Harnessing Stewardship: Enhancing Value in Mediation

By A.I. Adrinfo, Edited by Doug Katz – 05/10/23

Mediation serves as a powerful tool for resolving conflicts and disputes in a peaceful and constructive manner. As mediators, we constantly seek ways to add value to the process, fostering an environment where parties can find common ground and sustainable solutions. Too often people take a winner take all approach to conflict where their point of view and personal goals completely eclipse other courses of action that would protect assets and end more productively.  One approach that holds significant promise in changing the approach in mediation is the concept of stewardship. By incorporating stewardship principles into the mediation process, you can unlock its potential to facilitate transformative and enduring outcomes. 

Understanding Stewardship

At its core, stewardship embodies the responsible and ethical management of resources, relationships, and interests. It extends beyond self-interest and focuses on the collective welfare and future generations. In the context of mediation, stewardship encourages parties to move beyond positional bargaining and adopt a mindset that prioritizes collaboration, empathy, and sustainable solutions. It fosters a shift from adversarial mindsets to a shared commitment to finding common ground and achieving mutually beneficial outcomes.

Stewardship stands as a powerful antidote to the destructive forces of greed and selfishness that can permeate our personal and professional lives. While greed focuses on self-centered accumulation and short-term gains, stewardship redirects our attention towards the collective welfare and long-term sustainability. By fostering a mindset of responsibility, empathy, and accountability, stewardship challenges the corrosive influences of greed and selfishness. It encourages us to prioritize the well-being of others, future generations, and the broader community. Stewardship invites us to rise above self-interest, fostering an environment of collaboration, fairness, and care. In doing so, it not only transforms conflicts but also inspires positive change in our relationships, workplaces, and society at large.

The best way to fully understand how stewardship adds benefit to the individual and the greater stakeholders on an issues, here are some examples of where you can see effective stewardship and its benefits every day.

In the Workplace

  • In a leadership role – a manager who practices stewardship takes responsibility for nurturing and developing their team members’ skills and abilities. They provide mentorship, offer opportunities for growth, and empower employees to reach their full potential.
  • Environmental sustainability – A company that embraces stewardship in its operations implements sustainable practices, such as reducing waste, conserving energy, and minimizing its ecological footprint. They may also support initiatives like recycling programs or renewable energy sources.
  • Ethical decision-making – A business executive who practices stewardship makes decisions that prioritize the long-term welfare of the company, its employees, and stakeholders over short-term gains. They consider the impact of their choices on various stakeholders and strive to act in an ethically responsible manner.

In Life:

  • Personal Relationships – Stewardship in personal relationships involves actively listening to others, showing empathy, and supporting their growth and well-being. It includes being emotionally available, offering guidance, and being accountable for one’s actions.
  • Sustainable Living – An individual practicing stewardship in their daily life takes steps to reduce their environmental impact. This can include conserving water and energy, minimizing waste, using eco-friendly products, and supporting sustainable practices in their community.

Community Involvement:

  • Volunteerism – Engaging in community service or volunteering demonstrates stewardship by actively contributing to the betterment of society. This can involve participating in local initiatives, supporting charitable organizations, or advocating for social and environmental causes.

So basically, there are numerous and myriad examples of stewardship leading to selfless behavior and suppressing the self.  I wrote a past article on the concept of ego death and how this allows more reflective and productive mediation.  The concept of stewardship helps with this everywhere, but especially in mediation through bringing selflessness and common sense to the process which manifests in a few areas.

Facilitating Effective Communication

Stewardship promotes open and respectful communication, which is fundamental to successful mediation. Mediators can encourage parties to adopt a stewardship mindset by emphasizing the importance of active listening, empathy, and understanding. By cultivating an atmosphere of trust and respect, mediators create a safe space for parties to express their needs, concerns, and interests openly. This sets the foundation for constructive dialogue, reducing defensiveness, and promoting a cooperative problem-solving approach.

For example, in a neighborhood dispute over noise levels, the concept of stewardship can encourage parties to engage in effective communication. Mediators can create a dialogue where both parties express their needs and concerns, promoting active listening and understanding. By adopting a stewardship mindset, the parties can work together to find mutually acceptable solutions that balance individual preferences with the collective well-being of the community.

Encouraging Long-Term Thinking

One of the key contributions of stewardship to mediation is its emphasis on long-term thinking. Stewards recognize that decisions made today can have far-reaching consequences for the future. By helping parties consider the potential impacts of their choices beyond the immediate dispute, mediators can steer them towards solutions that are not only fair and equitable but also sustainable in the long run. Stewardship prompts parties to consider the broader implications of their actions, fostering a shared commitment to creating lasting value and preserving relationships.

For example, in a business partnership dispute, the concept of stewardship can promote long-term thinking. Mediators can guide the parties to consider the future sustainability and success of the business beyond the immediate conflict. By fostering a stewardship mindset, the parties can explore solutions that not only address their current concerns but also ensure the growth and prosperity of the partnership in the years to come.

Promoting Collaborative Solutions

Stewardship aligns with the principles of collaboration and joint problem-solving, which are crucial in mediation. Rather than focusing solely on individual interests, parties are encouraged to explore win-win outcomes that address the needs of all stakeholders involved. Mediators can facilitate this process by guiding parties to consider creative alternatives, fostering brainstorming sessions, and highlighting shared goals and values. Stewardship provides a framework for parties to find common ground and develop solutions that promote collective well-being and sustainable relationships.

For example, in a labor dispute between a company and its employees, the concept of stewardship can facilitate collaborative solutions. Mediators can encourage both parties to recognize their shared interests, such as maintaining a productive and harmonious work environment. By adopting a stewardship approach, the parties can explore innovative solutions that address the concerns of both sides, leading to agreements that not only resolve the current dispute but also foster a stronger and more sustainable working relationship.

Fostering Ownership and Accountability

Stewardship instills a sense of ownership and accountability in the mediation process. By encouraging parties to take responsibility for their actions, decisions, and the outcomes of mediation, stewards foster a commitment to implement and uphold the agreements reached. Mediators can reinforce this by facilitating the development of clear and actionable agreements, ensuring that all parties are actively involved in the decision-making process. Stewardship empowers parties to honor their commitments, fostering a sense of trust and reliability.

For example, in a community dispute over the use of public resources, the concept of stewardship can foster ownership and accountability. Mediators can guide the parties to take responsibility for their actions and decisions, emphasizing the importance of preserving and responsibly managing the shared resources for the benefit of present and future generations. By embracing stewardship, the parties can develop agreements that promote sustainable resource utilization and ensure the long-term well-being of the community.

Stewardship Elevates the Mediation Beyond the Self

Incorporating the concept of stewardship into the mediation process adds tremendous value, transforming it into a catalyst for sustainable resolutions. By promoting effective communication, long-term thinking, collaboration, and accountability, stewards enable parties to transcend their differences and forge durable agreements. Mediators who embrace stewardship principles empower parties to find common ground, fostering solutions that not only resolve the immediate dispute but also pave the way for a future built on trust, respect, and shared well-being.

Disclaimer: This article was created with the assistance of multiple ChatGPT AI language models and has been edited and refined by Douglas Katz. The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as professional or expert advice. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of ChatGPT or OpenAI. Readers are advised to do their own research and consult with relevant experts before making any decisions based on the information provided in this article.