Mediation mindset: what’s yours?

Posted on Jun 22, 2024 in Communication,Mediation,Workplace Behaviours . 0 Comments.

Do you want to know the number one misstep management make when they are mediating a difficult conversation in their team? Thinking and behaving as if they are completely independent. Yep, trying to stay, and pretending to the participants and themselves, that they are completely neutral or impartial. Rather, management needs to recognise they are contributing to the conversation and actively managing the people, the situation, business risk and shaping the fall out as part of the conversation.

There is a science and an artform to doing that well. Even if you think you can be Switzerland, odds are the participants don’t see you as that. Recently, we came across a situation where Senior Account Managers described being “disappointed” and “let down” by their Leader who mediated between them “neutrally”. The described this as being at the expense of coaching them and sharing his thoughts, which was of course very important to the participants. His attempts at neutrality undermined perceptions of trust and impacted this leader’s individual relationships with his direct reports, further exacerbating the issues.

When we coach managers/leaders and P&C to run or facilitate tricky conversations, deliberate mindset and being clear on what your role is where we start.

Actively taking on a mindset will allow for choices in behaviour, approach, and your tone as a facilitator. Which of these is appropriate depends on the circumstances but its worth thinking them through and having a visual can be helpful. Think of a scenario you may need to facilitate, which of these would serve you best?


A Bridge Builder: Just as a bridge connects two separated sides, you are connecting conflicting parties and helping to build a path towards resolution.


A Traffic Cop: Similar to how a traffic cop directs traffic to ensure smooth flow and prevent accidents, you are managing the flow of the conversation. Your deliberate signalling sets the tone, for example ensuring each party speaks in turn and stays on track.


A Translator: Like a translator who helps people speaking different languages understand each other, a mediator helps parties with different viewpoints and emotions to communicate clearly and understand each other’s positions. That means you need to tap into the individual participants languages, both what is said and needs to be said, to increase understanding.


A Coach: Just as a coach guides athletes to improve their performance, how are you getting the participants “match fit”? How are you helping them best perform on the day? Do you need to help them self-reflect, focus in on their or problem-solving skills etc?


An umpire: Your job is fair play. What are the ground rules.


A Gardener: What’s your green thumb like? Do you need to be a bit of a nurturer or weed out negativity and misunderstandings. As a facilitator you may need to help them understand they are part of a bigger ecosystem.

Which of these speaks to you? The mindset you choose will allow you to make deliberate choices before during and after the conversation. The conversation is not just the time in the room. For example, follow up or checking in after the conversation is key to ensuring commitment, continuing to demonstrate empathy and uncovering any lingering issues. Be prepared to make adjustments if the initial solutions aren’t working.

If you truly need someone independent then get someone who is unrelated to the dynamic or participants to facilitate. We are always happy to support!

If you know a manager, leader or P&C professional who would like to increase their capability and confidence in the area of facilitating conversations send them our way. We are running a ½ day intensive on August 20th in Melbourne

If this topic has interested you then check our earlier blogs:

Wellbeing Risk - What are the Right Questions to Ask
Managing Employee Activism