An Ombud’s Cornerstone: Character and Integrity

My contributions to the dialogue on Professional Certification for “our” profession has been that “personal character and integrity” are critical to professional and ethical practice in the broader “conflict resolution” industry.  I have even suggested it be part of the certification considerations.  At this time I’m reading more stories, news and blogs that are all publishing “media” around this very important theme and concept.  Everything from “common courtesy”, apology and thank you to simply NOT choosing to make an issue with someone by picking a single fault and making a major drama out of it.  Even more critical is that “our profession” has the opportunity to “differentiate” ourselves from the general public perceptions and “generic brands” of legal mediation by “practicing what we preach” and staying in true “ombudsmanship” form at all times, not just while “practicing”.   So, at this time I’ll provide 3 items for your consideration that add onto the body of work already out there and being discussed that “hint at integrity and character”, but what are now “point blank”  very applicable and relevant given the consumer’s perspective today.

While it’s been circulating for awhile, Deborah Sword PhD has written an outstanding article, Professionalization of Conflict Resolvers, that weaves several concepts into the common theme that “character and integrity” are “ancient societal traits” that community members recognize and want by asking community leaders for guidance and assistance to resolve their conflict.  Basically, she and I both agree that society would prefer someone known and respected for their integrity  in a community to help them first and then consider “degrees, licenses and professional certifications” as being important, but not the primary factor for selecting someone.  While these accreditation’s may be important, they are more associated with “elitist” professions that have more “self interest” than shall we say, “community member interest” and this is evident in American society today.  I don’t have the source, but sometime back I was reading a news article where a high school principle was asked to step forward and “mediate” a community meeting between members of an African American Church and a Korean owned quick mart in Los Angeles.  Both “sides” having grown up in the community and “knowing” the principle as being “fair” and trustworthy, simply asked him to help them, and he did and “racial issues”, both false and real, were sorted out.  As a result a community “council” was also formed to help provide a venue for “future” needs and well… all of this outside of the legal system and police intervention.  So, if you have or have not read Professionalization of Conflict Resolvers, read it now for the underlying trend, the “unspoken” theme through out the article about “teaching, practicing and relying on one’s own character and integrity”.

Next, I had the opportunity recently to participate in an on-line discussion around “group mediation”.  Tammy Lenski PhD of Conflict Zen made a one hour presentation on her three decades long experience mediating to groups, not individuals and not from a legal dispute model, but simply that there are business and organizational groups in conflict sometimes and informal ajudication is not the goal.  By the time the hour was over I was personally very aware that she trades on her own established “character and integrity” more than her degrees or certificates, which she never mentioned as being of a high level of importance to “corporate clients”.  Indeed, she echoed my own experience and I can affirm she’s “got it down”, her “walking the talk” of character and integrity adding more confidence and trust as a result for all individuals and entities that get the priveledge to “engage” with her.  I hope they realize how fortunate they are.  More important, her own “proprietary method and approach” has been refined and shared with clients as she delivers a program where she educates them and makes them enabled, empowered and qualified to manage their own disputes long after she’s left the conference room.  This is in alignment with my own process and goal in The 6 C’s of Sociocratic Peace Building.  Also, again, I can’t help but think about, same with Deborah Sword, how they both “enable” individuals to go out into their families, groups, entities, organizations and communities to be “peace makers” wherever they go.  Nice…

Finally, a true story and video example of “real life” and how character and integrity “work for you” in times of “personal crisis and conflict”.  Many years back my youngest son came home from high school, I was working, but he smelled smoke at our townhouse complex, looked around and saw the garages behind the units had “smoke” coming out of a few of them.  He called 911 and police and fire came and damage was minimal, thank you son.  To keep this as short as possible, what happened next was amazing to me.  Police took him, cuffed him and were going to take him in for questioning.  He asked for a “phone call” at that moment, he called me and I “came home” immediately.  I engaged police and the on scene fire chief who quoted statistics to me that over 70% of the time a fire is reported it’s started by the “person reporting” the fire.  I then said, “you guys stop now and ask any of these neighbors around us about my son” and if he is of a “character” to warrant your suspicions that he  started the fire; since you don’t believe me as his father.  Indeed, they walked over to the wife of a man who months earlier had fallen down outside his home with a heart attack and my son got the EMT’s that saved the man’s life.  In the end, they let him go and subsequent investigation indicated a “smoker”, which my son was not a smoker, threw a cigarette into an “open garage door” when no one was looking.  So now, this last week, a famous African American Professor and a Causcasian Policeman are in a “racial profiling dispute”, but once again, established character and integrity and the cornerstone in this case and the  “the stone of truth” as offered by his fellow “peers”, of all races.  This is the CNN story video link to view “integrity” first hand.

So, foster it, nurture it, change your own subtle “conflicting” habits so as to be able to be an acknowledged professional of “known character” and your standing will differentiate you from the rest.  In “today’s world”, this is what consumers are seeking… in the midst of questionable ethics and chaos.

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