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How difficult conversations can have positive outcomes

It’s been busy recently – and in a very good way.  The positive power of mediation is clearly moving up the agenda, in the workplace as elsewhere. Amid the encouraging signs, however, we have to remember the “touchstone” of best practice in mediation, as well as continuing to raise its profile. So I wanted to remind you of a book called “Difficult conversations: How to discuss what matters most” by Patton, Stone and Heen.

To have a difficult conversation is something we all struggle with: we know we must address an issue with a colleague and we also know it risks being uncomfortable and possibly worse. So we repeatedly put it off before finally stumbling into a confrontation, when we could have had a more positive experience had we tackled it earlier.

Difficult Conversations is based on many years of research at the Harvard Negotiation Project. It teaches us to understand that we’re not engaging in one dialogue but three: the “what happened” stories (what do we believe was said and done), the “feelings” conversation (the emotional impact on everyone involved), and the “identity” conversation (what does this mean for everyone’s opinion of themselves).

I am still learning every day how to be a better mediator – and I encourage everyone to learn to look at difficult conversations as a source of positive long-term learning rather than a negative short-term discomfort. And in a world full of tricky conversations, understanding their multi-layered nature really helps us move on quickly from difficulties to better relationships between individuals and teams.

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

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How executive coaching can drive diversity

There’s an excellent lead article in this week’s Coaching & Mediation Weekly on a much under-discussed benefit of executive coaching – increased diversity.
Many organisations talk well about diversity, but far fewer deliver well. Yet executive coaching can show not just the coachees, but also organisations that employ them, exactly what individuals are capable of in the long-term. And it is immensely powerful in developing the career ambitions and potential of groups previously under-represented in senior management roles.

The ability to help coachees to stretch their imagination and increase their self-belief is so valuable – and is much needed. Current estimates suggest that women hold less than a quarter of FTSE 100 directorships, while the figures are far poorer among the ethnic minorities. Working with those from diverse backgrounds helps to give them the confidence they need to approach their careers from a new angle, with a momentum that can carry them further within a company than they may have previously thought possible.

One clear conclusion, however, from our lead article, is a diversity mind set must begin at the top – a strong commitment to an inclusive culture is an imperative if executive coaching is to flourish.

We’re also delighted this week to highlight the City HR Annual conference on November 9th –and its theme “Making the World of Work better for employees”. City HR’s mission is to provide its members with the tools, research, best practice documents and expertise to support the challenges facing their businesses, through knowledge-sharing, training and peer networking aimed at professionals at all levels and across all areas of HR.

The conference is well worth a visit – click here for more details.

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

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Moving forward with mediation

It was so exciting to be asked earlier this year to become Chair of the Workplace and Employment group of the Mediation Sectors Committee of the Civil Mediation Council (CMC). Next week is our latest group meeting and I am so proud to be working with such a great team of professionals.
It’s been a long journey for mediation – and there’s still some way to go – but so many developments have given us encouragement that the profession is moving forward, including the recent UK Mediation Awareness Week and many other events besides.

I’ve seen mediation grow over the years from different vantage points. I worked as an HR director earlier in my career and have now practised as an accredited mediator for over a decade, via both CEDR and my own company, most often in the workplace and employment arena.

Regular readers will know that my vision is to be to help create an environment where workplace mediation is the norm, rather than the exception. It’s worth restating how we can bring this about.
Firstly, we need to promote awareness of all resources for workplace and employment mediators, corporate employers and the many other interested parties.

Secondly, we need to create a greater awareness among business leaders, managers, lawyers and worker representatives the concept of mediation as a swift, discreet and cost-effective method of resolving employment disputes.

Thirdly, we need to be at the forefront of changes in law and mediation practice by reinforcing and rejuvenating links with other organisations, such as Acas, the CIPD and the IoD.

Do you have an interest in workplace and employment mediation? I want to hear what any regular reader of this newsletter or blog thinks.

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

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Mediation and the Mandela Effect

Great progress was made last week in raising awareness of the value of mediation. UK Mediation Awareness Week had a number of excellent events.

One that I attended – “The Future of Mediation” – made good use of that excellent Nelson Mandela quote: “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

Sir Alan Ward, one of the speakers, has been the Chairman of the Civil Mediation Council (CMC) since 2014, previously served as a judge at the High Court and the Court of Appeal and is a renowned advocate of ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution).

Both he and Lord Justice Briggs, another enthusiast for mediation, have recently painted a picture of greatly overburdened courts creating a perfect storm for the advance of mediation. And both have argued recently that perhaps it’s time to take the “A” out of Alternative Dispute Resolution – in order to make mediation the norm, rather than the exception.

It is so heartening to hear the positive language of the current debate around mediation. And now we need to 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. Not only that, but mediation can strengthen workplace relationships, as well as mend them.

So let’s keep that positive Mandela message in mind as we go forward. Today’s enemies can become tomorrow’s partners.

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

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The power behind positive reframing

I came across a great post the other day that talked about the “art” of positive reframing. It really is an art – practised 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. To stop things from “getting personal” is essential.

At work, leaders and managers today need to know what to do when workplace relations break down in this way. Mediation can ensure conflicts arising are managed well. For this to happen, positive reframing is a vital tool – mediation then becomes even more effective in not only unblocking obstacles but also in making real change happen.

A key characteristic of mediation is “flexibility” – and as mediators we too need to resolve to show the flexibility to keep on listening and learning in our daily work – and positively reframe our conversations whenever necessary.

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

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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 8th to 14th October.

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 London Community Mediation Council, the Family Mediation Council, the Law Society, the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, the College of Mediators, the Business Mediation Group and the Supporting Careers in Mediation Advocacy.

Events (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 #UKMAW2016.


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

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Mediation has momentum

I’m really pleased to report that workplace mediation seems to gathering momentum. Last week, I gave a seminar to the CIPD on unlocking the benefits of mediation for personal and business success – and I was delighted with the enthusiastic feedback I received. And this week, I’m running a mediation and negotiation module for an “Emerging Leaders” programme.

There is clearly growing interest in mediation and those of us working in this field want to make it the norm rather than the exception in resolving workplace conflict. It’s becoming clear now that mediation skills will be one of the most important and positive skills any business can focus on for professional development in 2017. In the face of so much change, leaders and managers today need to be more aware than ever of what to do when workplace relations break down.

That why it’s important to understand how mediation can assist them when managing challenging relationships at work. Mediation enables organisations to develop a high-performance culture, whereby those conflicts arising are managed positively.

Because mediation is voluntary, confidential and focused on solutions, it is unlimited in the range of outcomes. It is also quicker than formal grievance and legal procedures, for which positions can easily become entrenched.

Moreover, because those solutions are agreed rather than imposed, the chances of their durability are much greater. And crucially for business, mediation can be extremely cost effective compared to the irrecoverable time and financial costs of full-blown court or tribunal proceedings.

These are exciting times for mediation. And when it is fully integrated into the workplace, as the norm rather than as the exception, we will look back and wonder why it wasn’t done before.

 

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

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A new era for leadership development

There’s some great articles in this week’s Coaching & Mediation Weekly on leadership development. Our lead article looks at how some organisations, sadly, still consider leadership development a strategic option, rather than a strategic imperative. In these businesses, leadership development lurches from feast to famine, mirroring the ups and downs of the business cycle.

The need for more, not less, leadership development in times of great uncertainty is clear to many – and now the rules are changing in two respects. Firstly, the era of the “command-and-control” leader is well and truly over. Instead of relying on the wisdom of a few people at the top of the organisation, we now need to devolve leadership across every business. This necessitates a highly-developed sense of purpose, trust, excellence and integrity for the organisation in everything it does. These are all values that we support strongly at Sheridan Resolutions and, when blended together, essentially represent the sense of “connection” one feels within any outstanding business.

It’s really interesting, therefore, that our second article reveals that while the selection of candidates for leadership development programmes has historically focused on senior executives, the highest-performing organisations today make leadership development available to any manager who is interested – a defining factor that sets them apart from low-performing organisations. In other words, high-performing organisations cater for the development of all aspirational employees, wherever their learning journey begins.

Equality of access is a theme of our times – it’s also an important trend for business owners in terms of funding their business aspirations. That’s why we’re really happy to support Informed Funding’s latest Finance Seminars (on 22nd September – click here), which will focus on helping all sorts of growing businesses in the UK to get the access to the funding they need to grow.

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

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Let’s honour those who shape us

In one sense, I’m as far away from my work this week as it is possible to be. I’m writing to you for this week’s Coaching & Mediation Weekly from The Zabriskie Point in Death Valley, California (click on the link – it’s truly incredible). Zabriskie Point is named after the man who put in nearly 50 years of devoted service to the Pacific Coast Borax Company, a mining business.

Christian Brevoort Zabriskie will forever be remembered and associated with this place. Over 5 million years ago, rivers flowed here, but no longer – the passage of time has changed so much in the landscape. Finding out about him and this place made me wonder how often we could do more to remember and honour all those who have shaped our own personal and career landscapes – and contributed to its many transformations.

A few days ago we saw the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, in which so many tragically died. And the day after the attacks, my Dad also passed away. The memory of that time this week makes me wonder what we have learned, not just from the events, but also from the cherished qualities of those who we left behind.

From my Dad I learnt how important it is, in this mad and pressurised world of work, where people clamour for our attention all the time, to take time to rest the mind as well as the body. It’s a matter of basic animal survival that we should be allowed the time to slip our brains into a neutral gear in order to stop and reflect.

It’s a lesson I try my best to pass on through all aspects of the work we do with clients. So while in one sense I’m far away from my work, in another I’m happy to say that it’s caused me to feel that I really couldn’t be any closer.

After all, had I not listened to my Dad, I wouldn’t have been able to think these thoughts and write these words today.


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

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Change and conflict: the importance of a positive approach

Have you had that “Back to School” feeling in recent days? Many grown-ups, as well as children, will have felt it as they return to their workplaces, with the summer break disappearing rapidly in the rear-view mirror. Part of the apprehension they feel comes with the prospect of changes that may lie ahead.

In recent months, we’ve been publicly braced to expect lots of change, yet in truth change is and has always been with us. It can feel bewildering, yet something enduring and rather reassuring always shines through for us at Sheridan Resolutions – the importance of people in making change work.

We often overestimate the immediate impact of the “headline-grabbers” such as new ideas and technology in driving change in our working lives.  Why? Precisely because we underestimate the importance of engaged, change-friendly individuals and teams in making it happen.

Change can certainly bring with it conflict – and leaders and managers today need to be more aware than ever of what to do when workplace relations break down. That why I’m excited to be delivering a session for the CIPD on 20th September, exploring how mediation can assist them when managing challenging relationships at work. The session will look at how mediation can enable organisations to develop a high-performance culture, whereby those conflicts arising are managed positively.

A positive approach is essential – effective mediation becomes even more important in unblocking obstacles and making real change happen. Only by helping people to strengthen and, when necessary, repair professional relationships can leaders transform businesses and create high-performing workplaces.

Change can be exciting or terrifying – and usually a bit of both. So leaders need to remember the one true constant of change: progress is nothing without people.


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

 

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