What I do and why

Jul 16 • Ilona Nurmela • Comments: 0
A lot of my friends and acquaintances have recently enquired whether I am still on or have I extended my sabbatical from my post as a member of the management of a listed company...or congratulated me on returning to the honourable profession of an attorney...or enquired what is it that I do, really. I think it's time to clarify. :)

In my professional life, I had long noticed that giving advice does not mean that it will be followed in 100% of cases due to the simple reason that the adviser (internal counsel, attorney, consultant) never sees 100% into the head of the person s/he is giving advice to. We never really fully know - and the person seeking advice cannot or may not wish to tell you - why they want to do something, why is it really important, who else will be impacted by certain decisions, what other offences, old feuds, communication preferences are important, etc. This does not mean that no one should ever advise anyone. You can, just instead of assuming things, ask a lot of questions. It dawned on me that asking questions is sometimes more effective than giving advice at the CEDR mediator training in London, in December 2012. I discovered how difficult it is exactly to pull yourself out of a counsellor’s role and out of trying to provide a solution in order to effectively help people find a solution that is suitable for them. Sometimes the answer to one simple question can turn the entire advice upside down and enable you to find a simple, elegant, creative solution for a complicated situation.
During my 3-month sabbatical (Oct 2013-Jan 2014) my quest for better questions simply continued. What followed was asking a lot of questions. Some colleagues may remember my relentless “why?”s to certain logical explanations which helped us to arrive at the real reason. In addition, I took up the opportunity to systematically learn coaching, which combines the art of intelligent questions as well as NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) and creative visualisation of solutions with the aim of helping people decide, achieve what they desire and change their life into one where they can be the best that they can be.

Inspiring conversations helped me to see how many of us - including myself - are stuck in daily hamster treadmill and just trying to keep our heads above the mount of things piling up without asking why is something really important, what is important to US and what future are we struggling for. Exactly. The bigger picture. Me + who else besides my loved ones benefits from what I do? What is the positive change that I want to see in society/world/people instead of whining all the time how everything sucks? What do we want our world to look like in 1-3-5-10-20-100 years?

I want a world where people know how to communicate considering other people’s interests and needs. A world, where there is more cooperation, where deals are made taking into account the interests, values and needs of all participants from the start so as to avoid conflicts later. A world, where conflicts are solved largely outside of courts, whether with the help of neutrals amongst disputants (mediation, conciliation and other modes of professional negotiations). Or if it is really necessary that a third party would tell you how to live, then it would rather be a field expert (expert solutions or arbitration). A world, where conflict prevention during negotiations and a peaceful resolution of disputes out of courts is as organically and economically ecological to companies and as socially responsible as priding oneself on acting environmentally friendly.

For the world that I want to create, we need to deal with symptoms and causes in parallel, i.e. deal with solving existing disputes as well as with preventative awareness-building which would generate less disputes in the future. The commercial mediation path in my current activities is to resolve existing disputes, which have arisen as a symptom and a result of communication differences and disregard for the interests of cooperation partners. Someone who has been through commercial mediation process even once learns to communicate better and take others more into account - at other times and with other business partners. Coaching is all about helping people to take responsibility for their own life - if someone wants a certain change in their life, then with little thinking assistance they can implement that change. Negotiations - advisory and trainings - this is preventative action to teach effective communication primarily in business and professional, i.e. profit-seeking context. Advocating corporate governance on the basis of mistakes large corporations have made is also preventative action. Imagine, if all of the time that is currently wasted on unnecessary or imaginary offences, obsessive thoughts, disputes and inability to decide - what we would be able to do with all this freed up time? Of course, I’m no economist, but if even the time that is freed up from business disputes is re-routed into developing the same businesses, then logic dictates that this would raise the competitiveness of Estonian companies, our GDP and on an individual level would raise all of our standard of living. This is my vision of a better world and this is also the reason why I am advocating commercial mediation, coaching, negotiation trainings (and potential certification of trainers) as well as BICG in parallel with several collaborators.

Exactly. I’m trying to make the world a better place. During the last 22 years I have kept quite a few jobs - interpreter, attorney, lecturer of private international law, barkeep in a college bar, IT consultant, head of legal, head of compliance, management board member of a listed company. If to add several fascinating initiatives like founding the Estonian Moot Court Society (1997), team win in moot court competition (1996), founding a business network Business From Me To You of angel investors-service providers-ideators (2012) and getting certified as a commercial mediator with CEDR in the UK (2012), then it is not completely shocking that the sequence of fascinating activities in my life continues. At the moment, I am a member of the Board of and trainer with the Baltic Institute of Corporate Governance (BICG), negotiation counsel, professional coach and facilitating (non-legal) mediator offering services from under my own company Sommersby OÜ* and in addition also an attorney with FORT Legal law office, where I currently only offer evaluative (legal) mediations.

What kind of world do you want to create? :)

*Sommersby as in “by Sommers”. Sky Sommers is an alias under which I write fiction books in English for 15-35-year-old fairytale-lovers and the company was originally established with self-publishing said books in mind.

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