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3 reasons to hire a mediator for your next team meeting

Creative abrasion is necessary for innovation and growth in teams and organisations. Engaging in conversations at work that challenge the status quo, can carry great risk and great reward. This is why it's import to have a conflict expect to direct the conversation.

During change, uncertainty or internal disruptions, organisations often turn to meetings as a tool to bring their team together and forge a pathway forward. Unfortunately, meetings are dreaded by most workers. Other than the meeting organiser, most other attendees will consider the meeting ‘could have been an email’.

Like a mediation, business meetings must reconcile differences in positions and interests, generate options and reach an agreement around future actions. Rather than an opportunity for connection and growth, meetings can be a platform for increased hostility. This is where the mediator’s skills and the mediation process have immeasurable value to organisations.

Firstly, the underpinning rationale for mediation being conducted by an impartial, independent and process focused facilitator should also be the starting point for more successful meetings. Many meetings are derailed by the fact that the person running the meeting (usually a senior manager) is vested in the outcomes of the meeting and cannot create an environment where everyone in that meeting feels heard. An inevitable result of this is that those individuals will move their conversations to the hallways and lunchrooms. The consequences of not creating ‘safe spaces’ in meetings for staff to speak their mind can be dire for an organisation both in terms of business outcomes and workplace culture.

Secondly, as mediators we have a well-founded infatuation with agendas. We understand the importance of constructing agendas that are inclusive, neutral and can provide some structure to the chaos of a long-standing dispute. The way we construct agendas, by checking that the needs of each party are reflected is often a forgotten step in business meetings. Agendas, if they are constructed, tend to be the list of priorities for organisational leadership and is limited to only the issues that they find important to discuss. Again, this becomes an impediment for the full and frank participation of all meeting participants. In fact, getting greater buy in to the Agenda itself, might assist businesses in generating enthusiasm for meetings in the first place.

Thirdly, most importantly, mediators are not scared of emotions. On the contrary, we understand the importance of emotions in negotiations and know how to engage with emotions in a measured and authentic manner. We understand that agreements about substantive next steps are weak where the decision-making process has not explored and acknowledged the emotions that always exist. In some cases, it can simply be the acknowledgement of the underlying emotions that resolves a longstanding dispute. The mediator’s ultimate superpower of engaging and acknowledging emotions is surely an important tool in any company meeting that seeks to build greater connections between the participants.

Shiv Martin conducts facilitations with government and non-government organisations experiencing workplace disruptions or conflict to assist teams in working through their differences and achieving better results together.

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