Mediative Coaching

13 min read

Camp David was different.  Part of the success was luck — partly because the time was right, partly because of the political pressures on Sadat, Begin and Carter.  But much credit is due to the way the conference was run.  Whether Carter invented his method as he went along or orchestrated it is irrelevant.  Despite the struggle and risk, it worked.

Much of what he did is described above and there is reason to believe that these conditions can be recreated by a powerful, third party mediator in any group with important work to do and conflicts to resolve.  While leaders of states and institutions try to mediate differences, they rarely succeed because of the difficulty maintaining a neutral stance.  A third party is the key — either a neutral or someone involved, trusted, and able to get parties to take full responsibility for the substance and process of their discussions.

At Camp David the mediator enabled parties to narrow the gap between the expectations of one group and inflexibility of the other.  He closed issues and started movement on others.  He explored and narrowed differences.  He furnished each side with a realistic look at their demands and the possibility of meeting them.  He gave both parties some idea of how their positions looked to a third person, and when either side did not feel free to have private meetings, the mediator provided a safe conduit through which private positions could be taken.  The mediator served as a catalyst and translated positions and proposal into understandable terms, some attainable in whole or in part, and some not.  He made suggestions and exerted pressure.  This exercise we believe points the way for governments and corporations to find a new way to do business and make decisions.

Camp David is a glimpse of the possible in human organization.  Conditions orchestrated by Carter allowed the unusual to happen — initiation from top down and bottom up simultaneously made for fast, open communication from different points of view.  Natural surroundings and the stimulating pace fostered imaginative as well as logical thought.  The Mission was conveyed in ways both clear and inspirational — informality and personalization made for a ‘human’, not aggressive, atmosphere.  The up/one down relationships were managed.  They recognized that only equals will cooperate — there was a search for alternative forms of management.  Reorganization of people, time, and schedules was legitimate.  The approach was experimental, not strictly preplanned.  All the meetings, all the information, all the scheduling gave people as much information as possible.  Beliefs about what should be were continuously challenged by what was.

Gregory Bateson said that, “We create the world we perceive — not because there is no reality outside our head — the Vietnam War was wrong.”   The Iraq war was wrong, we are destroying our eco-system, and therefore ourselves.

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