Friday, February 19, 2010

The Awesome Power of a Sincere Apology

Tiger Woods played his hardest match today when he made a public apology to his fans, business partners and supporters. It was humble. It was sincere. And it was personal. The timing was his own, based not upon a public outcry or demand, but based upon his own personal journey towards accepting responsibility for his bad behavior. It worked for me. I'm not sure that it changes his past, but I am sure that a sincere apology has the potential to change future relationships for the better. It doesn't happen routinely in mediation. When there is a sincere and humble explanation for bad conduct, and a request for forgiveness, coupled with a pledge to change or correct it, it can simply diffuse a conflict in ways that no money can buy. People, even heroes and celebrities, sometimes fail and disappoint. A decent apology can go an enormous distance towards relieving the sting of disappointment that bad behavior creates. It's a powerful lesson for mediators and those who represent people in conflict.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Lessons for Mediators from Corporate Leadership

I was always a bossy little girl. So it was with great interest that I read an interview in this morning's New York Times of Susan Doeherty, who leads the United States Sales, service and marketing of General Motors. Her natural demeanor was instructive for me as a mediator in these ways. First, she recognized that communication is essential. "It needs to be simple. It needs to be consistent. And even when you're tired of what the message is, you need to do it again and again, because everybody comes to the table with a different perspective and a different experience"..."On some very key things, people need to internalize it, and they need to own it." Second, she says, "The best way to counteract coming across as being bossy would be to ask others what they thought." Third, she sits in a different chair at each meeting, to keep her meetings "dynamic". If it's good enough for GM, it's good enough for me. These are, in fact, essential lessons for mediation. And by the way, does anyone remember a male CEO being criticized for being "bossy"?