Joanne Law is a dispute resolution professional and trainer with a mission to increase peace and respect between people. Her focus is on preventing violence and abuse by training and supporting mediators and other dispute resolution professionals.
She is based in a regional area on the coast of Victoria, Australia and lives with her partner Paul and her dog Bruce.
She is entrepreneurial, an early adopter of technology and much more interested in innovation than tradition, people than hierarchies, and thinks that racism and toxic nationalism and other forms of prejudice and discrimination need to be overcome for our world to thrive in peace and harmony.
What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative.
I was incredibly shy when I was growing up. I was raised on a farm in central west NSW Australia. Like many girls that grow up in the country I headed to our state capital looking for work and a different life when I finished school.
That was over 40 years ago and I’ve had many jobs and businesses since then, was married for over 20 years and raised three children. My marriage falling apart set me on a journey of self-discovery and when I partnered with a family lawyer, I discovered how poorly fit for purpose the family law system is. In family law the job is to help people who separate work out how to care for their kids and how to fairly divide up their stuff and yet it can become something else entirely full of conflict, cost and stress for everyone involved.
Anyway, long story short I became interested in mediation as a way to empower people to make their own decisions in family law and any other time they have a dispute with people rather than running off to a court or tribunal for someone else to decide their life, business, living or working arrangements for them!
Some of the jobs I had done were as a trainer and general manager of a training company and I was not impressed with the training options when I trained to be a mediator so decided to establish a Mediation Institute to make mediation training more flexible and accessible. Especially for people in regional areas where access to quality training and professional services is harder.
A lot of my interpersonal skills and confidence were learnt as an adult which helps me to have more conscious awareness of them than someone who was naturally outgoing and confident as a child. I think that helps me as a teacher.
I’m actually not big on looking for role models. As an innovator I think it is more about deciding on what you think needs to change or be better and go for it. Of course, learning along the way but not trying to imitate anyone else.
Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.
When I was at my grandmother’s funeral, I had a real wake up call. She was an awesome woman who reached out and connected to people, no matter how brief her acquaintance with them. She lived between 1903 and 2003 and although all of her generation were already dead she had generations of people at her funeral talking about the impact she made on their lives.
I reflected that I was playing too small and that my impact on the lives of others would be minimal. That was the turning point in my life to stop limiting myself and thinking who was I to step up as a leader and other self-limiting thoughts.
It wasn’t an immediate transformation. A bit like a grub going through the process of turning into a butterfly I’ve transformed myself and how I show up in the world.
Although I am an introvert, people often think I’m an extrovert because I’ve eliminated being shy about standing up and being visible and other self-imposed barriers.
Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea or motivation that made you start your business /initiative? What motivated you within to say “YES, go for it!”
I found the training offered to me to train to be a mediator sub-standard in terms of skills development and the support from the professional association I joined was not what I wanted.
I love technology and so wanted to see how we could innovate and improve using technology more effectively to train skills remotely.
We benchmarked our first course design by entering the eLearning Excellence Awards and won our category of Vocational Training and Education against a strong field of well funded government and large private institutions.
Very exciting for our small, bootstrapped training business!
If you see an opportunity to do something better, can identify other people who also want that thing to be better, and have the capacity to implement your idea then I think, go for it.
Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?
I’ve had plenty of challenges. Failed business ventures. Partnership arrangements that have fallen through. Efforts and initiatives that have failed. Had to sell properties because I didn’t have the funds to hold on.
Through it all I’ve remained optimistic. I’m lucky as that is probably a set point for my nature to be optimistic that things will get better. I’m not prone to depression or anxiety so I can generally pick myself up, dust myself off and get moving again.
Main advice is to be careful of your self-talk. Be your own best friend, cheer squad and speak nicely and respectfully to and about yourself. You are the only person with you the whole time, day and night and if you are mean to yourself that is going to have a toxic effect on your self-esteem, self-worth, mental health and wellbeing. This is really important. Be nice to yourself.
Try being nice to others as well. They are more likely to give you a hand up when you fall if you’ve done the same for them.
A couple of quotes or stories have really helped me.
One is about Edison failed 99 times before he invented the light bulb. I don’t know if the number is correct, but the message is encouraging. In anything you try that is new or new for you it is more likely that there is going to be a process of not getting it right first before you get a result that works.
The second is aligned. It’s a quote that I live by. “Fail Fast, Fail Cheap and Learn.” Which encourages me to go to market, test, trial and generally give things a go using iterations rather spend too much time and resources on something that has a higher likelihood of failing (or missing the mark) than succeeding.
While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?
COVID was very positive for my business. We had transitioned to fully online delivery of our skills development training for our main courses by 2018 so we were well established in our approach and methodology by the time COVID hit.
In Australia, especially where I was living, we had long lockdowns. Actually, the longest in the world I think is in Melbourne. That meant a step change in our volume of students as our competitors shut down or took time to adapt.
The mass digital communication skills upgrade that resulted from COVID has meant that the flexibility and accessibility of our training methods has remained popular, and we haven’t seen a slump in sales following the step change from COVID.
On the personal front not being able to see family and friends was hard, especially my children and grandchildren.
I am empathetic towards the people who have done it so much tougher than I have such as parents of young children or those with teenagers struggling with school refusal, anxiety and depression.
Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?
We’ve started to work on a global scale which is very exciting for me, a farm girl from a small and distant country in a big world. I love technology, especially communication technology as it makes the world a much smaller place.
When I was a child in the 1960’s and 1970’s, well before personal computers and the internet were invented, I used to have pen pals in various parts of the world. We’d write letters and then wait weeks for a reply. Now I can have a video meeting instantly with anyone, anywhere they have access to the internet.
I’m the Australasian coordinator for the international mediation awareness week which runs in November each year to raise awareness of mediation and peacebuilding throughout the world. Check it out at www.imaw.org
We’ve got a training partnership in Kenya, potentially one in Cambodia and a Joint Venture in the UK.
Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?
The approach to business taken in the past couple of hundred years has mostly been exploitative and too expensive for our planet. I would like to see all business people design their approaches around four key priorities. Working in a way that pursues a valuable Purpose, is respectful of People, does not harm our Planet and makes a Profit so you can grow and thrive due to the value you bring to the world.
Purpose, People, Planet and Profit are not mutually exclusive if you make them your guides.
And of course, as a dispute resolution professional I would like to see world peace!
I would like to increase respect for differences and understanding between people so that they work together to solve the world’s problems rather than compete for resources and live the good life at the expense of other humans.
I would like to see an end to male privilege and disrespect for women who don’t want to try to pretend to be men or who they try to put into a subservient rather than partnership role in relationships and society. I want people regardless of their sexual identity to be free to live their lives on their own terms and safe from discrimination, abuse or violence.
I would like to see children able to grow to their full potential in homes that are safe and nurturing for them rather than living in fear of violence and abuse happening to them or around them.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?
It’s your life. Live it. Love it!
As far as I know we only live once so make the most of it.
We can leave a legacy and echoes of our existence, but we can’t take anything with us so make the most of it now but with a social conscience and think about what you can do to make the world a better place for future generations.
Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?
Forget the pyramid and ignore celling’s. Don’t play a man’s game because it is a flawed experiment that hopefully will topple soon.
The concept of climbing to the top of the corporate ladder or the top of the pyramid of power is not healthy.
If you look at any ecosystem it is full of diversity. Different organisms doing their own thing but often helping each other as they do. Do that! Collaborate.
Look for opportunities to work with others rather than compete with them.
If you have employees, turn your org. chart upside down. The people who do the work that makes your money are the ones at the top and you and any management layer are there to support them and help to resolve issues they encounter. You won’t believe the amount of discretionary effort you’ll get from your people if you treat them with respect and support them.
Look for opportunities to joint venture and work alongside other organizations. What value can you add to them? What can they do that will add value to your efforts? Information, resources, waste streams that are raw materials for you? The potential is endless.
With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?
Be yourself. No one in the world can do that better than you.
Don’t try to make yourself be someone else.
Look to others for your doing but never your being. Educate yourself, learn how to do things, look for role models of excellence in how to do things but never feel that you have to change who you authentically are in order to be good enough.
You will waste too much of your energy trying to pretend to be other than you are.
And resolve disputes and conflict. Don’t just walk away, give up without saying what you want or fight when you could discuss. Most disputes can be resolved if you engage in the process and make use of a qualified mediator if you can’t resolve things directly. We have a process that works the vast majority of time to bring shared understanding of each other’s needs and wants, generate new options neither have considered and find a mutually acceptable way forward.