Life Changing – A Map to Happiness

Life changing can be achieved by a map to happiness. Jane Gunn points to a compass of North, East South and East and West with a link to personal and professional values.

N in North, what we’re trying to do is to say, what’s going on Now? What is the immediate challenge? Essential, even if you’re starting up a collaboration.

E in East stands for “Explore”. Where am I with this? What am I thinking? What am I feeling? What are my own hopes and dreams? You know, we need to really understand ourselves better, and then understand each other better.

S in South stands for “Solutions”. Decide on what criteria do we make that decision? What criteria could we apply to this? Also, what values do we have? What personal values do we have? What group values do we have? How do we apply those to this thinking process? We think deeply, we question everything, we question ourselves as to see what the right way through challenging times is.

W in West stands for “Walking Forward”. It’s a commitment, it’s an ability to leave any bad feelings from the past behind, so to draw a line in the sand. It also stands for wisdom. It’s reaching that higher level of wisdom and possibly learning from yourself and from the past. What have I learned? What do I take forward with me?

The key is values. What are a simple set of values that guide us in the way we speak to each other, in the way we make decisions, in the way we treat each other, in the way we have conversations outside of the boardroom. 

Jane’s personal values are listen, learn, love, and laugh.

Listen: Willing to listen to you as well as me.

Learn:  Being open and willing to learn about others and receive more information.

Love: Courtesy and respect. It means nothing more than that. Treating people with humanity. 

Laugh: Treating people with humour and humility. 

Jane’s latest book – The Mole And The Mountain, takes the reader on a journey to discover how to negotiate the challenges of life and living in a time of chaos. We discover the journey we make and choices we have to take in challenging times

Links to Jane Gunn’s Journey of a Lifetime

George Najeme – The Journey Of A Lifetime EP 1 (Surviving Armed Robbery, Mental Health & Recovery)

Perry Power – The Journey Of A Lifetime EP 2 (Child Sexual Abuse, Breaking The Silence, Activism)

The Journey Of A Lifetime EP2 (LIVE MUSIC SEGMENT)

Jane Gunn, also known as the “Barefoot Mediator” is an expert in the field of conflict resolution. She’s a trained mediator and facilitator. Jane enables people to deal with difference and diversity in ways that are non-adversarial and are solution focused. Her mission is to create a community of resolutioners equipped to lead and inspire others in times of change, in times of challenge, and in times of crises. She’s the author of “How to Beat Bedlam in the Boardroom and Boredom in the Bedroom” and “The Authority Guide to Conflict Resolution”. Jane has spoken at the United Nations, at the White House, and at the European Commission.


00:00:00 Paula: Welcome to “TesseTalks” with your host, Tesse Akpeki, and co host me, Paula Okonneh, where we share with you top leadership and management strategies. This is a journey of discovery. We are learning that leadership is personal, it’s professional, and we hope that you can walk alongside with us on this journey. Today, we have an amazing guest, the Barefoot Mediator, Jane Gunn. I’ll tell you a bit about her. She’s an expert in the field of conflict resolution. She’s a trained mediator and facilitator and is known to her clients as the “Barefoot Mediator”. That’s why I introduced her as that earlier on. Listed as a global leader in who’s who mediation, and featured in Legal 500 Hall of Fame. She is president of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, also known as “CIARB”, and is a former director and board member of the Civil Mediation Council of England and Wales. Internal conflict created by the times we are living in, with that Jane has worked with organisations large and small, including cable and wireless capita, the NHSBAA, Bacardi Martini, McLaurin Racing, the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, ACCA, and many more. And Jane’s skill is in getting people talking about what matters most, both to them and to their organization, and getting people motivated, energized, and committed to what needs to happen next. Welcome to “TesseTalks”, Jane. We’re glad to have you here.
00:01:55 Jane: Thank you. Thank you.
00:01:57 Paula: Tesse?
00:01:58 Tesse: Hi, Jane. I’m so happy you came and said yes on this show. So you know, I took the liberty and I discussed this with Paula that was fitting to call this theme today, “life changing, a map to happiness”.
00:02:13 Paula: Yep. I love it. I love it.
00:02:15 Tesse: “Life changing a map to happiness” and Paula just fell in love with it as well, you know, and you just bring so much wealth. But I’m really, really interested in how you came to be doing this work Jane. Because you did tell me earlier on that a book literally fell on your head. Can you say a bit more about that, this book on your head. Tell us more.
00:02:41 Jane: It’s a very, very true story, Tesse. So my background is I’m a lawyer. I practiced as a commercial lawyer, and I had a bit of a career break while I was, my children were little and I was considering, do I go back into the law or what do I do next? I’m literally in the library, small country library and looking for a recipe book and a big hard back book fell off the top shelf and hit me on the head. True story. I have a look at the book and think, you know, what is this? Do I sue the library? But anyway, I looked at the book and thought, what is it? So the book was called “Love, Medicine and Miracles”, and it’s a book by Dr. Bernie Siegel. He’s an American, retired now, but pediatric cancer doctor. And so I thought I better take the book out. This must be a sign. Took the book out, took it home and read it. Now I have now two paperback copies of the book myself and I’m often giving it away. What Dr. Bernie Siegel was saying is that, he had got frustrated with his job as a doctor of treating people as only their illness, as if they were on a conveyor belt. He needed to step off that conveyor belt and get back into the human side of medicine, exploring what was really going on for their, his patients. What are their needs? What are their interests? What are their concerns? What are their fears? What are their hopes? What are their dreams? And all of this made a difference to the outcomes for the patients and also to his outcome as a doctor. He started a group called “ECAP”, Exceptional Cancer Patients, where people would meet together in groups for dialogue. And it was the dialogue and the ability to share their story which made such a difference to them. And so I just wondered why can’t we do the same thing in law if that can be done in medicine, which is can’t we look beneath the surface at some of the problems we’re trying to solve, have some more effective dialogue around those problems, and that’s where mediation comes in. So that was the beginning of my journey to being a mediator.
00:04:44 Tesse: Oh Jane, I love that story. Paula, you know what, you know, it’s such a, but it literally did fall on your head. It’s like, knock me out, but you know, take me out as well. And you know I’m very, very curious because I read your lovely book called “The Authority Guide to Conflict Resolution”. Totally loved it. Totally loved it. And what touched me the most was your revolutionary approach to effective collaboration. You know, I totally warm to that. And I’m curious about what your thoughts on top headings about what can make for effective collaboration.
00:05:20 Jane: Well, it all always comes back to dialogue, to conversation. I think everything does. And I think, you know, what don’t do. I just ran a session last week with some business executives where we do an exercise and what happens with this particular exercise is people dive straight into the exercise. They don’t have a conversation before they start. What are our expectations? Where are we trying to get to? You know, what’s my role versus your role? So I think very often when we’re trying to collaborate, we forget to set things up well. We forget to be clear about what we’re trying to do, where we’re trying to get to, what each person’s role is. What we do if we reach some kind of misunderstanding or misagreement, all of those things are missed out. We just dive in and get going, in our enthusiasm of course, it’s not that we’re necessarily being negligent. We just forget. We’re so excited to get started with something. It’s the same if you agree to meet a friend for, you know, for a drink or an evening out. You know, if you get the instructions wrong, you end up trying to meet each other at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong clothes on or something like that. You know, you misunderstood what the invitation was. So It’s that getting clear I think, and sharing that and also having this fallback. You know, what if we do, what if we have misunderstood each other? What if we got the instructions wrong if we fall out? Where do we go then? Because, you know, that can be the end of a good working relationship or a collaboration. But perhaps there’s a process then that we could go through that would get us back on track again.
00:06:54 Paula: Wow. I love what you just said ’cause I’m thinking the world is really changing at a pace that you know is mind boggling to me. And I’m sure some of our listeners as well. So, as a mediator, what are you learning along the way? Because you pointed out about many dialogues start out without expectations and roles being defined, you know, so tell me a bit about that.
00:07:19 Jane: So we go through a process, and I like in the process of mediation to a compass. If you think of the four points of a compass, you’ve got the North, the East, South and West. So if you start with the North, what we’re trying to do is to say, what’s going on now? What is the immediate challenge? You know even if you’re starting up a collaboration, what is it that is the presenting challenge to us? You know, we want to collaborate over something, or we’ve got a crisis that we need to deal with, or we’ve got a conflict. So describing that and being clear what the narrative is. We all have a story in our head about what things are, what the reality is. Let’s compare those stories and see whether we’ve even starting off with the same story. And then the E stands for “Explore”. And again, this is the step that Dr. Bernie Siegel was taking. What you need to do then is to explore more deeply beneath the surface. What’s actually going on? What was my experience versus your experience? What was my expectations versus your expectations? And let’s share those. And the other thing about exploring is sometimes we need to go deeper and explore ourselves. Where am I with this? What am I thinking? What am I feeling? What are my own hopes and dreams? You know, we need to really understand ourselves better, and then understand each other better. So it is a very personal thing. And the more we can understand ourselves, the more we can understand others. If I can’t understand myself, I can’t understand you. So this exploring phase, and I was explaining this to my clients last week, is the most important phase and yet the one we all like to jump over because it’s hard. Because you’ve got to go almost, I say, sort of into the darkness. You’ve got to go into a place which we don’t know what the answers are. We haven’t fully explored, and go in and say, what do I find here that I didn’t know about the venture that we’re trying to do, or the conflict that we’re trying to resolve? Let’s dig deep and find out what this is all about. Only when we’ve done that work can we move on to the S, which stands for “Solutions”. And again, you know, in society as well as in our organizations and in our home life, we love a simple solution. You know, we love a simple narrative and then we love a simple solution. It’s really what we call linear thinking. But actually there are lots of options and lots of solutions. So the idea here is that you come up with lots of different ideas. You be as creative as possible and say, you know, we could do this, we could do X, we could do Y. But the next thing you need to do is to decide on what criteria do we make that decision? So how do we decide between 1,2,3,4, and 5? What’s the basis of our decision making? And again, you know, often if you’ve got a group of people or even two people, we decide on what we think is best for us, rather than on some understood criteria, especially, you know, what’s good for the business or whatever. So having a discussion then about, you know, what criteria could we apply to this? Also, what values do we have? What personal values do we have? What group values do we have? How do we apply those to this thinking process? So again, it’s easy to skirt over this and say, well, there’s one solution or this person who’s got the strongest voice to say, why don’t you follow me? But doing problem solving, critical thinking, I think is something that’s really vitally important in society at the moment, is that we think deeply, we question everything, we question ourselves as to see what the right way through challenging times is. So that’s the S. And then the W stands for “Walking Forward”. It’s a commitment, it’s an ability to leave any bad feelings from the past behind, so to draw a line in the sand. And it also stands for wisdom. It’s reaching that higher level of wisdom and possibly learning from yourself and from the past. What have I learned? What do I take forward with me? So that’s the process I apply. It’s a very simple process, but actually also complex when you use it effectively. That’s the mediation process. But in fact, you can apply to any dialogue decision that you need to make. You can run any story that you see in the news through that and say, well, how would that play out, if we ran that through this process?
00:11:41 Tesse: You know, I love compasses, but I will never look at a compass the same way again. It would be so much richer. You know, I’ll be thinking, oh, oh, the North, South, East, West. And I’ll be remembering what you said. And talking about remembering, I really love your book, “How to Beat Bedlam Boardroom and Boredom Bedroom”.
00:12:01 Jane: Yeah.
00:12:01 Tesse: I loved it. I must confess that the first time I picked it up, I said, “bedroom”. And then I had to, I read your narrative as I opened the page and said, no, no, no, this is not something about something untoward. And it proved that way. But, you know, I would like to kind of like segue into boards,you know, your thinking on board. Because my experience of boards and the boardroom is that it is a container for a lot of conflict, a lot of misunderstanding, a lot of meltdown, divisions, et cetera. But I’d welcome your thoughts about, you know, things that would make the boardroom a more collaborative base and place.
00:12:40 Jane: Yes, thank you. I mean, I’ve experienced of sitting on boards and of chairing a board. So I was chair of the board of management at the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, and that was quite a large board, international in terms of its membership. And so I said, I regarded it as a giant mediation, same process. All of these skills apply to boardrooms as well. You know, it is about the conversation. It is about, again clarity about what each meeting is about, where we want to get to, what our criteria for deciding are. But the key thing for me is values. What are a simple set of values that guide us in the way we speak to each other, in the way we make decisions, in the way we treat each other, in the way we have conversations outside of the boardroom. So we did that work at Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, and the values would go up on the flip chart at the beginning of a board meeting for some time after we did the work. My own personal values that I like to apply when I’m in a mediation often sound a bit wacky to people, if you like. They are listen, learn, love, and laugh. And, you know to listen really means, I will suspend my judgment hear what you’ve got to say. I am not trying to impose my thoughts on you. My thoughts, I’m willing to listen to you as well. So being willing to listen. To learn means I am happy to learn new information and to hear what you’ve got to say. But it is about being open and willing to learn about others and receive more information. To love means really to treat people with courtesy and respect. It means nothing more than that. You know, it means treating people with humanity. And then to laugh means to treat people with humor and humility. To allow humor and humility into what you do. And there’s no meeting that’s so serious that you can’t have some humor in it. I love to laugh, you know, I think it’s really important. And, you know just again, taking little things into or sharing little stories or vignettes in a meeting can lighten. How can you lighten your meeting? How can you make it fun as well as functional? Those things are so important, and just thinking about those things if you’re going to a meeting, but in particular if you’re chairing one, thinking how you can make it fun. You know a meeting, I used to say, and I run sessions on this, treat your meeting like a dinner party. Think, who are my guests? How am I going to greet them? What food is going to be available? How are they going to enjoy the experience? If you think about your meeting like a dinner party, even your board meeting, you will find it goes far better. So can I take some mini mars bars or something that’s fun, you know, whatever it is, it just lightens the atmosphere. And once people feel a little bit lighter, the conversation becomes a bit lighter. So those are my tips for collaboration on boards.
00:15:43 Tesse: Totally love them. And I’m taking them with me. I’m going to give you the credit of course, Jane. But I’m sure like if you treat your board room and your board meetings like a container and environment for dinner parties, you’d be making better decisions, less in hunger and more with love.
00:16:01 Paula: Yes. I love that. Less in hunger, more in love. But dinner parties, of course make me think about home. And as a mediator, what tips do you have for like conflicts in the home? Because boardrooms are made up of people who live at home.
00:16:19 Jane: Yeah. Thank you very much, Paula. Well, that was the reason I wrote the book that Tesse talked about “How to beat Bedlam in the boardroom and boredom in the bedroom”. And as Tesse says, it’s not really about bedroom matters. It’s much more about the fact that if you have a conflict at work, you’ll take it home and it will impact on your home life. And if you have a conflict at home, it will impact on your work life. So, but, the same skills and principles apply to both. So, in that book, I look at how can you apply those skills and principles at home as well as at work. And it is the same set of principles. You can apply the compass as well to issues that are going on at home. I had some very interesting questions last week, again, in this workshop that I was running about, what happens if somebody doesn’t want to have a conversation with you? You want to raise an issue. You know, supposing, you know, your teenage child, is the one I get all the time, you know, my teenager won’t engage with me. And, you know, one of the things you can do if it’s challenging to have a conversation with somebody is write a letter to them. It can be an email, but it can be a letter that you handwrite or whatever. But that can be a really interesting way to bypass a blockage and to write down your thoughts and feelings and so on. And I’ve got some personal experience of doing that. But also I’ve seen that work well in mediations too, where somebody has actually said, hang on a minute, I think I need to handwrite a letter of apology and may I do that and read it out. And so writing to someone or writing something and then reading it out can be incredibly powerful, incredibly hard to do, but it can make a big difference. So those are some of the, but definitely this overlap between work and home and society at large. You know, we see a lot of conflict in society right now, global conflict, and we wonder how we can understand it, how we can tackle it, but actually it’s the same thing played out on just a larger scale.
00:18:22 Paula: I agree. I agree. When you talked about the compass and, you know, North, East, South and West. My mind immediately went to what’s happening right now in the Middle East and saying, you know, I’m sure they have mediators, but.
00:18:38 Jane: They do. And one of the challenges, one of the things I like to talk quite a lot about is conflict escalation. And that’s how does conflict escalate from that time when a conversation breaks down to the thing you see very often in global conflicts is where it seems as though we’re standing on the edge of the abyss, on the edge of something really terrible. One of the phases of that escalation process is the story, the development of story and the gathering of groups. Now, what happens over a very long period of history in something like a global conflict is that the narrative, the story, gets built up and that we the public and others, are tempted to join in one of those groups. We decide that we are for one party and against the other or, you know, whatever. And that’s the danger because actually we maybe haven’t done our exploration. I mean, I can’t say that in any global conflict, I have that depth of knowledge about the people, about the context, about the history to feel that it’s appropriate to take sides. I take the side against violence and conflict and for peace. And that’s not to say that there may not be reasons why people are doing what they do, but I don’t feel that I can help by taking sides and saying, I’m for one side and against the other. I think the mediators from what I know, there are always mediators involved in the background. But again, they have the same challenge that I have in that getting people to come and talk to that is always a challenge. But for sure those principles can be. But the same challenge, you know, can you get people to come to the table? Are they willing to talk? Are they willing to put down their arms? Not always actually.
00:20:25 Paula: You are right. Sure right. Tesse?
00:20:28 Tesse: It’s so rich, this is, I’m just kind of listening. I’m leaning into you Jane. And that people, you can actually prepare that meal, but you can’t force people to come to a table. And once they’re there, they might just enjoy the meal. You know, and I’m just wondering, cause you have, Paula’s reading out and we had to summarize your bio, cause it’s so rich. It’s so wonderful. A woman of experience and a woman of heart. And I’m wondering what success means for you? You know, people talk about success usually in money terms, whatever. But for you, what do you see as success in life, personal, professional, and what leads you to seeing it that way?
00:21:07 Jane: It’s interesting. That’s a very interesting question, because I don’t think about success such a lot. I think for me, success is reaching people and reaching as many people as I can as possible with a message that is helpful to them. That’s not to say my message is the only message or it’s the right message. But engaging as many people as I can in a dialogue to think about some of thes. big conversations. I call them big conversations. But if we can initiate these big conversations and encourage people to have them with some principles, with some guidelines, I think to me that is success. It’s success on a scale of reaching out. And, “The barefoot mediator concept” was one that wasn’t really me, but actually could there be? It was about going back to the basics. What were the basic principles of peacemaking, of mediating, the skills, principles, and mindset, and could everybody apply them? And therefore could people come forward and become “Barefoot Mediators” themselves? And say I’m willing to adopt these skills, these principles, this mindset and take them into my life and apply them in my life. I don’t need to be a lawyer, I don’t need to be a commercial mediator. I just would like to learn the basic skills and that I think for me was the idea that I had behind becoming a barefoot mediator.
00:22:34 Tesse: Oh, that’s beautiful. Paula, I’m so full of goodness from Jane, that I’m in this place of wanting to stay with it. I’m passing over to you.
00:22:45 Paula: Well, there’s been a lot of wisdom. I’ve learned so much. I mean, I love your definition of success, reaching people, engaging a lot of people in dialogue, encouraging people and have them have guidelines. Are there any more words of wisdom? I mean, because we are about to wrap up here.
00:23:03 Jane: I’ve got a final quote for you actually, and it’s one that I’m doing a talk at the end of this week, is about how to manage your business in times of change. And you know, I just think we’re in times of constant change at the moment, and I’m writing a little book about how you come through the storm, but I’ve got this quote here and I’ll read it. “And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive, you won’t even be sure whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain, when you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm is all about”.
00:23:39 Paula: Wow.
00:23:41 Tesse: Wow.
00:23:43 Jane: No, that is what these times are about. We can only go into ourselves, learn about ourselves and come through the storm, having learned more about ourselves. I think I honestly believe at a global level, we are being challenged greatly to adopt some of these skills and mindsets, to collaborate more with each other rather than be conflicted. And that requires us actually to go through some of these storms, but come out the other side, having learned what we can learn about ourselves and everybody else. So I hope that’s a message of hope to end on.
00:24:18 Paula: It’s a great message of hope. And before we finally wrap up, do you have a gift that you want to share with our audience? Because I mean, we can’t end without, we’ve learned so much. I’m sure there’s more that you can just.
00:24:31 Jane: I do. And I’ll give you a link. Right at the beginning of lockdown I happened to have just made a series of 10 mini videos. They are mini videos for managing in times of change, challenge and crisis. They’re and available and I’ll give you a link where people can watch those videos. They are all about surviving in these very challenging times, but more than welcome to share that. And I hope people find some inspiration in that.
00:25:00 Paula: I’m absolutely sure that they will. I mean, just talking with you for the last 28 minutes has, I’ve gotten so many nuggets of wisdom, of hope. I love everything that you’ve said.
00:25:13 Tesse: So do I. So do I. I love everything. I’m just talking about my Jane fragrance. Must get it. Must get it.
00:25:21 Paula: I love it. And so to our amazing audience, you just heard Jane Gunn. Oh my word, wasn’t that great? And so we ask your audience to head over to “Google Podcasts”, “Apple Podcasts”, “Spotify”, or anywhere else you listen to podcasts and click subscribe. If you like what you just heard, well who wouldn’t? Please write us a review. And if you have any questions or topics you’d like us to cover related to leadership or governance, Send us a note. Remember, it could be personal as well as professional. And if you would like to be a guest on the show, just like Jane was, we ask that you head over to our website, which is “” to apply. Thank you again, Jane. This has been wonderful. That’s all I could say. Tesse you are better with words, another adjective other than wonderful?
00:26:15 Tesse: I call it fascinating and life changing. Definitely. Definitely. Thank you so much. Absolutely brilliant – diamond!
00:26:24 Paula: Love it. Thank you.
00:26:26 Jane: Oh, thank you both. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you.