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Mediation: a cultural shift is underway

At the recent Civil Mediation Council (CMC) annual conference, we tried something very different. The conference was opened up to all fields of mediation in the UK, all mediators, interested organisations, as well as the government and the public.

Across all fields of mediation, a strong common theme emerged – that there is a big cultural shift taking place around the use of mediation. For so long, the culture of litigation has been deeply ingrained in work, as in society. Now, however, something has clearly changed. It was so heartening to hear stories across all walks of life – the NHS, as the UK’s largest employer, was one of several examples – where resolution of disputes through mediation is increasingly sanctioned as a first resort, an obvious first step and an instinctive reflex.

Of course, mediation still needs to be used selectively and appropriately in some cases …Acas recently revealed that bullying and harassment in the workplace is costing employers up to £18bn per year and impacts on workplace morale and productivity among nearly 75% of workers.  How would you handle sensitive complaints of this nature? We have another CMC conference on June 28th to help you explore the options when bullying and harassment becomes a concern.

Caroline Sheridan, Chair, Workplace and Employment CMC group and Founder of Sheridan Resolutions

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CMC Annual Conference – 23rd May

The Civil Mediation Council is doing something very different this year. Its annual conference on 23rd May has been opened up to all fields of mediation in the UK, all mediators, all members of mediation organisations, as well to the government and the public.

As part of this event the CMC Workplace Mediation Group will host an interactive panel discussion between high-profile experts, including Rachel Suff (CIPD), Jessica Sullivan (Care First), Suzy McCormick (Civil Service) and Anthony Feildon (Psychologist), looking at:-

* The current state of the workplace in terms of mental wellbeing.

* Why mediators need to understand workplace mental health issues.

* Work-related stress – key signs and triggers.

* A mediator’s role in managing mental health.

Please click here to find out more.

Caroline Sheridan, Chair, Workplace and Employment CMC group and Founder of Sheridan Resolutions

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How workplace conflict affects business reputation

How a business handles a workplace conflict makes a big difference to employees. There is an important lesson here – that even an adversarial situation can, when handled well, become a reputational opportunity.

It may not feel this way initially to those asked to find a way to mediate staff disputes – working to provide a solution that leaves everyone happy is difficult. They need to find creative ways to resolve employee conflicts that are beneficial not only to the workers involved but also to their organisation. Allowing both sides to be heard, remaining transparent in decisions and working to find solutions that make both parties happy can make it easier to handle other problems with confidence as they arise at your company. And it raises the sights and confidence of those not directly involved in a dispute. Mediation is not just about limiting damage – it is about strengthening workplace relationships.


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Emotion – the source and salvation of workplace challenges

It’s so important to understand the role that emotions play in the workplace.

When employees turn to a mediator to help resolve their legal disputes, they bring not only evidence but also emotions with them. Workplace conflict that leads to anxiety in one employee may promote anger in another – everyone is different. Deciding whether or how to address varied emotions that stand in the way of resolution is a key to a successful mediation.

However, it’s important to understand that emotions are the salvation, as well as source, of workplace challenges. And there’s nothing wrong with emotions – we should be encouraged to be how we feel within work, as well as outside. And increasingly, leaders must make a positive emotional connection with those that they seek to inspire, in order to get the results they need. The greatest therapy for the seemingly endless stream of daily challenges facing employees is for them to understand clearly a pride and purpose underpinning what they do.

Leaders therefore need to set out with clarity, honesty and emotion why they advocate a particular business strategy, as well as the detail of what they intend to do. They need to spell out the opportunity that the business is seeking to seize and be frank about what the consequences for the business of not doing so.

The pressures on a modern leader are intense and so businesses need to give their top people the time to think about how they can lead with emotional intelligence.

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Leadership investment and agility are closely connected

I’m fascinated at the moment by the increasingly clear case for investing in your leaders on the one hand and, on the other, how great leaders respond to the fast-changing business environment. The two things are, of course, linked.

Investment in excellent leadership development creates an environment to challenge senior leaders to be the best they can be. And, given the pressures on a modern leader, businesses need to give their top people the ability to think about their development and yet make good and rapid decisions for the benefit of themselves and the organisation.

It really matters to any business to keep its key performers motivated. To face new challenges requires resilience, courage and clear vision. To give a leader the opportunity and investment to allow the talented people underneath them to develop their repertoire of skills and abilities clearly maximises their performance and impact.

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How to be a better leader

There’s more to being a good boss than having the title and responsibility of telling people what to do. Leadership comes with many challenges, and to become effective you need to know how to guide and motivate your employees.

Be agile

Be prepared for disruption – it’s not all going to plain sailing in business. The secret is to make sure you’re responsive to what employees need and also what’s happening from an external perspective. Be proactive in your approach to leadership, so you’re not just fighting fires on a daily basis, but you’re thriving to grow by listening to the needs of your staff and stakeholders.

Let your employees spread their wings.

It’s all well and good having a framework and structure to work within, but don’t make this too restrictive. We’ve found that the most effective leaders…give their staff the maximum degree of latitude to operate within that structure. It’s important that your managerial style reflects this and allows individuals within your organisation to grow to their strengths.

Build relationships

Having the emotional intelligence and behavioural flexibility to lead effectively is so important in business. It’s all about strengthening those professional relationships to create a high-performing workplace. Essentially, you have to be authentic. The big challenge is then maintaining the fabric of that relationship with your employees through disruption and conflict. Show your human side and you’re on your way to converting the sceptics into committed and passionate employees.

Work as a team

Take the time to get to know your team. Understand their background and gain the insight you need to lead in a more collaborative team style. Remember how and when to let others take control, and show respect to others with a different perspective. Employees want to be recognised as individuals and it’s important to take the time to do that.

Mediate effectively 

Want to have a competitive advantage and guarantee business success? The first step is to show staff that the business is willing to hear them out. Mediation with staff is often not used as effectively as it should. It’s all too easy to ignore strained relationships, especially when we’re under pressure ourselves, but have a conversation early enough and it can make the world of difference. Transforming relationships in a positive way avoids the consequences of doing nothing at all and that minor dispute escalating into poor productivity, a lack of engagement, increased workplace absence and ultimately recruitment costs.

(adapted from an article by The Parliamentary Review at

Read more on leadership from Sheridan Resolutions at

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A great celebration!

Thanks so much to everyone who came to our celebration evening in February! There was a lot to celebrate!

Our business was established 12 years ago. We’ve always sought to help senior executives and business leaders realise their full potential. And, as I said on the evening, we are all about strengthening professional relationships and creating high-performing workplaces through a focus on leadership development, team performance, executive coaching and mediation services to a spectrum of clients in both the public and private sectors.

We are now at a crucial juncture in workplace relationships. The big challenge is to attempt to maintain and improve the fabric of relationships in the face of disruptive innovation. Those leaders that can embrace change and reassert their humanity will maintain a significant competitive advantage.

It was wonderful to see so many friends at our event, at which we also celebrated our appearance in the esteemed publication The Parliamentary Review. Sheridan Resolutions featured alongside the PM and a small number of outstanding legal organisations – we are really proud to be a part of it.

Caroline Sheridan, Chair, Workplace and Employment CMC group and Founder of Sheridan Resolutions

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Great leaders accept their limitations

So much of the discussion around the nurturing of top talent is about leaders coming to terms with their limitations – and turning this to their advantage.

We’ve found that corporate resilience can be built through leaders helping their employees understand and be prepared for the sense of vulnerability inevitable during times of change. To do that, the leader must first take the time necessary to assess and understand where the next source of disruption may come – and how it may best be addressed.

As we recently stated in the latest edition of the prestigious Parliamentary Review, the modern leaders’ role is not to have the answers. Rather, it is to be skilled in having coaching conversations with their people, which in turn expands their thinking and resourcefulness. This is vital because employees increasingly (and rightly) expect to be recognised as individuals, even in the face of sweeping changes, with different needs from, and potential contributions to, their employer.

Treated as such, they can make the change. Those managers who have developed skills in this area will usually make better leaders than those with very high-level technical skills but less personal or professional engagement with their people.

Caroline Sheridan, Chair, Workplace and Employment CMC group and Founder of Sheridan Resolutions

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Reasserting humanity during times of disruption

It’s been a great January for us with our debut in the esteemed publication The Parliamentary Review. Sheridan Resolutions features alongside the Prime Minister and a small number of outstanding organisations looking back on the year in the legal sector and Westminster.

The Parliamentary Review is sent to over half a million leading policy makers, stakeholders in industry and other relevant individuals. The articles in the Review act as both a blueprint for success and a template for reform. It’s executive director Daniel Yossman, told us: “Sheridan Resolutions and other hardworking organisations from across the country have come together to make the Review possible … It’s always a real joy to hear from policy makers who tell me that something they have read in the Review has had an effect on their thinking. It is my belief that innovation is contagious, if only it is given the platform to spread.”

We couldn’t agree more. We believe that business today relies increasingly on innovation as the bedrock of its success – and that many organisations are not prepared when faced with the disruptive innovation of others. As a result, more businesses are taking proactive steps not just to survive, but to thrive from disruption to their established methods and markets.

The modern challenge is to find innovative forms of leadership that guarantee business success. We are all about the reassertion of humanity in leadership and team performance. Coaching new leadership styles is critical for leading the human side of change and converting scepticism or resistance into receptiveness and commitment.

Caroline Sheridan, Chair, Workplace and Employment CMC group and Founder of Sheridan Resolutions

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