Mediator as coach

I received this pleasing feedback recently after a workplace mediation:

“I wanted to thank you for your help in facilitating the meeting today and (for your) guidance along the way. Your intervention at crucial moments in the meeting helped us keep on track and maintain a clear focus on reaching an outcome that we are all happy with. Whilst these situations are never enjoyable, I certainly feel it was a productive meeting and allowed us to reach closure of the situation and move forwards.”

The comment about providing ‘guidance along the way’ reminded me of the role that mediators play as coaches to parties.

Throughout the mediation process the mediator has opportunities to coach the parties and their advisers, while strictly preserving neutrality and confidentiality. The purpose of the coaching is to enable all parties to participate as fully and effectively as possible. The mediator coaches directly, through sharing experience, making process suggestions and managing the parties’ expectations; and indirectly, through setting the tone, maintaining the energy and purpose and leading by example in terms of attitude and approach.

In this mediation I was aware that the parties found my guidance at the pre-mediation stage helpful. I talked to them individually about who should start and why, and about how to present their opening statements. We also discussed their concerns about confidentiality and I made process suggestions about how these concerns might be addressed.  By the joint meeting I had established good rapport and trust and was able to be both supportive and challenging in my questioning and feedback.

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2 Responses to “Mediator as coach”

  1. Dick Salem Says:

    It is good that you’re able to receive such favorable feedback from the participants, Felicity. It brings back pleasant memories from my berth in retirement, although in my work I typically moved on without getting specific feedback. But when I achieved a settlement, I knew that I must be doing something right. Best, from Dick

    • felicitysteadman Says:

      These days I always ask for written feedback from parties, providing a questionnaire for them to use for this purpose. Not only am I required to do this when I work through a mediation service, but I like to do it myself for purposes of self assessment and continuing professional development. Sometimes there is no written agreement, but the parties are satisfied and give great feedback. This often happens in workplace mediation where satisfaction is measured not by the words on a page but by the degree of understanding the parties have achieved in the mediation and the quality of the future relationship. In cases where there is a written agreement sometimes the feedback teaches me that there were things I could nevertheless have done better. It’s tough hearing this but it’s so helpful. Working with a co-mediator or assistant is another way of getting feedback. I have found that the SA model and how I worked then was quite heavily process driven. I have learned a lot in recent years about building relationships with parties, and focusing on interaction between them rather than just on content and issues.

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