Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mediation Olympics

Anyone who watched the recent US men’s 4 x 100 relay swim saw a marvelous race that ended with a winning touch. On the one hand it’s about the gold, the gold medal, yet the Olympics are so much more than the glory of winning. Listening to Melanie Roach, US weightlifter, exclaim about her wonder, joy and satisfaction with a sixth place finish is, for me, what the Olympics are really about. My question for you mediators – what’s your mediation about?

For many who mediate in litigated cases, there is only the “gold” of settlement. Yet I suggest that having this as your focus can, in some cases, prevent you from reaching that goal.

Here’s my point. If you as mediator place the outcome, settlement, as your prime goal, you can lose sight of the process and your neutrality becomes at issue. In effect you can create a “conflict of interest” with the participant who does not want to settle their claim, while you want it settled. I’m not suggesting that you give up completely on the goal of settlement, rather, that you stay true to a mediation process that allows for self determination. Again, stay focused on the process. Be neutral and unbiased in your actions and choices as mediator.

And finally, if you stay with the process and think less about “getting that settlement” - I believe you will be more open as a mediator to what is happening in front of you, you will be more creative and willing to take “risks,” and are more likely to actually help folks out of tight spots. The cases will settle.

So, go for the mediation process and get the “gold” !

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