I’m in the middle of reading two books, both of which should be on every mediator’s night table — Final Exam, A Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality by Pauline W. Chen and Faith-Based Reconciliation: A Moral Vision that Transforms People and Society by Canon Brian Cox.
Why should a commercial mediator read these books? For the same reason your business clients should — they address the most important technology for making business effective and efficient — do it yourself dispute resolution.
Maximizing Profit by Negotiating Peace
As my dear friend attorney-mediator Richard Millen says, “people don’t have legal problems; only lawyers have legal problems; people have people problems.”
I’ve adopted Richard’s mantra for commercial litigation — businesses don’t have legal problems; businesses have business problems and most of those business problems are people problems.
Organizing teams of people into efficient working groups — whether it be your Board of Directors; your research scientists; your associate attorneys; your sales staff; or, your physicians — is the greatest challenge of every business — making inventing the cure for cancer look like child’s play.
We are a fractious, competitive, grudge-bearing, insecure, angry, difficult bunch. And yet everything we have ever accomplished by way of creating civilization and insuring our own survival as a species has resulted from our ability to communicate with one another for the purpose of engaging in a team effort.
Suppose you are not the biggest person on the block, but you have thousands of years to become one. What do you do? If you are an animal, the most straightforward approach is becoming physically bigger, like the alpha male in a dog pack, with selection favoring muscle and bone. But there is another way to double your biomass. It’s not be creating a body but by creating an ally. If you could establish cooperative agreements with some of your neighbors, you could double your power even if you did not personally double your strength. You could dominate the world. Trying to fight off a woolly mammoth? Alone, and the fight might look like Bambi vs. Godzilla. Two or three of you however, coordinating your behaviors and establishing the concept of teamwork, and you present a formidable challenge: You can figure out how to compel the mammoth to tumble over a cliff. There is ample evidence that this is exactly what we did.
Did I say I’m also in the middle of reading The Brain Rules and you should be too?
So, here’s the thing. I’m starting a new category on the negotiation blog — Do It Yourself Dispute Resolution. The next several posts are going to talk about what we need to understand to do that, jettisoning our attorneys for most of the business and people problems that end up in court so that we can reserve the attorneys to plan a better, more profitable future instead of fighting over the unprofitable past.
And the litigators? There will always be matters of principle; new law; new problems; and, new conflicts to resolve that require the process of an adversarial proceeding. I’m just looking to notch up your legal work a bit — make it more interesting, satisfying and people-problem free.
Ready? Let’s roll!
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