Resolving a collaborative case can be trying for team members as well as for clients. While collaborative professionals are trained to recognize and deal with client’s emotions and disagreements, sometimes differences between collaborative team professionals can go unnoticed and complicate settlement of a case. Below are some suggested ways to resolve differences between team members and enhance the effectiveness of collaborative professionals.
Identify the Problem. The critical first step is to understand what is causing the team difficulty, since that will dictate the best solution. Ask yourself if the team problem is caused by personality differences between members, an emotional issue between a team member and a client, or is the problem related to the subject matter of the divorce? Are you contributing to the problem or trying to resolve it? It takes time and thought to discover what is the issue and what might be causing the difficulty.
Discuss the Issue with a Team Member. A collaborative team has built in resources to resolve difficulties between members, including two trained attorneys, a mental health professional, and a financial professional. By observing the dynamics between team members, between clients, and between professionals and clients, the mental health professional may be able to offer insights into the team difficulty and make helpful suggestions to resolve the issue. Other team members may also be helpful, particularly is they have worked with the team member who seems to be causing the difficulty or they have extensive experience with the collaborative process and can offer helpful advice from past experiences.
Consult with an Experienced Colleague. Sometimes seeking advice from a colleague who is not part of the team and can offer an unbiased prospective is helpful. Explaining the problem to a collaborative friend will help you clarify the problem and gain a fresh prospective on the difficulty facing your team. The colleague can give objective advice about a client, a team member, a fact pattern, or the dynamics of your team. When you first recognize that the team is having a problem might be the ideal time to approach a friend for advice.
Be Careful and Proactive. When faced with an interpersonal issue between team members or between a team member and a client, if there is a communication problem within the team, tension within the team, or some other team issue, don’t act immediately with a knee jerk reaction. Take time to examine the history of the case, the patterns of team and client interactions, the power structure of the team, and explore several possible causes of the problem before you do anything. There is nothing wrong with taking time to think about how to handle a difficult issue within the team before calling a meeting, discussing the issue, and generating possible solutions to resolve it. Get advice and counsel from a trusted colleague or team member about what he or she thinks is happening. Be certain your suggestions are objective, well thought out, and constructive before you talk to your team.
Resolve the Issue in a Debrief. After you have a clear understanding of what is the cause of the team difficulty, spend time in a debrief raising the issue, discussing possible solutions, and agreeing on a resolution. It can be uncomfortable to raise an emotional issue or point out a disagreement between team members, but it’s essential to bring the issue out in the open and resolve it in an open and friendly way. Moreover, resolving the issue will serve as a learning experience for the team and help bring the members together and build trust.
Collaborative team members are human and we can experience emotional issues at times. Modeling transparency, openness, and trust among team members will help make the team more effective so we can advise our client how to resolve their own emotional differences and further the collaborative process. It’s important to see both sides of a disagreement and try to understand the personalities involved. Modeling this behavior within the team and in front of clients will enhance your own effectiveness in resolving collaborative cases.