Amaya Mo believes it’s possible to get both the juice and the zest out of life. The Master of Conflict Management and Resolution graduate said her postgraduate studies have completely changed her perspective on life, both personally and professionally.
During the program Amaya had many 'ah-ha' moments, one of which occurred during a subject on negotiation. The lecturer used the Ugli Orange exercise to illustrate the concept of win-win negotiations. In this scenario, two people vie for the same orange and the negotiator’s task is to assist them to reach an agreement on how to share the orange. During class, many students halved the orange or determined which person was more ‘worthy’ of the orange.
“This approach, however, could only result in a win-lose or lose-lose for the parties involved,” Amaya said. “The concept of integrative negotiation was then introduced where understanding the interests of both parties was the first step in the negotiation. In this case, one person wanted the juice for a drink and the other wanted the peel for a cake.”
The exercise exemplified the importance of understanding the interests of people involved in conflict and how agreements can be reached that benefit all parties involved.
“Whilst this approach may seem like common sense, it made me reflect on the many workplace situations I had witnessed, particularly during periods of significant change, where the focus was firmly on bargaining outcomes rather than understanding the interests of the organisation, its employees and clients or customers,” Amaya said. “This often resulted in less than positive outcomes for one or all parties involved.”
Before starting her postgraduate studies, Amaya was unfamiliar with the concept of conflict management and resolution outside of the traditional litigious or ‘rights-based’ approach. After more than 15 years working on large organisational transformation programs across the government, private and not-for-profit sectors, Amaya felt she would benefit from an opportunity to learn more through higher education.
“I always felt like I wanted to sharpen my tools and expand my knowledge in a more intensive environment than one-day professional development programs could provide, but I was so busy working in senior roles that I never felt like I had the time,” she said. “When my husband was relocated for work, an opportunity presented itself and I jumped at it.”
Having worked in roles at the director and general manager level, an MBA was a natural fit for Amaya. It wasn’t until a friend suggested that she look into the MBA/Master of Conflict Management Resolution program that her excitement grew.
“I spoke to a few people about the course and they all agreed that it would provide an ‘edge’ that the MBA alone couldn’t,” she said. “In the end, the MBA provided me with a lot of core skills required when operating at a senior level within an organisation, but it was the conflict management and resolution subjects that I became passionate about. I wanted to do all of the subjects and even after graduating I am looking at opportunities to undertake additional subjects to continue my professional development.”
Throughout the course, Amaya learnt practical and applicable skills in how to engage and support people through conflict. She graduated in 2017 and is an accredited mediator and conflict coach. The skills and knowledge she has gained through the course have sparked an abiding passion for the discipline.
“It was so fascinating from the first subject to the last,” Amaya said. “The course has given me an understanding about how people work and engage with each other and the opportunity to reflect on how I can improve the way I work and engage with others. It has absolutely changed my personal and professional life. I now have the skills to support people to engage and communicate effectively in order to have constructive conflicts rather than experience the negative impacts of destructive conflict.”
Amaya’s lecturers and fellow students fostered a fun and supportive learning environment. She said the authentic learning experience helped to prepare her for when she would use her knowledge and skills after graduation.
“The lecturers are amazing and are of exceptionally high quality and standing,” she said. “They challenged me and whenever I had a question I always felt like there was someone there who was very responsive. Everything was relevant and up to date and I felt like I was preparing for a real workplace.”
Amaya said the course would be especially beneficial for senior leaders and junior rising stars in business. She also recommended the course for people who work internationally or for global organisations, where cross cultural conflicts may occur.
“Conflict analysis is critical for all senior leaders,” she said. “It is important that leaders have the confidence to understand and approach conflict in the workplace, rather than being fearful or reluctant to address them, to minimise the negative impacts they can have on both staff and the broader organisation.”
Amaya is putting her knowledge and skills to use in her own consultancy business. Now based in Melbourne, she focuses on creating, developing and supporting high performing, engaged and resilient organisations.
“Undertaking this course will improve your ability to perform in your current role, regardless of the industry, as well as opening up the possibility of forging a completely new career path,” she said. “In my opinion, leaders at any level within an organisation will benefit from this course. The Master of Conflict Management and Resolution provides students with a skillset that broadens their access to diverse jobs. Doing this course has opened a lot of doors for me.”