Monday, July 31, 2006

Perfection Paralysis

Perfection Paralysis

Did your dad tell you that practice makes perfect?  Mine did.  He was a great guy with a very strict work ethic.  I can still hear him saying, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.”  By right, he meant perfect. Now, it’s a wonderful sentiment but very difficult to live by.  Throughout my work life I’ve gotten feedback that generally stated my work was thorough and thoughtful, if only it didn’t take so long to produce.

Somewhere along the way I realized that seeking perfection is actually a way to sabotage myself.   Striving for the perfect sentence, marketing ad, or article slows me down until I’m paralyzed and unable to even address, much less, complete the task.

I’m having that sort of struggle now as I try to complete a new mini-course on retainer fees.  Days and days of research, writing and editing, and I’m still not satisfied with the outcome.  Not because it’s not good.  It is.  Because it’s not perfect.

Talking with my husband last night gave me a renewed sense of perspective and helped me plot a way out of "perfection paralysis".  Hearing him talk about waiting to publish our romance book until it was perfect reminded me of, well, me.  He was stalling because of fear that someone would find his work lacking.  I am delaying the new mini-course for the same reason.

Banish Fear

Then I remembered all the kudos I’d gotten over the years for my work.  A lot of work was close to perfect, some of it nowhere near perfection in my eyes; yet, people still found value and appreciated it.  I banished  my fears of being judged.  I’m ready to finish the course.

What About You?

What fears are keeping you from starting or finishing something?  What negative assumptions are playing like a broken record in the back of your head?

Try. Fail. Learn. Grow!


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Pay For Mediators Threatens the Status Quo

I'm thrilled to see more ADR professionals sharing their thoughts on mediator compensation in court-based settings. A recent article by Charles Parselles, a California mediator, at does an excellent job of illustrating the tremendous financial burden that mediators face.

Did you know that if a volunteer mediator did just 5 mediations a month that he or she would lose about $75K in opportunity costs and realize less thats $9K in actual paid work? That's quite a wake up call to any mediator who thinks that volunteering will lead to a robust career.

Paying mediators fairly threatens the status quo for key stakeholders like the courts and the organized bar. There seems to be very little incentive for either group to change a system that works for them from a financial and productivity standpoint.

The question is what are we going to do about that? If we consider ourselves to be invaluable resources, why do we continue to accept being treated otherwise?

Try. Fail. Learn. Grow.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Good Models- Part 2

Last post, I talked about using crossover concepts to build stronger mediation practices. I cited Southwest Airlines as a great example of actively seeking innovation. Now, I want to back up a step and re-examine how we think about the industry of mediation.

What Business Are We In?

I once read an article that described how to understand the underlying interests of a market. Once again, Southwest Airlines was an example of good thinking. It’s easy to think that Southwest is in the airline business. Guess what? They don’t think so.

Southwest discovered after some research that they are actually in the transportation industry. They compete with all other forms of transportation so they needed to understand why consumers would choose one mode of travel over another.

So, I ask you: what industry are we in?

Communication? Problem-solving? Facilitation? Self-Help? Self-Awareness?

And, who is the competition based on the industry choice?

Answering these tough questions will allow us to broaden the market and then narrow our niche, then work within a sub-niche that’s large enough to sustain a business.

For example, if we think we’re in the self awareness business, then perhaps we can find a place within the growing coaching space and ultimately become conflict coaches for newly promoted managers. Just a thought...I’m still figuring this stuff out for myself.

Let me know what you think.

Try. Fail. Learn. Grow.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Good Models Build Better Businesses

In the last few days I’ve heard several examples of what I call "crossover concepts" that I want to share with you as a reminder.

One of the troubles with building thriving mediation practices is that we have an intangible "product" to promote and a consumer base that’s uneducated. Using crossover concepts can help us get closer to our goal, or at least my goal, of having mediation become a top choice for resolving disputes.

I’ll break up this discussion into two posts to avoid a very long one here.

Part 1 - Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines has long been touted for its innovation in the airline industry in terms of operations and human resources. They strive to be better and actively search for ways to improve.

Southwest wanted to decrease its plane turnaround time - the time it takes to clean and refuel a plane - even though they were already the fastest in the industry. Where did that great idea come from? It was a crossover concept.

One of their employees was a NASCAR fan. While watching a race he realized that the pit crews were experts in rapidly prepping a car to get back into the race. Long story short - Southwest learned their methods and decreased its turnaround time.

What can you take from this?

Keep your mind open and actively search for great ideas in different fields. Mediators aren’t the only ones to struggles with challenges of credibility, education and demand.

Even great ideas can be improved. Mediators manage the process of communication very well. However, I’m sure that communication and the vehicles we use to communicate have evolved. Are we just keeping pace with these changes, or are we behind? Where’s the next innovation in communication and problem-solving?

That’s a lot to think about…

Try. Fail. Learn. Grow.


Friday, July 14, 2006

Start Where You Are

Simple words by Edgar Cayce that are very true.

You must start where you are. This thought resonates with me. As I embark
on this new adventure called ADR Practice Builder, I see there are so many
new things for me to learn. Google Adsense systems, podcasting, new html
editor programs...the list seems endless.

Now, that's great because I see myself as a life-long learner who thrives on mastering new things. It's also bad because I can be impatient and want to
master new skills immediately.

So, I'm starting where I am now- a learner who embraces the questions, not
just the answers.

If you've put off starting a mediation practice or feel stuck in the practice
you have, start where you are right now. Find out what the first next step is for you. Embrace that task; search for one answer at a time; and have fun doing it.

Oh, and don't worry if it's the wrong answer.

Try. Fail. Learn. Grow.


PS The July Laser Calls are available for registration now. Click here to check them out.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Pro Bono Strategies for Mediators

One of my favorite sayings is "Those who fail to plan, plan to fail". That's one of the reasons I think the strategy of volunteer- now called pro bono- has failed mediators. We haven't taken the time to establish goals or have a long term strategy in place.

I don't believe mediators should volunteer. I do think we should engage in pro bono with a specific aim in mind. I have a pro bono plan that I created several years ago when I started having difficulty saying no to deserving groups. I had so many requests that I started losing money because a good chunk of my billable time was committed to non-billable work. It was hell on my cash flow. Now, I know exactly how much time/money I will donate in any given year and can re-direct inquiries without feeling horrible.

Here's my plan. Don't copy it. Create something that works for you and the folks you serve now or plan to serve in the future.

Dina's Pro Bono Plan

Each year I set both an hour and financial target for giving. The reason I set both is because I can't predict duration or cost of any project in advance and not all projects require my mediation services. Sometimes I'm donating other talents or simply cash to a worthy cause.

So, a commitment might look like 15 hours of direct delivery of mediation services or $2000 in net revenues, whichever happens first. (Remember this is just an example.) I also offer non-profits a discount ( x% off) on top of this commitment.

I tend to take on the pro bono work as inquiries come. So, if the commitment is completed by March that's it for the year. You can decide to divvy it up any way you like. You set a "per quarter commitment" so that x hrs/y dollars are available from January-March. It's really up to you.

The Purpose and Goal

The purpose of the plan is to allow me to contribute to deserving non-profit organizations. My goal is two-fold: to support good work and to maintain a marketing presence in the communities I chose to support. I know that I'm achieving the goal when these organizations refer potential clients to my businesses, and

That's not really any different that other charitable giving organizations. Even Bill Gates requires a return for his philanthropy.

Give it some thought and see if this might work for you.

Try. Fail. Learn. Grow.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Pro Bono NOT Volunteering

Looks like I pushed a few buttons with my recent post, Making Money as a Mediator, on June 22nd.

Basically, what I said is that we are dooming ourselves as a profession by giving away our services so freely.

Many folks agreed. Bruce Ross, a New Mexico mediator, wrote to me to share his thoughts. He thinks that our terminology is hindering us. We say volunteer when we might be better served by saying pro bono as lawyers do. Here's a snippet of Bruce's note (the emphasis is his):

    I realized language is part of the problem. That bothered me. When a lawyer provides PRO BONO services, it means the lawyer has chosen not to charge a client for some, or all of a bill for various reasons. You don't hear that lawyers VOLUNTEERED.

    Likewise for mediators. If I chose not to charge someone, I am providing a PRO BONO service. I'm not volunteering. There is a MAJOR DISTINCTION TO BE MADE. For example; If, as a member of a non-profit, I am asked to collect tickets at the door of an event, I'm volunteering. That's because I'm not a "professional ticket taker", and I do not derive my income from that job. I AM A VOLUNTEER. When I don't charge for professional services that are my livelihood, I am providing those services PRO BONO. We all understand the difference when we stop to think about it.

    In the presence of those teaching mediation, students of mediation, colleagues and just about any conversation that arises about mediation, I make it a point to correct people when they use the word VOLUNTEER. I get some interesting looks and comments from, ", I never thought of that..." or
    yea, that's right."

I couldn't agree more, Bruce. Interesting how mediators are thoughtful about the language they use with parties but not so thoughtful about the language we use to describe ourselves and our livelihood. I also want to talk about how to make a pro bono policy in the next couple of posts so stay tuned.

Try. Fail. Learn. Grow.


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Thanks to everyone who took the time to write to me personally. Because this is the kind of conversation that I want to happen on a larger scale, I'm working to add a discussion group or bulletin board to soon.