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Using Partnership Coaching to Strengthen Teams

Using Partnership Coaching to Strengthen Teams

Webcast Details

  • What is the role of conversations in conflict resolution, and how can a third party help?
  • What is "Partnership Coaching" and how does it relate to resolving conflict in the workplace?
  • How do team dynamics and an understanding of team strengths contribute to conflict-resolution strategies?

Alicia Santamaria, Group Facilitator and Conflict Resolution Practitioner, was our guest on a recent Called to Coach. In this episode, Alicia explained her "Partnership Coaching" model and how she integrates it with CliftonStrengths it to resolve conflicts between individuals and on teams. Alicia has created materials such as a Companion Guide to help prepare coaches and leaders to navigate difficult conversations as they seek to resolve conflict in the workplace. And CliftonStrengths and an understanding of team dynamics can play a vital role in conflict-resolution strategies.

Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series -- Season 9, Episode 25.

I believe that ... conflict is normal. It is natural. I actually don't think it's a mess ... it's not a bad thing. It's how we handle it. It's how we conceive of it. It's how we approach it. That's what makes it functional versus dysfunctional.

Alicia Santamaria, 7:25

When I say, "Partnership Coaching," let me just clarify that. ... Whatever term you use for you facilitating two of your clients, two team members, in a conversation -- whatever you call that, that's what I'm talking about.

Alicia Santamaria, 20:31

You've got to really have that sort of radar: Is this person ready to have an authentic, vulnerable conversation? And if they're not, don't do it!

Alicia Santamaria, 35:55

Access the Companion Guide (PDF Download) that Jim and Alicia mention in the webcast.

Jim Collison 0:00

I am Jim Collison, and live from our virtual studios around the world, this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on May 14, 2021.

Jim Collison 0:20

Gallup's Called to Coach is a resource for those who want to help others discover and use their strengths. We have Gallup experts and independent strengths coaches share tactics, insights and strategies to help coaches maximize the talent of individuals, teams and organizations around the world. If you're listening live, love to have you join us in our chat room. There's actually just the link right above me there. You can sign into your YouTube account; chat with us live. If you're listening to us after the fact -- and many of you do that, either via podcast or on YouTube -- and you have questions, you can always send us an email: And don't forget to subscribe on your favorite podcast app or there on YouTube. There's a subscription button. And actually, we're at a weird time because I think Apple's changing over to "follow" is the terminology. So you can follow, subscribe -- whatever it takes to get it done, just subscribe so you never miss an episode. Alicia Santamaria is my guest today. Alicia has worked as a Group Facilitator and Conflict Resolution Practitioner for over 25 years -- I'm not even 25, so that's a long time! -- and holds a master's degree in Interpersonal and Intercultural Communications. In addition to being a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, She's an Accredited Professional Certified Coach, or PCC, and a Certified Professional Coactive Coach, a CPCC. That sounds like something that the Soviet Union back in the '80s. Alicia, welcome to Called to Coach!

Alicia Santamaria 1:37

No connection to the Soviet Union. I did live in Spain, so yo hablo espanol.

Jim Collison 1:43

Oh, we should, we should capitalize [on] that in the future, get to do English and some Spanish.

Alicia Santamaria 1:49

Un poquito bilingue.

Jim Collison 1:51

Well, thanks for joining us. Let's get to know you a little bit. The stuff I read, of course, is important. But it's really more important about you. Tell us a little bit about your Top 5 and a little bit about you.

Alicia Santamaria 2:02

Yeah, thank you. So just an honor to be here today, Jim. Thank you so much for the opportunity. And to everybody in chat who is -- so I see some, some good friends there. So thank you all for, for being there. So my Top 5 are Communication, Individualization, woo-woo-woo! Woo, Learner and Input. And I just want to mention, I have Connectedness, Futuristic, Belief, Responsibility and Includer next. And those really are, I know, everybody feels that -- I just feel such a connection to those additional ones. And I think it really speaks to who I am. I have my own coaching and consulting practice. I'm a solopreneur. January was my 10-year anniversary for Adelante -- Adelante Coaching and Consulting. "Adelante" is a Spanish word for "forward." So facilitating people, teams and organizations forward. And I'm here in the San Francisco Bay Area, have amazing clients across sectors. So I am not sector-specific I work with, in the private sector, the social sector, government, I kind of do it all.

Jim Collison 3:11

Yeah, and you know, this, I want to go off script kind of right away. But you've been a Gallup-Certified Coach for a long time. What, what brought you to that? Like, for you, what's been the value of having CliftonStrengths as a part of your business?

Alicia Santamaria 3:24

Yeah, it's a great question. So I was a, I was a ICF-Accredited Coach first. And when I, when I started my business, I had many, many years of training and group facilitation and conflict-resolution mediation experience. I added coaching to the tool belt through -- CTI is where I got my training. When I was walking through Barnes and Noble one day, my Input and Learner, you know, on fire, I saw the CliftonStrengths book on the bookshelf. It was probably like 2011, 2010, grabbed it. And when I took it, Jim, and Communication came out as No. 1, my whole life changed because I had been trying to shut up basically in my 20s and my 30s.

Alicia Santamaria 4:06

So integrating, because it had such a powerful impact for me and with my high Belief, I immediately started using it with clients, and then realize I needed to get legit and so went through the certification. And it's helped so many people, so many of my clients in my own life, my friends, my family -- it's just been an incredible tool. And it fits so beautifully, as we're going to talk today, around helping people have different kinds of conversations with each other; it's such a powerful tool for that.

Jim Collison 4:36

Yeah, well, and, you know, I get, I'm similar situation: I have Woo [No.] 2 and Communication [No.] 4. And I, too, tried to spend my whole life trying to shut up. And so I found a job where I get to talk all week, right? Pretty great, interview people, very, very, you know, I have Individualization [No.] 7 or 8, and, and get that opportunity -- I have Relator very high as well. So I enjoy spending this time together. I am sure you as well are able to lean into those themes and use them. Do you find yourself -- in your role, in your current role (we're going to talk about that here in just a second, but) do you find yourself thinking about that a little more often, just as you're, and saying, "Oh, man, I could really pull this forward and, and maximize on this." Is that a conversation you have in your head a little more often?

Alicia Santamaria 5:22

All the time! My, the Input was, I didn't know it had a name. Right? And so creating the Companion Guide (PDF Download) for today, right? I mean, what's the value-add that I can bring? And even to my clients, the Individualization, I'm always thinking about that. Right? Is that custom tailoring that I do. So definitely -- you know, the Communication, I always knew I talked a lot, right. But then again, how do I use it for good, not evil? Because in the basement, it's not pretty.

Jim Collison 5:54

Yeah. Well, but even, even that being said, we can learn through those situations. And you know, there's opportunities where, looking back at younger Jim and saying, "Oh, OK, that's probably not the greatest way to use it." But, but it taught me some things, right. And it taught me some things moving forward. I have this statement that I say all the time: "Where there are two or more are gathered, there will be conflict." And I think sometimes, and when we talk about strengths, we, you know, we, the power in it, yes, it's a powerful individual. You just talked about that. It's even more powerful team tool when we get teams together, thinking about the framework of strengths and how we do that.

Jim Collison 6:33

But oftentimes, teams have a lot of conflict. I mean, I wish they didn't, but they just do. Sometimes, sometimes you and I bring conflict to those teams by saying the things we say. But that being said, How do we get this? I mean, you've kind of, you've spent a good chunk of your professional life thinking about team dynamics and conflict resolution, right? And so how did you get there? I mean, how does one kind of specialize in that? How does one start thinking, OK, I want to put myself in a situation where everything's a mess, right? So talk, talk a little bit about that.

Alicia Santamaria 7:07

So I like to say to people when I do my trainings, that I have not arrived in terms of, right, conflict resolution. If anyone saw me with my 16-year-old or my 14-year-old, you know, you'd be like, Who is she to teach conflict resolution to anybody?

Alicia Santamaria 7:23

So for me, it's a journey. And I so believe that conflict, exactly what you said, conflict is normal. It is natural. I actually don't think it's a mess. I don't actually, right, it's not a bad thing. It's how we handle it. It's how we conceive of it. It's how we approach it. That's what makes it functional versus dysfunctional. And I know, you know, everyone has their own experience with conflict, and what you grew up with, right, in your home, for example, growing up, what did you learn about conflict? My, my attraction to this is helping people to see that through productive and effective talking and listening, that people, you can make it through anything.

Alicia Santamaria 8:10

Even if a relationship has to end, it's, maybe it has to, but you can do it in a way that feel can still feel like a win-win. So moving away from the win-lose idea and saying, How can we both get our needs met? And really, that's for me what conflict is. Somebody has a need that isn't being met. And they're speaking out about it, acting out about it, whatever you want to say. And so how can we understand what those needs are? And that's another reason strengths is such a great tool, because we can understand our contributions and our needs with strengths.

Jim Collison 8:46

We've been spending a lot of time this year talking about managers, because just we know, in the workplace managers kind of dictate at least 70% of the engagement of their teams. Why are people not naturally good at this? Like, I mean, you would think this would be, you know, humans have become the dominant species on the planet, but not because we get along. So why is that, why is it so hard? In your experience, what have you seen? Why is it hard for people?

Alicia Santamaria 9:13

I think a lot of it is what I mentioned about conditioning, but I think strengths plays a big part. Because, depending on your strengths, you might, you know, if -- there's a lot around "nice," right? We -- it would be nice; I don't want to hurt someone's feelings. And, you know, the crucial conversations model, some of you I know are familiar with, talks about, we can be honest and direct and kind. I think sometimes people separate those out. And if I'm being direct and honest, that means I'm not being kind.

Alicia Santamaria 9:46

And so if, again, from a cultural perspective, if you're from a culture where you kind of, you know, that, that might be, seem mean or aggressive to actually share what your needs are, versus, you know, I think for other people, certainly people, I think, with the Influencing themes, and I'm Italian, of Italian background, and I mean, we, you don't hold back, OK. So I think, again, some of it comes, I think there's cultural variations in terms of, you know, how you address issues of conflict as well.

Jim Collison 10:18

And what about, what about, as you mention different cultures, what about intercultural conflict, where different folks are coming from different perspectives? Not good or bad, it's just, I mean, even in our, even when everybody has the same culture, I mean, think about families. There's conflict in families. How much do cultural differences amplify that, and what have you seen?

Alicia Santamaria 10:42

I, absolutely, and culture, not only thinking about it from sort of an ethnic demographic, I mean, there's, there's, you know, all sorts of culture. I live in San Francisco Bay Area. I mean, we have so much diversity, there's, you know, international -- I mean, so many ways to think about culture. To me, it comes down to, if you can hold space for multiple perspectives, I call it the "and stance." Right? So, so if I can hold space for people to be different than me, to have different perspectives, that's, that's, that's the answer for me.

Alicia Santamaria 11:22

If I don't have to be right and I don't have to persuade and I don't have to win over you, that's what really shifts. And if I can seek to understand what your experience is -- doesn't mean I have to agree. Right? "Hey, Jim, it looks like you're, you're coming from a real different vantage point; I'd love to hear more about that. Tell me more about that. I want to learn about that." Doesn't mean I have to adopt it; doesn't mean I have to think it's, you know, the best thing. I now understand where you're coming from. And that just changes everything.

Jim Collison 11:54

Alicia, how would I know, like, as an individual, you know, everybody, you know, nobody sees this blind spot coming until it runs you over, right? But what are, what are some questions -- I mean, as just thinking personally, like, am I (and I love the words you use, you know) holding space? What are some things I could kind of do some self-reflection on to say, Am I holding space? Am I truly holding space? What kind of advice can you give on that for individuals?

Alicia Santamaria 12:24

I think the one big thing is around acknowledging if you're in threat mode. So I have a NeuroLeadership Institute brain-based coaching skills class; I know some other coaches have gone through that. Understanding the organizing principle of the brain is to, you know, look for, seek reward and minimize threat. It's often when we go into threat mode, Jim, is where we can no longer sort of take that more positive, collaborative mindset. So recognizing, Have I been triggered? Has the hot button been pushed? And am I now trying to, again, win, compete, persuade? If we can identify, "Wow, I am in threat mode right now," we can usually kind of pull ourselves out and then step into that more collaborative, open space of dialogue. So it's dialogue versus debate that we want to go for.

Jim Collison 13:25

I could use, you know, in my role here at Gallup, you know, I get hundreds of bits of communication a day. And it's interesting that you say that, because I have begun to notice when I get triggered. Like something comes in and I trigger and I want to, I kind of want to thrash back or be short back or whatever, right? I'm not sure I've gotten really good at -- so I'm better at recognizing it. What are some steps, if I, if I get to that point where I feel threatened, what are some things I could begin to do? Just teach me -- and I'm not making this up, by the way. This is like real, this is real-world stuff. What are some things I could do to maybe short-circuit that, that response and give me a chance to respond properly? What would you say?

Alicia Santamaria 14:07

So, very first thing, of course, is awareness. So if you can, if you already can identify what are the kinds of things -- again, NeuroLeadership Institute has a SCARF model: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. Right? If you know that your high Relator is gonna be, right, if you have kind of that "friend or foe" thing, if you know going into a situation, right, you can already -- if fairness at, with high Belief, fairness is Consist -- people with high Consistency, right, that fairness is probably going to be, so I think having that awareness is absolutely the first part of anything, of any kind of self-improvement.

Alicia Santamaria 14:51

The second is to be able to acknowledge it in the moment. I'm all about transparency. And I'll literally say in a conversation, "You know what you just said is, was a little hard for me to hear. I can feel I'm starting to have a little bit of reaction. Can I, can we just maybe take a break, circle back on this?" Or "I just need to let you know that that was, is there another way you could say that for me to hear a little bit better?" So that's another, so buying time for yourself, right, to kind of, like, I've got to get myself back in to this other mindset. And so, I don't know, hopefully, those are sort of helpful. I'm sure folks, please pop into the chat other suggestions that you have for Jim.

Jim Collison 15:33

You know, I think sometimes, and I think in conflict, because we're gonna talk about conflict in teams here and in the Companion Guide (PDF Download). I have been putting the link to the Companion Guide in chat. So if you're, if you're listening to the podcast of this, we'll include that link inside the show notes. So go to; you can search for this episode. If you have any, any problems doing it, send an email: We'll get it out to you.

Jim Collison 15:54

But Alicia, I think it, this is the point, when we think about team conflict, someone gets sent to the edge. And then they, they respond one of a couple different ways, right. One may be a bit of lash back. One may be to get very quiet and get passive-aggressive, right? One may take acts of sabotage, to begin to sabotage the relationships to be able to say, "OK, well, fine, if I can't have my way or if I feel threatened, I'm going to fight back in one of a variety of ways," right. And one of those is sabotaging -- and this is particularly difficult in teams when they're trying to get things done and they have an actively disengaged individual who sabotaging what's actually, what's trying to happen.

Jim Collison 16:32

So I think that's really key to, for, to teach that. Like, hey, when you get triggered -- and, and I'm still working on it myself; I have not figured this out -- take a couple deep breaths and don't respond. Or I just remember the other day, Sarah, my wife, made a comment about the kitchen not being as clean as she wanted it to be. And I've, during the pandemic, I've kind of taken some responsibilities for that. Like, she's out working, and I'm home. And so I've tried. And I lashed out like, "Don't you know how hard ... ," right? And as soon as I got done, I thought, "Oh, I want those words back, because I could have," I think, and you're, right? So as we think about moving this into a team [context], because now it gets infinitely more complicated, right, because we have more individuals? With your Companion Guide (PDF Download) in mind, give us some, walk us through a little bit of this. Give us some, give us some tips as we start doing this.

Alicia Santamaria 17:25

Yeah. Great. Thank you for that. And yeah, the "you" language, right? If I say to my husband, "You never do the dishes right away," he'll say, "Well, you never take out the garbage." And now we're on the conflict escalator, where both our hot buttons have been pushed. And so that's, you know, I know a lot of you learned about "I" messages and nonblaming language, you know, saying, "I feel frustrated." You know, so that's an important part of all of this, right, is that -- teaching people the skills to talk so others can listen without getting defensive, and listen, so others can talk, right, because we immediately get defensive.

Alicia Santamaria 18:04

So here's, I just, in terms of the Companion Guide, I have some best practices for a tool, a model, a framework called Partnership Coaching that I'm going to talk about in a minute. But I wanted to point out to your, your question around what you can do. The second page of this guide has a Coaches Self-Assessment. And so those of you who may -- first of all, I want to acknowledge, Jim, there's a lot of coaches on the call who know a lot of these things I'm talking about. I can see it, you know, Certified crucial conversations, trainers. So please, please, please keep sharing in chat because I want your wisdom part of this conversation as well.

Alicia Santamaria 18:43

Those of you that may be newer to managing conflict or have some of your own kind of fears around it, this is -- I created this assessment maybe to help you prepare yourself a little bit for working with other people in more difficult conversations. And then the last page of this has resources and a place for you to take some additional notes if you should like that. You'll notice I have some resources that are my own resources. I have a 3 x 6 model that I created for conflict resolution that folks can access. Also, those of you who know Richard Sterry, who's on the call, his amazing gift to us all -- his Cascade resources -- I've got some great links there. And then, of course, Gallup and the Power of 2, if you don't have this book and you're interested in this kind of work, this is such a great, great resource.

Alicia Santamaria 19:32

So let's go back to talking, kind of set the stage here. So as I've been working with teams all these years, I came to realize that every team is made up of individuals, and those individuals have a unique and individual relationship with each other person on the team. Right? So even though I absolutely -- those of you that are systems folks, definitely a team is a system. And we have to look at as a, look at it as a system. However, I found that if I started with the first unit of a team, which was the individual, and then looked at the pairs, and then went to the team, I was getting a very different result.

Alicia Santamaria 20:21

And so the Partnership Coaching is, I think, the, sort of the magic to creating these really strong, cohesive teams. And when I say, "Partnership Coaching," let me just clarify that. It's just a term that I use. Whatever term you use for you facilitating two of your clients, two team members, in a conversation -- whatever you call that, that's what I'm talking about.

Alicia Santamaria 20:48

The reason that I created the word "Partnership Coaching," that term, is because "mediation" is, is, it's not a good word for people. Like "Oh," right, it's too like, "Oh, no, that means I actually have a conflict." And what I've noticed in my background in conflict resolution, one of the organizations I used to work for, if we offered a training called "Conflict Resolution Skills," nobody wanted it. When we started calling it, "Having Difficult Conversations," oh, then people were like, "Sure, I have that." But there's something about acknowledging or saying that you have conflict, that, for some reason some people are not comfortable with, right? Whereas I'm like, I totally have conflict!

Jim Collison 21:30

Yeah, well, you're comfortable with it. But I think there's, in some cultures there, it's, you're not supposed to have it, and, or it's not done publicly, or it's not done ever at all, right. And so that doesn't mean there isn't and it's not there. And it doesn't mean that, that this necessarily, we're being prescriptive across all cultures at this point. But, but realizing I think, and I alluded to this earlier, that in the workplace, that's where conflict lives a lot. I mean, it lives in families a lot, too. And you can, I'm going to take some of this when we're done here and kind of think through it myself. Like, OK, how can I, how can I apply this to my own marriage, right? Because you can, right? I mean, it's, it's, it's just another relationship, right? But think about, so can you give me an example, Alicia, as we think about moving into this and the teams that you're working with, just kind of give us an example of how, how you've done this, so folks can get an idea, can put a picture to it, for those of us who think in pictures.

Alicia Santamaria 22:29

Absolutely. And my Communication's happy to do a little storytelling. I will point out, I have this on the, it's one of the links, it's a client success story. I had a client, an ongoing client, who contacted me in the fall. She did a reorg and was creating a new leadership team. So these were, these were folks that had already been working together, but some of them were promoted up. And she really wanted to create this amazing, cohesive leader, senior leadership team. Instead of just starting with a team session, which is, she originally was like, "Oh, I want to do a team session." We had already done strengths a while back. So she's like, "Yeah, let's look at us as a team, you know, and what I want to have them, you know, do as leaders and support me as, as the senior leader." She wanted to do a team session. I said, "Let's, first of all, let's start one on one."

Alicia Santamaria 23:23

So, especially right now, people are exhausted. People are burned out. They can only bring to the team what they, you know, their, their, their tank isn't full. So having a one-on-one coaching with each of those 6, 5 to 6 members -- I think it was 6 -- it gave them a chance to decompress and to kind of vent a little, and to talk about how their strengths can help them right now. From there, I did a Partnership Coaching with every single one of them. So basically, that was 12 sessions. Some of those Partnership Coaching sessions, Jim, the two folks that were meeting together, it was just to talk about their strengths, it was to say they, appreciation of each other. They -- it gave them a space to have a conversation they hadn't really had before.

Alicia Santamaria 24:19

Other people, it was more conflict resolution. So there's a spectrum that this Partnership Coaching can be used for. It can absolutely just be a relationship strengthener for people who are already working fantastically, almost like a partnership audit. Right? So going back to the Power of 2, giving them a chance to say, "Hey, what is it that we're doing that's working so well together? Let's keep doing more of this." The conflict resolution sessions were, I'll just share one. It was very moving and profound for me. It was two women who hadn't spoken about a conflict they had had about 6 years ago, and they were carrying it. And that dynamic was impacting the team. It was impacting, right? Their direct reports were misaligning because the two of them were misaligning. In a 1-hour Zoom call with strengths as our tool and my process, they healed their conflict.

Jim Collison 25:28

Wow. Do you find, OK, so it's a strengths-based conversation. Do you find it's oftentimes -- and I've kind of thought this, but I could be wrong; you do this more than me -- it's sometimes two, two high-performing talents running into each other? As opposed to, sometimes I think we think it's a, it's a, it's a plus and a minus, or it's a value and a deficit running into each other. But I think sometimes we see really well-meaning people who are very high, very high production, and we know that leads to high engagement. And it should lead to a high-engaging team, but those are running into each other. Is that, do you find that as well?

Alicia Santamaria 26:10

I, honestly, I feel like I've seen, I've seen it all, you know? I mean definitely, you know, two people with high Influencing themes, right, might, a lot of times they, they can actually, they get along quite well. But if one of them has high Relator, and the other one kind of broke their trust a little bit, the wall came down. I have to be honest in this. I love my Relators. But I, the Relators, y'all are no joke. Right? It can, it can really, right. So just helping people reestablish that trust again. And they some, they just need help with that, right. So that's one of the things. The other thing I see a lot is when you have, for example, someone with the high Thinking themes. And they'll say something like, "Well, I I said that in my head." Right. And the other person's, "Well, I can't hear what's in your head."

Alicia Santamaria 27:09

So, you know, there's, you all know, you all know the paradoxical, right, situations that arise with some of these strengths, you know, the Restorative and the Positivity. And it's just Deliberative with Activators, right? If you are a get 'em, get-it-done person, get-it-started and get-it-done person and you're working with a high Context-Input-Deliberative, and you don't get it, you just think they're purposely trying to slow you down. They're being resistant. The minute you have them talking about that, and the impact, wow, it just changes, it just changes everything.

Jim Collison 27:47

And to be fair to the other side, on the Deliberative side, you're just trying to do this without thinking about it, right? You're just trying, you just want to get stuff done and not, you don't care about quality; you don't care about, you know.

Alicia Santamaria 28:01

It's a different level for those, for those, for those of you who can just start something without having it all figured out to -- recognizing the people who can't do that. It's so stressful. It's, it's, it's, it's talk about, so I talk a lot about psychological safety combined with this work as well. And it is not psychologically safe for somebody with some of those talents to just jump without knowing where they're gonna land, how long it's going to take to get there, what's waiting for them on the other side. Yeah.

Jim Collison 28:37

Couple questions from the chat room. Let's bring those in. John asks, How'd you decide who to pair up with? So you got a team. How'd you do that?

Alicia Santamaria 28:45

So most of the time, especially with smaller teams, I do everybody. And it's actually interesting to me some of the things I'll have people say, "Oh, I don't need a session with her." And it's interesting what actually comes out. So I've never ever had somebody say, "Well, that was a waste of an hour," ever. So even if, right, the dynamics between some people are better than others, it's just, it's just across the board, every relationship is getting its due. And that's been very effective.

Jim Collison 29:20

Does that mean everybody with everybody throughout that -- is that -- ?

Alicia Santamaria 29:23

Literally, literally, right, if it's you and me and Cheryl and Richard, right, it's me meeting with you. It's me meeting with Cheryl. It's me meeting with Richard. It's Richard meeting with you. It's Richard meeting with Cheryl, right. Exactly like that. Yep.

Jim Collison 29:39

And, and do you structure those, those in a certain way so they're all the same? So, and how do you do that?

Alicia Santamaria 29:46

Yes. What I love to do if it's OK with you, I think this will come up in the best practices. Can I would that be OK just to -- ?

Jim Collison 29:54

Do you want me just to show that again? I can bring that up and, and --

Alicia Santamaria 29:57

Well, yeah. And I'm going to go through each one. The Companion Guide (PDF Download) was just if you wanted to jot down any notes as I talk about each of the best practices. But is that OK, Jim, to sort of go, go in? I do -- just the way that I organize kind of what I wanted to say. So the first thing with this is to be clear about your own process. And so deciding if this is something that you want to do or not, and then what is the process that you want to create for yourself? As I mentioned, there are different configurations in different teams that you can do this with. Not every team you work with might you want to do something like this with.

Alicia Santamaria 30:38

So just, you know, just be clear about what your, what your process [is]. And, you know, are there particular situations where you enjoy facilitating between people? And so figuring that out for yourself. Maybe you only want to do this when it's a conflict, right, maybe you just offer this when there's maybe if it's a team of five, and it's just two people who have a long-standing conflict, maybe you're just doing it with them, right. Maybe you're just doing it as a strength enhancer. So be clear about your own process and what you feel comfortable with. I know some people who are not comfortable doing this with conflict, and those of you that are internal coaches, of course, you might have your own kind of HR things to think about.

Alicia Santamaria 31:26

I'm very clear, Jim, I am not an HR professional. And so I separate out, this is an interpersonal process. This is not if there's sexual harassment, if there's bullying, if there's racial discrimination, or any of those kinds of things, I, this is not what this process is for. So I just want to be clear about that. Right. So and, and that's being kind of clear, right, about your own process and what you feel you can offer to your clients, OK? And again, call it whatever you want to call it, right? I, I, I find "Partnership Coaching" to be something that people really respond well to.

Alicia Santamaria 32:05

OK, the second one is to communicate your process. Sorry, I know that sounds kind of like "Duh." But I have found that you can make assumptions that people understand what it is you're going to do, and they don't get it. So I actually have a handout I have created that explains exactly what it is. And I have two versions. So one is the like little more of the like, lesser kind of conflict. And then I have one that I do when it's maybe more of a longer-term conflict-resolution process, where I might, let's say have 3 to 4 to 5 sessions with two people to really get them aligned before we can start the teamwork. So again, it just depends. But communicate -- clearly articulate to your clients exactly what to expect. Before they come into the session, they need to know exactly.

Alicia Santamaria 33:00

I have questions. So, for example, you know, they might be, I have guided questions. What do you most appreciate working with this person? How are your strengths complementary? Where might they bump up against each other? What areas of address would nurture an even stronger relationship? All of that is given to clients ahead of time. And again, that's strengths-based. I know my clients with Intellection are not going to be able to fully participate if they're hearing the question in the moment.

Alicia Santamaria 33:30

And then that, connecting that to the understanding the team landscape. So that's No. 3. Also understanding where people fit in. So that's you working with the team leader to understand any of the nuances ahead of time will also help you design those questions. I don't necessarily use the same questions every single time. So that's where the understanding the dynamics and what the history of the group. Also, what's the team leader's goal, in terms of where they want their team to get to? Is it a cohesive team? Is it a trusting team? Is it productivity is an issue? Is that making sense?

Jim Collison 34:18

Yeah, I think so. And you need to go in and do some prework to understand these things. How much time do you give to that prework? In other words, you've got to ask some of these questions in advance of that. How much time do you spend doing that?

Alicia Santamaria 34:31

Well, I'll usually just spend like an hour or sometimes 2 hours with the team leader, typical discovery questions. You know, What are the pain points? What, what is your end result, desired goal when you're done with any kind of engagement, right, that you're bringing me in for? And then I always meet independently with each participant. So that's No. 4 for best practices. I definitely recommend that you meet first with each person. If it's a conflict, like a kind of larger conflict resolution that you're doing, this is really important because you got to help get them, if they're in threat mode, you got to help them get out of threat mode before the session.

Alicia Santamaria 35:18

If it's maybe just more of a, you know, partnership, getting to know each other, work together better, it's still helpful, but it's more around helping them understand their strengths and how to talk about their strengths. It also helps to have that independent session for you to assess their readiness. I had one situation, Jim, where I had to do a couple one-on-ones first. They were not ready to have a productive conversation with their colleague. And if I had tried to pull them together, it would not have worked. So you've got to really have that sort of radar: Is this person ready to have an authentic, vulnerable conversation? And if they're not, don't do it! Because things can go south really quickly if, yeah.

Jim Collison 36:11

Yeah, if the team leader's the problem, like, you know, if the team leader in this case is causing the conflict -- Lisa asks this question, and you kind of alluded to it -- but what do you do then?

Alicia Santamaria 36:21

So it's a great question. If it's the team leader, and it comes, so sometimes the team leaders are self-aware, right. And so I can actually, in my session with them, and especially if I know their strengths, I can usually kind of see there's some strengths that, you know, you can sort of see that stand out. Maybe they're micromanaging too much, or maybe some of the, you know, the Influencing themes are not, you know, being used, kind of to the best in the balcony. So, if it's, if it's something I can actually address with them directly, I do. "Hey, tell me about how these strengths show up in you as a manager? How might you be?" And you all know this; this is the beauty of strengths -- that help/hinder, balcony/basement, blind-spot language, it neutralizes these hard conversations we have to have with people, right? Even to have with ourselves, right? We have this, you know, OK, Alicia, that's your, you're talking too much, Communication, right? It's a way to acknowledge the things we need to be doing better without beating ourselves up or beating up other people.

Alicia Santamaria 37:30

So if the, if the team leader is not aware of it, certainly when I am having those one-on-one conversations, and that's, you know, that comes out, right? I will usually ask them questions about how they are doing with the team and with leadership and to sort of suss out, What do you think would help this team work better together? Another reason that I love those one-on-ones is because I get input. You know, sometimes the team leader, if that's the only person you talk to, you're only getting one person's perspective on what would make a team more effective. When I can have one-on-one or paired conversations with people, I get more understanding, and they're more bought in to the process. If they've been able to say, Hey, when we meet together in, as a team in a month from now, here's what I really want us to cover as a team. Did I answer your question, Jim?

Jim Collison 38:24

You did. You did, indeed. No, super good. What about 5 and 6?

Alicia Santamaria 38:28

Great. So I mentioned this, I started going into this a little bit: Know and honor your boundaries. OK. I can, I'll tell you, I was working with two, two cofounders of a startup. And one of the cofounders, it wasn't clear from the beginning exactly what the conflict was. And as it continued to unfold, I, it actually ended up that he had concerns about the other person, how they treated female employees. And I just said, you know, this is moving from an interpersonal to potentially an HR, if you think that there is some, any kind of, you know, sexual harassment or mistreatment based on gender. This is not the kind of process that is set up for that conversation. Please go ahead, consult with your, you know, employment lawyers, with your HR, whoever. I'm happy to come back later if there's some things to talk between the two of you, but if it's something different than interpersonal, I cannot help you with that. So my Responsibility felt terrible. I still feel bad, like I just couldn't, but I also knew what my boundary was. And I have developed a sixth sense, right? A little warning, you know, Danger, danger, Will Rogers! Like don't go there! So that's really important. And that's No. 5.

Jim Collison 40:04

Yeah, and I think, once you sense it, you've got to honor it. Like, that's one of the serious things that you can make a lot of mistakes, but that is one you want to be very, very careful with. What about No. 6?

Alicia Santamaria 40:15

Yes. And sorry, but quick before I go into that, part of the process is setting up meeting agreements. And so confidentiality is really important. And I just want to mention that under here. Because my, having, you know, that's part of kind of my boundary, and my knowing what I'm comfortable with, is having that conversation around what I'm, you know, I'm not sharing this with anybody unless, right, it moves to this level, I cannot, right, I can't work with you anymore. But also, what are they going to share after their conversation with other people? So I didn't mention the meeting agreements. But that's part, that's got to be part of your process, right.

Alicia Santamaria 40:57

So No. 6, Lean into your strengths. That's a given. But I had to just add it in there and, you know, me, with Communication, I had to make sure it's there in writing. Each of you engage in these kinds of facilitated conversations with your clients in different ways. I use humor. I'm very vulnerable myself. In my sessions, I feel like I'm able, with my Woo, I can just build rapport really quickly with people. I've been so grateful, people have said to me, "Alicia, you enable us to open up; you enable us to be honest with each other." That's my special, right. All, the others of you, you have -- I definitely talk too much. So, you know, those of you that are quieter, you know, you probably are even better at having your conversations give space to your clients.

Alicia Santamaria 41:49

So lean into your strengths, whatever those might be. Those of you that have high Harmony, I just want to mention, you know, you know, this: With really mature Harmony, you're actually a natural at these kinds of conversations. I don't have, actually have high Harmony, it's kind of funny. And I think one thing, one way it helps me is because I'm not afraid of the hard conversations. So you want to make sure, with Harmony and some of the other strengths, is that if you find yourself kind of wanting to avoid, right, "Oh, I don't want to get in this mess." It's, like you said, if you consider it a mess, I don't consider it a mess. I want to have, help people have really different kinds of conversations with each other. I love it. So lean into your strengths.

Jim Collison 42:37

Do you, are you able to coach other coaches on this? I mean, do you find this effective? It's great that you can do it. But are you also able to, you know, if I, if I'm a coach, and I'm like, I want to get better at this, and I've got this Companion Guide (PDF Download), but I'd love some coaching on it as well. Do you do that as well?

Alicia Santamaria 42:55

Absolutely. I'm totally happy to talk to anybody, you know, certainly informally. I am blessed to be part of a strengths mastermind. And that's a gift that we actually give to each other is that kind of troubleshooting. So certainly, if you have a conflict situation with some clients, and of course, in the Facebook group, we've had many wonderful dialogues and conversations about kind of how to handle a specific situation. So of course, I'm definitely happy to, to help people think that through.

Jim Collison 43:28

Yeah, I would think in an hour. I mean, we'd like to think that we could do all this great stuff in an hour with a handout. But I think there may be some opportunities where, you know, everybody needs a coach. And I think sometimes around conflict resolution, we may or may not be great at that. And it may be worth it to spend some time with you, you know, in a one-on-one coaching situation, get some coaching on coaching in conflict resolution. And just in the, you know, in the 45 minutes we've been together, I've already learned a ton. But if I was doing this all the time, I might want to do that. As we think about the, the Coaches Self-Assessment on the form, again, we kind of alluded to it, any tips? Because this, to me, this may be the hardest part of the whole thing is, right, to begin to assess ourselves. So can you talk a little bit about that?

Alicia Santamaria 44:13

Yeah, I mean, I'll be honest, I think most coaches are so self-aware. And you all, right, even through thinking about, you know, our training, we had to really think through our strengths and how our strengths help us and how our strengths hinder us. So I just see this as sort of another version of a self-discovery. If you haven't ever kind of done it specifically around conflict and the managing of conflict -- and you know I, when I say "conflict," everybody writes small "c" conflict, right? Those everyday misunderstandings and miscommunications and misalignments, right.

Alicia Santamaria 44:49

So I think that if you can just find time to kind of step into that self-discovery space and think about your own relationship with conflict -- what did you learn from your family growing up, right? What is your workplace culture -- those of you that are in a workplace, what is the culture around conflict? I remember one of my jobs where people didn't talk directly to each other. So I had a colleague who, rather than come to me to say, "Hey, Alicia, you know, some things you're doing are kind of hard for me," she went to her manager. Her manager went to my manager. My manager went to me. And I'm going around, like, are we in 8th grade? Like, you know, because I, I took for granted, the place I had worked before was a conflict resolution agency, right. And then I moved into a different, you know, different kind of an agency where people didn't have those skills.

Alicia Santamaria 45:45

But definitely being able to create cultures, I'm totally jumping here, sorry, but helping people, teams, organizations create cultures where these kinds of conversations can happen one on one. Ideally, Jim, people don't need me to be able to help them talk. Ideally, they can do it themselves. But if they can't, or if they see the value in a third person, that's where this is such a powerful tool. And just to circle back, this is all in service of, ultimately, the team system functioning better. So, and not, you know, not always, but a lot of times, it's, doing this work, it comes through a team: "Hey, I want a team session." "OK, tell me about that." Right? Sometimes it comes to me as, in the cofounder situation, hey, we actually have a conflict here between these two people. So again, there's a spectrum of what this looks like.

Jim Collison 46:53

Do you find, in that self-assessment, that getting somebody else involved, whether it's a business partner, a friend who knows you, do you find that's of value for, to have someone else kind of shed some light? Because I know sometimes we come to these self-assessments, and we're like, you know, all 5s, because I'm awesome. But we really kind of need someone to, you know, shine a light. Do you find that helpful in this process?

Alicia Santamaria 47:17

Definitely helpful. Definitely. It is. I mean, it's why we, it's why any of us are coaches. We know the value -- and why many of us have coaches. It's the value of having somebody else to help us see things or just to frame things maybe in a different way. Definitely.

Jim Collison 47:35

The final section of, of this handout, of this guide, talks about helping others in conflict. You want to talk a little bit about that?

Alicia Santamaria 47:43

Yeah, so the way that I did that self-assessment was for you first to think about it for yourself. Right. And the second part here is now if, stepping into that role of facilitator. Again, some of you I know have already been doing this for years. Others, if this is something you haven't done, then you want to do more of, I think, definitely thinking through How do your strengths help you approach, manage, resolve, even the characterization of a conflict. Right? Like it, you know, if, is it something that seems hard and scary and messy? Or is it like, Oh, hey, these two people are human beings and their strengths are, right, they're kind of bumping up against each other.

Alicia Santamaria 48:29

So I, again, I think if you can get to the point where you can normalize it, that's a gift that you can give, right, to the folks. Because I think there is a little stigma, Jim, with the kind of conflict, right. And I remember having one leader, when I told her, I made a suggestion, it was a leadership team. And she was the CEO. And I made a suggestion to do some Partnership Coaching work with her and one of her, her vice presidents. And she said, "Oh, no, that would be like, you know, admitting I needed marriage counseling." And in my mind, I thought, "What's wrong with that?"

Alicia Santamaria 49:07

So I think, right, and I, my, I remember my mother, who was a Depression-era person, she -- "Oh, therapy? Oh, no, you didn't go to therapy." Right? "Oh, no, mediation? Oh, no." Exactly what we said in the beginning -- you're not going to air your dirty laundry. So sometimes it's helping people to understand and normalize and, Hey, not a big deal. Not a big deal. This happens to everybody.

Jim Collison 49:37

Yeah, although getting into it can be a big deal, like unwinding, once you're in there, right, and beginning to unwind some of these things can be, right, that can be a big deal?

Alicia Santamaria 49:47

Yes. So Jim, I'm so sorry. I just caught my eye. I see Rachel asked me about my favorite conflict resolution books, and you know, my Input is, OK, so literally I prepared this for you guys.

Jim Collison 50:05

Let me make you big screen.

Alicia Santamaria 50:08

OK, so take a screen shot. Quick, quick, quick, quick! So let me just say the -- anyone who knows the Getting to Yes, if anyone wants to understand interest-based negotiation and that whole idea of when, I mean, I have my version from here's, here's my, here's my 1992 version, '91 version, and then here's my 2000. And so it's, it's a great book. You know, the Difficult Conversations is another really, so there are some that are seminal, right -- those are kind of the seminal books. And then, you know, Brene, she, she talks a lot the armored leadership versus daring, it's all about having these kinds of conversations.

Alicia Santamaria 50:52

So if you're working with a leader, coaching the leader to be able to engage in these kinds of conversations, the Dare to Lead is a great resource. And, of course, the Crucial Conversations, right, so Crucial Accountability and Crucial Conversations, really, really great tools. I'm happy to, I mentioned the Power of 2 already. There's the Becoming a Conflict Competent Leader. Lots of really good, I'm just trying to see here. Yeah, you know, Changing the Conversation: The 17 Principles of Conflict Resolution -- this book is interesting because it's very, those of you that maybe don't like, you know, book books, this is like, look at that, right? Maybe not high Learner.

Jim Collison 51:35

Kind of set up like It's the Manager where it looks like it's just little sections, right?

Alicia Santamaria 51:39

Yeah, yep. And I just invite folks to pop into chat the ones that you, someone said, Fierce Conversations, Susan Scott -- absolutely. The other thing I'll mention is, sometimes this has to do also, these kinds of conversations have to do around feedback. And so I'm very clear: A manager giving somebody feedback, that is a, I view that as a manager's role. So the Thanks for the Feedback: The [Science and Art] of Receiving Feedback [Well] and Giving Feedback. That's Sheila Heen and Doug [Stone]. So that's the follow-up to the Difficult Conversations, if you don't know about that book. But these conversations we're talking about, they're more the interpersonal, right? They're more, they're kind of -- certainly, certainly between supervisors and direct reports, I have done a lot of Partnership Coaching. But it goes a little bit beyond just, you know, teach people how to give feedback, that's, that, that's got to be in place, right? People need to be able to know how to do that.

Jim Collison 52:38

Alicia, maybe you can send me that list of books that you have. And we'll include those with the show notes when we edit and produce the show. We'll -- including the link to your Companion Guide (PDF Download). So that can't go anywhere for like 10 years, by the way, I'm just, I'm locking your website. You can't change it, because you'll break the link, right? But send us, send me maybe next week when you have a few minutes, because it'll take us a few days or a week or so to get this thing edited. And we'll include those in the show notes -- early in the show notes, we have a list of those books where folks can go and share those on Facebook and some other places as well.

Jim Collison 53:13

As we kind of think about wrapping this up a little bit, and I told you, it goes very, very fast. And you have -- you've given just a ton of information. And so thanks for doing that. But some final thoughts on this. If you were to encourage the coaching community to kind of jump in fearless in this area of conflict resolution -- I do like the word "mediation"; I know others don't. But in that area, right of really making a relationship right, what would you say?

Alicia Santamaria 53:40

I think being comfortable yourself. Right? Being able to have these conversations yourself is definitely the first start. So if there's somebody in your life you need to have a difficult conversation with, I want to give you a little action item; I want you to go ahead and do that. Because every time, right, you, you get better at it, you're going to be able to help other people at, at it.

Alicia Santamaria 54:04

The other thing is psychological safety. I know there's a lot and I'll just share one other book: The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety. Tracy Phillips and I, some of you know Tracy actually just went through this certification. It's, there's a lot of really good tie-ins with strengths and with doing this kind of work. It's all about trust. Really, to me, that's, that's the, that's the bottom and being able to be vulnerable. So if you're not somebody who can be vulnerable, how can you step into that and Brene Brown is a great person to read about on that.

Jim Collison 54:39

You're getting some great comments from the chat room and certainly, your mastermind group knows how to get ahold of you. But if others had additional questions, they wanted to dialogue, they wanted to purchase some coaching from you on this, how would they contact you?

Alicia Santamaria 54:53

My email is the best way. So will you put that into chat --

Jim Collison 55:00

Yeah, we'll, we'll include that as well.

Alicia Santamaria 55:02

Maybe Cheryl can, Cheryl can pop that in for me. OK.

Jim Collison 55:06

Get that in the chat room as well. Alicia, thanks for, thanks for taking the time to get this done. I think a really, really, really important topic that we have and one of great passion. You reached out to me and you're like, "I just gotta say this." And I was like, "OK, then we just need to listen, let's figure out --." We've been working on this for a while, a couple months, maybe, I think, to get it all scheduled in. And so, thanks for doing the homework and, and thanks for just providing a great handout and a great guide for folks. I appreciate it. It's great having you on; I appreciate it.

Jim Collison 55:38

With that, we'll remind everyone to take full advantage of all the resources we do have available now on -- we call that Gallup Access. And so there's lots of resources available for you in there. You know, one of the great companion guides that may go to this series that we're, that we're talking with you about is our 5 Coaching Conversations. And so as we think about tools to help managers, with these conversations, some managers don't even know which conversations to have and how they're structured. And we've spent a bunch of time both in It's the Manager, and we have a whole web series on 5 Coaching Conversations. I think that'd pair nicely with, Alicia, with what you were talking about today. So get that as well. If you're interested in coaching, master coaching, or to become a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach from us, and you want us to do that for you, send us an email: We'll figure out how to get that done for you. And then if you want to, maybe it's the first time you've done a webcast like this and you're like, Oh, I want to come to more of these! Head out to and follow us there. You'll get a notification whenever I post anything new. If you go right now, so chat room, if you go right now, there's a whole bunch of things coming up, including a ICF series for next week. We're celebrating International Coaching Week next week, and I have 3 great webcasts for you on Wednesday and 3 different time zones covering 3 different topics. So if you'd like to join us next week, you can get signed up for those right now. If you've missed them, it's OK. We record everything. So you can get those done as well. I mentioned the Gallup at Work Summit and that's coming up here June 8 and 9. Probably, probably too late if you, if you're listening to the recorded version of this, but you could join us: And if it's after the fact, we probably have another summit all lined up for you. Head out there and get signed up for that today. We want to thank you for joining us live today. If you want to share this, you can do that as well. Share this with your friends and those that you coach and maybe even those that you work with, we'd appreciate it. We'll do a short postshow to answer some questions I don't think we got to during the live show. So Alicia, can you stay around for a few minutes and do that as well?

Alicia Santamaria 57:36

Afterparty, of course!

Jim Collison 57:38

All right, we'll stay around for a few minutes of postshow. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

Alicia Santamaria's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Communication, Individualization, Woo, Learner and Input.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

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