Mediation: getting breakthroughs between committee and caretaker
As a precursor to contract renegotiations, a committee engaged Chris to mediate between themselves and their caretakers. There was a history of negative interactions and communications that were fuelled by mistrust, on both sides. The committee thought mediation, using Chris’s expertise, could help to narrow a long list of problems including issues around parking and contractor access, down to a workable list prior to entering renegotiations.
Chris used an industry recognised, standard mediation framework that guides parties through a step–by–step framework. It helps to ensure everyone knows what to expect every step of the way, and everyone understands what they need to do to move forward. Chris guided them through an historical recount of the incidents to date and then worked through to better understand what success looked like; where everyone would like to be in the future.
The mediation session included the committee members, the Body Corporate Manager and the caretaker representative. The half day mediation session was scheduled to occur in the Gold Coast so everyone could attend in person or via video link.
Chris was able to quickly ascertain that the issues at hand were as much caused by how the committee interacted amongst themselves, as they were about the relationship with the caretaker. The big-ticket issues that Chris identified included:
- Some committee members felt excluded from decision-making while other took on an assertive role.
- The caretaker felt excluded from important discussions that impacted their investment and day-to-day operations.
- There was a lack of due process being followed by all.
- Confusion between ‘discussion’ and ‘decision’ meant that issues were left unresolved.
- All parties were not clear about their legislated roles and responsibilities.
Issues like parking that were on the committees original list were simply symptoms of these big-ticket issues. Without the facilitated approach of a mediation session, the parties hadn’t been able to identify these key challenges.
Chris guided the parties through these challenges and invited them to develop their own workable solutions. As a group, they ran through scenario testing to explore the potential solutions. Chris’ time spent as the Commissioner allowed him to bring his unique insight to the table and make suggestion based upon what he had seen work well in the past for similar groups.
All parties agreed in writing on a series of actions, including a shared commitment to enhanced training about their roles and responsibilities. Chris also facilitated their agreement on a communication protocol for emails, to help achieve a more transparent and open operating environment.
The mediation was successful in resolving a number of issues for the group and also gave them the tools they need to move forward and overcome similar challenges on their own.
Feedback from The Body Corporate Manager was that the mediation session s was the first time in while that everyone was talking constructively.