You can help get the ball rolling by tracking down an expert to help deal with internal conflict or navigate transition. Once you have tracked a few down, you and your boss will want to get comfortable that the person can actually do the job. Here are some crucial questions to ask:
Level and range of experience
- What kinds of situations have you dealt with? What outcomes were achieved?
- What education or experience do you have that has prepared you to handle this situation?
It is usually not necessary for an expert to be an expert in the subject matter. However, a basic understanding is desirable.
- How much do you control communications between the parties, as opposed to encouraging free exchanges?
Generally, the most effective experts set up a clear structure for the discussion, but don’t interrupt the free flow of dialogue between the parties.
- What kind of process would you recommend for our situation, and why?
Note how well the expert communicates, asks questions, listens and responds to your questions. Do they project a personality that is flexible, patient and gains your confidence?
- How do you define and resolve the stated and unstated problems that arise during the process?
Parties often define the dispute through the positions they have previously asserted. Problem-solvers with a narrow problem focus assume that the parties have come to them to resolve the stated problem. Problem-solvers with a broad problem focus are willing to help parties probe beyond the stated problem to reach a more complete resolution.
- What kind of problem-solving approaches do you use?
There are three major problem-solving approaches: (i) facilitative, (ii) evaluative, and (iii) transformative. Facilitative problem-solvers assist the parties to reach a mutually agreeable solution. They do not make recommendations to the parties, give advice, or predict what a court would do in the case. Evaluative problem-solvers assist the parties to reach resolution by pointing out weaknesses in their case, predicting what a judge or jury would do. They may also make formal or informal recommendations to the parties about how to resolve the dispute. Transformative problem-solvers empower the parties to resolve their own dispute by enabling them to hear and recognize where each other is coming from. They believe that repairing the relationship is the most important facet of the process, and everything else (e.g. settlements and resolutions) stems from that.
Costs, logistics and availability
- Do you personally conduct the process or do you rely on staff assistance?
Caution is recommended when the expert is not personally conducting the process. You are encouraged to meet the staff who will be conducting it so that you can derive the necessary comfort with the person’s style and approach.
- How do you charge, and what do you estimate the costs of the project will be?
Most experts charge by the hour as opposed to by the project. The expert should be able to give you an estimate of how many hours will be involved.
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