Find Allies in Your Opponent in a Conflict.

Look for Allies

Find Allies in Your Opponent in a Conflict.

Find Allies:  Management expert Margaret Heffernan postulated this counter intuitive idea learned in her years running businesses and organizations in her TEDGlobal 2012 presentation.

Naturally, the first ally you should seek is your mediator.  As a mediator, it is my job to be your ally and to help you make your opponent an ally to settlement as well.  We do this together by asking tough questions.  Besides the tough questions about the dispute, I also ask broader based questions.

Ms. Heffernan suggested several general questions to help in this process:

  • Are you okay with this?
  • Does anything about this bother you?
  • Is there another way to frame this question?

Having allies allows you to work together

Having allies allows you to work together to be creative and solve the problem.  In her talk, Heffernan shared a stunning statistic: 85% of executives had concerns with their company that they were afraid to raise, out of fear of the conflict that would ensue. Heffernan warns that this not only means that businesses aren’t getting the best work out of their employees, but that issues which could be nipped in the bud internally perpetuate themselves.  Therefore don’t avoid conflict – embrace it.

Margaret Heffernan

Margaret Heffernan (born 1955) is an international businesswoman and writer. She was born in Texas, raised in the Netherlands, educated at Cambridge University and settled in the UK near the city of Bath.

She is the author of five books: The Naked Truth: A Working Woman’s Manifesto about Business and What Really Matters, How She Does It (published in paperback as Women on Top), Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at our Peril, A Bigger Prize: Why Competition isn’t Everything and How We Do Better, and Beyond Measure – a short book commissioned by TED.

While Heffernan’s first two books focused on these issues as they impact women in the workplace, her overarching theme has been the need to recognize and release the talent that often lies buried inside organizations, under-valued and under-rewarded because it is unconventional. Heffernan’s voice is primarily one of critical challenge, taking little at face value and regularly questioning received wisdom.

Ken StrongmanAbout the Author: Ken Strongman ( has years of experience and a growing national reputation as a mediator and arbitrator.  He has successfully resolved more than a thousand disputes in the fields of construction defects, real estate, intellectual property, and employment.  He is also a Mediator and Arbitrator for FINRA.

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