The American Comedy Awards recently honored Bill Cosby with the Johnny Carson Lifetime Achievement Award. He shared a story describing his early efforts to make it into comedy (you can watch his speech here. As he described struggling to set aside his own uncertainty and to convince others of his comedy skills (despite several less-than-stellar performances) I got a glimpse into the path that is Collaborative Law.
Growing a practice in this arena isn't for the faint of heart!
Maybe this is unique to developing a market share here in NH where the practice is still in the "early adopter" phase; but Dr. Cosby's points about sticking through the hard times to honor one's skill and to "keep showing up" resonate well when I think about the current state of collaborative practice.
Here are some of the lessons we can draw from Dr. Cosby's example.
1) Start working where you can work. It might not be the fancy club with the $5,000 per night booking, but it will get you audience and experience. Any chance to practice the craft of collaborative is a worthwhile one. Trainings, practice group meetings, Rotary club presentations; these all make for time to build connections with future team members and to develop comfort and trust with those you will later need to rely upon.
2) Enter the room certain of your contribution. Whether you are headlining a 5 city tour or facilitating a 5 way team meeting, clarity of purpose, outcome, and directive goes a long way to success. Collaborative clients already juggle their own emotions and responses to the process. Getting through to settlement is no easy feat so the professionals involved must convey confidence in themselves and the process to assist the parties productively.
3) Play off your partner. Dr. Cosby describes asking to be introduced as "one of the fastest up and coming comics...". When the club MC did not use this intro Dr. Cosby called him on it. To which he replied "Hey, I saw the first show.". Ouch! Despite the slam, the back-and-forth ended up becoming part of his act that night, and the attention to the obvious, that he was under-performing, was the motivation he needed to step outside of his fear. Collaborative practice can be a terrifying prospect; engaging your client in the process, working with the other attorney or team member; trusting the skill and roles of each team member are all scary but necessary steps in adopting collaborative practice. Getting to the next level even requires being open to feedback about your performance, feedback that may not be tender but that can improve your skill if you allow it.
4) As Dr. Cosby signed off he left the dais with a message to "keep showing up". In collaborative practice the process of working as part of the team is a long one. The process only happens by building relationships with other team members, mastering the mechanics of the process, and working in teams. Experienced professionals and relative newcomers working and learning from each other give even the newest professional a chance at success. As Dr. Cosby's example reveals, working the process alone isn't as much fun as working with others to create something that last longer than individual efforts allow.
Self Care, Stalling, or Stonewalling? How to work with pauses while avoiding passivity in your collaborative process.
A big draw of the collaborative process in divorce and non-divorce matters has to do with the ability of the parties themselves, rather than courts or other entities, to drive the pace and outcome of the resolution that is reached. The attorneys seek to assist their clients in being transparent, goal directed, and solution focused as the other neutrals serve to inform and contain the data and emotion that can interfere with resolution. For some parties, the pace feels perfect, where the deadlock and impasse from trying to resolve matters independently gives way to small but meaningful decisions that move resolution forward. As a professional seeking to support parties in their efforts to resolve conflict I have observed a pattern of pausing that often frustrates and befuddles both the disputing party and the other professionals working with or on behalf of a client. It can seem difficult to discern whether the delay in decision, information, or meeting scheduling has to do with honest efforts to regroup or whether it represents something less "collaborative". Here are some tips for what distinguishes each of these 3 patterns, and some strategies that are useful for professionals supporting parties involved in a collaborative process.
Self Care: This form of pause often follows emotional or high stakes decisions. Clients engaged in self care pauses probably showed strong emotion (in the form of tears, relief, anger, or fatigue) prior to their withdrawl. They may be proactive in their self-care efforts ("I'm away with rejuvenating with friends for the weekend but I promise I will get back to you by the end of next week") or they may be less clear with you (and themselves) for why they are finding it difficult to find the information that is needed for next steps ("I know I need to contact my benefits administrator about that but every time I sit down to write the email I just feel wiped out"). You can test the waters for whether the pause is related to a need for self care by naming what you see "Have you thought about doing something special to celebrate the hard work you are doing so far?" It may seem silly, but clients can benefit from hearing validation for the work they do to reach agreement and can benefit from being encouraged to celebrate their work even as things remain unresolved. Providing this permission can help shorten some of the delays that can arise when people unconsciously feel entitled to control without being able to articulate their own need for validation.
Stalling: Pauses in the process can unfold for a variety of reasons, but a very common one has to do with feeling paralyzed in a decision making process. Clients who are stalling are usually looking for a signal that will help them feel comfortable with a potential outcome. No one wants to make a bad decision, and so often in the collaborative process one decision has multiple implications. Some clients pause because they do need to see where their quarter is going to end up, but if you have excluded a delay as being tied to specific time related information, there is a high chance that your client is simply having a hard time sticking to a decision. This is where work with a coach familiar with decision making strategies can be useful. Even less sophisticated "pro & con" lists can be useful in this effort. The one I most enjoy with clients are decisional balance sheets which walk the client through how making a change and not making a change are equally momentous in their outcomes.
Stonewalling: While the collaborative process is a self-selected approach, this doesn't mean all parties are equally open to the approach as they may initially believe. Occasionally delays are explicit attempts to manipulate the outcome, punish an opposing party, or retaliate against a professional in the process (I couldn't stand that doctor so I was not about to trust his opinion and let her win with a settlement). For professionals in the process Stonewalling will feel pretty obvious, especially after the 5th unreturned call or wrong tax statement. When it is clear, to you, your client, and the team, it is best to name what you see and allow as honest a conversation as possible to be aired. There are times when all it takes is for some vented emotion to be shared, and other times when side mediation or coaching can resolve the hangup. When this isn't possible all parties are better served by ending or pausing a collaborative process rather than attempting to force conclusion when parties are not invested in settlement.
There is no crystal ball that will always tell you what the inner life of a client or party really is, but there are usually some context clues that can be useful in organizing the best response possible. Validating hard work, encouraging celebrations of small steps, guiding decision making, and naming outright resistance can all go a long way to improving the pace of collaborative processes.
Loretta L.C. Brady, Ph.D., APA-CP
Collaborative Coach Facilitator, Psychologist
When was the last really great conversation you had? When was the last terrible talk you had?
The chances are pretty good that both happened with the same person, since most of us find we regularly communicate well with only a small handful of people on matters that are close to our hearts. And it is the same person or people that tend to rile us up when we are not feeling that "click" that comes from good connection. When I work with couples seeking to resolve their divorce dispute through collaborative practice, I survey each partner in order to understand their perception of their own and their partners communication style. The goal of collaborative coach facilitation is NOT to reunite the couple and repair the rift that has led them to select divorce (although truth be told some couples have decided against divorce after learning skills from their collaborative coach); rather the goal and the purpose of the information I collect is to better understand the areas of strength and challenge that might impact the couple's ability to directly confront the myriad decisions that lay before them as they disentangle the life they built together. From the simple to the complex, a couple's communication pattern can forecast areas that will prove easy and challenging as they make the decision to dissolve their union.
There are 11 areas that I examine with each partner prior to the start of the collaborative process. Each area represents a communication method that in and of itself predicts very little about potential "hot spots". What can be very revealing however is the pattern of these 11 areas and the ways in which both partners report themselves and their partner's patterns. Knowing that one partner has a habit of leveling while another partner tends to withdraw helps me to shape 5-way meetings so that the information that needs to be heard can be heard in a way- and at a pace- that is most helpful for shared decision making.
Take a look at the list below. What approach do you recognize as your primary approach; which one is your "pet peeve" when selected by your partner? I evaluate my clients using a standardized measure; but you can learn a lot about your particular approach by reviewing and reflecting on these for yourself. And, if you happen to be in the middle of a conflict with someone with whom a long-term connection is necessary, consider what changes you might make to help decrease the negative conflict and open up productive dialogue. We can't control others, but there is a lot we can do to select a different pattern for ourselves.
Leveling:Being Open, honest, and clear about your thoughts and feelings
Emotional Expressiveness: Being comfortable with expressing and expressions of emotions and affection.
Validation: Acknowledging and giving full credit and value to another's experience and perceptions.
Love and Affection: Expressing and being comfortable with expressions of love and affection.
Editing: Leaving out thoughts, feelings, or information in order to shield your partner, or yourself from your partner's reaction.
Negative Escalation: Adding negative statement upon negative statement and increasing the degree of conflict
Negativity: Finding problems and blame with every statement or suggestion offered by partner.
Feedback: Asking questions about your partner's position in order to better understand their statement.
Stop Actions: Stopping conversations when conflict has gotten heated and agreeing to return to the topic once calmer.
Focusing: Maintaining the dialogue on the single topic that is being addressed and preventing the conflict from spreading to other tangential topics.
Withdrawl: Refusing to engage on a topic and ceasing dialogue and interaction.
(adapted from Allerano & Markman, 2006)
When was the last time life called on you to be lovingly and patiently accepting of imperfection? How good were you at answering that call? I bet it depends on who was on the other end, and how long that particular phone was ringing.
Compassion is a quality that is gaining new attention because it seems to sit at the heart of so many human experiences and its presence, or absence, can tell us a lot about what might follow.
In crisis, compassion can be the quality that assists a first responder in dealing professionally with a suspect. Doing so may allow more successful prosecution, and ultimately the justice that a more adversarial response may have garnered. Compassion for the crisis survivor goes another way too; when we can see our own actions in a compassionate light we have a better time coping with the emotions and guilt that frequently arise as a result of traumatic events.
In relationships, compassion is the skill that gives us pause when we are feeling most frustrated at our partner or child. Just as most healthy people would not fault a dog for wanting to sniff the ground, compassion allows us not to fault our partner for sometimes being selfish, sometimes not listening, sometimes not following through. When we respond with compassion we elicit the type of relational response we were craving to begin with.
When we try to connect across divides, be they class, gender, or race; compassion helps us to develop awareness and understanding of our own and others biases, which in turn helps us to select different responses than we might otherwise have generated.
Looking at relationship and stress response outcomes, those with higher self-compassion often report more positive outcomes. There is truly something powerful about the ability to see imperfection and tolerate and embrace it anyway.
You can turn compassion into a powerful tool for yourself, and the more you try it, the greater the rewards. Compassion is a quality that can be cultivated. Small steps to increase your awareness and acceptance of imperfection, in the environment, yourself and other people, can result in big gains in areas of decreased stress, increased productivity, and increased positive interactions. Think about how much energy and time you would save when you stopped trying to change things that can not be changed and instead moved into where things are as they are. Curious about how self-compassionate you are with your own imperfections, Dr. Neff has a useful tool I use in my coaching practice and in areas of my research. Her copy for the general public can be found here. She also has a great book you may want to read.
Compassion doesn't mean lack of excellence or surrender. Progress can happen even when imperfection is tolerated and social science research, and your own memories of loved ones who guided you, confirm that progress is more durable, more fun, and more contagious when true understanding and concern has directed it forward.
I was thinking once again about the many service offerings BDSinsight has and it struck me one day after sitting behind an older driver (who lacked my sense of urgency when responding to a green light) how compassion is a thread that runs through each of the areas we serve. Culture and diversity, crisis, and conflict management are all enhanced when we can bring compassion. Here are some great TED talks that share lessons learned by others about compassion's role.
This is the inaugural post of my new website. In a few more days I will enter my prior posts into the archive. If you have been reading along you may have noticed that my posts have focused on a variety of human resource topics. From time to time they also shared thoughts on current events, in my life or in the news. It was nice getting an audience, and the blog helped me open some other writing opportunities for myself. I will keep blogging. But this entry, and this new site, represent a narrowing of focus and a clarification of my mission and vision for BDS Insight.
I am not an organizational psychologist that can help a hi tech company recruit and select talent.
I can do that, but it isn't where my passion rests. And that was the lesson of the past year and a half of finding my way to my mission.
If you have had a chance to poke around my new site you have no doubt noticed a number of service offerings. To some it may seem there is little in common in these threads. Culture and diversity, on-site trauma response, coaching and training, and collaborative law facilitation. It hardly seems my focus has narrowed. But the common thread in these is me. My background, talents, interests, and experiences are all represented in these practice areas. Over the past 18 months I have clarified and credentialed myself to deliver these services well.
In the recent words of Dustin Pedroia "I don't have to do everything I do. It's just that I like it."
And like it I do, but also I have lived it, learned from it, and listened to or lectured about it over the past many years in such a way that this feels like the right time and the right way to bring these parts together.
I know a lot about helping people through hard times.
I know a lot about setting goals and knocking them out of the park.
I know a lot about getting people who don't agree, to find ways of agreeing.
I know a lot about how important people are, and how easy it is to miss what is important to them because of blindspots and uncertainty.
I hope you will think of BDS Insight when you or a company you know needs insightful, smart, well-grounded, and science driven support for issues related to crisis, culture, or conflict resolution.
If you are a C-Suite-er looking to rise, an A-lister looking for perspective, or a First Responder exhausted from your work, I hope you'll call me for some coaching support and strategies to sustain your passion.
If you are a couple seeking a different kind of divorce, or a company attempting to settle without litigation but with advocates, I hope you will make use of my collaborative coaching services.
Call this a refresh, rebrand, or pivot; to me it just feels like a perfect fit. Looking forward to our future work together.
This week it seemed my news feeds were advertising the latest stories about happiness, tips, tricks, and how to’s. It didn’t matter if the source of the information was from a business journal, a relationship columnist, or a parenting forum; the hot headlines were each shouting about the latest research, anecdote, or personal journey to achieving lasting happiness. One columnist quipped that workers who were happiest were the ones doing the least amount of work, while a marriage counselor released research to suggest that happy couples have fewer episodes of forgotten kindnesses shared between them. And how can you escape the battering-ram of happiness when it comes to children? This past weekend was a celebration of Easter for many, Christians and seculars alike, with toothy smiles of overflowing baskets and chocolate bunnies missing ears. All around us we get fed stories of the centrality of happiness to our relational and occupational existence.
While I sure like feeling happy, happiness isn’t the point. If you are basing your company’s, you own, or your marriage’s success on a measure of happiness you are absolutely going to be disappointed. And the level of disappointment is not a predictor of your future happiness, but it is an indication of how well you will weather the ups and downs that lay ahead.
Want your work, relationship, company, or kid to turn out great? Focus on purpose and meaning instead of happiness. When we experience a sense of importance in what we do and who we spend our time with, we are not only more likely to spend our time doing or being with those tasks or people, we are more likely to be better at it, create more pleasurable experiences for others, and basically be more pleasant to be around. If we worked harder to help our children think about their experiences from a meaning-based perspective, instead of a function-based one (wasn’t that fun?), we would do much to create resilience in them when they face challenges that are not easily conquered.
I have recently seen the intersection of these ideas come to the fore as I dig deeper into an emerging area of law. Collaborative Practice is the process of two (or more) parties agreeing to forgo litigation in favor of jointly creating a resolution. The parties are represented by counsel, and the process is facilitated by a specially trained coach facilitator who has both a mental health and mediation background. The coach’s role is to handle the emotional labor involved in helping the parties identify their needs and move towards a resolution that best meets their shared interests. Collaborative law is seeing a surge of interest in family law matters, due in no small part to the very lengthy hearing process and collateral damage associated with litigated divorces. In civil disputes there is a rich history of success for collaborative law, but fewer seem aware of its power as a tool for change.
In seeking to resolve disputes, happiness as an end goal is usually a non-starter. There has been a long history of hurt and bitter feelings, and parties often wish separation rather than union as they work through a collaborative process. But flipping this desire into a goal of feeling valued, feeling heard, and leaving a lasting impression of one’s commitment or integrity may make the two parties more likely to come to agreement because of a shared vision.
Last week’s unfortunate unfolding of Adria Richards’ tweet heard ’round-the-dev-world and this week’s responses to gaming leaders stepping down in response to sexist party events underscores that workplaces are once again facing the strains between status quo and inclusivity. These efforts to frame distance and dispute from a meaning-based, rather than happiness-based, space may result in more human, and humane, responses to each other and to our roles and responsibilities.
I’m really not against having fun! But in the spaces where my work is conducted: leadership coaching, collaborative law process, and company culture and inclusivity, I far too often see the cost of focusing almost exclusively on “happy” to the detriment of “fufilled”. You can click on a lot of recent headlines to learn tricks to happiness, but you will need an endless loop of headlines to hold onto that feeling once achieved. Instead, look to create a map to meaning and your search efforts are likely to be less exhausting and more rewarding than you (or your company, partner, or child) felt possible.
Want to read more?
Petersen, Park, & Seligman (2005). Orientations to happiness and life satisfaction: The full life versus the empty life. Journal of Happiness Studies.6:25 41
“The next sound I hear will result in you loosing your new toy.”
“That is it, your toy is mine for the rest of the day.”
And this was a great afternoon!
What might this exchange that is probably verbatim from a grownup (who shall remain nameless) in my home represent? How might we apply these lessons to managing people? Relationships matter. This might seem brainless but there is deeper and deeper neuroscience to support this conclusion, and what is true for a three year old is equally relevant for a 30 or 60 year old team member. Humans learn and grow only in relationship with others. The literature on attachment in children and learning outcomes is very clear, from early studies we know that learning occurs in the context of relationship. Not sure?
What was the last thing you learned completely outside the context of a relationship? Maybe you read something online and self tutored your way to a solution? Not so fast, reading ability eminates from a complex interaction that began when you learned to read. Whether it is phoneme recognition or a whole word approach you mastered your reading skills in connection with another person. You may have found the topic you recently read because of a friend’s recommendation (and sites like Social Reader are banking on this type of sharing) but the chances are very good that whatever you read recently you did because of relationships you value.
In the workplace there has been an approach to understanding this reciprocal interaction within relationships between a worker and a manager or peer: Relational Cultural Theory (RCT). This approach has been used to frame the interactions between individuals as opportunities for growth, not only of the subordinately positioned individual but also for the individual in the higher status position. RCT argues that benefits and learning occur for both parties when genuine relationship is experienced and nurtured. Genuine relationship requires authenticity by both parties. Without it, the real growth can not occur.
Consider a time when a close friend, in anger and frustration, has called you out for some disappointing behavior. Probably the experience was painful, and probably you became defensive. But if you compare this reaction on your part to how you felt when a near stranger, or a person who holds themselves aloof from you, critiqued your performance there is a strong likliehood that you were more able to take in the criticism from the close friend than you were the stranger. Authenticity is being honest about our feelings and vulnerable towards others. We tend to believe that this requires being nice or gentle but real relationship, and real learning, actually happens after a bump in the road. Smooth sailing in a relationship may seem like a goal but actual learning happens after interruptions in our relationships. These “ruptures”, as they are referred to in RCT, lead to opportunities to either abandon or repair a valued connection. If the relationship connection is repaired then the relationship will increase in relevance and importance to us. We will begin to internalize and consolidate information more quickly and deeply than we might otherwise do. In other words, when we seek to reconnect after a break in our relationship we are deepening not only the relationship but also our knowledge.
Doing this within work environments can benefit from reflective processes that support and equip leaders to recognize the value of relationship not only for what outputs it can leverage but for the processes it enables in and of itself. There have been a variety of ways in which RCT has been studied to examine mentorship, management, and performance improvement. If your leaders are showing genuine interest in others, spending time sharing stories about the weekend and using this to segue into ways in which follow ups might be executed more efficiently, chances are there are going to be tangible benefits for your organization. There might also be some fall out, as those being led feel slighted or cast aside in the rush of organizational growth. Use these tensions wisely, and authentically, and RCT argues it is possible to not only improve individual performance but to improve organizational functioning. Miss these cues and squander opportunities for repair and the investments into carefully nurtured relationship will never be recouped. Looking for advice on how to use the science of attachment and learning in your organization? I’d love to connect further, but first I have a toy I need to return.
Want to read more:
Dutton, J. (Ed.), & Ragins, B. (Ed.). (2007). Exploring positive relationships at work: Building a theoretical and research foundation. Mahwah, NJ US: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.
We find ourselves half way through Q1 and for some organizations this means the 2011 bonuses have finally been paid out, while employees are hard at work realizing their targets for Q1 bonus opportunities. Some may find rancor among the ranks or perceive a slip in morale, good citizenship (OCB), or job involvement behaviors. Is it the February slump, or is there perhaps something deeper that might explain the observations?
A few years ago I attended a conference and the keynote speaker, Renée Baillargeon, an eminent psychologist discussed the ways in which children develop knowledge about their social world at much earlier ages than we have believed possible. Piagetian theory often placed a child’s ability to engage in complex social processing as not possible until well into the preschool ages. In fact, what Baillargeon’s work pointed out was that an infant’s capacity to process and predict social behaviors occurred much earlier and were delayed only due to our capacity to measure and assess them. Rather than assessing verbal answers she has developed a method which measures eye gaze and since this can be reliably measured in infants as young as 18 months there are now indications that social-moral reasoning is happening earlier than previously observed.
Recently she and her colleague’s published their results in Psychological Bulletin and have explored the question of whether infants have a sense of fairness. Their work suggests that the idea of what is fair, who has been wronged, and whether our responses are congruent to the event are directing our behavior and motivations from the earliest of ages. It gets me thinking about the implications when bonuses or other rewards are distributed throughout an organization.
In their research Sloane, Baillargeon, and Premack (2012) examined how infants responded when puppets that were asked to “clean up these toys” were rewarded for their working or slacking behavior. In many workplaces similar conditions exisit; a reward is offered to those who “clean up” and subsequently effort is then expended on cleaning up in order to attain the reward. We are pretty tolerant that all who expend effort should enjoy the reward, but we tend to bristle when someone we perceive to have not genuinely engaged in the task also enjoys the reward. I can recall when a client was discussing a decision she made in awarding bonuses. In her estimation the member of the team that was not present during that quarter due to a leave should not enjoy the bonus enjoyed by the rest of the team that was present all quarter. She was a bit puzzled however when that same employee gave notice a few weeks later, and in her exit interview indicated that being denied a bonus that the rest of the team enjoyed was a factor.
We have terms to explain these differences in perception when it comes to organizational decisions and justice. Those who argue that the worker was rightfully withheld a bonus since she technically did not work that quarter subscribe to an equality justice ethos; you are rewarded directly commensurate to the work you put in. The worker however appears to have subscribed to an interactional justice ethos; you are rewarded based on the interpersonal and procedural distributions you have influenced. The case might be argued that although she was absent during the quarter she was still responsible for some of the deals that had closed that quarter, she was still being cited as a member of the team to existing and potential clients and so her team benefited from their affiliation with her despite her absence, and she had not behaved in a manner to detract from the team or withheld support of her team despite her physical absence.
When the infants watched the two puppet giraffes either get a sticker for working or get a sticker despite slacking, Sloane et al (2012) report that the 21 month olds looked longest/perceived the greatest injustice when the reward was announced before the task began, and was then distributed evenly to both the worker and the slacker puppet. If no reward had been announced, but a directive to clean up was provided and then the giraffes, worker and slacker both, were given a sticker, the infants did not see as large an unfairness.
Might this guide us in managing Q2 bonus opportunities? If you find yourself managing fall out from 2011 bonuses or bracing for Q1 disputes think about whether you have systems in place to ensure that workers, not slackers, are being rewarded. If such systems are not realistic for current circumstances consider whether pre-announcing awards is such a wise idea. It may be better to promote organizational commitment to simply award “the stickers” without pinning it on certain efforts. Not your idea of a bonus? Call it something else, it will likely encourage the OCB you seek, incentivize those motivated by external inputs, and not detract from those whose contributions are significant but less visible. And most importantly, if you are thinking you will help yourself to your 21 month old’s valentine candy and think she won’t mind a bit, think again! Those kiddos are socially savvy!
Loretta L.C. Brady, Ph.D., APA-CP is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Professor, Entrepreneur, and Diversity Columnist.
All entries posted and archived on this blog are subject to all rights reserved,
Loretta L.C. Brady, Ph.D., APA-CP, 2011-2014