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5 posts from April 2015

April 30, 2015

The Future of Mediation

By John Ford

"If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships - the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace."
Franklin D. Roosevelt

A coach once asked me to predict which way a drop of water would go around a rock up ahead. Of course there is no way of knowing: the water drop may not make it due to evaporation to the atmosphere, absorption by the river bank, and then if it does make it to the rock, whether it goes left or right, over or below. However, even if the future is uncertain, we can still comment on where the drop of water is at the moment.  Even its relationship to our imagined future. And of course about its past.

When did mediation start?

I wonder when the first human chose not to resolve a conflict or dispute of others by telling them the solution but supporting them to find their own. Especially where they had power to impose (make and enforce) a solution. And how many such interventions have been made through the course of human time.

Mediation is both an idea and a process. As an idea it promotes self-responsibility and embraces self-determination. It believes in the ability of humans to take care of their own lives. As a process it has evolved to a point where there are many difference approaches (facilitative, transformative, narrative, party directed, and evaluative) that all use the term mediation to define how the idea is brought to life.

The field of mediation

The idea and process of mediation appear to be enjoying an expansive phase in their history. A self-organized field of mediation has gained self-awareness of the uniqueness of the process and the importance of its role. Some call it a profession. International and regional membership associations for mediators that create voluntary standards of conduct are common.

Debate amongst proponents of different approaches at conferences of professionals who self-identify as mediators is lively. For the most part mediation has been based on intuitive insights of how to resolve conflicts - coupled with reflective practice. More recently we are seeing the emergence of an evidence based or scientific approach to mediation knowledge.

Mediation in contemporary society

Mediation continues to be practiced in many diverse ways around the world both by professional and community members. Mediation has found fertile ground as an idea in many legal systems. The motivation has been varied. Some have advanced more practical social benefits like cost savings while others point to the quality of the decision made in mediation, and more abstract values like self-determination.

The field of mediation has created specializations in a variety of areas such as family, workplace, elder, environmental, commercial and the like. And some professions like HR, realtors, and hospital administrators who routinely find themselves at the intersection of conflict have also started to embrace and internalize the process (skill) of mediation.

Governments of the world are increasingly including mediation as part of the resolution process to address civil right disputes especially in labor, employment and family arenas. Some even provide the mediator’s.

While there is a growing general awareness of mediation, specific awareness of mediation as a valuable or indeed as an applicable option, is low.

World Peace

One way we venture into the future is through vision statements. Like Roosevelt, my vision is world peace. My only question is how long will it take?

Clearly we are not there now, and as result I anticipate that the popularity of mediation as an idea and process will expand and contract cyclically but with a steady incline as we get closer to world peace.

And in my vision, peace is not the absence of conflict. At this point mediation and other collaborative, non-aggressive processes will have become the norm.  The violent and adversarial past will be something people read about and find hard to comprehend!

Humans are getting less violent and yet continue to invest in aggressive and violent approaches to conflict resolution.

Until then

In the more short term I anticipate more scrutiny of the mediation process, especially in the legal context, with developments being more evidence based than intuitive. The courts will be rich learning grounds for insights, in part because the participants will test the limits of competition within a collaborative frame of reference, such that mediation provides.

Where I see the biggest opportunity however, is not in the legal system. I believe that the biggest role mediation has to play, is as a process that is institutionalized within the social fabric of our interactions with one another, not just when we are at the court house steps, but when our differences are first emerging, wherever we happen to be.

The Reality

However, given the current low social awareness of the value or applicability of mediation, education of both end users but also providers will be crucial. I see this as an ongoing challenge. For example, currently in the United States, most HR professionals know about mediation but believe that it is something that other professionals do.

Interestingly, the largest professional membership organization for HR professionals in the world, the Society for Human Resource Management, has established competency standards for certification that expect senior leaders to be able to mediate difficult situations among employees.

As this happens, and similar positive developments take place in schools, businesses, clubs and homes we will seed the slow ongoing improvement in the ability of humans to live together in peace with others. Mediation will continue to have an important role to play.





We need to carve a third way forward to characterize the employer-employee relationship!

“We need to recapture some of the trust and relationship-building of the family model while acknowledging that the current economy for employers and employees alike demands a certain amount of flexibility. We need to carve a third way forward to characterize the employer-employee relationship.” 

“An alliance between HR and your employees is a relationship where two voluntary actors enter into a relationship characterized by mutual trust, mutual investment and mutual benefit.” 

“Lifetime employment may be over, but a lifetime relationship can and should endure.”

Ben Casnocha, former chief of staff of LinkedIn, gives the closing keynote address at the SHRM 2015 Talent Management Conference & Exposition

 I am encouraged! It comes back to the idea that we can be happy and productive in the workplace. I'm excited to see what emerges as the third way forward!

April 23, 2015

Guest Blog: From Failing to Unstoppable: Transforming Your Team

By Maria Simpson, Ph.D.

[email protected]

The wine shop had been losing money for a long time, and the owners were in debt and not talking to each other. Staff members were frustrated that their expertise was being ignored and they were treated disrespectfully. The little wine tasting bar with a short food menu had few if any customers, and the band that played once a week was terrible, even if it was the owner’s band. The place was disorganized and messy.
Call in “The Profit!” Marcus Lemonis is a business consultant who saves businesses,and does it very publicly on CNBC. His method of saving a business provides an excellent example of what it takes to transform a failing team to a really excellent, unstoppable team. Some of the drama is probably hyped for reality TV, but most of it feels quite real. The decisions Lemonis makes and the leadership he demonstrates are excellent examples of how to create an effective team and run a business.
Lemonis buys 51% of the business, making him the decision-maker. In this case he took several steps immediately. First, he gained support from the staff by asking them what  wasn’t working and what would work better, and respecting their insight. He listened carefully to understand the interpersonal and management problems. Then he went back to the numbers and wasn’t shy about asking the owners how it could have gotten so bad. Finally, he acted immediately to address the problems he found.

As a result:

  • After laying out the terms of the investment, one owner decided to be a silent partner and just took his share of the profits.
  • Senior staff members were made partners and given a share of ownership. When the not-so-silent partner objected, Lemonis reminded him that he no longer controlled the business. (Lemonis asserted his leadership authority generally without anger and respectfully, but he wasn’t averse to arguing, either.)
  • Staff members were involved in all decisions from banishing the band to determining what to sell and how the physical space should be reorganized. They started to work collaboratively.
  • Staff expertise was respected, and they had authority to make decisions in their own departments.
  • Conflicts were addressed immediately. When someone asked to talk to him, Lemonis said sure and went to a private space. He did not ask to finish a conversation, come back in ten minutes, or make an appointment. He acted immediately.
  • When there were blow-ups he worked at repairing relationships, even with the difficult owner.

Of course, the team was transformed, the business flourished, the angry owner changed his behavior, and everyone made a mint. Since the name and location of the business are quite public (Amazing Grapes) the case is real and can be tracked down through CNBC.
On the other hand, challenges are faced very differently in a successful team. 
The guest conductor of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra was ill, and although he’d made it through the first three pieces on the program, he couldn’t make it through the fourth. The concert mistress announced that they would perform Mozart’s “Jupiter Symphony” without him.  The symphony is well-known, these are world-class musicians, and they have played it many times before, but not without a conductor, and everyone wanted to see what would happen.
The musicians clearly respected and admired the concert mistress, they respected her position of leadership, and she respected all of them. And the audience was once more greatly impressed with the expertise of the musicians. They might have gotten a little plodding in the middle of the piece, maybe because they all wanted to be very careful, but she said something to her colleagues just before the final movement, and they played with enormous energy. The bravos were loud and the applause long. It was wonderful.
What differentiated this team from the business team? First, the musicians had enormous mutual respect for each other’s expertise and for the leadership role. Many of the musicians have independent touring schedules or play with other groups, and their CDs are available at every performance. Also, many of these musicians have been together for at least ten years, playing a wide variety of music, so they knew they could count on each other to play well. Mutual respect was lacking in the wine shop.
Second, the musicians were well-prepared for their jobs. They had just completed a very modern piece, which required extraordinary musicianship, so they had broad musical experience and preparation that made it possible for them to rise to any challenge. They knew their responsibilities and managed them expertly. They didn’t need oversight. In the wine business, staff expertise was not respected and was instead undermined and ignored.
Third, leadership was obvious and inspired commitment. The music director is beloved by the orchestra and the audience, and his commitment inspires the commitment of every musician there. I’m sure no one misses rehearsals or comes to a new piece without knowing how to play it. In the wine business, the owners were rarely on site but gave no authority to the department heads to make decisions in their absence. Lemonis told the angry partner that all he had to do to be part of the new team was show up, and he failed to do that until the day when the store was being renovated and he had had no input into the decision. Lemonis told everyone what would happen and then stuck to the plan even if it meant leaving someone out.
Last, the LACO musicians trusted each other and their leadership. If they had had disputes, and what team doesn’t, those were put aside in performance so they could reach their mutual goal: wonderful music for an greatly appreciative audience in what was, for them, a bit of an emergency. The lack of trust among wine shop staff undermined everything they tried because they wouldn’t commit to a plan when they couldn’t count on each other to make it work.
And perhaps trust is the most important element in any team’s success. With trust they can talk about anything, explore difficult issues, examine their own performance and count on each other in difficult times or unexpected circumstances. In the wine shop the lack of mutual trust was obvious. Without that basic trust, bad decisions couldn’t be reviewed and better ways of doing things found.
It’s easy enough to have an unstoppable team. All you need is trust, competence, and a shared vision with equal commitment from all. And some really good leadership.


I posted a few new quotes about resistance at www.conflictquotes.com and wanted to share them here:

“What you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.” Carl Gustav Jung

Even in your rightness about a subject, when you try to push your rightness toward another who disagrees, no matter how right you are, it causes more pushing against. In other words, it isn't until you stop pushing that any real allowing of what you want can take place.

"All resistance reflects an unmet need, and is a request for authentic communication."
Ken Cloke

"To fly, we have to have resistance."
Maya Lin

“Pain is a relatively objective, physical phenomenon; suffering is our psychological resistance to what happens. Events may create physical pain, but they do not in themselves create suffering. Resistance creates suffering. Stress happens when your mind resists what is... The only problem in your life is your mind's resistance to life as it unfolds. ”
― Dan Millman

April 15, 2015

Face Feedback Fearlessly!

An open embrace of information about us without defense is key to growth, even life. And in this short note, Jarl and Steve say it like no others!

You can check out the original post on their Gratitude 24/7 website!

Face Feedback Fearlessly
Life constantly gives us opportunities to better understand ourselves. The way we feel about smiling strangers, random acts of generosity, angry drivers or rude clerks offers us clues about what’s going on inside. Our inner landscape is continuously being reflected back to us by the world outside. This feedback can be used to discover what needs to be healed. Fearlessly facing the information we receive and using it to make adjustments in how we view and interpret our experience guarantees a deeper understanding and…

More joy.

Jarl and Steve