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TCPI News Vol. 3, No. 5

October 16, 2003

In this issue:

  1. Client Management Strategies
  2. Conflict Management
  3. Conflict, Creativity and Innovation
  4. Creativity Question

Past Issues

Please visit our website for past issues of TCPI News

1.     Client Management Strategies

TCPI has been updating the client management modules in our management training and customer service curriculum. Our current research indicates that some time-tested methods of dealing with clients are still important for building and maintaining relationships. There are also some new client management strategies that grow out of changes in the corporate landscape and the increasingly consultative role that vendors are playing. This holds true for the training and development community.

A TCPI client recently conducted a survey of senior staff engaged in work involving interactions with clients. One significant finding was that over 50% of those surveyed listed better skills at managing client relationships as a primary concern. Here is a high level outline of some of the key characteristics associated with effective client management strategies.

Why is Client Management important?
Relationship Markers

There are several markers that can help one gauge how their client relationship is progressing. Client relationships are dynamic and must constantly be worked at. It is important not to get too comfortable with your client relationships.

Things are going well when:

You may have an issue when:

You have a problem when:

Handling client relationship issues

To be successful in managing clients, there are several steps that can be taken to guide the process:

It is important to constantly reflect on the status of client relationships and to address any issues that may arise. By looking at the alarms and dealing with them before they escalate, problems can be avoided.

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2.  Conflict Management

“Because no two individuals have the same expectations and desires, conflict is a natural part of our interactions with others” (Ken Thomas)

Conflict has been given a bad name and is something that is traditionally supposed to be avoided. Research in the 1940’s and 1950’s believed that conflict arose from interpersonal problems and that the resolution of these problems would lead to improved work performance. Most people assume that good managers should be able to resolve conflicts.

Recent thinking disputes this view. New theories are showing that conflict can be a positive force at work, if it is managed skillfully. Conflict management is now seen as a way to help manage conflict in the workplace. Conflict is a natural outgrowth of human interaction, but certain types of conflict when handled effectively can be desirable. In the absence of conflict there is no pressure for change and innovation to occur. Alternative views are shut out and work groups become static.

A problem occurs when inappropriate conflict management behaviors are put into play. When conflict arises, we can look at a person’s behavior based on their assertiveness and cooperativeness. Ken Thomas defined five conflict-handling modes that are commonly used to deal when situations arise. How people handle conflict is especially important in business situations. Each mode is useful in various situations.

The Five modes and when each is useful are:

Assertive and uncooperative. This is useful when one is defending their position or standing up for their rights.

Unassertive and cooperative. Accommodating individuals will put their needs aside to satisfy the others’ concerns. One would use this when they are obeying an order or giving in to someone else’s point of view.

Unassertive and uncooperative. Avoiding individuals are not immediate satisfying their needs or the other persons needs. One would use this when it is better to postpone an issue or withdrawing from a threatening situation.

Assertive and cooperative. Collaborating individuals are working to find a solution that will satisfy both parties. It is useful when exploring a disagreement to learn from each other’s perspectives or resolving an issue that would lead to more problems.

Assertive and cooperative. A compromising individual wants to find a solution that is mutually acceptable. It is useful when seeking a quick middle ground position, splitting a difference or exchanging concessions

An individual is not characterized by having one mode and a rigid style of dealing with conflict. Some modes may be used more than others and therefore these modes may seem comfortable to us. The behaviors that one uses to deal with conflict come from both personal predispositions and the context of the situation.

More information on TCPI’s custom programs.

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3.  Conflict, Creativity and Innovation

Conflict in the workplace is frequently the cause of under-performance, low morale, and high staff turnover. Workplace conflict per se is not the main problem. If conflict is handled effectively, it can be a potent force for change and development. The way people deal with conflict and problem solving can have effects on their innovation skills. Michael Kirton, a British psychologist, developed an instrument known as the KAI (Kirton adaptation-innovation) Inventory. This measures individual styles of problem definition and solving. The solving style refers to the adaptive, building, or analogical problem solving style versus an innovative or pioneering style. Both these skills are needed for organizational problem solving. According to Kirton, there are two groups that can be defined. There are the adaptors and innovators. Here is how each is characterized


  • Efficient, thorough, adaptable
  • Accepts problem definition
  • Does things better
  • Concerned with resolving problems rather than finding them
  • Seeks solutions to problems in tried and understood ways
  • Is an authority within established structures


  • Ingenious, independent,
  • Challenges problem definition
  • Does things differently
  • Discovers problems and avenues for their solutions
  • Manipulates problems by questioning existing solutions
  • Tends to take control in unstructured situations.

Adaptors and innovators will approach problem solving and conflict in different ways.  The Innovator will find comfort in a looser structure and is not always concerned with the group agreeing with them. As a result, an innovator may be more likely to have more unique ideas. Not all the innovator’s ideas are accepted, but some among them are occasionally mold breaking. Sometimes there is conflict within the group when these ideas are controversial. Adaptor types advocate changes that support the paradigm and often lead to instant improvement. They succeed by using the rule by “doing better”.  The disadvantage is that they may stay with an old paradigm too long when it would be best to get rid of it.

In conflict situations, each type may have advantages and disadvantages. The innovator may seem unwilling to compromise and the adaptor may be more willing for collaboration. Managers should realize that their employees are often on different sides when dealing with conflict. By understanding how they handle conflict, new and creative ideas can be developed. Unique solutions to problems can create many new ideas. Conflict as a positive force of change can create more productive work environments that encourage creativity.

For information on Marvin Gottlieb’s other publications.

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4.     Creativity Question

Creativity requires thinking that may differ from the standard way. Following is a question that will require you to think "outside of the box" to get the answer. The first correct answer will receive a copy of Dr. Gottlieb's book, Interview.

8 5 9 1 6 3 0

In what order are these numbers arranged?

email your answer to:

Thanks for your answers, but the winner has already been chosen. Look forward to the question for next month and good luck!

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