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Dynamos, Cruisers and Losers

Capture99Before I left my law firm in the late 1990′s David Maister, a Boston management guru of whom many of you will know, was the darling of every large service firm, especially in the law and accountancy fields.

He has long since retired but at his height he was good, very good – despite being a former Harvard Business School professor, he had a practical wisdom that could cut through the management gobbledygook I was struggling with at my firm’s monthly management meetings at the time.

But it was the way he brutally labelled the three types of professionals, that he said inhabited service firms globally, that really caught my attention.

At any given stage in one’s professional life, Maister o [...]

Mediation Prey

I’ve got to admit that the John Sandford “Prey” crime novels, featuring the complex detective Lucas Davenport, are a guilty pleasure of mine, both in text and particularly audiobook formats. I can usually get through an unabridged audiobook during one of my frequent return car trips between Ottawa, where I live, and Toronto, where I now mediate about 80% of my cases.

The concept of “prey” (in the sense of “take advantage of; exploit or injure; cause constant trouble or distress to”) comes to mind as I read and re-read two recent thought-provoking posts on this blog: Jeff Krivis’ June 16th post, “Settlement Drift” and Michael Landrum’s post, exactly a month later, “Top Ten Miscellaneous Obser [...]

The Rise and Fall of Tension

Tension Raising Behaviours;

100% statements


Put downs and excitable statements



Collecting allies

Non-verbal behaviours

Preparing an attack


Defensiveness/self justifying

Over detailing

Tension Reducing Behaviours;

Acknowledging probable legitimate concerns

Put in perspective

Be specific

Own the interpretation

Own the personal response

Invite feedback

Invite response

Lessons in Life for Mediators?

I am interested in convergence – of ideas, of behaviour, of trends, of different disciplines. The more I read, the more common themes I discern in the arts, science, spirituality, leadership and in what we do as mediators. A reflection of this is found in the African concept of ubuntu, “the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others.” These are the words of Nelson Mandela. Ironically, one of the finest books I have come across recently which encourages this idea of convergence is Mandela’s Way: Lessons in Life, by Mandela’s biographer, Richard Stengel.

In fifteen short chapters, Stengel captures the essence of what made Mandela special – and each one of [...]

CEDR’s Sixth Mediation Audit 2014

For the sixth time in the past 12 years, CEDR, the UK’s Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution, conducted a 10-minute online survey of UK civil and commercial mediators during May 2014. Raw data has not been published but the results summary was released on May 22nd (available here).

Almost 295 mediators responded (18% up on the 238 that responded to the 2012 survey). 22% of those responding were “novices” (had passed basic mediation training but had no experience as a lead mediator) and another 22% were “intermediates” (had some or limited experience of mediating). 56% described themselves as “reasonably” or “very” experienced, undertaking more than 10 mediations a year.

CEDR’s survey summ [...]

Contrasting mediations….richness awaits…..

I write here about two contrasting experiences which have, for me, underscored the richness of the mediation process.

In one mediation, involving business partners with an ongoing management issue, one of the protagonists (A) suggested bringing in another partner (D) who was not perceived to be a part of the present problem, simply to observe, be a resource to the participants and help balance numbers as A, a more junior partner, felt outnumbered by B and C who held senior positions.

D made clear at the outset that he did not wish to say much and that he did not wish to become embroiled. However, a private meeting with him elicited much information that seemed helpful going forward. Rather [...]

Kaizen and Cellos – How To Become A Better Mediator


The legendary cellist Pablo Casals was once asked why he continued to practice at the age of 90. “Because” he replied, “I think I’m making progress”.

It is an extraordinary acknowledgement from a man widely regarded as one of the greatest ever cellists. Let’s be clear – Casals was a colossus in his world. Fritz Kreisler (himself a brilliant violinist) called him “the greatest musician ever to draw bow”. He played for English Queen Victoria at 22 and the American president John F. Kennedy in his eighties. And yet we find him, in his nineties, still committed to making progress.

The same question confronts all of us, in any field, who aspire to do something well. We mediator [...]

Helping Businesses Doing Business

I have heard the title of today’s post during CPR’s Business Mediation Congress , which took place last week in Brazil. It couldn’t be more correct: companies should not be in the litigation business, but in the business of doing business.

With vast participation from different segments of the local business community, two important topics reached the top of the agenda of the Congress:

1) How companies can implement and benefit from Mediation and other forms of ADR;

2) The current belief that the use of “specialist” Mediators in corporate cases is more effective than the use of “generalists.”

As these two topics are very different from each other and, due to their relevance and [...]

The Big Picture

Story telling and humor are among the essential tools in any mediator’s kit. Of course, when it comes to humor, mediators learn early in their career that the self-deprecating variety is usually the safest choice. This turns out to be quite good for me since in my life there is no shortage of material to draw on.

In an insurance mediation this week I told a story of a somewhat embarrassing incident in which I had been involved recently. I thought readers of this blog might find the story both interesting and instructive.

I’m a neophyte photographer. I enjoy spending a sunny morning with my digital SLR snapping pictures of the various birds and flowers that grace my backyard. Here’s a recent [...]

A False ‘Prince Charming’ Keeps ‘Sleeping Beauty’ in a Coma: On Voluntary Mediation Being the True Oxymoron of Dispute Resolution Policy

The recent publication of a study conducted for the European Parliament on Mediation, “Rebooting the Mediation Directive,” has contributed to the ongoing debate about effective mediation policy. I am the coordinator of that Study, whose results were based on 816 questionnaires completed by respondents from the 28 member states of the EU.

The Study determined that mediation in the EU is still the “Sleeping Beauty” I first heard about when I decided to enter this field 20 years ago. Despite many decades of stagnation, renewed enthusiasm and repeated efforts to revive her, the consensus seems to be that our princess is more than just asleep. The Study concluded that unless “elements o [...]