Meditation before Mediation

This is the seventh part of a 12-part series featuring snippets from our new book, Team by Team. The only team building book ever written by the actual team. You can buy the ebook here.

Articles in this series:

  1. Selfishness: The Key to Teamwork
  2. Failing Forwards
  3. Stretch vs Support 
  4. Teeming with Teams
  5. The Honey Badger
  6. Say What You Mean

When it comes to conflict within teams, it’s common for a dispute to be escalated upwards in a somewhat inefficient fashion. Let’s get the boss to handle this. Management to the rescue.

Mediation: the process by which someone tries to end a disagreement by helping the two sides talk and agree on a solution.

A few years ago, as a new Sales Manager, I found often myself being the mediator with my team. The cause? The distribution of inbound sales leads. As my team were targeted and measured on sales revenue, inbound enquiries – those from very interested parties through the company website – were seen as golden eggs of varying sizes. Thus, the fair allocation of them brought about a whole host of team scenarios I wasn’t prepared for and some issues with team agreement.

Often, the team weren’t able to resolve inbound lead disputes between themselves and looked to me for objective mediation. This happened on more occasions than I would have liked. I wanted to be thinking strategically on how to develop my team and creating a bolder vision for how we were going to have more impact. The time spent mediating these inbound lead issues and trying to set up separate processes to prevent them felt deeply inefficient.
What if this could have been resolved in a different way? Between themselves as a team rather than involving me, and sometimes even our CEO, in lead allocation clashes?

Going inwards before out.

I’m on a personal journey with meditation. I’m working on getting into a regular routine, but when I do engage in a quiet ten minutes a day, I find some amazing ideas, solutions and alternative perspectives come to the surface. Similar to when we get our best ideas in the shower, meditation allows our brain and monkey-minds to relax. Unconscious problem solving really does appear to work its magic.

Meditation: the act of giving your attention to only one thing, either as a religious activity or way of becoming calm and relaxed.

What if, before the manager or a conflict mediator was called in to resolve a dispute, both parties were encouraged to meditate in some form. Not only would the go-to mediator be able to continue with their most value- adding work without interruption, the team would start to learn an alternative way of resolving conflict.

Would it be that…
1. A few minutes spent taking their attention off the perceived injustice of the situation gave rise to some empathy?
2. They replaced haste with some space, and as a result devised some win-win options?
3. Emotionally charged defensiveness diffused into calm and relaxed constructive problem solving?
4. The conflict was resolved in the team before a mediator was even needed?

Empowering our teams to resolve conflict early on

Encouraging both parties to meditate could be enormously empowering for a team. It helps individuals take charge of difficult situations by looking inwards first. Recognise your own conflict style, reflect on it and bring a solution yourself.

For a team, it’s likely that using inner reflection as a first point of call will build greater empathy amongst peers, and after resolving a conflict successfully once, the team belief is cemented that it can be done again. Whilst everyone may not want to physically meditate, the premise of this can be adjusted with different techniques.
Meditation, after all, is a practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness, the conscious awareness of one’s thoughts in a particular moment, may be encouraged in any form – a walk outside, a few minutes of quiet reflection, a few deep breaths.

“Meditation is a practice of mindfulness; the conscious awareness of one’s thoughts in a particular moment.”

Thinking back to my inbound lead warzone, I would love to go back and ask them to go for a mindful walk or check into a meditation app like Headspace for ten minutes, then return with a few proposed solutions.
So, let’s challenge ourselves. Next time within our teams, when we find ourselves reaching straight to a mediator in a conflict, can we look towards meditation instead. Alternatively, if we see ourselves more often than not being requested to mediate, it’s time to push back and ask those in conflict to peace out. Let’s bring meditation in before mediation and see if we can resolve conflict before a gridlock dispute occurs.iw

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