Does your professional title of "mediator" limit you?

You’ve been plugging away for a while now, as a mediator.  The business isn’t flowing in.  You feel like you’re in a dip.  All factors considered, perhaps the way you describe your work role, or the way others see your professional title, is just not a motivator, for anybody? Perhaps you need a more compelling vision for what it is you do, and a title that goes along with it? One way to do that is to bring the future to the present.

The pull of the future

Charles Smith, in Navigating from the future advocates for imagining from the future to the present and using (your) compelling imagery to your advantage.  The memory of the future can have as much power as memory of the past.

Smith’s book got me to thinking about a time, a few months ago, when I was in Port Hardy, a small community on the northern tip of Vancouver Island.  Sitting in a coffee shop, I picked up the local newspaper, and came across two related job ads.  Here’s how those ads read:

  • Roots Worker the Sacred Wolf Friendship Centre is seeking a roots worker to fulfill the roles and responsibilities of a child’s roots are forever program. Helping aboriginal children-in- care connect to their Aboriginal families and communities, culture and heritage, helping aboriginal communities in reconnecting and reclaiming their children an youth who are in the care of Ministry of Children and Families Services
  • Connections Coordinator for Port Hardy Secondary School act as a liaison between school and home helping first nations students at risk.

What perked me up, on top of a coffee buzz, were the job titles.  Addressing the challenges of Aboriginal dislocation in Canada is no mean feat.  Somehow I’d rather see myself as a “roots worker” than a “child support worker”.   I’d rather be a “connections coordinator” than a “school liaison officer”.  It resonates with a bigger purpose, a better way.  It has a future-pull orientation. It’s motivational.

What role(s) for the mediator?

In my own field of mediation, it’s easy to pigeon-hole oneself, as to what a mediator is or does.  Is it just facilitating negotiations between parties in a dispute OR could it be anything to do with bridging differences, creative problem-solving, finding common ground, building consensus, reaching agreement..? If it’s the latter, the possibilities are almost infinite.  The professional mediator brings so many attributes to the table.

My business card says I’m a mediator and a collaboration consultant.  Collaboration is about people working together.  So, as a collaboration consultant, I help people work better together. I also like to think I’m a resolutionary (a term coined from Stewart Levine in Getting to Resolution: Turning Conflict into Collaboration); someone who gets things done, resolved.  I’m working up the resolve to throw that one on my business card!

In blogger Penelope Trunk’s post today, she suggests that when the question What do you do? pops up, your best response should center around, Here’s what I’m passionately learning right now.  That thought rings right for me.  What I’m passionately learning now is how to be better at collaboration, resolving things through collaboration, and helping others do the same. Being a mediator of disputes is just one context where I see myself bringing people together, to build consensus, resolve things, and move forward in positive ways.

And you… if you are also in the mediation business, maybe you have a more impressive future-pull title for yourself? Maybe you are the Chief Mediation Officer?

Be motivated in your work.  Your community needs you to be.  How you see yourself matters.  You have so much potential.  The jobs of the future? Maybe.  Look around.  Free your imagination.  I did here, inspired by a Margaret Atwood novel.  So, without getting too crazy around job title

Help me understand you

I’ve talked about ‘mediator’ in this post.  That’s my title.  It may not be yours.  Either way… what is one future-oriented title that pulls you forward, in the work you are doing today?

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  1. Hey Ben,
    This is something that I have been thinking about for a while now! As a new mediator leaping into the field that is something that I have thought long and hard at. That is why my business card says “Conflict Resolution Specialist” instead of mediator. I definitely have to do some tweaking on my website with respect to it thought! Thanks for sharing!


  2. Ben Ziegler says

    Thanks Jason for your sharing your thoughts. Interesting you use the term “conflict resolution specialist”. In other social media contexts I sometimes substitute the words “conflict resolver” for mediator. I guess I have to reconcile my own differences too! LOL

  3. Marilyn Davison says

    As always Ben, thank you for your thinking provoking writings. Yesterday a professor friend (excellent teacher who genuinely loves kids) asked me, “just what is it you do as a facilitator ?” All the standard phrases, enable conversations, uncover meaning, sense energy in a room, stay out of the way , know the answers are in the room etc – were not very helpful descriptors. And as we know the lines between mediation/facilitation/resolution are often blurred; and we may think we are brought into do one and find ourself working at the other end of the spectrum.Spectrum being from light facilitation make sure people create and address their real agenda to serious conflict surfacing and mediation. So I would like to toss facilitation into the verbal cloud here. best, Marilyn

  4. Marilyn, thanks for bringing ‘facilitator’ into the mix. I agree with you completely. Certainly a mediator, in trad role, facilitates conversation between disputants. By extension, there is a whole lot of other contexts where the need for a skilled facilitator, of a small group conversation, might apply. I think facilitating larger group discussions requires some additional or different facilitation skills. Current mediators may or may not have those skills, dependent on their capability/background. The ambiguity of what a ‘mediator’ does makes me think of other words in common-use today – e.g., “social enterprise”. These words are relatively new to the lexicon, and people seem to interpret them in different ways…. yet that just gives so much opportunity! to interpret them in one’s own way.

  5. Hey Ben,

    I couldn’t agree more. Everyone should find a way to better know themselves and their true potentials. Knowing yourself, what you really want and you are really passionate about will have a great impact on your career and its success.


  6. Thanks for your comment Eric. Glad the post resonated with you.

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