How to Overcome Challenges to Your Mediation Practice?
An unwelcome surprise
Every business owner faces numerous challenges, and mediation is no different. Many mediators have abandoned their practices after only a few months because the financial reward did not meet their expectations.
Anyone considering a successful career in mediation should inform themselves of the challenges they are likely to face and prepare themselves accordingly.
The challenges of running a mediation practice are dependent upon several variables, including location, area of practice, and length of time the practice has been in business. As such, it is impossible to cover every possible difficulty a mediator may face, but some common challenges include:
Lack of confidence
This is a common challenge for mediators just starting out, because the only way to build confidence is with experience. New mediators need to believe in their philosophies and their capability to help people with a problem. If you have a confidence problem, hang in there and keep going. The more mediations you conduct, the more confident you will become in your purpose and abilities.
Lack of clients
Mediators must remain constantly engaged in marketing and visibility efforts in order to get clients and turn them into referral sources. Marketing is the only way for mediators to get their name out, especially when just getting started.
A basic marketing plan identifies target markets and describes how the mediator can meet their needs. It also identifies how this mediator is different from the others – what is it that they offer to clients that other mediators can’t? Is it decades of experience in a related career? Is it an unusual specialization?
Regardless of how long they’ve been in business, mediation practitioners should be answering these questions all the time, across all channels. From in-person activities like speaking at meetings and conferences to online activities like writing a blog, anyone they come in contact with should understand why this mediator is distinguished from others.
Online presence should always be maintained, as well. At the minimum, a skilled mediator should have a professional-looking and useful website, and stellar profiles in mediator platforms.
Lack of training
The challenge of lack of training is harder to define. Because a mediator’s role is extremely sensitive, lack of training usually shows itself in ways that are intangible. Perhaps the mediator doesn’t quite have a trustworthy demeanor, appears to take sides during a mediation, or crosses some other boundary instead of remaining completely neutral.
How can this happen?
While it is true that some states require minimal training, it is also true that many states do not. Consequently, there are mediators who set up a practice with no real mediation skills.
There is also no standard for the trainings themselves, so mediators who didn’t research their options thoroughly may find themselves paying for “training” that is woefully inadequate.
Mediators who are serious about their profession, regardless of where they live, should begin with a 40-hour basic mediation training. This is usually enough to be recognized by the courts as qualified to mediate, if that is the goal, but is really very minimal.
Dispute resolution training providers, colleges, and universities are all resources for more advanced training. Consult “ Where to Find Mediation Training? ” for more information about training providers.
Continuing education and other training opportunities are also found in conferences and workshops, available for any level of skill. Conferences and workshops are more agile in their content, allowing them to be reflective of the ever-changing philosophies in the world of mediation.
Lack of support
Mediation is a relatively new discipline, and there are still areas of the country where courts have yet to understand that mediation is beneficial for all parties involved in a lawsuit. It can be difficult to convince disputants and their lawyers to try mediation to settle the conflict rather than allowing the court to determine the outcome.
A good strategy for overcoming this particular challenge is to get to know the lawyers and judges in the area. Host an open house in your practice, give a talk at one of their meetings or conferences, or just visit with them one-to-one. Talk about mediation – how it works, why it works, why you do what you do, and why it benefits all parties involved.
Chances are that the benefits of mediation, explained with your mediator’s calm and trustworthy demeanor, will pave the way for new relationships that will change everything.
Mediators will face challenges on every step of their business journey, but if you can keep working, keep marketing, keep learning, and keep communicating, you will overcome most of them. If you are ever in doubt, talk to a mentor and ask them how much effort it took to realize their dreams -- it isn’t easy, but they did it, and so can you!
A stellar profile in the MediatorSelect.com database and an examination of our resources are two tools that you can use to help you overcome your business challenges, no matter where you are on your professional journey.