice (once we let go of them). So let’s spend a few minutes on how to increase the probability of success – YOUR success – by improving the odds, as it were.

Grand Plan, Supportive Strategies, and Specific Methods

Let’s start by defining some terms:

  • Grand Plan – A focused intention to achieve something of particular significance
  • Supportive Strategies – An array of plans enacted, en masse, to accomplish a Grand Plan
  • Specific Methods – A series of steps required by a Supportive Strategy

That said, we can meaningfully improve our odds by, literally, working with the odds – the odd numbers 1, 3 and 5, that is – in the following manner:

  • 1 – Choose ONE Grand Plan – the point of the exercise
  • 3 – Select THREE Supportive Strategies – to focus our energies and attention as we work to achieve our Grand Plan
  • 5 – Identify FIVE Specific Methods – for each Supportive Strategy
Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Then, we just implement our Grand Plan from the bottom up.

“I Deserve a Promotion”

Let’s work an actual example – one that worked quite well for me, back in the day, and for many of my coaching clients, since:

  • 1 – Choose ONE Grand Plan
    1. Get an “In-Place” Promotion – Receive an increase in title, pay, and responsibility as recognition for the work you’ve already been doing
  • 3 – Select THREE Supportive Strategies
    1. Articulate Your Readiness to be Promoted – Help your boss realize/confirm that, yes, it IS time and, yes, you ARE ready
    2. Justify Your Promotion in Business Terms – You can’t just walk in and scream, BIWI (pronounced “bee-wee,” as in, Because I Want It”).
    3. Identify and Engage Well-Positioned Advocates – Ultimately, you’re going to need one or more opinion-leaders outside of your vertical to stand up and say your name.
  • 5 – Identify FIVE Specific Methods – for each Supportive Strategy, per the chart below:
Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

How Difficult is This, Really?

So let’s level-set. How much work does this approach take? For me, my rough draft took about 10 minutes to build. And then I revisited it a few times over the course of a few days to fine-tune it.

But the bigger point is this: Consider the power of having 15 Specific Methods in support of 3 Supportive Strategies in service of  your Grand Plan – especially, as compared to just showing up in your boss’s office, one day, with not much more than a BIWI.

Does doing this guarantee success? Obviously, no. And might your Grand Plan, Supportive Strategies, and Specific Methods differ from the one’s I’ve used? Quite possibly.

(While I used a career acceleration example to illustrate the approach, this same process can just as easily be used to create a wide variety of Grand Plans and their cascading Supportive Strategies and Specific Methods.)

So remember: To improve your odds, work with the odds – 1, 3, and 5, GO!

What Next?

If this post helped you learn something about yourself, then great! Be sure to share your insight with others as a way of 'locking in' your learning. While you're at it, I'd also appreciate you telling them about the other self-study resources available from LeadershipTraction including:Thanks.

- bz

P.S. If you have a question or comment about this post, just let me know. I'll do my best to get back to you, straightaway.

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You Need a Champion, Not Just a Mentor


Key Traction-Point:

Research shows that sponsorship can give up to a 30% boost
in stretch assignments and pay increases.

Want to really excel at work? Then get yourself a sponsor. A sponsor is, basically, a power broker who will endorse you in closed door meetings, supporting you in stormy times and championing you when it matters most.

Case in Point: Back when I was being considered for an officer-level position at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the COO (who was my boss’s boss) called me to say he was preparing to submit my name to the Executive Committee. “But I will only do that if I know which Board member will stand up for you and sponsor your promotion.”

Okay, I replied, as I racked my brain thinking about who on the Board would advocate for me like that. When do you need an answer?

“Now – the meeting starts in 10 minutes. And,” he continued, “if you cannot give me a name right now, I will withhold my recommendation and remove your name from consideration.”

Sheesh! So I took a breath and guessed a name.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

Yikes! Yes, I am, I replied – even though I really wasn’t.

Turns out that several Executive Committee members motioned on my behalf – including the one I had named – and the deal was done!

I hadn’t realized the importance of Big Dog sponsorship at the time, so I got lucky. Taking a more proactive approach to garnering high-level support is what this article’s all about.

Continue reading at Quartz.

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3 Questions Freakin’ Awesome Candidates Ask

fistful of talent

Key Traction-Point:

An interview is an invitation to engage in a meaningful conversation,
not just to ask and answer the same ol’ boring questions.

“You know you’re in an enhanced interview when there is actual dialogue – give and take.

“Hiring managers – in order to pull top talent out of their current company you not only have to be prepared to ask compelling questions… but perhaps more importantly assess the types of questions you’re being asked by the candidate and give meaningful answers.

“And candidates – if you want to be put in the AWESOME category, you have to step up your game as well.  Think about how many times the interviewer has been asked about “training and development opportunities” by average candidates.  If you’re getting a glazed over look, call it a day and go figure out spicy questions for the next time you’re interviewed.”

Here are three particularly awesome ones to consider…

Continue reading at: Fistful of Talent.

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