Board of directors, entrepreneurs and business mediation. It fits. We talked about this in the first part of this series (https://www.vangard.de/en/blog-article/board-directors-entrepreneurs-and-business-mediation-does-fit) And now: the practical test. What are the major advantages of business mediation? What are the daily practical benefits for companies, entrepreneurs, board members, managing directors and executives? We talk about this - in the second part of this series - with two experienced business mediators. We invite you to read along and feel free to send your comments and questions directly to the address below.

Interviews by Dr. Frauke Biester-Junker and Christoph Kaul with Thomas Borghardt (Board of Directors of the Hamburg Family Office Bank Marcard, Stein und Co and Frank Dehnke (Chairman of the Board of Sparkasse Oberhessen).

Part 2 - "Business mediators as board members and entrepreneurs?"

Frauke Biester: "Thomas, Frank, how nice of you to take the time again to introduce our passion topic. How did it come about that you both even completed the comprehensive and time-intensive training to become business mediators yourselves? What was your motivation, what was the background?“

Frank Dehnke: "The decisive factor for me was my own experience from the three mediation processes in which I had participated as Chairman of the Board and thus as a party. I was impressed by the excellent results of the mediation processes, which we achieved in just one day in each case. And I was fascinated by the way we arrived at these results. Here's a concrete example: Throughout the mediation processes, the business mediators always asked very smart questions, each of which was a real "bull's eye." The questions were so to the point that I had to deal with them at length, even emotionally. And it was precisely in these questions and our answers to them where the key to the solution was. I wanted to know, where I can learn these questioning techniques, I need this for my daily work with customers and employees. This will change a lot: in traditional business and in leadership culture. I then inquired about business mediators and took the business mediator training."

Frauke Biester: "What is interesting is that the three cases were legally almost the same. In court, we would have received the identical verdict three times. In the mediations, we reached different, namely individually suitable final agreements in all cases. This is for a simple reason: commercial mediation takes into account the respective interests of the parties. The legal positions may be the same. However, the underlying interests of the parties are not. And judicial proceedings often cannot take these interests into account and fulfill them."

Frank Dehnke: "That is absolutely true. From today's perspective and with the knowledge I've gained as a business mediator, I also understand exactly how the mediator guided us at the time to such custom-fit solutions and why exactly that wouldn't have worked with the "usual" means."

Thomas Borghardt: "My personal and corporate goal in connection with the mediation training was to no longer solve conflicts primarily with intuition and life experience, as I had mostly done up to that point. Because there is far too much at stake for that. I therefore looked for a successful tool of professional conflict management. For this purpose, I looked at several providers and deliberately chose business mediation. Business mediation often involves conflicts between people who bear a great deal of responsibility, be it for a company, for an asset, or for a large number of employees. It was particularly important for me to find a training course that clearly focused on practice. As a practitioner, I was not interested in attending university seminars and did not want to look at conflict resolution only analytically and theoretically. I wanted to learn the conflict resolution tool practically and use it as quickly as possible. Exactly this is possible with business mediation." 

Christoph Kaul: "This is a very big advantage of business mediation. The training is crucial, it can be done in a small circle with direct case studies. We think that is immensely important. The practical experience then starts with day 1 of the training. This is how all of vangard's business mediators have learned. In this respect, we as business mediators also know exactly what we are doing.

Let's move on to the practical test: What are you doing with it today? How are you using your training as a business mediator?"

Frank Dehnke: "Recently, I accompanied another procedure as a business mediator. The parties reached a final agreement within one day. This had been preceded by a months-long legal dispute. This again convinced me of business mediation. But it goes far beyond that. My mindset, my personal attitude and approach to employees has changed significantly as a result of my training as a business mediator. Since then, active listening and interest-based negotiation have become part of my everyday life. These techniques represent a very significant added value that I use every day in my position as CEO."

Frauke Biester: "That doesn't surprise us. Do you have any specific examples in this regard?"

Frank Dehnke: "In our company, we now only conclude employment contracts with mediation clauses. This is very important to me. So far, I have not experienced any employee who has refrained from concluding a contract because of the mediation clause. On the contrary, many employees actively approach me about it and find it very modern and innovative. In addition, all employees at the first and second management levels - including the Board of Management - will undergo training to become business mediators. We have given them the opportunity to complete this training. The feedback has been terrific: all those approached have taken part. My conviction is that this will have a significant and positive impact on our leadership culture. I am very happy about that." 

Thomas Borghardt: "In my daily work, the use of mediation techniques is in the foreground, not so much the specific mediation process. In particular, I can use the various instruments and techniques of mediation in classic leadership issues on a daily basis. Through my training as a business mediator, I can say that I deal much more mindfully with the topic of conflict management in all areas of life.“ 

Christoph Kaul: "So in terms of leadership culture, the training was a complete success. Does the training also benefit you in relation to your customers?

Thomas Borghardt: "From my side, a clear yes. Family situations are usually emotional and therefore potentially conflictual. As the saying goes, „friendship ends when it comes to money“. In general, our clients shy away from legal proceedings. The associated escalation of a conflict would be difficult to capture. Especially in a family, the factual level can usually not be separated from the underlying emotions. In this respect, I use the "diagnostics of mediation work" to clarify the interests and desires behind the positions at an early stage. This enables the resolution of conflicts at an early stage. Against this background, I act more as a conflict moderator in my consulting practice. The techniques of business mediation are eminently usable for this purpose." 

Frank Dehnke: "I also use mediation techniques with our customers in mind. As a bank, we have a very heterogeneous customer structure with large, medium-sized and small companies, as well as private customers with assets of varying sizes. Since my training as a business mediator, I often ask myself the questions: What really moves our customers? What is the interest of our customers? Today, I negotiate differently and can therefore respond even better to our customers' wishes." 

Frauke Biester: "Thomas you said that you use mediation techniques preventively to avoid conflicts. We think this is quite remarkable and, if we may say so, exactly the right way. In many cases, the entry point, the first attempt at mediation, is in very escalated and messy cases, so it's rather reactive. But to start with the techniques at the other end, that's ideal, of course."

Thomas Borghardt: "Indeed, we have to get to the problems early. That's part of our job as a family office. It is part of our corporate philosophy in terms of family cohesion. We want to avoid court proceedings - as described above - but we still have to resolve the conflicts, which are usually emotionally charged. The preventive use of mediation techniques to avoid further escalations is, in my view, an added value for all parties. In particular, this approach offers the great advantage that none of the parties has to jump over a formal hurdle; in this respect, there is no fear of court proceedings or mediation under the Mediation Act. This inhibition threshold, which is often observed, is completely eliminated."

Christoph Kaul: "This is precisely the reason why, in such preventive cases, a mediation process is not even mandatory under the Mediation Act. At an early stage, targeted conflict moderation can often settle the conflict."

Frauke Biester: "Our daily consulting is mostly about money and about responsibility. Our experience shows that companies still use business mediation or related techniques (moderation, etc.) too rarely as a preventive measure. This is because there is simply not enough pressure on the cylinder. Only when the conflict escalates further and the legal futility of legal proceedings is clear, do decision-makers consider a mediation process. "

Christoph Kaul: "The escalation is often so far advanced and the communication between the parties so disrupted that they merely exchange legal views. As a result, the actual interests of the parties, the business, and in the end even economic issues suffer. This is exactly where mediation techniques come in.

We thank you so much for talking with us today, dear Frank, dear Thomas."