Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ombuds in Sports Setting

Back in April 2013, after the Rutgers men's basketball news came to light, I queried whether there would be a role for conflict coaches in the sports setting. I thought so then and still do. 

Since then we've seen a number of sports conflict stories in the news ranging from Jonathan Martin in Miami to news today that a group of student athletes are filing a class action lawsuit against the NCAA for player pay.  There are also a number of different student-athlete issues facing UNC Chapel Hill in the news.

With this as a backdrop, I was pleased to see an excellent recent discussion on Ombuds in Sports hosted at the Sports Conflict Institute in Oregon. Led by Founder and Senior Practitioner Josh Gordon, SCI TV, posted an interview with John Zinsser who has worked in the ombuds field for over 20 years. 

John walks us through the ombuds concept and then overlays it upon the Jonathan Martin situation, Rutgers basketball, and beyond.  We learn that there is no "typical" ombuds because every organization and company is different, so each ombuds office is different.  Yet the concept can translate and John suggests how the NFL might implement such a program. I particularly appreciated John's focus on the value added by an organizational ombuds and how such a role could work in concert with an athletic department compliance office.  I also thought his comments about how an athletic department might want its own ombuds in addition to a university ombuds program made a lot of sense. John explained that its not unusual for different settings to have an ombuds in order to more closely serve that population.  Finally, John made the key point that there is high value in having an ombuds office for most any organization.   Here's a link to the interview - Ombuds in Sports

I continue to encourage sports organizations to think about off-the-field support for players, coaches, and the organization as a whole.  Additionally, while the ombuds concept is focused on conflict resolution, as John Zinsser notes, the role has broader organizational implications.  

Finally, while not as an ombuds, I've had the opportunity to recently work with a local soccer academy, the Capital Area Railhawks Development Academy, facilitating some team meetings. I've led some team building, leadership, and goal discussion meetings and found the players receptive to working together off the field. I anticipate that this off the field work will translate to on the field success.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mediator Challenge - Do Something New

As we start 2014 filled with resolutions for the new year, let me encourage you to add one more!  When you get stuck - try something new.

I was on a panel on Breaking Impasse at the ABA Mediation Institute in Nashville and my message to the group was that when things get stuck, you need to change what you are doing.  Treat the concept of being "stuck" merely as feedback that whatever is going on is not working. It may not be anything that you are or are not doing.  It often is the situation itself or the participants themselves. 

For me, mediation is about helping participants make choices. What do they want to do with their dispute, conflict, claim, etc.? Do they want to resolve it and what might that be or not and proceed on to whatever process will be next. In litigated cases that I often mediate, the choice is clear to either settle now or perhaps settle later or go to hearing.

When things get stuck it's often because people are not yet clear on what they want or need to do. They think settlement and hearing at the same time. Our job as mediators is to get folks thinking in both the same ways they have in the past and inviting them to think differently. To do this you need to do different things as a mediator. 

At the ABA conference I suggested that you tell stories to get folks thinking. Stories both take your mind off your own problem and give you a frame for consideration. I like the one about the boy walking along the beach throwing starfish back into the ocean - its on the front page of my website - www.roybaroff.com.  There are many others.

So, try a story next time. Get out your Easy Button or magic mediator wand!  Don't rehash old topics, use the stuckness as both a reason and your license to be creative, to tell that joke you just heard, to take a walk outside, to get some lunch, to . . .

The list goes on and on.  In 2014, try something new!