There’s a difference between being in a field, and being a leader in a field. A leader is not only good at what they do; they do it in such a way that makes them a model for others to follow. They ask questions and forge new paths, advancing their field in new and exciting ways.
Leaders are influential. They conduct studies, they give talks and presentations and workshops, and they train newcomers to their field.
What can you do to become a leader in conflict resolution and mediation?
Lead by innovating
Leaders seek to improve and innovate their profession. They study what they do and how it can be done better. They seek to understand why problems exist and how to eliminate them.
Take a close look at a mediation issue you find interesting, intriguing, or problematic. What is the cause of the issue? Societal? The court system? Mediation itself? Confirm your answers with studies: surveys, analysis, tests.
When you have confirmed the cause of the issue, ask yourself what can be done to improve it. Formulate a SMART (specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, time-based) plan and implement what you can. Your new way of doing things will differentiate you from other mediators.
Track your results and publish them in industry publications so others can benefit from your work.
Leaders have something to say, and aren’t afraid to say it. Public speaking skills are essential to an influential leader.
Begin by offering to speak at local Rotary or Lions club meetings, or at your chamber of commerce. Keep it simple at first; just talk about mediation in general, how it works and why the results are so positive.
When you are ready, sponsor a mediation workshop or informational class. The increased interactivity with students will further hone your ability to think and speak on your feet.
Finally, give a presentation at an industry conference. This is the best place to present your study of a problem and your innovative plan for its remedy; conferences are attended by industry leaders and newcomers alike, so your ideas will be heard.
Every time you speak, you are improving your public speaking skills as well as establishing your identity as a leader in the field of mediation.
Lead by training others
Leaders lead. They help others acquire the training, skills, and knowledge they need to make their shared profession a high-quality one.
Options for providing training, skills, and knowledge include conducting workshops and classes on your own or a regular teaching gig at a dispute resolution center.
Another way to lead by training is to become a mentor. Take on a mentee or intern, and allow him/her to observe and/or co-mediate your cases. Model for him/her the abilities of a high-quality mediator:
Create a safe environment for their clients through the design of their office, their tone of voice and body language, and their choices of words when speaking
Understand what parties really want by staying focused on parties’ values rather than their positions
Gather all relevant facts without allowing an imbalance of power to develop
Know when to keep parties talking and when to take a break
Understand and communicate the ramifications of a settlement and its effect on parties other than the parties (e.g., children, co-workers, neighbors)
Leadership takes work, but you can do it. Most professional mediators do not set out to become such; they simply love what they do and care about it enough to go the extra mile… and, one day, discover they’ve become a leader.
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