Author Archive

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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Make coaching a key part of your learning culture

There’s an great lead article in this week’s Coaching & Mediation Weekly. It points out that many more leaders and managers today face a difficult and growing challenge: they need to give leadership to those who know far more about a particular business process or specialism than they do.

This necessitates a change in leadership style – managers don’t have the specific answers, so they no longer need to waste time pretending that they do. Instead, they should move to a position of enabling learning and creating knowledge within their teams. Everyone needs to be learning constantly, including managers, and increasingly their purpose is to create the conditions that make it as easy as possible for others to do the same.

To develop a coaching culture requires an understanding of this learning mentality – and its individuality, because everyone has their own learning style. As the business coaching pioneer Sir John Whitmore once noted:  “No two human minds or bodies are the same. How can I tell you how to use yours? Only you can discover how, with awareness.”

Coaching is there to fill that gap and unlock the potential in each individual, yet 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. Yet executive coaching can be 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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Embrace the alternatives when resolving conflict

It was my pleasure recently to attend “Reframing Resolution – Innovation and Change in the Management of Workplace Conflict”, a one-day event from the Work, Organisation and Employment Relations Research Centre (WOERRC) and Acas. I attended in my role as Chair of the Workplace and Employment Group in the Civil Mediation Council (CMC) and the conference featured Sir Brendan Barber as a keynote speaker, at a time when mediation is clearly winning a place in minds of many leaders and managers.

I was heartened by what Sir Brendan had to say. In his speech – and also in our lead feature this week from HR magazine – Sir Brendan confirmed that there has been a shift towards informal interventions when resolving workplace conflict. As the world of business evolves, he says, so too are employers’ attitudes. For individual conflict, the move is somewhat slow (but at least moving) in the direction of prevention rather than cure. Yet many organisations are still frustratingly reactive in their responses.

Although employers are very aware of the possibility of employment tribunal claims, the strategic approach to managing conflict too often amounts to just “following procedure”. But if we want to create more competitive and productive workplaces, says Sir Brendan, we need to start taking alternative approaches more seriously.

Conflict is not (yet) seen as an important management competence and therefore managerial confidence in dealing with issues is understandably low. So Sir Brendan concludes that we need to fully embrace alternative methods of resolving conflict to bring mediation to the front of managerial minds.

Mediation, he and I agree, is often only considered as a last resort when everything else has failed. Instead, it must become the norm, rather than the exception.

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

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Mediation: how flexibility and structure can – co-exist

I’m struck by the contrast between two excellent articles in the Coaching & Mediation Weekly recently.

As one of them suggests, one of the key strengths associated with the mediation process is its flexibility. However, too many of those involved in a mediation process lack the confidence to control and design a mediation around a dispute, rather than the other way around. Sticking to a tried-and-trusted formula is tempting, but just because certain mediation models are reliable, it doesn’t mean they will work in all cases. The sage advice given by the author is to talk to all stakeholders in a mediation about whether to customise the process. If an alternative approach can work, while maintaining credibility and integrity, then the only question worth asking must surely be “will it increase the likelihood of a successful outcome?”

It’s important, however, to understand the value of best practice and appropriate structure as an underpinning for flexibility. This week, as another of our features reveals, the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) has announced an updated version of its Model Mediation Clauses and Mediation in Employment Policies guide. For many years CEDR has been developing an extensive library of model documents in many different languages with model procedures and templates – and these are downloaded an estimated 20,000 times each year. Business practices have evolved since the guide was first developed and so the latest version of the guide should be seen as a modern toolkit.

There is no contradiction here – there is a place for both flexibility and structure in mediation. The flexibility to allow for creativity to solve a workplace dispute and the structure of best practice to know what “excellent” looks like. The two are not mutually exclusive and in an increasingly complex world, users of mediation will need to rely on both to achieve the best outcomes.

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

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Why it’s time to “reframe” mediation

This week I want to highlight some great events I’m soon to attend, because to me they demonstrate a healthy “wind of change” blowing through mediation.
This week I’m going to the Mediators’ New Breakfast Club to hear Andrew Acland speak on “Process design in mediation and public dialogue – what can they learn from each other?” The answer will, I’m quite sure, be “a lot” and it will show us the huge value of seeing what mediation can achieve with the help of alternative perspectives.
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 – and “reframe” mediation as a result whenever necessary. So next week I’m really looking forward to be being on a panel in my role as Chair of the Chair, Workplace and Employment (CMC) Group at “Reframing Resolution – Innovation and Change in the Management of Workplace Conflict” a one day event from the Work, Organisation and Employment Relations Research Centre (WOERRC) and Acas .
This conference, with Sir Brendan Barber as a keynote speaker, brings together leading academic researchers and practitioners at a time when mediation is clearly winning traction with many leaders and managers. The event will also celebrate the recent publication of the book Reframing Resolution and looks at the front-line challenges facing organizations and discusses the future potential of more integrated approaches. Click on the links above to join the “Reframing Resolution” event and order the book.
When mediation is fully integrated into the workplace, as the norm rather than as the exception, we will look back and be thankful that great events and publications like these significantly raised its profile along the way.
Caroline Sheridan, Chair, Workplace and Employment CMC group and Founder of Sheridan Resolutions
 

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Mediation: The value of pushing the “Pause” button

Great mediation is about revelling in the pauses, honouring them and leaning into them in order to move forward and achieve positive outcomes.
It’s easy to forget the value of slowing down, in a world that only seems to be speeding up. And when it comes to resolving conflict in the workplace, hesitation is rarely fatal. “To pause” is not a sign of weakness: rather, it is about reflecting, in order to be purposeful in everything that is said and done thereafter.
Let’s remember what mediation should mean: for Sheridan Resolutions, it is a way forward that is voluntary, confidential, less entrenched than formal processes and with an unerring focus on solutions. It is a flexible process which allows a neutral person to assist parties towards a negotiated agreement. And if part of that flexibility means taking a little extra time in order to get to a better place, then that’s got to be a good thing.
The beauty of mediation is that it is the parties that are in control of the speed of movement towards a solution, the decision to settle and its terms. And because outcomes are agreed and not imposed, the chances are that solutions will stick.
Everyone should come away from a mediation with a new perspective, because they allow themselves time to listen actively, and reflect instead of reacting instantly. If a little extra time is all it takes to achieve this, then pushing the “Pause” button can actually be a step forward.
Caroline Sheridan, Chair, Workplace and Employment CMC group and Founder of Sheridan Resolutions

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Mediation should be the norm, rather than the exception

I was thrilled recently to be asked to become Chair of the Workplace and Employment group of the Mediation Sectors Committee of the Civil Mediation Council (CMC).

It’s been a long journey for mediation – and there’s still some way to go. 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.

It’s a great honour to undertake this new role – and after giving it some thought, I’ve decided that my vision is to be to help create an environment where workplace mediation is the norm, rather than the exception. So, how can we best 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.

Of course, I am very keen to hear the views of readers of this blog and newsletter. Do you have an interest in workplace and employment mediation? I want to hear what you think.

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

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