Thursday, February 24, 2011

What Would Kate Do?!

Kate, Kate, Kate – What were you thinking?!  Like all reflective mediator practitioners, I’ve been watching (studying) the new USA Network drama – Fairly Legal – to learn new mediation skills from the lead and all star mediator Kate Reed. In the first few episodes we’ve learned that mediation is about a win-win resolution, that the mediator is impartial, and that the mediator’s job is to learn about the problem and then fix it.  And that the mediator can do just about whatever they want to get the case/dispute/conflict settled.  Anything goes for ratings!

Some of Kate’s mediation skills/language rings true. She says “win-win” (I call this “all win”), the mediator is impartial and the idea of the mediator helping get matters resolved.  However, for me the operative word is “helping.” Mediators don’t have the power of a decision maker and can’t generally come up with a better resolution than that of participants.  In fact, that’s what mediation is supposed to be about – the mediator helping, supporting, encouraging, etc., participants to come up with their own ideas for resolving the dispute.

I’m all for the mediator being active in helping participants figure out how to resolve their conflict/dispute; however, I don’t consider the mediator role as the “fixer” like Kate.  I certainly do all I can to assist folks and I do want mediations I conduct to reach a mutually agreeable resolution yet, if I’ve run a quality process, then I’ve been successful.  After all, I can’t force people to settle/resolve their dispute. 
I also want Kate to "own" her mediation process.  Just about every mediator I know starts the mediation with some type of introduction, some type of mediator opening, but Kate just walks in the conference room, people start talking and even swinging punches!  It might add to the drama, but it sure takes away from the power of mediation.
So, I’ll keep watching Kate and try to add to my mediation skills.  Maybe I need some high heels for smashing watches?  Or perhaps not!  Oh well, here’s hoping we get more mediation process from Kate and the folks at USA network.