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my career

What is your full name and title? How long have you been in this role?

My name is Joan McLeod, I am a conflict navigator and conflict management consultant. I've been doing this work in some form since 2000.

What exactly do you do?

I work with people from organizations, groups, and teams to help them resolve issues "in" work, "at" work and, most interestingly, I get to work to help them stay on course, or improve their systems of work.

Describe what you do on any given day.

Essentially, I am neutral – a fly on the wall who helps people see what they can't see, and map out safe and effective routes to resolution that are better for them and the whole organization, their clients and stakeholders.

What's your background and education? Please be specific.

I have multiple certifications in mediation, facilitation, and coaching. I got a masters degree in conflict analysis and management in 2002, but there are many schools that offer programs at post-secondary levels in this discipline today across Canada.

How did you get to your position? Give us some details about the path that has led you to your current role.

Like me, most of the people who get into this work, and excel at it, have had some practice and experience in being part of teams – those who are successful at overcoming challenges as a leader or member.

What's the best part of your job? And what do you like best about it? Give readers an idea of why your job is interesting to you.

Being able to help people shed light on what had made work a dark and unwelcoming place for them, and helping them consider and navigate the routes out – it is a profound and privileged place to be always. I get to work with people from all levels and all sides of a problem, and it really is amazing how quickly you can find solutions when you have navigation support. It's like equipping the team with a radar that can see through darkness, fog and anything else that obscures the way to reaching the team, individual or client's vision. With a navigator, there's no reason to get stuck, overwhelmed or let a system drag you down – they can help you connect the points along the way that will get you where you need to get.

What's the worst part of your job? Be honest. There has to be something you don't like that much.

The worst thing is that not everyone who can use help asks … and you can't force them to come. That means you can spend a lot of time with the people who do want to work with such people, or groups – and help them work around, past or away from that barrier.

What are your strengths in this role? Or, what do you need to be able to do to handle your job?

Funny enough, it helps to be able to let the need to help go. It is their job, not mine to do – I have to trust they know what, who and where they are working best, so I am best to stay neutral.

What are your weaknesses? Try to find one!

For me, the biggest challenge is the tiny bit of administration … and organizing my calendar without stressing myself out – so many people to support, so little time.

What has been your best career move?

Learning how to market what a conflict navigator can do in a way that helps people see, and benefit from its value. Knowing how to help them "put some skin in the game" makes a huge difference… but I would do this work for free, it's that rewarding.

What has been your worst career move?

Always, the biggest and baddest move is to try to do too much – nothing goes well if you do. A mantra in this work is, "go slow to go faster than you ever imagined possible (and didn't think you were ready to)"… it's amazing what people accomplish when they see what they want to contribute come together.

What's your next big job goal?

Go out on my own and help other leaders, coaches and people who care (or can) to make organizations that are currently thought of as toxic, dysfunctional or stuck in conflict more navigable. I know this is something important to anyone who cares about communities, workplaces and groups and their clients, employees and leaders. … in fact, unions love it when we help organizations engage them to make that happen… suddenly they can get managers focused on making the right things right.

What's your best advice to others who might want to follow in your footsteps?

Doing nothing but complain about dysfunction in a system is like being lost at sea and expecting a lighthouse to come out and save you … Turn your own lessons learned in life and work into patience for others who likely do not want to make you miserable. Practicing the navigation of workplace issues, rather than expecting a "quick fix" or "hero" in management or human resources to save you can change how you think about what your work should be about.