Resolution Blog by Lesley Allport and Katherine Graham.
Are you looking to carry out workplace mediations? Not sure what the training would involve? CMP’s Marketing Officer, Matt, explains!
After joining CMP in January, this year I quickly became exposed to a range of new terminology and workings within the world of HR, and in particular, workplace conflict resolution. Quite a foreign world to me, but I gradually became more familiar with Mediation, what it is used for, and the principles on which it is based. As is the basis for all CMP employees, as part of my induction training, I was enrolled onto our very own Professional Workplace Mediator course, which took place across 6 days in March in central London.
Being very lucky in only having a short 20-minute commute by car to the CMP office, I first needed to adjust my schedule and become a London Commuter! Luckily, Cavendish venues’ training rooms were easily reachable, just a couple of stops along the circle line from London Kings Cross.
Being the first to arrive, meant I had the opportunity to catch up with Patrick and Anna, who were the CMP practitioners running the training for the week (and indulge in my fair share of breakfast offerings put on by the venue….mini croissants…..!).
I’d previously met Patrick when attending our Conversational Intelligence training day, so was pleased to see a familiar face. Being the first to arrive also gave me the opportunity to meet the other course attendees as each of them found their way to the venue. Initially, a little daunted by many of their levels of seniority and experience in comparison to mine, but quickly felt at ease after getting to know everyone a bit better!
The first day began with an introductory meet-and-greet, we each had a chance to introduce ourselves, talking a bit about the company we worked for, why we were there, and in what capacity we would be utilising the skills learnt upon the course. I was lucky to have been placed on a course with a real variety of attendees, some worked for the government, others in healthcare, private organisations, the military and professional sports. Most of the other attendees would be looking to perform Mediations for staff members within their organisations, while others were looking to gain an additional skill to use outside of their day jobs. For myself, I took the course as an opportunity to get a detailed understanding of the mediation process and a better knowledge of CMP training offerings, such that I can market our products and effectively communicate with new and existing clients. Although not currently in a position where I will carry out Mediations myself, I went into the course with a keen desire to learn and develop new skills that would be transferable, or I may make use of in the future.
The first day began with an overview of the psychology behind conflict. We learnt about how and why conflict can develop between individuals and the contrasting ways in which people may react to conflict. We had the chance to discuss in pairs, the conflict management styles that we practice ourselves. This was an excellent method to become self-aware, a crucial skill to draw upon when performing mediations. Interlaced between a superb lunch, and more timely breaks (again, more delicious food and drinks!!) the remainder of the days’ teachings focussed on the mediation process, and how it is beneficial within the workplace.
We then had the opportunity to see an example of a conflict in action. Some excellent acting from Patrick and Anna was put on show, demonstrating a family dispute. What appeared a simple conflict of interests, quickly became a much more complex dispute, which through questioning from the course attendees, was found to represent some much deeper unmet interests and needs. The more we questioned, and the more information we uncovered by doing so, the greater warmth and empathy I began to feel for each person involved in the dispute. Morale of the story… be curious! Once again, a crucial skill for the process of Mediation! (But also, one, that can certainly be used in pretty much any interaction with another person.)
The day ended with a chance to reflect. We each provided feedback to the rest of the group of one important part of the day’s training, and what we’d learnt from it. (Plenty of options here!) We were warned not to have too late a night, which was very wise advice. With so much learning, within a different environment, the days did take their toll- so for anyone attending the course, I would follow our trainers’ advice and not plan too much for the evening- other than some relaxation and an early night!
The same routine again for the second day, after an interesting and enjoyable first day on the course, I was eager to find out what we would be covering next!
We spent the morning together as a group, working through some further key communication skills that would become crucial for the Mediation process. We discussed the importance of the environment within which the Mediation session takes place, and how we can best structure the room in order to facilitate an effective conversation. We also then discussed the language used within our conversations, and how we should adapt this to effectively facilitate the Mediation.
A key learning here… never say ‘How did that make you feel’… rather ‘How do/did you feel’. Using the word ‘make’ implies causation, whereas we want to uncover independent feelings of the parties during a mediation session.
Some flipchart activities followed. Here we practised the art of reframing: when inappropriate or unhelpful language is used, it is important, as the Mediator to mirror this back in a more sensitive/ appropriate way. In such the Mediator sets an example to the participants as to how they should behave. We split off into small groups, and circulated the room, to come up with our own responses to some scripted scenarios.
As would become standard practice for the remainder of the course, the Afternoon session involved some mediation role plays. After working through, as a group, how to introduce the mediation session to participants, we were given some role play scenarios and worked in pairs to practice the first meetings between mediator and participants! Some fantastic acting talents began to emerge, which, for the remainder of the course became very entertaining for all those involved. After completing the role play scenario, those taking on the participant role would have the chance to feedback to the Mediators. Likewise, we would be observed by Patrick and Anna, so it was really beneficial to hear a range of perspectives on our performance.
From this point onwards, the course developed into a familiar routine. After arriving in the mornings, we’d split off into 2 groups, half of the group would be working with Anna, the other with Patrick. Each day would uncover a further development or difficulty that could emerge as part of the Mediation process. The mornings would involve a range of interactive teaching methods, group discussions and paired activities. We’d have the opportunity to practice our new skills in front of the group/ observe others doing so. Then in the afternoons, we participated in progressively more complex (and entertaining!) role-play scenarios.
One of the activities I personally volunteered for was to have an argument, of any kind, in front of the group with Anna. Lesson learnt for me here: it’s very difficult to have an argument with someone that you aren’t actually angry with!
Having become familiar and well-practised with the individual meetings with the Mediator, we began to explore the workings of the joint sessions. The crucial skill within such sessions is to facilitate, rather than actively trying to control the conversation. Many of us are typical ‘problem-solvers’ so it at first seemed quite unnatural to adopt the mediator approach and let (what could be at times quite heated conversations) develop for themselves, for a reasonable amount of time.
For the remainder of the course, we continued to gather a practical knowledge of how the Mediation process should be structured. Through continual practice and regular feedback from our trainers, we all began to develop and become more confident in facilitating a discussion (both individually and in pairs) between the two parties, and how to draw the session to a close.
Role plays included a wide range of different characters, who, as all our acting skills further developed, presented a wide array of challenges to further test us trainee Mediators! A lot of fun was had by those acting as participants, with many of the trainees taking great delight in playing roles very different from their own personalities. The fifth day of the course involved the most challenging scenarios, some of which included discriminatory issues, and particularly challenging behaviours.
The final day of the course was our main assessment day. Here we were given complex role-plays (slightly less challenging than day 5!) to work through, and within small groups, we rotated around such that everyone on the course was given their final practice at being the Mediator. Final feedback was given by Patrick and Anna, before regrouping at the end of the day for the final time.
Delighted to hear that we’d all passed the course, we had the final chance to all say something to the group, warm words of thanks to the trainers and fellow attendees, before departing to enter the world as trained mediators! We all exchanged contact details, and it’s great to hear regular updates from the other attendees in how they are getting on in their respective workplaces! Some great friendships made!
So there we go, just a slight glimpse into the wide array of knowledge, skills and experience gained from attending the 6 days of our Mediation course! It’s not possible to fully communicate the full amount of learning that was achieved, and skills gained within one article. Not only (since completing and passing my post-course) assignment, am I now an ILM-accredited Mediator, but I’ve gained so many transferable skills, and learnt so many things about myself that I would never have previously known!
Next stop, in July- I’ll be attending our Professional Workplace Investigator course!