Hillary Bendon was involved in organizational and leadership development for 25 years before becoming a mediator. Her last position was running a training department for an aerospace company. She was disappointed with learning and development as she believed that “training wasn’t the answer to help people learn and develop.” This pushed her to reevaluate her career path, and she tried to find alternative ways of using the skills she had developed in the 25 years in the organizational and leadership development space.
An option that came to mind was law school, however, she decided that was not the right investment, and so she took a year off work to complete a Master of Dispute Resolution degree, which she obtained from the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at the Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law in Malibu, California. She also had a prior Master of Public Administration degree from the Middlebury School of International Studies at Monterey. This degree was focused on International Development Management and Nonprofit Management, and it was able to help her further deepen her understanding of organizational development within different kinds of organizations. This knowledge has been especially useful to her when mediating, as it enables her to recognize when there are systemic issues within an organization that a few mediation sessions cannot effectively mend.
Hilary’s mediation practice began in school, where she mediated in small claims court as part of her studies, and her corporate background made it easier for her to assimilate into the field. She worked for a consultant briefly before graduating and has been working in conflict resolution in the workplace ever since. This includes conflict coaching, which constitutes most of her work, facilitation, especially Ways of Working Agreements, and mediation.
Shifting Perspectives, Breaking Barriers and Bringing People Together,
Hilary specializes in conflicts where “relationships need to be re-established or re-invigorated”, and, as she put it, “I work to resolve and bring together people, rather than coming up with agreements for separation.” In doing so, she has found changing parties’ approaches to disputes to be more rewarding in the long run. She does not get involved with legal mediation and works exclusively in business settings. This includes corporations, family businesses, and nonprofit organizations. She has also found conflict coaching to be very useful, as developing the skills necessary to possess in conflict situations prevents people from repeating the same negative patterns, which keep them in a perpetual conflict loop. This way “they learn how to do conflict well.”
Apart from English, Hilary is also adept in other languages, as she is fluent in Spanish and Italian. “I am capable of doing all that I do in Spanish.” This gives her an advantage, as she is able to mediate and communicate with Spanish and Italian speakers. She hopes that this skill will be useful internationally, and she is currently working on workplace ombuds for small to large businesses. Her primary focus, however, is on small to medium businesses, where she would be available to employees on a need-based basis to resolve conflicts within the businesses. She would be working outside of the organizations as a Peace Partner, thus not mandated to report to the organizations. “I’m purely there to resolve conflicts.” This service is especially useful for companies who otherwise would be unable to provide it due to financial constraints.
Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith were two of Hilary’s professors who introduced her to Mediators Beyond Borders International (MBBI). Since her introduction to the organization about a year ago, she has been involved with the Los Angeles chapter of the organization where she attended a series of meetings. She is also engaged with MBBI’s Democracy Politics, and Conflict Engagement Initiative (DPACE). This initiative “offers constructive alternatives to the destructive conflicts that undermine political and social change movements.”
Article by Jainaba Gaye, MBBI Writer