Sometimes you can tell there is a danger that a situation is likely to explode. That’s when it’s time to consider some professional help to diffuse it. Moderation is a preemptive form of mediation. It is scheduled and conducted before a specific conflict has broken out in an organization or group, but when conflicts are likely to arise due to a variety of reasons. These conflicts, handled well through the moderation process, can be productive rather than destructive. Moderation can bring out diverse perspectives and creative solutions-oriented thinking, through respectful directed communication. A skilled and trained moderator/mediator provides the opportunity to approach challenging situations and dynamics from a new direction, increasing the odds of group success.
If your group is facing one of these five situations, consider moderation as a strategy for successful conflict navigation.
- Historical Patterns of Conflict
- High Conflict Issues
- Strategic Planning
Historical Patterns of Conflict. Over time, contentious patterns of dealing with issues can develop and hinder goal setting, decision making, and productivity. This can be especially true when there are power struggles, power differentials, or when trust among the group is damaged. Board of directors, business partners, leadership teams, committee members, department teams, and even families can find themselves locked in to patterns that are counterproductive and harmful.
High Conflict Issues. Emotions fraught with strong emotions, such as planning care for loved ones in need, selling a family business, or considering a new partnership or buyout offer frequently lead to conflict. These issues often involve money and can be anticipated to be difficult to resolve and put strain on important relationships.
Strategic Planning. If you don’t know where you want to go, how will you know when you arrive? Strategic planning is critical for organizations. It can be a powerful tool for improvement and growth. But whether you are following a 4, 5, 8 (or other) step process, there are likely to be disagreements along the way. There will be diverse perspectives on everything from priorities to who is accountable for what.
Transitions. In the life of an organization, transitions can be key turning points. Leadership transitions bring change and that can bring questions, confusion, and distraction. Other major transitions, including those that involve significant technology changes, goal or vision shifts, or relocations can either bring a group closer together or tear them apart, depending upon how it is handled.
Mergers. The merger of any two organizations, whether churches, businesses, charities, teams or countries, can be tricky. Even when there are substantially similar backgrounds, values, goals, and objectives, there will also be differences. These differences can act like rapids in a river, if navigated well they become a part of the adventure, if not they will capsize a raft.
When your group or organization is facing one of these five situations, a session with a moderator/mediator might be just what you need to navigate it well. The structured process of communication and brainstorming can build new interaction patterns and create a productive environment for tackling a wide variety of issues.
Esther DeWitt is an industrial-organizational psychology practitioner specializing in conflict and leadership issues. As president of Conflict Navigation, her services include mediation, leadership and organizational consulting and training, anger management coaching, and curriculum and material development.
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Image: The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Hand grenade : correct position of thumb when throwing; thrower’s firing lever will not be thrown over when grenade leaves hand. Loaded with an powder and explodes 5 secs after it leaves hand (4-8-1918).” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1860 – 1920. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47d9-bd47-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99