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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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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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