As long-standing readers know, when I left the FCO back in 2007 I qualified as a professional Mediator and had ideas about developing that line of work.
It turned out not to be easy to do that if one lived well away from a seething centre of serious disputes such as London. So with other colleagues I set up The Ambassador Partnership instead, where we use mediation and negotiation skills to solve significant commercial problems of different shapes and sizes and deliver top-end corporate diplomacy technique masterclasses, now in partnership with The Guardian.
Still, that mediation skills training from 2007/2008 went deep. Last week to test it out I attended a major Mediation Competition organised by ADR Group, a top UK and European mediation organisation. It took place at St Hugh’s College, Oxford. Scores of mediators took part.
The format was interesting. There were three rounds. Everyone was divided into teams of three (say A+B+C). In two rounds A+B or A+C were teamed parties in a mini-mediation. In a third round A joined someone from another group as a co-mediator. So everyone had the chance to be a mediator once and be a disputing party twice. Each roleplay was assessed by professional experts and marks awarded for specific techniques (active listening and careful questioning; reflecting and reframing; use of silence etc).
Mighty glittering trophies the size of undernourished eggcups were awarded to the overall winners in different categories.
Suffice to say that organising all this on the scale needed for so many participants (and getting each person exactly the right roleplay role-sheet in the right room at the right time) was a fiendishly complicated exercise. And the ADR Group team did it 100%.
In the roleplay where I was a co-mediator, it turned out that my partner was Lori Pinkerton-Rolet of Park Grove Design (we had not met before). We had a mediation scenario where an Indian business family had had a serious falling-out and a lot of personal and business matters were tangled up unhappily.
In the relatively short time available we could not bring them fully to resolve all their differences, but we were well down the way to achieving that. The assessors were delighted with our subtle tag-team technique and style (“Phenomenal – one of the best such examples I have ever seen“).
Imagine our surprise (and delight) when Lori was named Best Individual Mediator for the whole competition and I was runner-up. Plus we both won Team trophies as well. Glory!
So, anyone interested in having Lori and I act as a superb co-mediation team to help sort even the most miserable and protracted problems of all shapes and sizes need only get in touch.
You really can’t afford not to do so. Jaw-jaw better than war-war, and all that.