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Let’s celebrate UK Mediation Awareness Week!

It’s UK Mediation Awareness Week– and at Sheridan Resolutions we’re delighted to support, promote and celebrate all the events taking place from the 14th to 20th October.

Awareness is growing that the mediation of disputes can provide solutions which meet the needs of all parties, cost much less than litigation, are dealt with more speedily, avoid disruption to business, remove the debilitating effects of conflict and can restore professional and personal relationships.

As regular readers of the Coaching & Mediation Weekly and our blogs will know, disputes in the business workplace cost billions of pounds per annum in legal and other fees. Indirect costs to organisations and individuals in terms of disruption, loss of productive time and reputational risks are incalculable.

Even the simplest dispute can take a long time to reach a court decision and requires a significant input of time from all litigants, with the consequences of ‘losing’ serious for both business and individuals. Private sector companies and individuals have much to gain by intervening early in conflict situations though using mediation. Public sector organisations can also benefit from massive savings in time and money.

UK Mediation Awareness Week will provide an opportunity to understand the benefits of mediation across all walks of life and is supported and promoted by the Civil Mediation Council, the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution and many, many more organisations (some of them shown in this newsletter) will include conferences, seminars, mock mediations, talks and debates involving all aspects of mediation.

Come and join our celebration! You can find out more about Mediation Awareness Week here and share updates on social media using #mediationawareness

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

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Take the positives from conflict

Resolving workplace conflict is not easy, but perhaps the first step is to stop always thinking of it as a problem. We see confrontation and disagreement as negative, damaging and to be avoided at all costs. We think that talking about a problem will be uncomfortable, or even make things worse, so we try and ignore it.

Even so handling conflict well, to a point, can be healthy and constructive – a important part of management. It can be seen as a chance to move to better workplace relations. There is an “art” to this – for example, where the listener restates a negative statement made by another person in a more positive way, without changing the meaning. Why is this important? Well, it helps the other person to appreciate that you have listened and understood them and encourages them to appreciate how others may view things. It also shifts the focus from people to behaviours.

This of course doesn’t always work, so sometimes leaders and managers today need to know what to do when workplace relations really do break down. Even then, the approach dictates the likelihood of a successful outcomes. Using mediation, for example, can ensure conflicts arising are at least managed well and, again, positive reframing is a vital tool in unblocking obstacles to making real change happen.

We hope that managers can learn to deal positively with conflict at an early stage. And when they can’t, we as mediators we too need to resolve to show the same habits of listening and learning in our daily work – and positively reframe our conversations whenever necessary.

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Why workplace conversations are more important than ever 

Like many other people, I have felt very troubled recently by the terrorist attacks in London and Manchester and of course the Grenfell Tower tragedy. The victims – and their families – of all of these terrible events of course need a different scale of time and space in which to grieve. For the rest of us, though, there is also a need somehow to find a way to work through our collective shock and sorrow at what has happened.

My Dad passed away the day after the 9/11 attacks, so of course I think of him instinctively whenever terrible events disturb us all. I learnt from him how important it is, in this mad and pressurised world of work, to take time to rest the mind and to allow ourselves the time to slip our brains into a neutral gear in order to stop and reflect.

It is this lesson, particularly in difficult times such as these, that we try our best to pass on through all aspects of the work we do with clients. Even those not directly involved in terrible events still feel deep emotion at what they hear and see. And we especially need to listen and talk to each other – more than ever – about how we feel.

Approached in this way, the workplace can be an essential forum for the recovery of our collective self-confidence. It should never be a place to deny or suppress our emotions – heartfelt discussions about shocking events can do only good things. They help us understand one another better and, ultimately, play an important role in accelerating our recovery from horror to renewed hope.

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

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Small steps make a big difference

Everywhere you go, there are opportunities to understand and appreciate the benefits of mediation across all walks of life. The mediation of disputes can provide solutions which meet the needs of all parties, cost much less than litigation, are dealt with more speedily, avoid disruption, remove the debilitating effects of conflict and restore relationships.

In the workplace, even the simplest dispute can take a long time to reach a court decision and requires a significant input of time from all litigants, with the consequences of ‘losing’ serious for both business and individuals. Private sector companies and individuals have much to gain by intervening early in conflict situations though using mediation. Public sector organisations can also benefit from massive savings in time and money.

Every small step towards a commonplace awareness of the positive case for mediation has to be a good thing. It may seem like a long time way but the next UK Mediation Awareness Week this October is the perfect example of many small events making a big difference. These will include conferences, seminars, talks and debates involving all aspects of mediation.

Great progress was made last year in UK Mediation Awareness Week in raising awareness, with a number of excellent events. Each of us should consider what small steps we can take to make a space for mediation in our lives – click on the link if you want to join us and make a difference.

It is so heartening to hear the positive language of the current debate around mediation. And now we need to take lots of small steps advance further and create a greater awareness among business leaders, managers and worker representatives around the concept of mediation as a swift, discreet and cost-effective method of resolving employment disputes.

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

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Executive coaching key to creating a learning culture

As a company grows, the personality and idiosyncrasies of its leader sets the tone for the entire workplace culture. Very few leaders come to the table with the full set of skills they need to build their companies – and the way they think and act can affect everyone around them.

Those who understand the challenges associated with building and scaling a successful company can attest to the benefits of executive coaching. By encouraging leaders with whom we work to get into the habit of being coached, we set in place the start of a learning culture for all.

For many, this requires a change in leadership style, as the leader moves from a position of dominance to one of enabling learning and creating knowledge within their teams. And leaders needs to be learning constantly themselves – just like anyone else – and that makes it as easy as possible for others to do the same.

To develop a coaching culture requires an understanding that everyone has their own learning style. A skilled executive coach knows that no two people think the same. So a prescriptive approach can never work – only the learner can discover how, via their own growing self-awareness, they can move forward.

Coaching is therefore there to fill the gap and unlock the potential in each individual. At present, however, only around one-third of organisations make use of it in developing people for executive roles.

Most continue instead to rely upon customised training and developmental job assignments as the foundation of their leadership development approach. This is a shame, as executive coaching is inevitably a far more effective as part of an overall learning strategy, rather than a standalone.

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

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The power of empowerment

We’ve been really busy in recent weeks with all sorts of varied work for clients – the diversity of the challenges we face is one of the most enjoyable parts of working for Sheridan Resolutions. When you have seemingly disparate challenges to deal with, it’s natural to look for common factors causing them – and their possible resolution. Currently, I see “empowerment” running through many workplace situations, like a word running through a stick of seaside rock.

 

Mediation, for example, has long been seen as a means to promote the empowerment of its participants. But what does empowerment mean in practice? In mediation, empowerment surely means individual growth and a new feeling of confidence to find one’s voice in potentially difficult future situations. This personal development does not occur straight away, nor is it an inevitable outcome of mediation. Today, therefore, the mediator needs to think not only about the mediation in front of them, but also keep an eye to the future by creating the environment in which each individual’s growth will be actively encouraged once the present challenges are resolved.

 

In executive coaching, empowerment is all about helping individuals to bring improved levels of performance to their existing and future roles. One of my favourite quotes, from the executive coaching pioneer Sir John Whitmore, is that “Coaching [unlocks] a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” A skilful coach helps individuals to remove or reduce internal obstacles to their performance, so that their natural ability is empowered thereafter.

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Reflections on a successful event …

I wanted to take the opportunity of this week’s editorial to thank everyone involved in last week’s Civil Mediation Council (CMC)  event – “Save Time, Save Money, Save Stress: Make Mediation Work for You” – an event that highlighted an upsurge of interest in workplace mediation.

The speakers and panellists all made wonderful contributions – as can be seen in this week’s lead article in this special issue. And all the feedback during and after the event shows it to have been an outstanding success. Mediation is achieving an accelerated rate of momentum as a means of addressing workplace disputes.

What our audience wanted – and got – were the arguments and strategies in favour of its adoption and the confidence to anticipate and address the most likely challenges to its introduction. We are also seeing a dramatic shift in thinking from a mere acceptance of the benefits of mediation in the abstract, towards a desire from delegates for a more practical understanding. In particular, around how to convince employers to use mediation as an integrated part of their conflict resolution offer.

These are exciting times for mediation – and so naturally I’m also extremely delighted to have been appointed to the board of the Civil Mediation Council, effective 8th February. The CMC’s values of excellence, innovation and growth, informed debate and openness and inclusion are values that we all hold dear. I look forward to helping CMC continue to pursue its mission of “inspiring all sectors of society to use mediation when managing and resolving disputes.”

Caroline Sheridan, Board member of the Civil Mediation Council (CMC); Chair, Workplace and Employment CMC group; and Founder of Sheridan Resolutions

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CMC Conference shows upsurge of interest in workplace mediation

A sell-out conference from the Civil Mediation Council (CMC) – “Save Time, Save Money, Save Stress: Make Mediation Work for You” – has highlighted an upsurge of interest in workplace mediation.

The conference, held in front of a packed audience in the Old Library of Lloyd’s of London on February 1st, signals a dramatic shift in thinking from a mere acceptance of the benefits of mediation in the abstract, towards a desire from delegates for a more practical understanding. In particular, the conference set out to show how delegates could convince employers to use mediation as an integrated part of their conflict resolution offer.

Caroline Sheridan, Chair, CMC Workplace and Employment Group and Founder of Sheridan Resolutions, says: “All the feedback during and after the event shows it to have been an outstanding success. Mediation is achieving an accelerated rate of momentum as a means of addressing workplace disputes. What this audience wanted – and got – were the arguments and strategies in favour of its adoption and the confidence to anticipate and address the most likely challenges to its introduction.”

While workplace mediation has been more associated with the public sector in the past, a fascinating interactive audience polling session from  Professor Paul Latreille, Deputy Pro-Vice Chancellor for Learning & Teaching, Sheffield University, revealed a near three-quarters (71%) private sector representation from among the senior-level audience. The desire for practical help was clear – nearly 4 in 5 (78%) had been aware of or experienced workplace conflict over the previous year – fuelled by an obvious business need to resolve disputes far more effectively The top 3 costs of workplace conflict identified by the audience were the damaging impact on management time (37%), a diminished motivation among parties in conflict (24%) and corrosive effects of workplace absence (14%).

After conference introductions from Sir Alan Ward (Chairman of the CMC) and Caroline Sheridan, Chair of the CMC Workplace and Employment Group, Sir Brendan Barber, Chairman of Acas, focused on helping audiences understand the circumstance in which mediation works best, namely around perceptions of unfairness and a lack of trust in workplace relations. And the main reason, Barber argued, why mediation is sometimes not introduced when it could lies in a lack of awareness of the strong business case of mediation.

Four fascinating, contrasting and practical case study presentations then followed. Mark Clements, Regional Head of HR, UK & Ireland, Sony Europe highlighted a 100% success rate from mediation efforts to date and large savings in costs. With the help of his HR team full of qualified mediators, he said, mediation crucially allowed participants the chance to genuinely listen to each other for the first time, in the process often revealing key misconceptions about the other party’s position. Robert Alcock, Head of Training at the BBC Academy, also highlighted high success rates, as well as the internal mediator’s own engagement through the enjoyable challenge he felt through helping others find their way through conflict at work. Pete Hodgson, Head of Employee Relations at Tesco Stores, urged delegates to make sure they spent enough time and on providing data and evidence to support the business case for mediation – the evidence is out there but line managers understandably want to know why they should invest in conflict resolution. And finally Karl Cockerill, Health & Wellbeing Practitioner and Mediation Coordinator at ELHT NHS Trust revealed his Damascene journey from arch mediation sceptic (even being labelled as the “Grievance King” by colleagues) to passionate convert to mediation. Once engaged, he argued, unions can play a pivotal role in improving the wellbeing of their members through this form of resolution.

David Whincup, Partner, Head of Employment at Squire Patton Boggs – dispelled lingering misconceptions of mediation as a “fluffy” option via a powerful legal perspective. Even when mediation fails, he said, much good usually follows from attempting to move parties closer to a resolution. Finally, Clive Lewis OBE, Founding Director of Globis Mediation Group, Fiona Colquhoun, CEDR Director, Acas Arbitrator & Executive Coach and Alex Efthymiades, Director and Co-Founder, Consensio weighed in with their views as part of a panel fielding insightful questions from a highly engaged audience.

The Civil Mediation Council is a membership body to promote mediation and dispute resolution. It believes that all sectors of society should look to mediation when managing and revolving disputes.

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2017: a great year ahead for mediation

It’s great to be looking ahead to 2017 already – and here’s why. One puzzle for many years has been to try to address the enormous disparity between the success rate in “formal” mediation in the workplace (which is over 80%) and its usage, which remains relatively low. Given the positive benefits of mediation on one side and the negativity of conflict on the other side, one obvious challenge to shape our thinking has to be why mediation isn’t already the default remedy for workplace conflict.

We have an exciting event scheduled for February 1st to tackle this paradox. On that day, the Civil Mediation Council’s Workplace and Employment Group will host a conference in the Old Library, Lloyds’ of London – click on our lead article or click here for more details. The conference is designed to equip business, legal and HR leaders with the necessary information and approaches to “sell” mediation within their organisation. Invited speakers have specific experience in introducing workplace mediation and making it part of managers’ thinking and practice.

This event is designed to bring together practitioners and end users who will appreciate guidance on:-

  • Raising awareness amongst staff of workplace mediation
  • Success factors and challenges in both its introduction and its take-up
  • Encouraging management participation

Using workplace mediation as an integral part of your grievance procedure

  • Proactively addressing workplace disputes
  • The role of mediation in future employment litigation.

The conference will include contributions from the BBC, Sheffield University, Tesco Stores, Squire Patton Boggs and mediation practitioners together with other experienced users from the business community. CMC Chair Sir Alan Ward and Sir Brendan Barber of Acas will both address the conference.

Whether you are a convert or sceptic, approach 2017 with an open mind by attending this workplace mediation conference. In-house counsel, HR, line management, trade unions or work representatives can all learn how to use mediation to get the results which will make others sit up and take notice.

 

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