April 2015 “Psychology and Mediation Training and Accreditation Course”

We are excited to announce that the dates for the second run for the "Psychology and Mediation Training and Accreditation Course" by Regents University London have been set for 6-7, 9-11 April 2015 (Mon, Tue, Thurs - Sat). This course will be held at the Supreme Court Mediation Chambers 1 and 2, and is jointly supported by both the Singapore Mediation Centre, as well as the Eagles Mediation and Counselling Centre. We are also in the process of applying for Continuing Professional Development points with the Singapore Institute of Legal Education. Accredited mediators can look forward to a tie-up with Eagles Mediation and Counselling Centre for hands-on experience in mediating family, relational and other community disputes. Based on feedback from the first run which was packaged as a Psychology and Family Mediation course, participants felt that the psychotherapeutic mediation skills were highly relevant in all types of disputes that involved human beings. Hence, we have decided to make this course applicable to all who are interested in applying psychology and therapeutic skills when mediating all manners of disputes. Please see comments from the 13 participants from the first run in May/June 2014. Do mark your calendars and leave us a note if you are keen to be kept informed when publicity starts. Registration will open 1st January 2015 and an early bird discount of $300 will apply till 31 January 2015. Course fees are set at $6,300 for the 5 day course (with accreditation recognised in the UK) or $5,200 for 4 day course without accreditation. This course costs GPB3800 if taken in the UK. As the teaching ratio is high (1:5), you can expect a lot of personal attention and coaching from the highly qualified barrister-mediators and psychotherapists mediators. We will require a minimum of 10 pax to start and can take up to a maximum of 20 pax this run. Mediators

We are proud to say that 4 HMG mediators are now accredited in "Psychology and Mediation" (recognised accreditation in the UK). We are not only willing but also competent at handling highly emotional and contentious disputes.

Mediation In The Construction Industry

A Paper Contributed by HMG Mediator Mr Yong Eng Wah.   A. INTRODUCTION The Construction industry is one of the key economic driving forces in most nations. In Singapore, 6 to 8% of the GDP is generated by the construction and construction-related industries. Due to the laborious nature of the Construction industry, construction companies hire many workers which make it one of the major job providing industries in most nations. However, the Construction industry is also one of the most litigious sectors in the economy for most nations. Due to the litigious nature of this industry, and due to the other factors that will be detailed below, the overall efficiency of the industry is low as compared to the other major sectors of the economy. In this paper, we will attempt to analyze the root cause of the conflict prone nature of the Construction industry. We will propose the use of Mediation as an effective and alternative dispute resolution method for resolving disputes in the Construction industry.   B. CAUSES OF CONFLICTS Construction activities can range from a few hundred dollars repair jobs, to multi-billion dollar infrastructure building projects. From such a wide spectrum, understandably, the root cause for any conflicts within the Construction industry must be diverse and complex. The major causes of the conflicts within the Construction industries are detailed below. B.1       Expectation Issues When we purchase any consumer products, in most cases, we will be able to see the product, maybe even have a chance to feel and to test the product before we buy them. In addition, we can also look at the price range, check the reputation of the product, and make our decision based on the budget and our expectations. Having decided on the purchase, we would usually know what to expect when we own the product. Most people will not expect a Hyundai to perform like a Lamborghini, as they are aware of the price difference between the two products. Yet, in the case of construction projects, especially in the house renovation projects, the end products will not be there when the contracts are signed. The house owners could only imagine and hope for the completed house to come up to his expectation. Furthermore, the economics reality will propel house owners to use the cheapest contractor for the job. Somehow, the axiom of paying peanuts will get monkey will be forgotten. Having secured the job, the other coin of the same economics reality will propel the contractor to use the cheapest method possible for the execution of the job. After all, the contractor needs to make monies to survive. With the mismatched high expectation of owners and the possible low cost execution of the contractors, the high chances of having dissatisfaction from the execution of most house renovation projects should be expected. A study in the United Kingdom conducted by academia in 2001 reported that more than half of the construction projects ended up in disputes in one form or another. One should not be surprised to find similar situations in Singapore. B.2       Low Barrier of Entry   A few years back there was a popular television comedy in Singapore called Phua Chu Kang. In the show, the main character was an elementarily educated, loud mouth, crude but street smart contractor. In real life, many contractors seemingly came from the same mold.  Due to the nature of the trade, physical skills are important assets of construction process.   There is no requirement for purchasing of large capital intensive machineries. With sufficient skills, other than projects that run into the millions or billions of dollars, contractors do not need much financial strength before they could start a small construction firm. Therefore, there are many construction firms started by hard-working construction entrepreneurs, armed with construction skills but not much else. Due to the general lack of other business skills, chances of having disputes generated from misunderstandings and from personality conflicts are very high. The general weak financial situation of these construction firms would also contribute to the likelihood of contractors cutting corners during the construction which will lead to conflicts at the end of the day. B.3       Cash Flow Issues   Most construction projects are based on progress claims basis. Under progress claims, the contractors will be paid in stages, in accordance with the progress of the works. Take a 100 million dollar projects as an example, the contractor does not need to have a capital of about 100 million dollars to execute the work. Rather, the contractor needs only a capital of about 10 to 20% of the total cost of the projects to execute the project. The rest of the monies will come from the progress payments. Due to the lack of sufficient capital for the projects, the progress payments, which in turn are the cash flows for the contractors, are vital for the smooth execution of the works. Once there is any hindrance in the cash flows, be it in the form of late payment or withholding payment by the paymasters, the contractors will face financial difficulties, which in turn will affect the sub-contractors, sub-sub-contractors, so on and so forth. Like it or not, money makes the world goes round. Without payments, the contractors or sub-contractors will have to take measures to recover the payments. If reasoning or pleadings fail, the last route would be to seeking formal dispute resolutions. C. DISPUTE RESOLUTIONS In the unfortunate event of disputes, in all civil societies, there are ways to resolve the disputes. Some major dispute resolution methods are as followings: C.1       Litigation   For all modern societies, bring the disputes to courts will be the first most common route of resolving any disputes. With the popularity of legal television shows such as Law and Order and a whole host of others, legal processes, to most general public, are seemingly manageable and relatively simple. Yet, in real life, litigating processes are a lot more complex and difficult. The general public tends to idealize the legal process and think that the courts will always provide justice. Yet, those in the profession will know that even courts are bound by legal rules. Due to the possibilities of lack of evidence and various factors, the judgment issued at the end of the day might go contrary to the fairness standard held by people on the street. C.2       Arbitration Arbitration, a relatively new form of dispute resolution, is a formal dispute resolution process. The only major difference between arbitration process and court process is the replacing of the judge with an arbitrator. The other procedures and documentation are similar if not identical. The use of arbitration as an alternative dispute resolution is that the chosen arbitrators could be someone who is, on top of the necessary legal knowledge, familiar with the detailed operation of the industry in question. Furthermore, arbitration, unlike open court hearings, is confidential in nature, which suits the commercial requirement of some commercial entities. C.3       Mediation   Mediation, an ancient form of dispute resolution method, is getting more and more important in the commercial world. Recently, many nations have come to appreciate the advantages of having mediation as a formal form of dispute resolutions; such nations have made it a law that all cases must go through mediation first before the court will hear the cases. Singapore, with the recent emphasis on mediation by the Chief Justice, could be joining the group in the not too distant future. We shall highlight the advantages of mediation as a formal dispute resolution method in the following section. D. ADVANTAGES OF MEDIATION There are many advantages for adopting mediation to resolve disputes. The followings are but a few of the advantages: D.1      Cost For formal litigation, such as law suits in court or in arbitration, due to the requirement of evidence and documentation, the lawyers involved have to do much work to gather and to compile the necessary paper-work. In the case of the construction industry, due to the complexity of the construction activities, many parties and many authorities are usually involved in a single project. One can easily imagine the amount of paper-work that a construction project could generate. In a conflict situation, the large amount of documentation will generate much work for the legal counsel involved. Though most of the documents in a construction project might seem trivial and unrelated to the case in nature, under the principle of full disclosure for a law suit, the voluminous seemingly unrelated documents would vastly increase the cost of a law suit in the construction industry as compared to conflicts in other industries. If mediation is the chosen dispute resolution method, due to the nature of mediation, documentation and evidence are not all that important. What is more crucial is the willingness of both parties to resolve the dispute. With a well-trained mediator, parties usually will be able to bridge their differences and reach an amicable solution without having to resort to any of the legal arguments necessary for formal litigation. As such, the cost of a mediation process is usually very much lower as compared to a full-blown litigation process. It is not uncommon for a successful mediation process to cost less than 5% of the total possible legal costs in law suit. D.2      Outcome Unlike formal court proceedings, mediated solutions can at times be imaginative. The solutions could be a combination of the claims and anything else. Mediators are trained to expand the pie of the solutions, so that the disputing parties could choose to have solutions totally out of the scope of the claims and counter-claims. One major advantage of having the possibility of an imaginative solution is that parties will no longer be bound by the written pleadings. At times, the real interests of the parties might be totally different from the pleadings. Yet, in the formal litigation process, the counsels have to plead formally in accordance with the evidence at hand. No deviations are allowed. In mediation, parties are free to ‘think out of the box’, and suggest ways that might help parties to reach a settlement. As the needs of individuals or business entities are vastly diverse, some creative thoughts contributed by the parties could help to entice parties toward a solution to the disputes. The ability to divert from the claim in order to reach a settlement is one of the major advantages of mediation. In addition, due to the complexity of the Construction industry, disputing parties will be the best people to understand the nature of the dispute. Counsel, experts, or any third parties, will at best have second-hand knowledge of the root causes of the conflicts. If parties are willing to talk to each other directly through mediation, chances of having more appropriate outcomes for the disputes would be much greater. D.3      Win-Win Solutions   In most litigation processes, the judgments will rule for one party over the other. There is always a winner and a loser. With such outcomes, there will be little chance that parties with a long established relationship could salvage the goodwill established throughout the years. Using mediation as a form of dispute resolution, the parties involved have to come up with the solutions themselves. The mediator will not play the role of a judge or adjudicator. Rather, the mediator will facilitate, encourage, question, challenge, and use many other techniques in order to help parties reach a settlement acceptable to both parties. For the formal litigation process, disputing parties will only communicate through their counsel. As for mediation, the process will compel parties to speak to each other directly. Such human touch could serve as a chance for parties to resolve any misunderstandings generated and start on the road of repairing damage relationship. Since the parties both contributed to the final solutions, chances are that both will gain certain degree of satisfaction from the negotiated outcome. In such ways, chances are that parties will be able to maintain the relationships and goodwill established from years of dealings. Such goodwill could be invaluable in the Construction industry. E. CONCLUSION In the modern society, disputes are but a reality of life. Having efficient and reliable dispute resolution methods is important for the society as a whole. Due to the nature of the operations, the Construction industry is litigation prone. Large amount of resources could be wasted for resolving disputes through formal litigation. Mediation, a cost effective way of dispute resolution method, should be promoted for the Construction industry. It might be difficult to eradicate conflicts in the Construction industry due to its unique nature. However, having an effective dispute resolution method such as mediation will certainly help to lessen the negative impacts of conflicts in the industry.

Mediating Asian Family Businesses

Family businesses are the backbone of Asian economies, contributing to about half of the total number of listed companies here. In a 2011 report on Asian Family Businesses, Credit Suisse found that most family businesses are first-generation firms at an early stage in their life cycle.

As Asian family businesses continue to evolve and go through generational transitions, they continue to face a multitude of issues, from those faced by businesses in general, to special challenges that include governance, family conflicts, wealth succession and preservation, and the passing down of values between generations. Each of these issues can pose challenges to the sustainability of the family business.  Throw in a combination of these factors, and the potential for conflict and stress is amplified dramatically.

This is where mediation can play a powerful role in helping family members resolve conflicts that may arise in a business setting. Here are three ways mediation can help:

  1. Mediation offers a flexible approach, which is very helpful when family dynamics and business relationships are intertwined. In a 2012 article, Karen LaRose pointed out that in family business conflicts, relationships are embedded in a system of family dynamics and a business system. It is impossible to separate the two components - familial relationships and business relationships - because one informs the other in a circular fashion. Mediation offers a range of strategies to help work through these multi-layered disputes and determine the best course of action.
  2. Mediation helps family members navigate inter-generational values and attitudes, shoring up trust in the long run. In KPMG Australia’s 2013 Family Business Survey of nearly 600 family businesses, it was found that two of the primary causes of conflict boiled down to differing ‘vision, goals and strategy’ and unequal ‘competence of family members’. Add to this the sobering fact that in the USA, only about 30% of family businesses survive into the second generation - with only 3% of all family businesses operating into the fourth generation or beyond - and we can see the crucial need for proactive techniques to ensure that family problems like a lack of communication or trust are resolved quickly and comprehensively.
  3. Mediation can help family members understand and come to an agreement about decision making processes. The same KPMG survey identified another primary causes of family business conflict, namely how decisions are made. It found that the primary source of conflict for larger family businesses centred around decision-making processes, and “recognising that as firms grow, they also become increasingly complex in structure and operations, with more family and non-family members engaging in decision making”.

All this begs the question that if family acrimony is so pervasive - with some commentators saying it is responsible for the failure of over 60% of family businesses - then why aren’t more family businesses fixing the problem?

While most Asian family businesses are still at the first generation stage, it is important for them to regard family dynamics as a business consideration. With some foresight and planning, proper precautions - including using mediation at crucial junctures in the business’ development - can be woven into the business model. This will help the different family members and business owners work through issues including diverse personalities, emotions, values, attitudes, and feelings of entitlement.

Contact us today to find out how HMG can help family businesses work through their issues and achieve long long term settlement that benefits all parties.

Dora Yip, HMG Research Associate

Comments on “Family Mediation Training and Accreditation Course”

These are the comments from the recent "Family Mediation Training and Accreditation Course" conducted by Regents University London". There were a total of 13 delegates including 7 lawyers, 3 counsellors / psychologists, a businesswoman, a doctor and a district judge .   image "I have learnt a lot this past one week. The speakers are all knowledgeable, interesting and make it easy for me to understand. I have learnt to understand other people and even my own values and self-esteem. Whatever I learned can be applied to everyday communication with people. This course is highly recommended!" "It has been a very interesting course. I have learnt tremendously from the trainers, thanks!" "All the 4 trainers were excellent in their knowledge and delivery, and I really learnt very much from them. I am really very glad that I attended the course. It has given me some very, very important insights, ideas and techniques for resolving conflicts through effective   handling of the emotions as the core of the conflict." "The course focused on the practical skills necessary to conclude a mediation successfully. The approach taught is likely to lead to a settlement which parties will claim ownership and therefore more likely to lead to closure and for parties to move on. The course also allowed plenty of opportunities to practise the skills taught." "It is a very valuable experience for me, as well as a very good learning experience. I have been a mediators for quite a number of years and this course has enriched my knowledge and skills as a mediator." "Great course, well planned and executed. Trainers are good and well-informed."  "Having practised mediation for 4 years now, I have always felt something missing in my style and technique. Having gone through tho course, I realised that the missing piece of jigsaw is understanding people from the  psychological point of view. The course has ticked all the right boxes for me and I cannot wait to take up this course so as to quip myself with the skills and techniques required to handle parties in disputes. Above all, these are also life skills, be it at home, work, or in any other situations." "The quality of coaching was excellent! I thoroughly enjoy the interactions and exchanges with a steep learning curve. I strongly recommend the course!" "I come from a psychotherapy background and as such, the legal aspect of mediation was quite daunting. Perhaps a little more of what the overall mediation process looks like could be helpful. The coaching style of all the facilitators  have been great - encouraging, supportive and reflective."  "Positive: clarity of presentations, quantity of coaches and coaching during role playing, friendly and approachable coaches who are experts in their respective fields, the opportunity to role play Negative: more in depth materials and discussion in the theories of psychology and psychotherapy, as applied to the practice of mediation, discussion of the challenges (i.e. difficulties) in using the psychotherapy approach On a personal note, thank you very much Paul, Monica, Karen and Spencer. It has been an enriching and rewarding experience for me. I appreciate and am grateful for this journey with you all" image  

HMG is grateful for the feedback and support from all of you!

HMG in the News (ST Forum 1 July 2014)

Linda wrote in to Straits Times forum to encourage more face to face dialogue with regards to controversial disagreements / conflicts in the public space.

"A dialogue may not necessarily lead to consensus. But even an emotive dialogue, if facilitated on neutral ground by a skilled moderator, can lead to greater empathy about the other party's wants, needs and desires. Parties can still agree to disagree, but they walk away with better understanding of how to engage constructively with minimal hostility."

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/forum-letters/story/disagree-over-something-lets-talk-20140701#sthash.46HuhZcI.dpuf image

Psychology and Family Mediation Training

image Last month, HMG successfully completed the inaugural run of the Family Mediation Training and Accreditation Program conducted by UK trainers from Regent's University London. It was an intensive 5 days of learning, reflecting, refining and experiencing the psychological elements in all conflict situations, particularly in highly emotional family / relational disputes. Course delegates learnt how to listen attentively and create a safe environment for disputants to come together to problem-solve and resolve their conflicts constructively.
From left: Spenser Hillard, Karen Wiexel-Dixon, Lead Trainer Paul Randolph, and HMG affiliate Monica Hanaway
From left: Spenser Hillard, Karen Wiexel-Dixon, Lead Trainer Paul Randolph, and HMG UK affiliate Monica Hanaway
Karen demonstrates how listening and mirroring of non-verbal gestures can affect the speaker.
Karen demonstrated how listening and mirroring of non-verbal gestures can affect the person speaking.
Beyond strategic management of information, delegates were intensively schooled and coached in communication skills.  Lead Trainer Paul Randolph, a mediator and practising barrister, emphasised that conflicts could be better managed when mediators were cognisant of parties' world views, value systems, emotions and self-esteem. The psychological approach to mediation requires mediators to have faith in the process of listening attentively for deeply rooted personal interests, thereby enabling them to move past their emotions and empowering them to be amicable in managing the dispute.   imageThough a number of delegates were accredited and experienced mediators, they readily agreed that the understanding and application of psychology was the cornerstone to handling contentious disputes. These need not be limited to only family mediations. Even commercial disputes, though presenting themselves as financial matters, more often than not are about breakdown in trust, communication and relationships.   image image                 Course participants enjoyed the intensive coaching provided by the experienced mediator trainers. There was more than a bit of fun when some of the role-plays required mediators to manage disputants who stormed out of the room. It was a challenge for the mediators to reach resolution, whilst building rapport with parties and keeping a tight reign on the process. Participants ended each day exhausted, but also with a renewed vigour to practise these newfound skills in difficult situations (at home, at work, not confined to mediation settings). imageimage         Lead Trainer Mr Paul Randolph  also gave a lunchtime talk to a group of 30 mediators from the Singapore Mediation Centre and Judicial Officers from the State and Supreme Courts. HMG is extremely grateful for the support and enthusiasm of the mediation community in being trained to be psychologically-informed mediators. We hope that putting people first will be the hallmark of excellence for conflict management in Singapore.  

HMG Trainers in Beijing China

imageEng Wah and Lim Tat had the pleasure of training a group of social workers in Beijing China last month.  Although an interpreter was required, the 4 day training in negotiations and conflict resolution was well-received. The 2 trainers impressed upon the course participants how relevant interest-based negotiations is relevant to the chinese context. As Eng Wah reminded the participants, "We negotiate all the time, so having better negotiating skills will bring us further in lives." image

HMG is A Mediation Provider in the State Court’s Primary Justice Project

The Primary Justice Project was launched on the 9th May 2014 at the State Court's in an effort to provide affordable legal help to disputants (see CNA report release here). HMG mediators Abdul Salim and Lim Tat were commended for their involvement in the formulation of this new initiative. HMG was also invited to participate in the launch as one of the mediation service providers listed under the ADR directory. We look forward to assisting more parties in need of efficient and effective dispute resolutions. image             image