Sunday, April 15, 2012

Learning something new

In March, I had a chance, courtesy of my employer, to attend mediation training.  It was something new.  I was excited.

Mediation.  

NOT meditation.  NOT medication.  Mediation.  Six days.  40 hours.  A boatload of learning.  A very full brain.  Oh, and while I was away, my regular work piled up.

But it was okay.  

This training is offered once a year and it was a remarkable opportunity.  I was in a room with  fabulous people from various professions - attorneys, a judge, mental health professionals, business people, and a couple of us from higher ed.  I was the only person from human resources.

What a shame.  Every human resources professional should go through this.  

The training was provided through the Dispute Resolution Center of West Michigan. The facilitators were highly successful attorneys-turned-mediators.  The content was presented, we watched, then we practiced. We practiced.  We practiced.  We practiced.   Then we were observed in our practice AND GRADED.

Ugh.  My only hope was not to totally screw things up.  

Mediation uses so many of our fundamental HR skills with one dramatic difference.  As human resources professionals, we are at times called upon to make decisions.  In mediation, we make no decisions.  We are simply listening deeply, facilitating conversation, helping parties move from their position, probing for needs, understanding interests.

I didn't get to make one decision except what to have for lunch.

That was tough. With command as one of my top 5 strengths, I like making decisions and keeping action moving.  This training was waaaaay outside of my comfort zone. It's what made it so very great.

It was also humbling.

I wasn't immediately good.  This takes practice.  Understanding issues.  Neutralizing inflammatory language. Developing agendas.  Getting to agreement.  Lots of practice.

Intentional listening is tiring.  I came home exhausted.  But I learned so very much.  Many people really know what is at the core of the problem.  They know where they should give and where they should get.  As mediators, it's our job to help them flex into places where they can concede and where they need.

If you are looking for ways to grow professionally, explore mediation training in your area. To be considered certified, I have to do an internship by observing two mediations and mediating on my own.  I will probably watch more than two before I head off on my own.  But that's another post.

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