To mark the launch of my new book 'DIY Mediation. The Conflict Resolution Toolkit for HR', I have compiled a series of questions and answers about the book. This blog gives the first 5 Q&A's and my next blog will give the next five.
What is DIY Mediation?
DIY Mediation is simply the essential skills, process and tools to enable you to resolve low level workplace conflict yourself. In my work as a mediator and before that in HR I noticed that most conflict in the workplace escalates from minor issues. If these had been nipped in the bud by managers or HR, then unnecessary, painful and costly conflict could have been avoided. Often organisations jump too quickly into formal grievance and disciplinary processes which are unlikely to resolve underlying relationship issues. So what’s the answer? You could call in a professional mediator like myself but you don’t want to do that for every relatively minor issue. I like to think of it in terms of an electrical problem in your house. You would certainly call in a professional electrician if your house needed rewiring, but to change a lightbulb or replace a plug you’d do it yourself wouldn’t you? But to be safe you need to know the basics. It’s the same with workplace conflict. Having the basic skills, knowledge and process means you’ll be able to ‘do-it-yourself’ without the risk of making the situation worse. So that’s what DIY Mediation and this book is about. I’ve taken the essence of mediation and simplified it, giving you a step by step process to follow, explaining the skills you need and providing tools and resources to facilitate you using DIY Mediation to resolve that conflict.
Why did I write this book?
When I first started out as a professional mediator I didn’t have any intention to train others. In the course of my work I spoke to numerous HR professionals who time and time again mentioned how opportunities to nip conflict in the bud were being missed through the lack of competence and confidence of line managers and HR in spotting and dealing with conflict. Having been a manager and a mediator I realised I could create some simple training which could address this. That’s when I developed the AGREE model, the process element of DIY Mediation, and have been training HR and line managers in its use ever since. The simple, pragmatic approach has always been well received but you can only reach so many people in a classroom training session. So a book was the obvious choice to reach a wider audience. The training was simply called ‘conflict management skills training’ and for the book I needed a more catchy title. DIY Mediation was the obvious choice as it captures the essence of the simplified mediation approach I am advocating – literally enabling those learning it to ‘do-it-themselves’.
Who is the book intended for?
The subtitle of the book is ‘The Conflict Resolution Toolkit for HR’ because the book is aimed primarily at HR professionals. That’s not to say that the content wouldn’t be hugely beneficial to line managers and indeed anyone who wanted to improve their ability to manage conflict, but I believe it is the HR sector that will benefit most. Within most organisations it usually falls to HR to support the business and address difficult employee relationship issues. So whether you are part of a HR team in a larger organisation or a HR Consultant providing support to smaller companies, the learning in this book is a valuable addition to your toolkit. Having worked in HR myself I know that there are many HR professionals who are capable of dealing with low level conflict but haven’t had the training in the approach to use or a framework to follow. This is what the book seeks to address.
What are the key elements of DIY Mediation?
The DIY Mediation approach has at its heart some of the key principles of mediation. Your role is to be an impartial facilitator – you are not taking sides or forming judgements. You are there to help the employees find their own way forward rather than imposing solutions on them. You do this by working through the AGREE model and applying the 4 key skills of DIY Mediation.
The book enables you to learn DIY Mediation by taking you through three main sections:
The Issue. The critical knowledge needed to understand conflict - what it is, why it matters and how to recognise it. I’ve split this section of the book into two parts – what you should know, and what is useful to know. So if you are desperate to get on with it you can skip part two.
The Skills. The four key skills to apply when using DIY Mediation which are Questioning, Active Listening, Assertive Communication and Impartiality. The skills are supported by straightforward, practical tools which will enable you to apply them more effectively.
The Process. The AGREE framework, a simplified step by step mediation model you can follow to intervene quickly and effectively. The section takes you through the five phases in detail including guidance on what to look for and tips on how to manage it. I also look at how DIY Mediation can be applied when you part of the conflict, or potential conflict, yourself – what we think of as Difficult Conversations.
What is the style of the book?
We all have busy lives so it was important for me when writing this book to make it a practical, easy read, which you can go back and refer to as and when needed. The writing style is simple and straightforward and structured into digestible ‘chunks’ of information. The emphasis is on practical implementation so if you are looking for academic theory this is not the book for you. I do examine conflict but from the point of view of giving you just enough context to enable you to use DIY Mediation effectively.
I use the word ‘toolkit’ in the subtitle as the book gives the reader a wealth of tools and resources they can call upon to help them in using DIY Mediation. In addition to the core process of AGREE there are tools to remember key skills such as the REASSURE model for Active Listening or tools to facilitate the process such as the UNBLOCK tool to assist you when you hit an impasse.
One final point about the style of the book. I always find it helpful to be able to refer back to the really important bits of a book. So I’ve tried to help the reader in two ways. I’ve included nearly forty ‘Key Points’. These are highlighted hints, tips and reminders which emphasise valuable nuggets which are worth noting. I’ve also included a ‘Quick Reference’ section. This summarises in less than 20 pages the key learning in the book, so if you need a reminder at any point you can quickly scan through this section rather than reading the whole book again.
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Discover the skills and process you need to resolve low level conflict in the book ‘DIY Mediation. The Conflict Resolution Toolkit for HR’
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