Friday, September 22

Coaching - is it ok?

I came home in bad weather on the plane today seated next to a colleague.

Rather than my usual trick of listening for changes to the pitch of the engines (and hoping the young guy up front has given the stick to the old bloke with the gravelly voice beside him) we had an animated debate about coaching parties in mediation.

I don't mean conflict (preventive) coaching, I mean during the mediation itself... as I think I am being asked for strategic advice as mediator more than I used to be.

Is it OK to give it? Is it OK to get it?

Is it in the role description of a third party neutral? Is it legal advice? Can you stay in the middle if you are assisting one party at his/her/its invitation and not the other?

I am mostly asked about 2 things;

1. 'how can we trust the other side/have the other side trust us', and
2. 'how can we take positions/make concessions in an appropriate way'

And I do coach on these and other aspects in many mediations -- I'm OK with that, my friend was not.

I often ask parties to practise their next play and to rehearse their response to the spectrum of reactions they may get back.

I often seek to persuade lawyers to omit or at least reframe a speech they are about to make and discuss how they might best say it, sometimes asking how they can give less of a speech, and more of a dialogue or how the message can be got across less defensively or, on one occasion, more aggressively.

The hard part is coaching when you have not been invited to do so. Should you and how do you?

I know being tentative works here, offering up suggestions without a lecture, its the Mary Poppins' spoonful of sugar go down-wown approach.

Check out Conflict Coaching – When It Works And When It Doesn't and Mediation Coaching: A Form Of Conflict Coaching

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