As the field of coaching takes a foothold in the conflict management world, best practices and procedures will increasingly develop. Some dispute resolution professionals have been providing various forms of coaching in their work, for many years. However, there appears to be a growth in the development of a one-to-one coach approach for among other things, helping people improve their conflict management skills, prevent unnecessary disputes and to effectively resolve those that do arise. This article is about post-mediation coaching, one of the applications of coaching.
Objectives of Post-Mediation Coaching
Post-mediation coaching is a voluntary and confidential process that either party may choose, after they have engaged in mediation. Among other things, this process may be employed to:
Mediators who are trained as conflict coaches are well-situated to offer value-added assistance to disputants, in ways that are not traditionally within the purview of mediators.
Applications of Post-Mediation Coaching
As a process that may form a part of providing workplace mediation, post-mediation coaching is premised on the notion that mediation does not in every case, fully resolve parties’ feelings and the issues between them. Even if for all intents and purposes, the issues are resolved and the relationship is reconciled, parties may well benefit from follow-up coaching, relating to lessons learned about managing conflict and other matters regarding their conflict conduct.
In the usual course, mediators do not know the extent to which the outcome or relationship unfolded or what if any, after effects may prevail after the mediation process is over. Mediators are in a unique position to provide continuing intervention for whomever may want it, having observed how the parties conduct themselves and being aware of the outcome of mediation. As a consequence of this opportunity, the mediator-coach may also provide useful feedback and observations on the party’s conflict conduct, reactions and so on.
Exploration about unresolved issues and matters pertaining to the relationship further raises coachable occasions. Alternatively, if matters in dispute and/or with respect to the relationship are not resolved, coaching helps to facilitate how the party or parties who choose this process, may manage the unresolved situation and relationship.
In previous articles that I have written on pre-mediation coaching, I have expressed the view that the mediator is not the ideal person to be a pre-mediation coach for both parties and the mediator. This is on the basis that meeting with parties and preparing them for the process, is different from the concept of coaching. In my respectful opinion, being a coach and then, the mediator for the same parties compromises the mediator’s perceived or actual impartiality.
On the other hand, if coaching is offered to both parties at the mediation as a post-mediation intervention, the parties are aware that any/either of them may choose this process and the chance of perceived bias on the part of the mediator-coach is not as likely to be an issue. Coaching both (or more) or one of the parties at this juncture will therefore, be chosen by whomever wants some follow-up, either specific to the dispute or generally, e.g. regarding their conflict conduct, etc.
There is a great deal to discuss about best practices and the benefits of post-mediation coaching, as coaches and mediators consider whether or how this type of follow-up may be applied in workplace mediations or other contexts. Experience with conflict coaching including post-mediation coaching, has raised many interesting issues for this writer. I look forward to more dialogue on this subject and to hearing from those of you who are interested in or who are using this tool.