Standing Up, Standing Out:
Professional Branding for Mediators

  • Did you know that 85% of your success depends on your professional presence and just 15% on your skill set?
  • Did you know that what you put on your body affects your psychological processes?
  • Did you know that you can add 10-15% to your bottom line simply by shifting your professional presence?

If you answered no to these question (or yes, but want to know more), you’re in the right place. This is a three-part series of blogs authored for us by Katherine Lazaruk, founder and principal consultant with ICU Consulting Inc. She and our CEO, Monique Steensma, met as volunteers with the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade’s Women’s Leadership Circle Advisory Committee, and after learning a bit more about her, Monique invited to her to do a piece here for us since professional branding is something with which many of us struggle. For more info, you can click here for her bio and learn about her training, designations and practice.

In this series, you’ll learn the four pillars of professional brand, the top strategic applications for leveraging it and five tips for creating a strong impression online and off. This is of course a high-level overview, as we don’t necessarily have space for a deep dive, but we wanted to give you a good place to start if you’re thinking of growing your professional brand.

Once you’ve read through the posts, please do comment – if we get a strong response, we’ll consider adding a webinar or other possible educational options for you in this area. Thanks for being here at the Mediate BC Blog. We hope you enjoy the series.

First Things First

If you’re reading this, you probably want to get more clients in your existing market, get into new markets, or get on the list at Mediate BC to get more work there. To do that, it’s important to make a good first and lasting impression. You might think brand is all about how others view you and, to a certain extent, that’s true, but it’s hard to control. Let’s start instead with something that’s all up to us.

Ultimately, we’d like to leverage our personal brand to shape the way people see us so we can create more interest, impact and influence. What most people miss when they start this process is that successful personal branding is about getting honest with who you are and sharing that with the world, instead of putting out an impression that isn’t true.

The fact is, whenever we’re considering our brand, we’re always operating with incomplete information. We can never really experience ourselves the way others experience us. We only know what’s inside us – who we are, what we can do and what we believe. Once we get clear on that, we can strategically use correctly aligned visual, verbal and behavioural cues to help people know, like and trust us faster and significantly improve the success of our communication.

Branding Pillar One:
You Are the Center of Your Universe

Most of our lives we’re bombarded with messages that we need to think of others before ourselves. In service industry professionals, this message may have a very strong hold because of the intense desire to help. It’s going to feel a little weird to spend time thinking of yourself, but it’s the only place to start.

Your personal brand is comprised of a few different things, including your physicality, your personality and your lifestyle, all of which can be expressed visually. Three quarters or more of your impression is based on your visual presentation, so as much as you hate the idea of not being judged, like a book, by your cover, I’m sorry to tell you it’s wired in our neurology, so you might as well work it to your advantage.

Make friends with your container. It’s the only one you’ve got and it’s my personal belief that it’s the perfect container to do whatever you’re meant to do on the planet. The sooner you do this, the easier your life will roll. This pillar is all about you.

Here’s what to consider for developing a strong personal brand:

  • What do you look like? In terms of clothing, what works well for your body shape and colouring? Matching what you wear to your physical self creates visual harmony.
  • Who are you as a person? Do you love quirky things, do you have cool hobbies, are you a very serious person? Matching what you wear to your personality lets people know a bit about you before you say a word.
  • What’s your lifestyle like? Your personal brand is shaped by what you do. For example, if you’re a cyclist who loves to bike everywhere, your functional requirements will be different than someone who drives to work.

Your professional brand should be a natural extension of your personal brand. If you’re a very different person professionally and personally, you’re lying to yourself somewhere and it shows.

You can absolutely choose what to show and to whom, but everything you wear, do and say should add up. People sheer off, often unconsciously, when things don’t add up, so help them understand you by making sure that you’re paying attention to the details. I often liken it to imagining yourself as a sound system – you can turn the volume up or down, but it’s still the same piece of equipment. You get to decide what kind of sound system you are.

Wondering how to extend your personal brand into your professional life? Stay tuned for Part Two.

Have a thought? Agree? Disagree? Let us know, comment below!

Katherine Lazaruk

Katherine Lazaruk, AICI, CIC is an image and professional branding consultant in Vancouver. In addition to being the force behind ICU Image Consulting, she is a sessional instructor in the Image Consulting Program for Langara College and serves as Secretary for the Canada Chapter Board of AICI. 

Family Unbundled Legal Services Project Update

The Mediate BC Family Unbundled Legal Services project will be winding up at the end of June. We are working to pass the baton on this exciting initiative to other interested stakeholders, primarily the Courthouse Library Society of BC, Access to Justice BC and the Canadian Bar Association BC Branch. These three, plus the Law Society of BC, the BC Judiciary, the Ministry of Justice, the Law Foundation and others have provided significant leadership, input and support for unbundling over the past year and their continuing efforts will be critical to shepherd this initiative into the future. Thank you!

This is a good opportunity to provide a brief update about the status of the initiative.

First, we are very pleased to advise that on Saturday the CBABC Provincial Council approved the proposal to form a new provincial Unbundled Legal Services Section! We believe that this is the first such section / group in Canada and we are grateful for the CBABC in leading the way in this important initiative! While the section will begin with a focus on family unbundled legal services the intention is that it will service unbundled services in all practice areas. The toolkit materials were created, as much as possible, to be easily adaptable to other areas.

A special thanks to Zahra Jimale who spoke to the resolution on Saturday and who has also agreed to act as the first Chair of the section.

Work is underway to plan a 2017/18 meeting schedule, topics and speakers. Given the provincial nature of this section all meetings will be fully accessible using appropriate technology.

The Executive Officers for the section will be:

  1. Chair: Zahra Jimale
  2. Treasurer: Zahra Jenab
  3. Secretary: Laura Atkinson
  4. Members at large:
    • Robert Gunnarsson
    • Michael Butterfield
    • Polina Furtula
    • Sonali Sharma
    • Rizwana Choudry
    • Kari Boyle

This section is open to all CBABC members. This might be a good time to renew your membership! If you are not yet a CBABC member we will continue to work through the toolkit and otherwise to help you meet your needs for collegiality, peer support, sharing of materials etc. Your thoughts and ideas will be appreciated!

On June 20th, Carol Hickman QC, Jennifer Muller and Kari Boyle led a discussion about unbundling with the Supreme Court Judiciary in Vancouver (with video and telephone links to other locations). Given the increasing number of self-represented litigants in Supreme Court, participants were very interested in learning more about unbundling and provided many excellent comments and suggestions. A brochure explaining unbundling with a link to the Roster is in process.

The Provincial Court website already links to the Roster in numerous places. Chief Justice Bauman has been a strong supporter of unbundling and hosted a Law at Lunch seminar for Court of Appeal Justices in January.

One last note – the external evaluation of the Mediate BC Family Unbundled Legal Services Project will be completed by the end of this month and the evaluation report will be available in July. Many thanks to everyone who took the time to participate in surveys or interviews to support this evaluation.

Please let us know if you have any questions or suggestions:

Stay tuned for more information!

Kari D. Boyle
Kari D. Boyle

Kari D. Boyle is the BC Family Unbundling Roster Project Manager. She is also the Coordinator of the BC Family Justice Innovation Lab, a Knowledge Engineer with the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal, Board member of the Courthouse Library Society of BC and member of Access to Justice BC. Kari served as Mediate BC’s Executive Director and then Director of Strategic Initiatives for ten years. She enjoys using her legal, mediation and leadership experience to collaborate with others to improve BC citizens’ access to justice.

Workplace Investigations: Avoid Them Through Better Planning and Processes

Investigations into workplace bullying and harassment can be expensive not only in the outlay and diversion of resources, but also in their overall effect on workplace culture, trust, retention, absenteeism and “presenteeism”, etc. In fact, as Gray and Marshall report, “Investigations are a significant investment, so be honest up front: if resources are not available, the HR group risks over-reaching, and the damage of a botched investigation can be greater than the original complaint.”[1]

Despite all of the information, training and regulations about bullying and harassment available to organizations, are investigations still happening so frequently?

Several HR professionals that we have worked with have told us that when unhappy employees have no other resources or processes to follow, and don’t feel comfortable speaking up, they will file a bullying or harassment complaint because their employer can’t ignore it. While there are very legitimate bullying and harassment issues that require appropriate attention, we also know that many of these complaints can relate more to general workplace conflict, can be managed in a more productive manner, and even prevented.

Conflict in any environment is inevitable, and in the workplace, where we spend a huge amount of time interacting with co-workers, managers, clients, etc., it can be both frequent and especially destructive.  By putting a workplace conflict management program in place, employers can prevent the worst effects of conflict and manage what does arise effectively.

Consider the difference:

An employee in a company that has no explicit system in place, and perhaps a culture where conflict is avoided, will generally either leave or work in a less than effective manner. If they stay and decide to take action, and if their problem with others can even remotely be framed as bullying and harassment, they will often follow the path available to them under the relevant WorkSafeBC regulations. Since the investigative process is rarely pleasant for anyone involved, this is likely to lead to an expensive and unhappy outcome all around. The overall approach is defensive and reactive.


An employee in a company with a conflict management program in place, first of all, likely has received training in conflict management skills and works for a manager who is trained in the conflict management skills important in leadership. The workplace culture allows for people to speak up about problems without retribution. If the manager is unable to help resolve the problem, then the manager or the HR team is trained to assess, or has access to someone who can assess the situation and steer it to the most effective resources and/or process. The overall approach is open and proactive.

There are skilled investigators available who can approach this process in the healthiest manner possible, and can help everyone achieve the best possible outcome. However, what is healthier for the workplace overall, and therefore for the business itself, is a well-planned, communicated and established program where investigation is only one of many possible tools, and is only used when appropriate.

Conflict is expensive. We can help.

Contact us at 604-684-1300 x200 (or toll-free 1-877-656-1300 x200) to find out how we can design and operate or support a workplace conflict management program for your organization.

[1] Gray, H. and Marshall, G. Investigation is the New Arbitration. PeopleTalk, Spring 2017.

Conflict is expensive. We can help. Visit us at HRMA Conference & Tradeshow 2017