«Starting Out in Mediation Eve Pienaar Aled: Hi, everyone. My name is Aled Davies founder of Mediator Academy, the home of the passionate and ...»
Starting Out in Mediation
Aled: Hi, everyone. My name is Aled Davies founder of Mediator Academy, the home of
the passionate and ambitious mediator and a place where mediators of all shapes
and sizes, aspiring mediators through to the seasoned professionals, come and
listen to experienced mediators tell a story about how they've built their
mediation career, how they've handled particular challenges and situations that
they have encountered along their journey, and what they have done that has really helped them be successful.
I find these interviews really inspiring. I have so many takeaways from them, so many learning points that I get, that I gain and I hope you will too so that you go out there into the world, carve your own path, build your own success story, make a difference, come back here, and tell your story to my audience.
Today's guest has over 25 years’ experience as a solicitor, in private practice and senior in-house counsel roles. She's been the legal director for the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors for the past nine years and was a Vice-President of New Business Development at Warner Bros.
She's on numerous mediation panels, including See to Solve and ADR Group and a number of others. She's published a whole bunch of articles on mediation in many professional journals. Her fluency in three languages makes her an ideal fit for mediating international disputes. She has a calm engaging mediation style and helps parties focus on creative and realistic settlement outcomes. According to the website [Classroom 2:13], she's completed 79 mediations and she's just starting out.
Now, most mediators I know tend to give up one career to start another, namely their career in mediation. They train to become a commercial mediator, but then the reality of the situation hits them and they discover it's not as easy as it first sounds. Not today's guest. She's doing it differently. Today she's going to talk about how she's developed her career as a mediator and share some of the challenges she's encountered and, importantly, how she's handled them.
Eve Pienaar, welcome.
Eve: Thank you, Aled. Thank you for asking me to join today.
© MediatorAcademy.com 2016 All Rights Reserved Aled: Oh, my pleasure, Eve. My pleasure. Seventy nine mediations, that in itself is a lot of experience. I bet it doesn't even include any of the ones you do as a volunteer community mediator, right?
Eve: That's right.
Aled: Is it more than 79? Where are we now?
Aled: Fantastic, and rising and rising.
Eve, when we spoke in the pre-interview and I said why I wanted to interview you, it's because I think you've developed your mediation career and the way you have developed, actually, is not just impressive; but I think there are important lessons that any other mediator starting out can learn from you.
Aled: You have immediately got my attention. I could spend hours, days, weeks, months creating business plans, thinking about how am I going to get from A to B, all the different steps that I need to take. My business plans probably are six© MediatorAcademy.com 2016 All Rights Reserved months to 12-months business plans. Yours is a 10-year business plan. I am intrigued. Tell me more.
Eve: I think that mediation, the reason I am so passionate about it, there are a few reasons, but one of them is it's a journey of self-development. I think that I have many things that I can bring to the table in mediation from experience. You described some of the professional experience I have, but also some of the human and communication skills.
It's really about weaving all those together over time to reach a level of excellence, really, in helping parties. That's not something you can just learn from reading text books or going on courses. It takes time and experience.
Eve: To achieve that status, if you want. Granted, they started off in a market which wasn't crowded the way the market is today. I had set myself certain targets that I wanted to reach and certainly wanted to derive income well before the 10-year mark. Being realistic about how quickly you can build a practice and how much of it is slow burn about doing workshops, supporting others, educating, participating in thinking groups, contributing to articles, all of these things that one does which can reap benefits quite far down the line.
Aled: You've named a number of different things that maybe make up your business plan, contributing to groups, sort of discussion groups, participating in training.
Obviously, investing heavily in your own learning and development and that's on a continuous basis. You referred to that already.
Aled: In your 10-year business plan, you set yourself some targets. What sort of targets did you set? I'm asking because I think anyone watching this now contemplating a career in mediation, I just wonder how many people starting out have actually done what you've done. There's a great little anecdote. It's not really an anecdote, but a saying. I think it's an army or military saying, "Fail to plan, plan to fail."
© MediatorAcademy.com 2016 All Rights Reserved One could look at you, Eve, and say, “Here's someone who's thought it through, that's planned it out and that's why she's on track in terms of pursuing your career in mediation.” What were some of the targets that you set at the beginning for yourself?
I set myself some fairly ambitious targets in terms of how much I wanted to be involved in mediation at any level that I could provide a positive contribution. It may not have been, initially, doing 10 mediations a year. It might have been shadowing 10 mediations a year, getting onto a community panel, learning from others, reading all the books that I could get my hands on in terms of mediation and related fields of everything from cognitive behavioral therapy to understanding conflict and how conflict has a bottom line cost organizations.
Elements of your plan involved, sounds like, throwing yourself at anything that would enhance, develop your learning and give you opportunities to assist other mediators and give you opportunities to get your first mediation. Are you on track with your plan?
© MediatorAcademy.com 2016 All Rights Reserved Eve: Yes. I aim to double every year the number of commercial mediations I did the year before.
I'm a very strong believer in supporting more junior members of staff to help them, to provide them with skills, which are leadership skills really.
Aled: I was going to ask you that, actually. I'm imagining someone watching this interview now might be thinking to themselves, “I want to take the leap. I want to take the step. I'm a little bit nervous because I don't have any experience. I don't have any sort of credibility or connections in the legal mediation commercial space. I'm reluctant to let go of my current employment and take that risk.” It's a massive risk. It's a huge risk, a career change to mediation.
What I want to try and help people think differently about, how they go about contributing to the world and bringing their mediation skills, not just mediating, but how they can transfer their skills and add value. I keep saying this in most of my interviews. It's not as if there isn't enough conflict in the world. There's enough conflict to keep every mediator busy full time and some.
Eve: I agree.
Aled: If I'm sitting there listening to you, I'm thinking, “Okay, how can I use my skills so that my current employer can derive some benefit? There's a win/win in there for me reducing my time to four days a week and taking a day to start developing myself, developing my skills, developing my network, writing my business plan, my five-year, my 10-year business plan so that there's a win in it for my employer as well.” © MediatorAcademy.com 2016 All Rights Reserved Eve: No, I think that's key. I think mediation is something which cross-fertilizes from having another job on the side, which in my case is my main job. It's a four-day-aweek job. The two learn from one another tremendously and afford some... The development that you do in one feeds the other at the same time. I think that's been very useful.
Anybody who throws them into the mediation profession by leaving the day job and thinking that they can just then walk into, as you would, with another profession, just walk in and take a job, I think that would be very, very high risk.
It's something that you develop over time these skills to be a good mediator and, frankly, we all want to be busy. There's busy and too busy, but we all want to keep active. The intellectual and all of the commercial knowledge that keeps growing with working feeds into the mediation practice. I would find it difficult to just jump into becoming a full-time mediator.
Eve: It's a very good question because it has been life changing for me. One of the things I believe, and through my mediation training, is transparency. I had undergone some very, very significant conflicts through a very acrimonious divorce. I realized that I had not been dealing with that well at all. The toxic effects of conflict were apparent all around me and I felt strongly that there must be a better way of dealing with conflict. It's, as you said, inevitable. There will be conflict. How do you deal with it as a grown-up, as an adult, as opposed to just reacting to it?
I looked into various things and I came across, funny enough, just a one-day introduction to mediation run by the Law Society, of all uninspiring places. I © MediatorAcademy.com 2016 All Rights Reserved shouldn't say that as a lawyer. It turned out that it was absolutely fascinating. I started reading up on it and became very, very intrigued.
Aled: A life event happened that led you into sort of a curious place of there's got to be a better way dealing with these situations and you've never looked back.
Eve: No. It's improved my relationships with difficult people, in particular, tremendously. I actually now get them to do the things I want them to do and they feel good about it. Some things work very well.
© MediatorAcademy.com 2016 All Rights Reserved Eve: I invested in some things which weren't the right investment. I spent a whole Christmas, the first Christmas, setting up websites. In fact, I never used the websites. I do everything on email. Email is the vehicle, really, which works best for me because I've got such a busy diary.
I started reading voraciously on mediation. I was quite persistent with CEDR who was really the first organization I decided I would affiliate with because I loved their approach to high standards and evolving a standard of excellence. I was lucky enough to be invited to join their panel, which was a tremendous opportunity. Then I asked to shadow as many mediators as I could.
Aled: I want to give credit to those mediators that give people like you and people like me opportunities to shadow. Would you mind sharing who they were, Eve?
Eve: No. You don't know what's going to work. I certainly didn't do this, in particular, to make it work. I did it to spread the word. I gave a talk at one of the CEDR evenings, an exchange evening, on community mediation and the effect of noise and how that creates a conflict which is hugely physically, physiologically, and psychologically damaging for people and how we can help them with that. I remember I was probably quite passionate about it.
From that came some opportunities from people in the audience who said, “I'm really intrigued by your talk, really sounds amazing.” Then I said, “Well, I'd love to talk more to you about it. Can I shadow you?”
Aled: You created a presentation about community mediation, talked about it passionately, inspired your audience and that created opportunities for you.
© MediatorAcademy.com 2016 All Rights Reserved yourself, create opportunities to talk about community mediation. I think that's a really great opportunity for aspiring mediators to get a way in to mediation and experience what it's like at the core face.
Eve: Absolutely. They are very real conflicts, which create huge amounts of hurt so very interesting to work with. It's central to my philosophy of mediation that I should give back as much as I receive. It's absolutely essential to me.
The trouble with mediation on a commercial level is it's very expensive. It's tremendously rewarding and fulfilling to actually be able to make a difference. It does. It really works and it really helps. It's very challenging for us, commercial mediators because, of course, the skill set is the same competencies, but you don't use them at all in the same way. It's so much more transformative and we're not used to that as commercial mediators.
Aled: Tell me a bit more about that. Help me understand that.
Community mediation is all about human conflict, hurt, assumptions, feelings that somebody looks down on you when they go past your window, all of these layers of vulnerability which you uncover.
I've had some wonderful ones where the other side, when they actually hear what their behavior is doing to the person, literally, you can see their bodies relaxing and going, “I can't believe that's how you felt, Scott. I never wanted that to happen. Let's make this better.” You know when they leave together and one gives the other one a lift that you've actually affected some deep change.