Applying mediation techniques to management situations

Yesterday I had my first day of mediation training with the Conflict Resolution Center. I’m not sure if I will apply to become a mediator or not, but I am enjoying brushing up on my listening and conflict resolution skills. There are a number of things I can take out of the mediation training and apply to management, without conducting a full fledged mediation process.

For one, I (like many managers) have a tendency to problem-solve when people come to me with problems or concerns, and I think in some cases it would serve both me and the person coming to me better if I practiced more active listening techniques instead. I know that this is best practice since if you can help an employee to find their own solution, the solution will work better and they will learn and grow. Plus the people I work with are all really smart and come up with better solutions than I could come up with myself in many cases. Sometimes its hard to remind myself not to problem solve though when I think I have the best answer.

In particular, here are some techniques for asking open ended questions that I could use at work with my employees: (If any of you are reading, I hope this doesn’t ruin the surprise.)

*Asking Open Ended Questions: What brings you to my office today? What is your major concern about the project?
*Asking Clarifying Questions: I’m not sure I understand. Could you say more about that?
*Reflecting Content: So the project is on track, and until recently all of the stakeholders were on board…
*Reflecting Feelings: You sound really frustrated/upset/pleased.
*Reflecting Values: External colleagues seeing that you are good for your word is important to you, is that right?
*Reflecting Body Language: I notice that your arms were crossed and you were pulled away from the table during our group meeting today. Can you say what you were feeling or thinking?
*Periodically Summarizing: So things have been getting worse between you and George.

Speaking of problems, here’s one I would not want to solve myself: a fire hydrant that burst in my neighborhood last year.

I have three more days of training in mediation over the next two weeks, so I’ll post more of my lessons in applying this mediation training for managers as I go.


Tips for giving corrective performance feedback

Recently, I was coaching a new manager at a local small business on giving corrective feedback, so I thought it would be helpful to repost this. A refresher course on corrective performance feedback can always be helpful! I would like to credit The Management Center of Washington, DC and the Conflict Resolution Center of Santa Cruz County for teaching me these skills.

*Arrange a time to talk. (Ideally as soon after the behavior as possible, while also making sure that you can talk privately without interruption.)

*State your intent–ideally a shared vision or a goal: “I want to make sure that we are leaving the best possible impression on our key funders and community members so that they remain engaged and active in our organization.”

*Describe the behavior you’ve observed in a short sentence: “I’ve noticed recently that you are having trouble communicating with key people in our organization and maintaining good relationships with them.”

*Provide 2-3 specific, concrete, relevant examples to support your feedback: “First, in the recent meeting with Gary, I noticed that you did not have many positive statements to contribute compared to the number of negative statements about his fundraising proposal, then I saw an email you sent to Mitchell (who you know is a very important donor) where you made a strong negative statement against his preferred location for our upcoming gala‚Ķ”

Note: If you don’t have more than one example, consider whether this issue requires corrective action or whether the staff member has already learned the lesson on his or her own. You may approach this conversation differently if this is the first mistake and you suspect that the staff member recognizes his or her mistake already and is already working to improve.

*State the impact of the behavior on you, and as appropriate on your team, department, or organization: “If we were to lose Gary as a board member, and Mitchell as a major funder, we could potentially lose millions of dollars of funding, as well as their expert advice. Gary and Mitchell have had great advice for us in the past, and I really take their opinions seriously. I felt furious and then embarrassed when I saw that these two important people were not being treated with a high amount of respect for their ideas.”

*State what you would prefer instead: “I would like to see you offering the highest respect and putting your most positive self forward when interacting with outside people, so that we leave them with an excellent impression and so that we can continue to receive their advice and expertise.”

*Restate your shared vision or goal: “I know that we both care about the success of our organization, and the way that people perceive us is a big part of that.”

Here are some more tips for performance feedback and asking for change: