Interview with an Ombudsman: Mark Batson Baril

Resologics’ Founder and Senior Practitioner Mark Batson Baril is an Ombudsman (conflict advisor) who, along with his team, provides a variety of ombuds, mediation and conflict management services to organizations not only to help them resolve disputes, but to optimize team dynamics, increase productivity and reduce costs. Resologics believes in harnessing the power of conflict.

How did you come to the profession of conflict engagement and resolution?

Before I discovered conflict resolution work, I was in a completely different field. I have a design engineering background, and specialized in die-making and -cutting. Back in the mid-90s I started a business and did well, working with a lot of products and different teams for companies like 3M, GE Healthcare, Burton Snowboards and Medtronic.

By the mid-2000s I was very comfortable in what I was doing – almost too comfortable. I was brought into what I’d call a very dysfunctional team in an abrasive leadership situation, and decided to take that opportunity to learn something new, which was mediation.  As I went through mediation training, each situation was new and thrilling and scary!  And seeing people come out on the other side of mediation completely different in terms of the relationship they had been in – that was another kind of thrill.

It was a whole new level for me, a huge shift from the career I had started as a teenager. What I discovered was that beyond the machines and making money, it was about social bonds and making a difference. This was new and exciting and important to me.  I threw myself into it 100%, and here I am, founder of Resologics still finding it thrilling every day with every client..

You’re someone who’s created three successful businesses, is well-traveled, loves trail running, skiing, paragliding – adventurous stuff. How does being an Ombudsman fit into this picture, if at all?

Well, I think it’s something I uniquely bring to the profession.  I won’t say I’m a total adrenaline junkie, but I sure do like to be physically challenged and to do things sometimes that are a little scary. When we’re intervening within a relationship it can be challenging, not only for the people in the room but for the Ombuds. You’re setting up a situation where the landscape could change from minute to minute and, although you can predict what will happen next, sometimes the outcomes change. It’s an adventure each time for everyone involved, and with huge rewards.

I was a ski instructor in Vermont for a bunch of years. Every morning I would line up with the other 25 instructors, in front of sometimes 100s of people waiting for ski lessons. The organizer of the crew would match each of us up, and you never knew who you would get. Would it be some wild little kid who would run you ragged all day, or difficult people, or really fun people, or folks who were better skiers than you and you wondered what you could bring to the table for them?

Today I think of this when I’m getting in the room with a team. The next sentence could completely change the whole dynamic. There’s the excitement of what the outcome could be for this group of individuals. I feel a caring and deep respect for what people can do on the other side of the conflict, and how they can handle themselves going forward.

What does success look like for you?

Success for me is all about helping people see something new, or helping them get around their stress to a new place, so they can see a different way to proceed. Even more successful is working with a whole team that is stuck and they figure out a new way to get out of the box they found themselves in. It feels really good to have been part of that.

Often in mediation situations, there is a point at which people need to vent. It’s hard to predict exactly when it’s going to happen, and sometimes suddenly things explode.  It’s like a freight train approaching the room!

You look for the opening to force that train into the room because it’s the turning point that will make the difference in the relationships. It’s often a breakthrough that changes everything for the team. Ombuds strive to see things materialize before they happen, and to bring awareness to the group as to how we can move through it and forward. I have already established a place of trust and space so they know the train isn’t going to run off the track and bring damage. They know they’ll be OK.

The goal is to help them pull into the station together, to get to the place where they want to be – that common purpose everyone wants to have. In these moments I have a deep feeling of success and satisfaction.

What, for you, is Resologics’ UVP?

I grew up in a large family with a lot of entrepreneurs, and that atmosphere of entrepreneurial spirit and attitude has influenced my work today. I see teams this way; they’re almost like little businesses within a bigger one. I realize that the people component and how they work together are what make an organization or endeavor successful. Yes, the mechanics (equipment, products, financials, etc.) are necessary, but so much of the entrepreneurial discussions of success come down to the dynamic of the people involved.

What it has come to mean to me, is that teams are getting along well and are able to work well together in big, important, dynamic ways. Any team I work with, the more I realize this is true, and it’s why I love to do this work.