I Got My Conflict Dynamics Profile Results. So What Happens Next?
By Walt Hogan, Symbiosis President and Executive Coach
It is clear that the research and data compiled to make the Conflict Dynamics Profile (CDP) a useful tool for identifying constructive behaviors, destructive behaviors and hot buttons has been supported with robust analysis and significant testing. However, receiving the CDP report without employing a professional executive coach who is a certified in the CDP interpretation can result in a meaningless effort toward conflict management development.
As an executive coach who has used the CDP-Individual (CDP-I) assessment with almost 1000 clients, I’ve uncovered valuable coaching techniques. My role as a coach is to explore with clients what the CDP-I data could mean and how to develop that meaning into action. Three important factors are helping clients to understand what they are doing well, what they could do better and the role of hot buttons in effectively managing conflicts. In addition, clients can identify key strengths that could be further leveraged if they are coached properly on how to read, understand and use the data in the CDP-I reports. I learned early on when using the CDP assessment that just giving the client the results of the report, without any assistance in interpreting it, can lead to another empty experience of taking an assessment and not learning how to apply real insights.
In this article, I will outline the process I use with clients in an initial CDP feedback session to help them with behaviors or hot buttons that they have identified for developmental improvement.
Managing vs. Resolving
I have found that my clients are looking for applicable methods for managing conflicts. I start by explaining that managing conflict is not resolving conflict. Our goal with using the data from the CDP report is to identify methods for managing conflict to resolution, opening the door for a discussion on this important distinction.
Dale Carnegie’s guide to conflict management states: ‘’Conflict Management (CM) is the process through which you reach conflict resolution. Conflict resolution is successfully creating a way forward in a difficult situation that doesn’t leave resentments, anger, avoidance, or distraction still bubbling away under the surface because it has not been dealt with.’’
Application to Recent Conflict
The first step with my clients is to have them share with me their latest conflict situation, the fresher the better. Many times the stories are of a disagreement they’ve had with a significant other the day of or night before we met. It could be a conflict with a neighbor, committee members, or even a random person in the 7-Eleven that morning. I don’t care where the conflict is; I just care that it is real and fresh.
The next step is to have them identify how they felt during the conflict. I relate that feeling back to the “Precipitating Event” phase of conflict. I want them to understand that the feeling is a warning sign that they are about to enter into conflict, and the feeling is connected to the hot button. We review the top hot buttons. Most of the time their first or second highest hot button is what is making them feel upset.
This awareness is the first key to managing conflict. I stress that getting in touch with how they feel will remind them that hot buttons could control how they are about to behave. Feelings are one way of God warning us that conflict is about to occur. Unfortunately, we don’t hear the feelings; we emote the feelings. We embrace the feelings and own the feelings. The feelings create the emotional conflict mode which invites the destructive responses to occur.
Managing Hot Buttons
A primary factor in managing conflict is knowing your hot buttons. I go to the Hot Button section of the assessment report first. We discuss what hot buttons are, and I will ask clients to select which hot button they think is their number one hot button. I do this before we actually look at the hot button results. After comparing what they thought ahead of time to what the scores actually are, I ask if they are surprised. Most of the time they are not surprised with the differences (if there are any). We discuss past situations where they can clearly remember the hot button being pushed but not realizing it was a hot button.
I will ask clients to think of the upcoming week’s activities. I have clients list what scheduled meetings they plan to attend and where they know they will be with people who have a tendency to hit those hot buttons. In the conflict management Development Plan, we plot out how they will prepare to respond to conflict now that they consciously know what a person will say or do or how a person will behave in a way that could hit the hot buttons.
Constructive Responses/Role Play
Next, we review the Constructive Responses results. The higher the numbers on the constructive responses report the better. First, I help clients identify which constructive responses they are aware of using and also how they are using them. Many times, as a coach, I can get clients to return to their own positive experiences or outcomes, and then we explore how they can use those positive experiences in the current situation. That way, they will not only use it successfully now, but they will remember it for the future as well.
Subsequently, we review their highly rated constructive responses. I encourage clients to explore approaches for using these responses in upcoming potential conflict situations. Many clients are often unconsciously competent with using these strength behaviors. I encourage them to write down how they plan to use the behavior in the potential conflict. Writing down the action steps will pull the behavior from an unconsciously competent level of learning to a consciously competent level of application. Now it becomes more comfortable and natural to use the constructive behavior when in conflict.
I then ask clients to role play with me. I take on the attitude, behaviors and demeanor of the person with whom they potentially are planning to have conflict because I know the hot buttons from the CDP report. I intentionally demonstrate or display the hot button behavior with them. Many times clients begin to respond by demonstrating destructive behaviors.
It is at this time that I review the Destructive Responses section of the CDP report. I explain what destructive behaviors are and how the behaviors are connected to the hot buttons. I share with them the specific definitions. Typically, clients agree with the lower numbers on the scales but will sometimes disagree with the higher numbers. I ask them to re-read the definitions and think of the last time they used these responses. More frequently than not, clients then realize that they actually do display these behaviors.
After the first few coaching sessions, I encourage clients to apply what we have uncovered in our discussion. After three weeks, we meet again to discuss what went well and what they would do differently next time.
Many clients report back that their conversations with the other person were much deeper and context- driven than previous conversations. When asked when they noticed that their hot buttons were being pushed, most respond with “As soon as I recognized that I was feeling something and consciously decided to use a constructive response.” When asked, “Did you resolve the conflict?” the answer is always “No, we didn’t, but I believe that I managed my ability to stay in constructive conflict.” This important first step is the beginning of conflict resolution.
Remember: to resolve conflict, people have to manage themselves first and foremost! After clients receive their CDP results, the coaching process is critical in helping them develop the skills, knowledge, and abilities to manage conflict more effectively in the future.
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The CDP Coaching Process:
Walt Hogan, MA, PCC
Walt Hogan is the founder of Symbiosis consulting practice, a certified facilitator, organization development (OD) consultant and accredited leadership coach with over 15 years of experience. Walt has additional expertise in the areas of leadership, management and human resource development (HRD), also team and staff development.