Hospitality Advisory Services

Hospitality Consulting | Mediation and Dispute Resolution

Hospitality Advisory Services

Strategic Negotiating – Learn to Listen!

Ok, I admit, listening does not come easily to me.  As with so many of us with Type A leaning personalities, getting to the finish line and moving on to the next task tends to win over taking time to hear from all stakeholders in a debate.  However, as a lifelong passionate student of all things related to self-improvement, I think I’m actually finally getting the hang of it!

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Can Emotions Aid in Dispute Resolution / Mediation Discussions?

In dispute resolution it is important to recognize that emotions will run the gamut…from anger, fear, grief, humiliation, frustration, and even fatigue to elation, gratification, and appreciation. Mediators often find themselves in a paradoxical position – on one side encouraging and empathizing with productive and often intense emotions, and at the same time compelled to fulfill our obligation to remain unbiased and impartial during mediation sessions.

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Preparation is Foundation for Attaining Settlement in Mediation

Let’s face it, we all know better than to go into a negotiation/settlement discussion ready to pick a fight so, why do so many parties still show up unprepared with teeth bared and weapons drawn?  I suppose it goes back to our primitive instinct of “fight-or-flight.”  Executives or high level professionals didn’t reach their positions by being push-overs, so it is likely that if the parties participating in the discussions have not had the opportunity to prepare properly for the conference, we will unconsciously (or consciously!) come ready to do battle.  Of course, on the other hand, there are individuals who, when faced with a threat, simply freeze and cannot respond productively.

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A Mediation Practice – Making Limoncello from Lemons


As the former 28-year President and General Manager of the famed Colony Beach & Tennis Resort on Longboat Key, FL, I was asked to speak about how my life has transformed in the five years since its closing.  The article can be seen HERE.

In my case, turning to helping others achieve settlements and resolution to their business disputes gives me gratification and even a little “therapy” for my own disappointment in not finding a way to save The Colony.  A year’s long dispute between a number of interested parties, most of whom had no knowledge of the risk involved in not participating responsibly and constructively in mediation, has yet to be resolved…eight years after the first complaint was filed.

Egotism, greed, mistrust, and resentment are not uncommon in creating disputes.  This case was rife with all and much more.  I am a strong believer that virtually any dispute can be settled when a qualified and expert mediator sets the stage carefully and thoughtfully, understands the emotional quotient of the disputing parties, and takes time to assess the possible outcomes without settlement and clearly articulates those to the parties.

The mediators who assisted in all of our attempted efforts to settle did a good job.  However, I am convinced that someone with real-life experience on both sides of the table, proficiency in management of a large and diverse organization, tangible knowledge of risks to business and the people served and dependent on it, and especially the emotional burden that an extended dispute causes, can offer an even greater chance of encouraging and finding solutions.

Why seriously consider resolving your dispute through mediation?  First and foremost is always the cost.  If the case proceeds to trial – cost of attorneys, cost of lost reputation, cost of failed relationships, cost of emotional distress, and possible cost of a forever lost business, as was the case with The Colony.

Not taking an active role in devising a plan to settle the dispute, and rather leaving it to a judge and/or jury to decide, is bound to produce harsh and unexpected outcomes – and those might just come to your side of the case.  There simply are no guarantees in the courtroom, and if your attorney offers any promise of victory, maybe you should consider hiring someone else!

Becoming a Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediator was my way of making Limoncello from the lemons served to me in my own business’s difficult circumstances.  My promise to my clients is to facilitate peaceful, purposeful and productive dialogue between the disputants, negotiate settlement in a calm and private setting, apply effective strategies to encourage adversaries to work collaboratively to satisfy their interests, and resolve their conflicts through mediation, without the uncertainty, unpredictability and expense of litigation.

I wish you successful resolution in all your disputes!  Okay, one can always hope for peace in the world…right?

“Yeah, But” Is Not An Option To Effect Change

Have you had it with the “yeah, but” excuse?  Me, too!  In decision making, negotiating, or adapting to change, “yeah, but” needs to be removed from the vocabulary.  In order to be an effective leader and respected authority, decisive statements and clear communication is a key element to earn loyalty and credibility and getting results.  This is a lesson that not only needs to be embraced by principals of an organization but, as mentors, it is also our responsibility to assist our team members to learn.

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Mediation – A Better Way to Resolve Business Disputes

There are more possible scenarios for business disputes to arise than imaginable.  For every one, however, one of the first decisions prior to entering litigation must be mediation or arbitration.  The emotional and financial cost of entering a courtroom along with the often risky choice of leaving the outcome up to a judge and/or jury, and not in the hands of disputants to control the settlement, cannot be overstated.

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Extreme Experiences Shape Leadership Success Strategies

In the attached article, extreme athlete and successful business woman Alison Levine’s recent book is highlighted.  The lessons outlined are wide-ranging, but at the same time completely interrelated.  They offer a comprehensive road map for strategic leadership.

Leadership success is clearly the result of applying broad concepts, often tried and true examples offered by writers such as Ms. Levine.

Here are the nine topics featured in the article;

  • Prepare, Prepare – and be Aware!
  • Sometimes You Have to Move Backwards to Move Forward
  • Assemble a Team of People With Big Egos
  • Solidify Relationships Before You Need Them
  • Complacency Is the Devil
  • Sometimes Weaknesses Can be Strengths
  • Sometimes You Have to Break the Rules
  • Set a Good Example (Even If You Feel Like Puking)
  • Failure is Good

Leadership Lessons from an Extreme Athlete

Essential Elements of Great Leadership

An article that appeared in this month’s Florida Trend caught my attention for a number of reasons. Any theoretical perspective on leadership usually captures my interest, but this one was simple and straight-forward enough to deliver the salient points but without the “fluff” that usually accompanies such essays.

The leadership “elements” that writer Jerry Osteryoung postulates as the four essential traits of good leaders are: Confidence – Decisiveness – Intuition – Empathy.  I further believe that the hundreds of other traits written about by so many other qualified experts are subcategories of these.

Enjoy this brief yet thoughtful article.

Leadership consists of 4 essential elements

Jerry Osteryoung | 10/14/2013

It is amazing to me that so many people think of themselves as great leaders, but do not demonstrate leadership qualities.

Being an owner or a boss does not make you a leader. True leadership is not about the position you hold, but the attributes you display. People follow leaders because they want to, not because they have to.

Serial entrepreneur and blogger James Caan made the case for four elements of leadership, and I completely agree with him. These elements often overlap, so there will be times when you see two are working together to address one problem.

In chemistry, we have the Periodic Table of Elements, which defines all matter as combinations of 112 to 118 basic elements. In leadership, our table of basic elements is made up of only four.

The first element is confidence. For me, this is where it starts because who would ever want to follow someone who does not demonstrate confidence? This is more than just putting on a confident face. I have seen so-called “leaders” using a mask of confidence to hide their insecurities, but they are unsuccessful since the staff quickly sees through this veil.

People naturally want to follow individuals who can articulate the direction they need to go and show confidence in their decisions. I have yet to see a true leader who did not radiate confidence.

The second element of leadership is decisiveness. A leader must be willing to make decisions and stand behind them. Just look at the number of business owners who, when the economy tumbled in 2008, did nothing. The true leaders, in contrast, took action to preserve their businesses.

The third element is intuition. This one is important since the majority of decisions a leader must make involve more than just the black-and-white numbers. Experience, knowledge and intuition — that gut feeling — are also factors.

A decision maker who relies only on facts and numbers is just not going to be as successful as a leader who understands there is much more to be considered. The successful leader lets his or her intuition guide them.

The last element of true leadership is empathy. A leader’s real job is understanding the staff and knowing how to motivate them. This would not be possible without empathy.

Too often you see managers trying to lead by saying, “I am the boss, so you are going to do what I tell you to do.” This is bullying, not leading. No one wants to be around a bully for long.

Being empathetic is understanding your staff’s human condition, recognizing the challenges in their lives, and being kind. When a leader shows empathy for the difficulties his or her staff is facing, they earn the dedication and loyalty of the team.

Now go out and make sure that you have the four elements — confidence, decisiveness, intuition and empathy — as part of your leadership manifest. If you find you are lacking one of these elements, arrange for some coaching to help you develop it.

You can do this!”

Who Needs a Mentor?


Another question might be, “What makes a good mentor?”  Or how about, “What is the mark of a good mentee?”

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, written by Wendy Lea the CEO of Get Satisfaction a technology platform, titled “Behind Every Successful Person, There’s a Mentor”, connected with me.  I started to make a list of the mentors that I trusted, listened to, admired, shadowed, debated, and valued who have infinitely shaped my life and career  – both those known personally and the many whose careers I have followed at a distance – and the list was long!  So I started another one.  The second one narrowed the number to just a handful of mentors whose honest, direct, sincere, and encouraging one-on-one moments and messages have forever influenced my personal and professional style and attitude.

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Balance in the Boardroom

The topic is one that I have already covered in another post but, a recent special section titled “What’s Holding Women Back” and a follow-up article, “How Women Can Get Ahead: Advice from Female CEOs”  in the Wall Street Journal  (articles attached) have sparked such incredible dialogue I wanted to be sure that everyone has had a chance to read them, contemplate the many issues debated and even join in the discussion and offer your own tips and travails.  The topic is always hot – the limited number of women who have reached the top spots in corporate America – but what really struck me is the optimism, confidence and encouraging outlook shared by many who participated in the conversation, both in the articles and other social medium.

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