‘Work & Entrepreneurship’ Category

Mergers – The Human Dyamics

In the new economy businesses are seeking innovative ways to partner and merge with others.  Partnership can bring significant benefits.  However, the partnering process is often destructive and alignment is difficult to achieve.  Recently I was asked why mergers are so challenging and how partners can avoid the typical merger pitfall of squashing out one team.

In almost every industry – from rock and roll bands to internet start-ups – the inability to manage conflict is a precursor to failure. Mergers are especially difficult because of the significant changes and uncertainties that go along with the transition.  By their very nature mergers amplify all of the “normal” conflicts that already exist in both camps.  And, typically it is not the financial or quantifiable details that destroy a partnership, its the human dynamics.

Under every human conflict someone feels dismissed, discounted, disenfranchised, or disrespected.  These emotions can reek havoc during a business merger.  However, since conflict management is not quantifiable or visible it is often a forgotten commodity.  Stake holders typically don’t realize that they need someone else to help manage conflict – until the conflict has escalated to the point of destruction.

What can you do?  Bring in a professional mediator to assist with the transition.  In order to avoid a crisis, it is critical that conversations are held early on, during the window of merger hope and enthusiasm, as well as along the way, when obstacles start to appear.  This strategy will bring to light and immediately address any perceptions that one person or one team is being devalued – before the destructive emotions are acted out or acted upon.  Clearly, in the case of a merger the best person for facilitating these conversations is a third party neutral with no prior loyalties to either side.

Course Correction: Shifting Mediation Paradigms

Last year I celebrated my 20th anniversary as a mediator.  Clearly, for me, mediation is not just a job or a business, its my life’s work.  During the last twenty years I have studied conflict and conflict management (mediation being a process of conflict management) and I have mediated criminal, commercial, workplace, and divorce disputes.  Today, I believe that my most important work is as a mediation trainer and that my legacy will be my many students, who use mediation formally and informally, to make the world a better place.

As I look around at the current state of the mediation industry five things continue to annoy me.

1.    Professional mediators are trained in three different venues:  law schools, University based masters and PhD programs in dispute resolution, and 40-hour “Certification” programs offered by private providers.  Each group of students leaves training with different needs.  These needs are often unacknowledged and they remain unmet as  follow-up/future training is typically limited.

2.    There are limited employment opportunities for mediators and the majority of Mediators and Conflict Management Consultants are self employed.  So, training programs should (but most do not) include substantial marketing components.

3.    The “popular” training model – 40-hours of classroom training, followed by a short, on-site (often difficult to acquire) mentorship – was adopted in order to quickly train professionals coming into the profession with experience and knowledge from a related field.  This model has relegated mediation practice to a secondary position.  Re-positioning would require expanding and enhancing the training period and including a true practicum component that is supervised by a practitioner trained in mentoring.

4.    In today’s competitive marketplace branding is a critical component of any marketing plan.  This means that mediators (and other ADR professionals) need to have clear niche expertise.  So, basic training must be followed by advanced training in the niche area.

5.  In order to further the process of mediation and the profession of mediator we must have lobbyists that represent our concerns, on both the state and national levels, with legislatures and executive lawmakers.  And, we must have PR spokespeople who carry our message to the public.

New Year’s Resolutions For Small Business

Recently I was asked to put together a list of resolutions for small business.  As I read them over however, I realize that these are also great resolutions for anyone – business owner or not.  Most important, remember that baby steps are usually best when talking about change so please look at these proposed resolutions as year-long projects instead of quick fixes.

1. Resolve to clean out the clutter. Clutter is unprofessional and a psychic drain – blocking creative energy and new ideas. When a business’s physical space is disorganized or overcrowded it sends a negative message to staff and customers. Use ebay, or an ebay reseller like Deb Heller (tadi4again on ebay); freecycle (www.freecycle.com); or a bartner exchange (www.nubarter.com) to get rid of your extra inventory and unwanted items.

2. Resolve to tap into your existing resources. List your personal and professional resources and create an action plan outlining how you will use each of those resources during the next month, six months, and year ahead.

3. Resolve to give your website a face lift (or makeover). Your web presence should be viewed as your business’ face on the world stage. It should be a work in progress. Keep your website current and make frequent updates and revisions. Make sure your website links to your Facebook, twitter, and blog pages.

4. Resolve to reduce expenses. What worked during boom times will not work now. If it is too difficult for you to see what you can trim, sit down with someone else who doesn’t know that much about your business. Show them your expense spreadsheet. Explain where your money is going. Which expenses can you justify? Which ones seem out of line?

5. Resolve to provide exemplary customer service. Your customers are the key to your success. Can you keep your customers happy? I am amazed at how often I encounter businesses that seem oblivious to the fact that if they don’t make their customers happy there is someone else waiting for the business. Stay connected to your customers, find out what is working for them, what isn’t, and what needs you can meet.

6. Resolve to create an out-of-the-box niche. Your out-of-the-box niche is what makes you stand out from the crowd. If you don’t have a niche and nothing in your industry calls to you, start studying your industry’s past, current, and emerging market trends. Do some market research by talking to targeted customer groups and find their unmet needs. Having a niche doesn’t mean you turn away other business. You can still take that business in. But, having a niche gives you a marketing target and expert status.

The 10 Step Plan For Ending Feuds and Fights and Re-Building Connection

Yes, you can resolve even the nastiest of your conflicts, if you are committed to rebuilding the relationship. This article outlines my 10-Step plan for ending feuds and building connections.

Click here to go to Ezinearticles.com and view Elinor Robin’s complete article

Employee Loyalty – 13 Tips For Getting it and Keeping It

Employee loyalty is synonymous with achieving a balance that brings feelings of connection along with a commitment to produce. Ultimately, loyal employees can bring some BIG benefits. Loyal employees promote customer satisfaction and help keep expenses low. This article discusses 13 tips for achieving and maintaining employee loyalty.

Click here to go to Ezinearticles.com and view Elinor Robin’s complete article

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