Santa’s Accountability Problem

Trust during the holiday season is freely given. It must be something about the charitable feeling and spirit around the  month between the day after Thanksgiving and the day after Christmas.

Whatever the psychological, theological or emotional motive this feeling of trust  springs from, the public is sure to hear stories in the news about organizations (the Salvation Army), corporations (any retail giant) and governments (yes, I’m looking at YOU abusing this trust for nefarious means.

It kind of puts in perspective what was said here and here this week; but bear our indulgence on this point for just a moment:

Trust requires that the giver and the receiver engage in a dance of vulnerability and responsibility.

The giver must be willing to put down cynicism and suspicion and the receiver must be accountable and responsible.

The charities and organizations that are doing best—both now and in previous holiday seasons—are those that focus on the intersection between quality, accountability, transparency and relationship.

When trust happens between the giver and the receiver, a relationship is built up over time that neutralizes deceit, suspicion, obfuscation and irresponsibility.

And that’s a process that’s even more scalable than the industrial based processes that got us to where we are now.

Remember, it took us 100 years to get to this point…it will take at least that long to get us back to sanity.

Are you, and what you are building, up to the challenge?

-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

Towards A More Thankful Union

We here at the HSCT Communication Blog are all thankful this day for many things:
The country where we live,
The family that we have,
The connections we are about to make,
The business that we are growing,
The tools that we have to explore the world,
The intellect and science behind them,
The religiousity that allowed people to develop ideas,
The advancements in the world that feed more people well,
The times that are a changin’,
The peace we have an opportunity to build,
The relationships we have had a chance to build,
The connections that we have made,
The critics, naysayers and disbelievers that we have,
The “no’s,”
The “yes’s,”
The “maybe laters,”
The incredulity,
The pain
…and the promise…

-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

[Opinion] The Conflict Games

The most raw experiences participants and audiences still have in the world is the experiences they share in the arena of sports.

In an era where most of the news is known before it can even be digested, the realm of sports offers people an opportunity to experience something almost unknown these days: the unknowable outcome.

Will she make the jump over the horizontal pole, or not?

Which car will cross the finish line first without crashing?

Will the team who has an undefeated record lose this week?

The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Unknowable outcomes move people with the drama, the action and suspense of story, without all the prefabricated feel of false entertainment. And when we live in an era where “reality stars” appear to be ever more fake and ludicrous, sports offers hope of seeing a genuine person perform well—or fail miserably.

We read an article recently about the growing popularity of cross fit in the United States and a trainer was quoted as saying: “There’s no bullshit in sports. Either you can lift the weight or you can’t. You say that you can deadlift 450lbs, well then let’s put on the plates and see.”

Brilliant analysis.

It also applies to conflicts.

Conflict and peace are unpredictable and, much like sports, just when you think that you know the score or the outcome, someone, or something, can sneak in for the win or the tie.

In a conflict, there’s plenty of bupkiss floating around, and its tough when the stories we tell (which are heavier than any weight we could possibly deadlift) are piled on the bar. And then, the people opposite us may tell us that “Either you can lift it or you can’t.”

But the unknowable outcome still drives us in sport and in conflict. So, we here at HSCT have a proposal: What if we had an Olympic Games for conflict management, peace building, coalition forming, collaborative law and conflict resolution?

Would anyone show up to watch that thrill and agony?

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

Don’t Take on a Client Who Can’t Answer These 7 Questions

As a conflict consultant, mediator, conflict coach or a motivational speaker, are you continually frustrated when you arrive at a clients’ business and they immediately hit you with a problem that they want solved cheaply, immediately and permanently?


They want you to come in, put on a Band-Aid and then leave, but not before answering these questions laid out here if you can’t, then getting thrown out of the door. Or never getting a callback on a project that you know your skills would be perfect for.

And if you can’t answer them to the client’s satisfaction, then you risk getting thrown out of the door.

Or never getting a callback on a project that you know your skills would be perfect for.

Meanwhile, as a professional with years of, not only academic experience, but also practical experience, you can tell from the decision maker’s, or gatekeeper’s, immediate description of the conflict or issue, that the problem is so much deeper. And that a cosmetic solution is not going to work.

And that a cosmetic solution is not going to work.

Here are seven questions to ask they about their business that will help you weed through the clients who are seriously committed to changing their organizational cultures from those who are only committed to the now, the immediate and the solution that will keep them out of litigation.

  1. What kind of conflicts do you have in your business right now? Every business has conflicts: Between managers and managers, between employees and managers and between executives and management. If the client isn’t self-aware enough to acknowledge that honestly, then that’s a problem.
  1. How are your responses to conflicts living up to the core values of your business? Punting (avoidance), false empowerment of employees and managers (accommodation) or going to legal and then firing somebody (attack) are all responses to conflicts. Sometimes the responses are representative of true core values, not the ones published on the masthead.
  1. Have you ever failed personally at resolving a business conflict? Again, the decision maker or gatekeeper should have a certain level of self-awareness and accountability around all their business decisions: from the fun financial ones to the difficult personnel ones.
  1. What non-HR, non-legal related systems do you have in place currently to manage employee-employee and employee-supervisor conflicts? HR exists to understand laws and regulations, to engage in on-boarding new employees and to retain older employees. Legal exists to litigate, purely and simply. Neither of these departments in an organization are always useful for dealing with behavioral, cognitive based conflicts in a business.
  1. How do you let people go? Organizational cultures grow up around three areas: recruiting and hiring, training and retaining and firing and laying off employees. How the last area is addressed is key to understanding how deep organizational dysfunction goes.
  1. When was the last time you examined how you deal with conflicts in your business personally?This reads like a therapeutic question, but decision makers and gatekeepers are people first before anything else. And everybody learns how to address difficulty starting at home as a child.
  1. We have been talking for 45 minutes now, describe for me how you see me challenging your business culture to evolve and grow? Resolving conflicts, teaching new skills to employees and managers and addressing engagement requires businesses to evolve in their business models.

This is inherently a challenge, but such radical growth allows a company to shift in an economy increasingly built on a model of not only clients but also employees, acting as brand ambassadors on social media, word-of-mouth and in a collaborative economy.

And really, all of these questions, for you as a conflict resolution professional, should serve to provide you understanding and to answer the real question: Are the clients open to the hard, disruptive challenge of true, meaningful and lasting change, or do they just want a cosmetic, Band-Aid application?

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)

On Leads, Or How to Sell What Clients and Organizations Don’t Think They Need

No one needs help resolving conflicts.


People need help communicating. People need help leading and figuring out leadership. People need help managing other people. People need help with figuring out “how to talk to annoying Aunt Janet and Uncle Mike.”

But no one needs help resolving conflicts.

When put on the spot, 9 times out of 10, people will be unable to identify a conflict they are having in their life, that is impacting them at a level where they may need conflict engagement skills services.

However, the person standing next to them—wife, husband, friend, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew—will be able to zero in on where the person is deficient in their approach to a conflict.

But, it’s not the person standing next to the person who can’t think of a conflict they need help with that’s the problem: The problem is that the dysfunction of unresolved conflicts is so normalized that it’s no longer seen as a problem.

Case in point:

Him: “So, what’s your business?”

Me: “I’m a professional conflict engagement consultant. I help small businesses, higher education organizations and churches engage with the conflicts in their lives.”

Him: “So, can I get your card?”

Me: “Sure.”

Him: “So, I guess I would bring you in say if I had problems managing the 40 or so staff members that work for me?”

Me: “That’s precisely where I would be the most help for you.”

Wife: “Hey!” “He could help you out with the argument you had with your daughter this morning!”

Him: “What am I gonna do, huh!? She’s gotta come into work at least once a week. I understand that she’s got an issue, but c’mon already!”

They both laugh. The wife rolls her eyes. They walk back into the restaurant.

No one needs conflict resolved in their lives. Until they actually do.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

[Advice] Why Go to College: For the Rest of Us

Since the economic collapse of 2008, there have been many articles and blogs written about the importance (or lack of importance) of attending higher education for young people.

This talk has taken place amid a backdrop of ever rising tuition costs, zero wage increases, artificially suppressed inflation, a boatload of student loan debt burdening the 18-22 year old cohort and the dim post-graduation employment prospects where an average job search takes 6-9 months.

Hope and change indeed.
All of these writers, bloggers and opinionaters on both sides of the debate have one thing in common: They all hail from middle to upper middle class households and backgrounds, where at least one parent (and in many cases both parents) have already attended college.
In particular, they hail from backgrounds where they grew up with the suburban (and in some cases ex-burban) comfort that at least if they graduated from an overpriced college with an undervalued education and an economically meaningless degree, that somehow, someway, it would all work out in the end.
Now, in principle, we here at  HSCT have no problem with people carrying such assumptions and even acting on them in the real world.
We have no problem with people writing long, effusive, opinion pieces on the lack of efficacy of a college education and worrying about the debt attached to obtaining it, in the context of a world where student loan debt cannot be disgorged through a bankruptcy process.
We also have no problem with questioning why it is important for people to have college degrees and even the tenuous link between a college degree and economic success based in secure post-graduate employment.
Make no mistake, yes our background is in higher education, but we would be blind and foolish if we did not admit that there are real structural problems and cracks in the mighty edifice constructed since post-World War II.
We get off the train though, when we think about the “please take the college years and go off to ‘find yourself’” type advice, being given to minority high school students.
We have a problem when very well meaning, successful, wealthy people, who did not attain degrees, but attained a measure of success, stand in front of diverse audiences and make the audacious claim that can be summed up as “we didn’t go so you don’t have to either.”
We’re sorry, but too many folks in those diverse audiences come with backgrounds from racial minority groups in this country that have experienced systemic, institutionalized, historical racism. And some of those students’ backgrounds are from communities still experiencing the results of such racism, racialism and racial prejudice. Thus, some of the worst advice that they–as well as their younger brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews–can possibly hear is “don’t attend college, because it’s too expensive, too much student loan burden will be upon you at graduation, etc., etc.”
This is not a statement based in social justice, social re-engineering or any desire for any form of social gerrymandering.
This statement comes out of a recognition that more African-American males are in jail in this country than even have completed high school.
This statement comes out of a recognition that Hispanic, Asian and Eastern European populations have traditionally valued education as the only way to advance in America.
This statement comes out of the recognition that the only way to open the doors and unlock opportunities if you are not from an upper class or even a middle class structure, is through the hard work of education, monetary sacrifice, and doing the right thing for the most people possible.
Of course, when there have been three to four generations of racial, ethnic and class minorities that have attained college education in America, we will be the first to write all about how going to college is a fool’s bargain.
We promise.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

[Advice] On Grit

I hear that he is a man with true GRIT.” – Mattie Ross, True Grit, 1969

Grit doesn’t get talked a lot about in a society that prizes the easy and the compromising.

It is tough to be uncompromising in such a societal structure.

However, to paraphrase from the film Braveheart, it is easy to admire uncompromising men, without actually doing the hard work of joining them in their pursuit of doing the hard thing.

The definition of grit is clear:

  • Sand, gravel
  • A hard sharp granule (as of sand); also :material (as many abrasives) composed of such granules
  • Any of several sandstones the structure of a stone that adapts it to grinding
  • The size of abrasive particles usually expressed as their mesh
  • Firmness of mind or spirit: unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger
  • Capitalized: a Liberal in Canadian politics

The fourth definition is the clearest one for our purposes here.

Grit has come to the forefront in the last few years as the idea of inherent talent has begun to take a beating from the likes of evolutionary biologists and post-post-modern philosophers.

In its clearest form, grit becomes a holdover from a simpler time, when talent was not as valued in the Western world. Instead, traits such as perseverance, persistence, courage and spirit were once lauded as virtues.

As the 20th century rolled on by, and as we entered the vaunted “Atomic Age,” grit became valued less and less.

And, with the rise in the latter part of the 20th century, of computing, analytics, the Internet, and other faster and faster methods of accomplishing what used to be slow, and grinding (like an abrasive piece of…well…gravel) grit was less and less talked considered as an important character trait.

But, my how the worm turns: As the holes in our education system have become more and more exposed in the opening years of the new Millennium, grit has made a comeback–becoming a touchstone for encouraging children to develop perseverance, resilience, persistence and to avoid quitting early.

But grit is still scary. Deep in our heart of hearts, we would rather succeed through ease of talent versus the scary, hard thing of work, taking hits and developing a thick skin.

The story we consistently tell ourselves about resiliency, persistence and grit is one of no fun, delayed glory and little riches.

In a world of instant connections and instant gratification, who wouldn’t quit and avoid conflicts in their lives if that were the alternative?

But maybe, that’s the only alternative that matters. Maybe the only alternative is to pick a position, be uncompromising, and grind it out.

Maybe the only alternative is to be a person with true grit.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

[Infographic] CEOS and Employee Engagement


If you are a small business owner in the Southern Tier of NY State, then the infographic below, courtesy of our friends at ADRtimes ( applies to you as well.

What CEOs Should Know About Employee Engagement

What CEOs Should Know About Employee Engagement infographicPlease consider HSCT for all of your employee engagement needs.-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: