Helen Gerrard, MG Corporation Board Director (2012), explains how MG Corporation is governed She talks about how it’s changed over time and how it represents different groups through the Dawang Council “Wi...
- 01 Understanding governance
- 02 Culture and governance
- 03 Getting Started
- 04 Leadership
05 Governing the organisation
- 5.0 Governing the organisation
- 5.1 Roles, responsibilities and rights of a governing body
- 5.2 Accountability: what is it, to whom and how?
- 5.3 Decision making by the governing body
- 5.4 Governing finances and resources
- 5.5 Communicating
- 5.6 Future planning
- 5.7 Building capacity and confidence for governing bodies
- 5.8 Case Studies
- 06 Rules and policies
- 07 Management and staff
08 Disputes and complaints
- 8.0 Disputes and complaints
- 8.1 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous approaches
- 8.2 Core principles and skills for dispute and complaint resolution
- 8.3 Disputes and complaints about governance
- 8.4 Your members: Dealing with disputes and complaints
- 8.5 Organisations: dealing with internal disputes and complaints
- 8.6 Practical guidelines and approaches
- 8.7 Case Studies
- 09 Governance for nation rebuilding
- Governance Stories
- Useful links
- Preview new Toolkit
8.6 Practical guidelines and approaches
Getting people to agree can sometimes seem easy—people may say they are satisfied when in fact they are not.
The real trick is getting an informed consensus and satisfaction to last—and to work.
8.6.1 Getting satisfaction
When setting up meetings, discussions, or making decisions about disputes and complaints, it is a good idea to remember that most people have interdependent needs they want considered.
In order to achieve agreements and decisions that will last, people must feel that the dispute resolution and complaint processes and outcomes are:
- procedurally legitimate and fair. People have had the opportunity to participate, put forward their views and be listened to,and have confidence in the information, rules and processes.
- emotionally satisfying and restorative of social cohesion. These are people’s personal and emotional reasons for the dispute or grievance—whether they feel those have been taken into account in the process, and how they feel about themselves and others after outcomes have been negotiated.
- substantively ‘resolved’. This means addressing the actual issues or intangible things under dispute which people are actually seeking to have resolved.
(Adapted from ‘The Satisfaction Triangle: A Simple Measure for Negotiations and Decision Making’. The Indigenous Facilitation and Mediation Project, 2004. AIATSIS, Canberra)
It is not possible to please everyone all of the time, but in order to get an outcome that moves people out of dispute mode into more cooperative behaviour, check whether you have considered these three areas of interest.
8.6.2 Managing disputes in meetings
All organisations come across controversies about changes or decisions under consideration at meetings. Many are driven by issues and personalities.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the way they are handled can determine whether an organisation will emerge from the discussions bruised and divided, or healed, confident and united.
Here the role of a good chairperson or facilitator is invaluable.
All organisations run into controversies about issues or changes under consideration. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the way it is handled can determine whether an organisation will emerge from the discussions bruised and divided, or healed, confident and united.
The following tips for managing controversies in meetings are drawn from Eli Mina Consulting.
- Meet with the individuals before the meeting. Contact potentially disruptive individuals or factions before the meeting and try to resolve any legitimate concerns. Reassure them that the meeting will be run fairly and ask for their support.
- Set a constructive tone for the meeting—don’t assign blame. Try opening the discussion by saying “The issues before us today are not easy. At the same time I am confident that we can work together, debate the issues and reach positive outcomes for our organisation and community”.
- Remind members of the organisation’s vision, goals and values. At the start of the meeting—and again if things become heated—say “It would be helpful to remind ourselves of our purpose and goals for the future, which are: ____. If we want the best for our organisation and community, then we need to ask ourselves: Are we on track right now?”
- Remind people about guidelines for meetings. Introduce or remind people about the meeting guidelines at the beginning and have them approved/confirmed by the members. You might say “Let’s remember before we start the meeting today that we should speak when recognised by the chair, focus on the issues and not people, be respectful and behave properly”.
- Try to modify contentious proposals. When the issue is being discussed, see if the contentious proposal can be modified (without compromising it) to take into account valid concerns. Integrate constructive suggestions.
- Intervene if necessary. Intervene decisively if members are disruptive. Try saying “Please focus on the issues and not the personalities” or “Please give others the same respect that you want when you are speaking”.
- Use positive language. Convert criticisms into options and interests. Instead of “You sound unhappy with our leadership” say “You seem to be suggesting that we could be more inclusive and better tuned to the needs of the members that we serve”.
- Set up the room for consensus. This can be as simple as replacing parallel rows with round tables. See if you can break adversarial patterns by mixing the group’s various factions.
8.6.3 Managing issue-based conflict
If the substantive issue under dispute or the subject of complaint is not adequately addressed, the parties involved will not be satisfied or will not change their antagonistic behaviours.
Several effective strategies and tips are set out below.
The Canadian Institute for Conflict Resolution suggests these techniques to help manage issue-based conflicts.
- Acknowledge the value of different views. Acknowledge the value and importance of divergent views in making decisions.
- Practise good listening skills. Practise and encourage good listening skills, understanding and respect. Clarify the ground rules for effective communication, for example:
- discussions are confidential
- others are allowed to have their say
- there is group ownership of problems and solutions.
- Focus on issues rather than personalities.
- Name the problem. Help the parties define the issue. State what you understand it to be and seek agreement between them on a clear definition of the issue.
- Seek agreement on outcomes. Seek agreement from the parties on the objectives, outcomes or decisions sought, by placing this item on the board agenda.
- Help parties identify why the issue is important. Seek consensus from the parties on why the issue matters, rather than encouraging more debate on who has the best solution or idea.
- Conduct a role-play. Ask each to step into the other’s shoes and role-play the debate from the other’s perspective.
- Summarise the discussion. Paraphrase or summarise the discussions several times until there is consensus on points of agreement and disagreement.
- Seek compromise. Encourage the parties to suggest new insights or compromises. Seek agreement on a compromise.
- Restate the solution. Restate the favoured solution. Check with parties to see if it is acceptable and if it will allow them to resolve the matter.
- Document the decision. Table or document the item to be dealt with after a cooling-off period.
8.6.4 Managing personality-based conflict
If emotional or personality-driven conflicts become entrenched into politicised positions they are extremely difficult to resolve.
Early intervention based on objective, fair and open processes is critical to addressing these conflicts.
The following tips are adapted from tools developed by the Canadian Institute on Governance to help manage conflicts that are based on personality, personal or political agendas, or other more deep-rooted causes.
- Don’t try to resolve this kind of conflict in one go. Do not waste valuable time and energy trying to resolve these conflicts at a one-off community or organisational meeting.
- Meet with parties individually.
- Meet outside the work or meeting environment.
- Try to define the issues.
- Discuss the negative effect of the conflict on the group, community or organisation.
- Seek a resolution.
- Meet with the parties together. Meet with the disputing parties together to see if they can reach an agreement, so the organisation can still function effectively with their continued membership.
- Try to mediate the conflict. If that doesn’t work, bring in an acceptable third person—such as an Elder—who may influence the disputing parties’ behaviour. Conflicting parties are more likely to accept guidance from local mediators than from other external sources. This is because an Elder’s decision does not entail any loss of face and is backed by social pressure.The end result is, ideally, a sense of unity, shared involvement and responsibility, and dialogue among groups otherwise in conflict.
- Allow the party or parties to withdraw if that seems like the only option. If the parties can’t reach an agreement, one or both may have to withdraw from the activity that is the subject of dispute, or resign their positions as directors, managers or staff members of the organisation.
- Recommend disciplinary action. If the matter still isn’t resolved, recommend disciplinary action to the organisation.
8.6.5 Collaborative decision making
It should go without saying that if the people who are most directly involved in a dispute are able to actively participate in determining the process and making decisions, the more sustainable the outcome will be.
Yet this is an area where organisations often resort to closed ranks and hierarchical decision making.
Promoting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consensus methods of decision making into the arena of dispute resolution within organisations can significantly enhance the success and resilience of outcomes.
This means enabling your staff members to become collaborators in developing their own codes of conduct and making collective decisions about what constitutes fair process.
This tool provides a basic five-step model for a group approach to problem solving using a facilitator.
It has been adapted from ORIC resources.
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