What do Bill Belichick’s coaching approach, grapevines and dispute resolution have in common? They were all tied together in a creative and engaging way by employment lawyer and mediator Michael Zeytoonian, in his September 13 presentation to the Armenian Business Network (ABN). Zeytoonian was the guest speaker for the organization’s program and meeting at Abbey Lane restaurant in Boston, and focused his talk on “Situational Dispute Resolution”.
In connecting Belichick’s situational football approach of responding to the different set of factors that each game presents to the New England Patriots to dispute resolution (DR), Zeytoonian stressed the need to make sure that the process used to resolve the dispute is the right fit for each unique set of situational factors. He pointed out key differences between seven different types of DR processes, using an interactive exercise to educate the audience about the wide spectrum of choices available to people and the pitfalls of choosing the wrong process. “The Patriots will prepare differently for the Denver Broncos than they would prepare for the New York Jets,” Zeytoonian continued the analogy. “In the same way, litigation might be right for one dispute but wrong for another that is better served using a process like mediation or Collaborative Law. It always depends on the factors of the dispute,” Zeytoonian stressed.
“Another important take away point that I can’t stress enough is the need for parties in a dispute and their lawyers to stay focused on satisfying the interests and goals of the parties and letting those interest drive the negotiation process,” Zeytoonian urged. He used a creative story about finding out the interests that disputing neighbors had in a grapevine they shared that straddled their property line. “A key to reaching the best possible resolution is to move the focus from each party’s position – “This grapevine is mine and I must have possession” – to finding out the need or interest behind that position,” he explained. “It’s a simplified example, but once the lawyers or the mediator can find out why that grapevine is important to the parties and can meet both sides interests, it results in a better solution than one side winning or just arbitrarily splitting the grapevine in half.”
Noting that so many disputes are caused by unclear, insufficient or lack of communications, Zeytoonian stressed the importance of clarity in our messages and how we communicate. “Especially in this day and age of internet, email and texting, when so much of the communications – all of the non-verbal – is missing and all we are left with is words on paper, it is so important to communicate clearly,” he urged. Illustrating this point with one of his own communications mishaps and referencing the book “The Four Agreements”, Zeytoonian pointed to one of the agreements as being vital for preventing disputes in the workplace as well as in all communications: “Be impeccable with your word.” A lively question and answer period followed the presentation.
The Armenian Business Network (ABN) holds meetings and networking events regularly in the Boston-Cambridge area. The purpose of the ABN is to inspire and encourage Armenians to support each other through shared learning and networking to achieve excellence in their professional, commercial, and community efforts. It strives to connect the diverse Armenian professional community through quality online and offline networking. For more information on the ABN and its upcoming events, please visit www.armenianbusinessnetwork.com.