One of the things I enjoy most about my job as a mediator is the flexibility inherent in the mediation process I utilize.
Most of my readers are lawyers. Many of you are litigators — for whom mediation has become a preferred tool for resolving most of your cases. Typically, I’m assuming, you see mediation as a process where you can confidently come together with other parties involved in litigation, call a timeout, and determine if the parties can reach an agreement to resolve the case. This is how I’m asked to lead mediations about 95% of the time.
However, there are other circumstances in which I’ve been hired as a mediator, some of which may surprise you.
Dissolving or reorganizing a business
Over the years, I’ve conducted more than a dozen mediations where the goal was to dissolve, or split up, or reorganize organizations — ranging from businesses and law firms to non-profits. I’ve worked with medical practices with as few as two doctors and as many as forty.
Splits have involved ownership issues relating to everything from real, personal and intellectual property to patient information.
In some of these cases, the parties had already initiated lawsuits; others went to mediation without suit ever being filed. In all cases, mediation provided the parties a forum for identifying issues, then discussing them openly and confidentially without anyone at risk of their position being eroded. That gave us a much better environment for brainstorming — and exploring settlement possibilities — with all of the decision makers present.
Negotiating church splits
Sadly, churches are no more immune from divisive issues than any organizations where people are involved. I’ve used mediation to help churches conclude splits, and I’ve used it to help other churches avert them. Mediation helped us determine when or if splits should occur. In cases where the conclusion was “When,” we worked together to find the most equitable path for allowing each side to prosper, moving forward.
Resolving intra-company disputes
I once mediated a number disagreements between two departments of a fortune 500 real estate development firm. The firm had five divisions, and they all needed to work together well in order to successfully complete any of the company’s development projects. Two of the departments clashed constantly, and — needless to say — the conflicts negatively impacted the company’s culture and profitability.
I was brought in to work with the two divisions’ leaders & VPs to identify the root causes of the conflicts — then create solutions everyone could live with. It took a number of meetings and several weeks, but ultimately we formulated a remedy— and created a framework for working together harmoniously on future projects.
How about you?
These are just a few examples of how I’ve used mediation to disputes and disagreements outside of litigation. Have you ever used mediation creatively in your own career — or come-across situations that could have benefited from the involvement of a mediator? If so, I’d love to hear from you.