From managing an issue to deciding whether to allow an employee to take an extra 15 minutes for lunch, decisions are made continually. Most of the time, the decision-making process is seamless. A question occurs, facts are analyzed, and a choice is made.

Other times, the process is challenging, especially when the stakes are high and a consensus among individuals with differing agendas must occur. Not handled correctly, not only increases the chance of the wrong decision; but can also cause irredeemable damage to the relationship between the interested parties. Unfortunately, I have seen both occur while helping organizations communicate issues and crises.

To keep you and your organization from making the wrong decision, especially when it comes to communicating about an issue, I am sharing the following Q & A with Kristen Ehrlich, JD, LLM, of Ethos Coaching Group. Kristen, an attorney by education, works with business owners and leadership as an unbiased outside party to mediate difficult internal business discussions/decisions.

Q: How does an organization find itself in a position where they need internal mediation/negotiation services?
Major decisions often put great strains on relationships, and viewpoints can become polarized to the point where seeing all sides of the problem can be difficult for the leadership team. This is where someone like me can help.

Q: What types of decisions cause the most significant challenges?
Examples include hiring an outside party into leadership, taking on a new investment, long-term planning, or how the company handles a delicate issue. Usually, decisions that are linked to an individual’s core values (whether it is consciously or unconsciously) are the ones that can be the most difficult to come to an agreement on when parties have different opinions. What’s tough is that sometimes these values are just at odds and a real compromise needs to be worked through. However, sometimes it’s just perspective and both people are really coming from the same place with the same long-term objectives.

Q: When working with businesses and organizations, what is your goal?
To make sure those in the decision-making process explore all perspectives and come to the best decision possible. Also, I want those who take part in the process to come away with a stronger relationship between each other.

Q: Why do you need to address the relationship part between the parties?
These relationships aren’t going anywhere. They aren’t transactional nor transitory in nature and require daily trust. Each person needs to be able to work independently in leadership to do their job but also be able to be a team player on larger matters. Once the relationship truly begins to breakdown, it gets more and more difficult to do. It is easy for things to escalate into one person feeling dissatisfied or disillusioned, sometimes to the point of leaving the business entirely or making reckless decisions that could hurt the company.

Q: How did you get into this line of work?
Working in mergers and acquisition due diligence, I discovered a need for a support system when owners/key decision makers needed to come to a decision on complex issues.

Q: How does not being aligned impact the ability of the organization to communicate effectively with stakeholders?
First, you run the very real risk of two conflicting messages coming from the organization. Also, communication needs to be transparent and authentic. If you have individuals not on the same page or on the same page and not happy, an underlying tension will exist no matter what is communicated.

Q: Along with Internal Mediation/Negotiation practice, Ethos also offers coaching services. How do the two dovetail?
Business mediation and business coaching are very inter-related. At the heart, it is working through complex problems by analyzing all the options and pushing perceived limitations by really understanding the matter in depth.

Q: What is your favorite movie and why?
It’s hard to choose just one, but a favorite of mine is Run Lola Run (German: Lola rennt) because I like how the concept of small changes can have significant impacts. Plus, the music and pace are exciting.

Q: What was the last book you read?
Circe by Madeline Miller

Q: If you could eat a meal with one person, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?
Noam Chomsky. I like that the underlying theme of his work is that common sense and critical thinking of others’ motivations can breakdown what is fact or fiction. My husband got to take a course with him in college, and I am still jealous.

Kristen can be contacted at info@ethoscg.com or call (727) 677-1840