How to do Maverick Mediation

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How to do maverick mediation

How to do Maverick Mediation. I took as my starting point for creating, developing, and using my unique mediation process the need to enhance the benefits of my ACAS accredited expertise as a workplace mediator.

My area of focus is conflicted senior teams. You can well imagine the corrosive impact on individuals, teams, and organisations of workplace conflict when senior colleagues themselves are in conflict. Invariably when I meet participants for the first time, they are traumatised, due to years of intensifying conflict. This affects them deeply both in their personal and business lives.

It is imperative that I can develop authentic rapport with people who are fearful and stressed about the mediation process, and sceptical about my personal expertise.

In my previous career in policing, whether interviewing victims, witnesses, or suspects, I recognised that it was my responsibility to create ‘an oasis of calm’ for them to feel able to speak from the heart, their perspective on events. In other words, their unvarnished truth.

Unlike other colleagues, I did not start from a preconception to validate my assumptions or theories about challenging events. I ensured that people were appropriately comfortable to speak freely and openly about such matters. Engendering trust and confidence in my fairness, neutrality, independence, and fairness was as essential for me in policing as it is today in workplace mediation.

The importance of authentic rapport and using the four domains of emotional intelligence to create that ‘oasis of calm ‘and a ‘safe space’ for traumatised people is critical.

The domains of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management are key features, for me, of life and business.

During my policing career, I was fortunate enough to be exposed to the theory of Coaching as a leadership style. In contrast to my colleagues who practised micromanagement within the context of Command and Control, I deployed my style appropriately and effectively.

The politest term used about me was that I was a ‘maverick’.

It comes as no surprise to me, after all, my definition of leadership is, knowing ourselves, and those we are responsible for, as people, and behaving accordingly.

This experience and expertise finds it’s most powerful expression in mediation in the icebreaker stage. Workplace Mediation is about facilitating traumatised people who are unable to communicate positively with one another, to develop a sustainable, fair and authentic strategy for moving forward together.

In my direct experience, the sad state of affairs that leads to my services being requested, is one that has existed and has been deteriorating for months, sometimes years. The participants have become traumatised by their conflicting positions, and the failure of other processes, such as grievance procedures, misconduct hearings, or impending Employment Tribunals to resolve issues in an equitable manner.

Indicators of conflict can reveal themselves to organisations by absenteeism, sickness rates, presenteeism, and projected resignations. Unlike Mediation, which is a win-win for the participants and their organisations, the other processes are win-lose or even lose-lose.

The costs of workplace conflict in the UK were estimated in a 2021 report ‘Estimating the cost of workplace conflict’, by ACAS as some £28.5 Billion per year. 

  • 9.7 million employees experienced workplace conflict in 2018/19
  • £11.9 Billion, cost of resignations
  • £10.5 Billion, cost of disciplinary dismissals

The human cost of workplace conflict is almost incalculable; as are the benefits of a successful mediation.

I was reminded of this fundamental truth within the last fortnight. My area of focus is conflicted, senior teams.

I was on my lunch break after intense Individual Meetings. I was walking along a corridor when I saw that the door of a nearby room was open. I looked into the room and saw a lady wearing glasses. She smiled at me and said “hello.”

I replied “hello”. I must have looked puzzled because she said ” You don’t recognise me do you?” I apologised and said ” I’m afraid I don’t!

She took off her glasses, and whilst laughing said “I expect that you do now?”

I recognised her as a lady who had been a participant in the successful mediation of 6 senior managers, that I had conducted, the preceding October.

The participants had been in a conflicted situation for two years. The Board of Directors of the organisation were unaware of this unhappy and undesirable reality until executives of partner organisations brought it to their attention, because of behaviours at partnership meetings.

“How are things?” I asked.

“I’m fine, and we are all getting on great. Thank you so much for what you did in the mediation last year.”

These expressed sentiments, and the evidence of my own eyes, were a true measure of success for me, the participants and the organisation. When the smiling lady had first presented herself to me, she had been a very different person. She was traumatised, unsmiling, uncommunicative and intended to resign from the organisation.

As a direct result of my unique Icebreaker process, which enhances my ACAS accreditation, and Civil Mediation Council registration as a workplace mediator, we had developed authentic rapport and trust between us.

Traditionally in workplace mediation, the first time that participants meet their mediator is at an Individual Meeting, where they are expected to discuss in depth the reality of their perspective about the matters at hand. This is highly challenging for all the obvious reasons.

My police career had proven to me the value of creating ‘a safe space’ for victims, witnesses and suspects to develop trust and confidence, in my fairness, neutrality, objectivity and impartiality. This could not be achieved by my ‘going for the jugular of ‘tell me what happened?’ as soon as I entered the room.

My Icebreaker stage consists of an individual meeting with me.

In the Icebreaker stage, we do not discuss the matters relating to the mediation. The sole purpose is to develop authentic trust and confidence in me as a mediator and the ACAS mediation process. There is a day between the icebreaker and the Individual Meeting. This period of reflection, according to participants, enables them to process issues more fully, and in the Individual Meeting, to talk about their true interests, rather than at the level of positions. This is because we are not meeting as strangers.

You can see why delivering tranquillity out of trauma is no mere strapline or soundbite to me.

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Anthony Munday was educated at Alleyne’s Grammar School, Old Stevenage, and the University of Sheffield. He ‘served and protected’ for 34 years with Hertfordshire Constabulary as a police officer. Anthony was regarded as a ‘maverick ‘senior leader. He learnt and developed coaching as a leadership style. This was in contradistinction to the prevailing culture of command and control. Anthony is an independent leadership consultant. He has recently published a book which distils his leadership expertise. It’s called ‘The ESSENTIAL Heart of a Leader’. Anthony is also an independent ACAS accredited mediator. His expertise is to bring tranquillity out of trauma, amongst conflicted senior teams. Anthony is accredited in Structured Debriefing. In essence gathering the relevant people together to ensure lessons are learnt by organisations, and change ensues. In 2006, he conducted the structured debrief on behalf of the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) into the significant protest involving climate camp activists. The subsequent NPIA Report formed the basis of ‘Adapting to Protest’ Manual of Guidance, this utilised the lessons learnt from the debrief. It is still relevant today.

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