Sunday, March 20, 2011

Solution Focused Conflict Management

I'm reading such an interesting book, "Solution-Focused Conflict Management" by Fredrike Bannink. It occurs to me that there is an interesting dichotomy between the legal system, which is "problem focused" and the conflict resolution business which aims to be "solution-focused". Clients bring their problems to lawyers and they help them to address them by going back and seeking damages from those who have injured them. When they come to the mediator, we can either assist in that endeavor, or meet them where they are and assist in "getting out of the conflict" by changing their future--without any promise or hope of changing their past. Likewise, a client hires a lawyer to take action on their behalf in ways that they have been unable to do on their own. In solution based conflict resolution, the mediator gives the client back the responsibility and competence to make a decision which will affect change of their future. Bannink references a study which states that "a mediator can only mediate in the future tense." What an interesting challenge to mediate without regard to "how you got here" or "what is the problem?" to "how can you make small steps that will help you achieve your future goals?" It makes me see the world of hope and possibilities differently already.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Power of Tactful Audacity in Mediation and in Life and Death

Yesterday, we laid my brother-in-law to rest at sea. It was a day in which we awakened to warnings that our Southern California Harbor was unsafe to exit due to the erratic seas caused by the Tsunami in Japan. An hour later, we were advised it was now safe, went to sea, only to be informed that we could not return to the slip because the warnings were again alarming and unsafe. We did return to safe harbor and were gratified to greet Tim's closest of friends and family who gathered to pay him tribute in ways he may never have known. He was a quiet spirit with an audacious lust for life, who died much too soon, but not before he left his imprint upon so many people throughout his life. What does this have to do with mediation? In today's New York Times interview of Romil Bahl, President and Chief Executive of PRGX, a data mining firm in Atlanta, Ga. , he talks about "tactful audacity" as a means of passing along a difficult message, which helps clients and trusted partners to evaluate difficult situations. Through collaboration and "leading from the front of the room", the best idea invariably wins. The next time I make an audacious move, from safe harbor to sea to returning to the slip, from challenging difficult clients with audacious ideas, from pushing back, tactfully, instead of clinging to old entrenched ideas, I will think of that day when the Tsunami struck, but we were unbowed, and those beautiful words that came pouring out of the mouths of strangers about the strong, but quiet spirit of a man who left this shore much too soon.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Transcendental Mediation

I had the privilege of listening to a lecture by Ashok Pannikar, from Banglore, India today at the Mediator's Beyond Borders Congress here in Los Angeles. The talk was called, "Why is Joe the Plumber Peeved? Mediating Minority Rights and Majority Fears". It was a kind of "call to action" for mediators and those engaged in large-scale, global dialogue to reexamine our own biases and outdated world views. He reminded us that we are no longer in the 60's, or even the 90's. In fact, we may not be able to change the world, despite our unfailing optimism. Changes in demographics, globalization, a prolonged recession and a generalized loss of identity and increasing alienation and isolation of people everywhere has created an infinite axis of evil where everyone becomes an enemy: outsiders, insiders (think Wall Street/Corporate America), minorities, majorities, rich, poor. All of this depressing analysis lead Pannikar to urge us to strive for transcendence, or the awe that is created where we connect with another in service of something greater than the individual needs or rights. Progress, he said, comes from the tension between what is and what can be. With creativity, competence and effort, we have the capacity to experience, and guide others towards the awe that will be required of us to move to the next level of collaboration. Difficult to distill down to the nitty gritty of litigation, but we can aspire to shift the paradigm. Loved the concepts, the presentation, and being among such inspired speakers and attendees.