Mediate your Way to Success

Written by Megan MacNeill

Mediate your Way to Success
October 14, 2020

In episode fifteen of the personal branding exposed podcast, I had the privilege to talk with award-winning mediator and gin connoisseur Sarah Blake about her work.

We got into what a mediator is, what is the importance of their work, it’s nature and a series of other interesting topics.

Of course, if you don’t have the thirty minutes to listen to the episode, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out, so here are the important bits.

From Sports to Design, To Anthropology

The very first thing that caught my curiosity about Sarah’s work was how exactly one becomes a mediator, so I started by asking what she wanted to do as a child and how her path led to her current career.

Much like anyone else, Sarah tells that she actually struggled with what she wanted to do in face of the fact there weren’t many opportunities in her small countryside town.

Alas, when the moment came to sign for uni, she listed design as her course of choice, only for her interests to change once again.

Two years into university she traveled to Darwin to get in touch with her father, but also to pursue her interest in anthropology on the subject of native titles. Sarah tells us that her father was among the first mediators in Australia and that he too was very involved with social justice and protecting the rights and interests of aboriginal peoples.

Mediation’s the Game

But what even is a mediator, to begin with? Sarah explains that her work entails “My thing is conflict, believe it or not, […] and helping people navigate through it towards solutions.” Now, I know what you are probably thinking, “does that mean she can help me with this big fight I had with my sister?” and her honest answer is no.

Sarah goes deeper into this by describing what her usual client is like:

“A typical client may include getting called into a corporate team  who are dealing with change, perhaps there’s some restructures going on or maybe they are going through court and need some help with mediation.”

Sarah Blake

However, she also mentions that her work as a mediator is not exclusive to corporations, as she also helps solve conflicts within communities, often in the favor of less privileged groups. As an example of this, she mentions aboriginal communities and working through cultural conflicts within these communities.

Not Your Typical Mediator

Even inside this awesome field of work, Sarah shows some amazing self-awareness as to what makes her stand out from other mediators.

After all, while some moderators work in conflict situations through a checklist that only addresses the surface level, she tackles it from a position of personal experience.

“I’m really passionate about giving people the skills and the tools to better engage in dealing with these hard conversations, so I invest more in the front end of the work.”

This is a very good thing to have as a business owner and something that we have covered in my interview with Grant Baldwin where we talk about knowing what is that thing that only you can provide the world.

It’s also really good for the client as well, since instead of just fixing a single conflict, they come out with the know-how to tackle hard conversations in the future.

Not Just About the Money

Speaking of her work within aboriginal cultures and other disenfranchised groups got us into the conversation about how mediation is also a way to make the world better.

Mediation can have a real impact on people’s lives, and we both use the example of a mining company arriving at a community as an example of how it can make a difference. It falls upon the mediator to ensure the mining company’s interests do not trump those of the local community, showing how the mediator can make the world a better place.

This is yet another facet of personal branding that is always healthy to look at, that is, how can I make people’s lives better through my work.

It doesn’t apply just to mediators, although they are a good example, but also to any business, and it can be a strong basis to build its identity.

Business Management and Mediation

Now, although Sarah tells us that she has been in mediating since 1996, she began mediating as her own business ten years ago, and though she was good at it, learning how to manage that business was a bit of a learning process.

I’m sure we’ve all been there once, having the skills as a professional but still being green when it comes to seeing yourself as a business, luckily, her chosen profession gave her a few useful skills in this task.

“I think the capacity to negotiate, the capacity to be curious, (I’m able to ask a lot of questions even if I’m feeling uncomfortable), and (establishing) boundaries is very important.”

Support Networks

Now, doing all that Sarah has done is really difficult on your own, which led me to wonder if she had any support network, to which she answered:

“One of my support networks is really interesting, it’s made from a program I was involved with probably about fifteen years ago called the Mawul Rom project, where we engaged in cross-cultural peacemaking […] and by necessity, we became very close with our colleagues, so I have a small but very trustworthy group of professionals who understand how complex it is to work in a cross-cultural space.”

Support groups are essential to have some backup on your objectives, so if you don’t have one, now is the time to build it.

Conclusion

Talking to Sarah Blake was a great way to learn not just about mediation, which is a fascinating subject in itself, but also how to apply some basic personal branding principles. In not working with family conflicts she shows the importance of choosing your target audience, while also showing how essential it is to establish the social element of your work.

These and many other lessons can be found by giving the podcast a listen, or checking out our other articles in our website.

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