Search Menu

From conflict to collaboration

Intense coaching helps warring execs find common ground

A one-off extended coaching intervention helped two senior leaders resolve their differences and find productive ways of working together.

A broken relationship?

The chief executive of a large group with a turnover approaching £1billion was at loggerheads with the MD of one of the most successful divisions. The relationship between them had deteriorated over time and was apparent to everyone on the executive team. Yet both were highly regarded in the business and seen as a potentially unbeatable combination if only they could put aside their differences and learn to communicate better with each other. However, the relationship reached rock bottom during an off-site where the exec team watched them squabble instead of getting to grips with a complex business issue. A parting of ways was imminent.

Building trust and respect

I was called in to try to resolve the conflict.

I started by holding separate conversations with each of them to determine how committed they were to changing the dynamic. Both were exhausted by the tension and arguments and signed up to try to find a way to patch up their differences and make the most of their combined strengths.

I then designed a coaching intervention that required complete candour and an atmosphere of safety and trust. I facilitated an off-site meeting between the pair, who had committed to spending whatever time was needed to achieve the desired outcome. The conversation ended up lasting from 7pm until 1.30am.

Using a combination of Lumina profiling and FIRO theory, I structured the dialogue so that they were able to:

  • see that the misunderstandings between them were not deliberate
  • appreciate the other’s perspectives through active listening
  • recognise the strengths they most admired about one another
  • identify behaviours that triggered unhelpful reactions in one another and ask for changes
  • agree a strategy for resolving conflict between them.

Coaching results

While the session was intense and at times highly emotional, it was ultimately insightful and constructive. Follow-up sessions were not needed. Today, the relationship continues to go from strength to strength.