Archive for the ‘ADR tips’ Category

Facilitator Tips

September 30, 2009

I recently came across Penn State’s website and when searching “conflict resolution”, I found this gem of a page.

It gives various tips and questions to consider when issues arise within a working group/team. The tips listed are easily transferable for a facilitator who is planning to bring a group together.

The set up is broken down into seven sections:

I Conflict Happens
II Clarify Expectations
III Types of Conflicts
IV Identify Team Needs
V Depersonalize Conflict
VI Structuring Discussion
VII Key Questions

A brief look into each section gives shows there is valuable information for all conflict resolvers:

I Conflict Happens
Most members of a team have to learn two fundamentals:
1. Having different opinions is one of the essential benefits of teamwork.
2. Team members have strong feelings and emotions. A team cannot achieve its full potential if all that is allowed is logic or information.

II Clarify Expectations
Stating expectations clearly will give the team a common ground to begin any discussion. Some ways to clarifying expectations include:
1. Developing a clear statement of team mission or purpose
Ground rules governing participation, sharing of responsibilities
3. Agreement to
depersonalize conflicts

III Types of Conflicts
Internal conflict – An individual or team member is experiencing a personal conflict that may or may not be related to the team, but which is interfering with the person’s ability to perform.
Individual conflict with one other team member – One team member is in conflict with another
Individual conflict with the entire team – One team member is experiencing conflict with the entire team

IV Identify Team Needs
Define the team’s problem as a shared need. As a group:
1. Identify the causes.
2. Determine the criteria for a solution.Generate options.

V Depersonalize Conflict
During the problem-solving phase focus on issues not personalities. Use these guidelines to help depersonalize conflicts.
1. Encourage each side to objectively explain his or her bottom line requirements. When the team is determining a solution, each person’s criteria should be evaluated.
2. Remind the team of ground rules while generating options such as “no criticizing statements by other people until all ideas are posted.”

VI Structuring Discussion
Here is a structured way to handle conflicts:
1. Let each person state his or her view briefly.
2. Have neutral team members reflect on areas of agreement or disagreement.
3. Explore areas of disagreement for specific issues.

VII Key Questions
Questions that can help teams work through conflict:
1. What are we supposed to accomplish as a team?
2. What are each of our roles and responsibilities in accomplishing that goal?
3. Who and when do each of us need to get information from?

Again, the list above is not complete- it is just a short version. It you find it useful, click this [link] to read them all. If you are asking why not put the full list? The answer is basic web etiquette- not cutting and pasting someone else’s entire work but rather displaying only a portion and linking to the original source.

The Reflective Practitioner: Do I Understand Myself?

July 13, 2009

The Reflective Practitioner: Do I Understand Myself?

Are you a reflective practitioner? There are many benefits to the various types of conflict resolvers- mediators, negotiators, conflict coaches, conflict skills trainers, ombudsman, etc.

Before going further into the benefits and examples of how to be a reflective practitioner, I think it is best to define it. At a recent lecture I attended given by Bernie Mayer*, he mentioned a reflective practitioner is someone who looks back on an interaction and tries to understand what you did. You check to see if there is a disconnect between your actions and the theory. The theory is that which explains how certain actions in similar situations will result in either harmful or beneficial results for you, the other party(s) or a combination of both (see image below).
A powerful comment Meyer said still distinctly stands out from the other powerful comments he made during the talk: It is in this disconnect that lies a wealth of learning.
The only way we can obtain the benefits and wealth he refers to is by taking the time to stop and reflect. What have we learned in the books and training and how does that compare to what we had just done? Are they both in sync or is there a disconnect?

An example of that reflection is during a negotiation I was involved in with a group of protesters. The leaders of the group, which totaled several hundred people including women and children, told me they wanted to march to a certain area that was off limits while knowing the result would be the protesters being arrested. They told me that was their ‘final decision’.

I could have walked away, letting them maintain their autonomy and stick with their choice. However, I decided to continue to negotiate with them by first taking a deep breath and then a few more letting everyone have an opportunity to self reflect in that current moment. Then I asked many reality checking type questions among other tools in my mediator’s toolbox. Ultimately after many stressful minutes that felt like hours, a successful resolution was achieved with no one being arrested and some of their interests still being met.

The disconnect between the theory of me allowing them to stick with their choice and the actions I took contradicting that theory provided me with a wealth of information and knowledge.
The lesson I took away after reflecting on that particular situation was that knowing theory is imperative for a practitioner. Equally important is as a practitioner, you must try the theories out for yourself to see how they work in actual situations. Of course other theories come into play in my example such as ‘is a final decision ever final?’ but the point I want to stress is the way to grow as a reflective practitioner is through this analysis.

Going back to Meyer’s talk, he discussed some “Hallmarks of a Reflective Practitioner”:

• Self observant.
• Having the ability to deconstruct our actions
• Integrate our espoused theory and theory in action.
• Travel the theory-action result loop
• Humility.

Meyer’s talk reminded me that in order for me to be a successful mediator, it is crucial for me to be a successful reflective practitioner. Including the tips mentioned above into my practice are part of the process in ensuring that I have understood myself.

(click to enlarge)

* 2009 Summer Residency at Creighton University’s Werner Institute on Negotiation and Dispute Resolution Masters Program