Mediation and the Military Mindset

By Douglas Katz – 11/02/2022

Conflict is part of the human condition.  Be it due to limited resources, different view points or both, we humans like to fight and we seem to always be able to find new ways to do so.  Whether in our relationships, work lives or our daily interaction with the world around us, conflict is everywhere.  The good news is that as rational beings we try to find new and better ways to reduce conflict.  One which has gained a lot of momentum in the world of alternative dispute resolution is mediation.  In a nutshell, mediation is about using a disinterested 3rd party to help parties in conflict to work together to create and agree upon an outcome which is acceptable to all parties and which, most importantly, ends the conflict.  While generally associated with divorce, mediation is a broad field that covers resolution of all types of conflict.

This is the second in a series of articles that I am writing about considerations while selecting a mediator.  I see too many people neglect this most important part of a mediation and all too often this can hinder outcomes.  Not all mediators are created equal and that is actually a GOOD thing.  Every mediation is different and the parties are different which definitely shapes the best selection.  I recommend deciding what kind of mediation experience that you want and interviewing/selecting a mediator based on their personality as well as a set of skills that match your needs, wants and preferences.  Hopefully my insight on some characteristics and mindsets will help you make the right selection.

There are very few mediators that I have seen that became mediators as a first career.  More often, mediators have had multiple jobs and even a few careers.  Their style, their wisdom and, in turn, their value comes from the experiences in those jobs.  For me, my time at West Point and as an officer in the U.S. Army shaped me and how I approach everything to include mediations.  This is not unique to me and veterans are widely valued as employees, leaders, vendors and partners.  Why is this the case?

People talk about a military approach to life and even vote for candidates with military experience to leverage that, but what are they really seeking.  While they joke about every veteran being a drill sergeant, the truth is much different.  They know we are not all the cartoonish caricatures that stand out in the media.  While everyone may have their own list, for me it comes down to several specific things.

Organization, discipline and execution are hallmarks of a good military unit.  While most of the uninitiated think just in terms of elite units, this actually permeates all parts of a good military from direct combat arms to support units. Standards and standard operating procedures bring a consistency to the execution to the military.  This framework provides every service member from the lowest enlisted to the highest officer a common plan which becomes immensely important during engagement and when face with the fog of war.

While the mechanics of military operations are about organization and execution, blind following of the plan is not the intent.  There is a saying that no plan survives first engagement with an enemy and without innovative deviation from the plan, a plan would fail.  This is a key part of the military’s training and, like the procedures, is instilled in servicemembers at all levels.  This thinking on my feet

All of the operational components of the military are great, but they are not the only reason people value veterans and their military experience.  The word that I hear more often than not is character.  That hard to describe aspect of a person that is the amalgamation of their positive personality traits has a common thread in those who served.  While exceptions apply, servicemembers and veterans are described with words like integrity, sacrifice, courage and honor.  They were in the business of doing what they needed to do even when cold, hungry, tired and uncomfortable.  Most did so with optimism and a sense of humor that made the unbearable more palatable.

Any veteran who was responsible for others did so as a leader.  Motivating their subordinates through tough times and doing so with fairness and transparency.  A military leader’s education is done so with the constant consideration that the leader will make decisions and lead as if lives depended on it.  Corporate America even hired specifically from the former non-commissioned and commissioned officer ranks when they saw how it helped them build amazing organizations.

A mediation is in no way a military operation and hiring someone trained to engage in conflict could seem counterintuitive, but, as you can see, it makes a lot of sense.  You want the process organized but you also want someone experienced with problem solving in the face of uncertainty.  This yin yang of keeping things on track while using innovation to reach an objective is invaluable.  Finally, you want someone of character to lead you through the process.  You should be content that the person helping you is doing so without subterfuge or their own agenda and that they are assisting you with the integrity.  This is the value to you by hiring a mediator who has lived and can bring to you the military mindset.

Do you have have a mediation need? Tell me about it and let me see how I can help.

I always end with a reminder that we have discounts available for veterans, first responders and law enforcement. Make sure that you check out the section of the page covering our commitment to those who served with discounted mediation services.  My lending partner also offers a discount as well, so if your buying or refinancing check it out