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The Gift of Collaborative

Last weekend I took an impromptu trip to Lincoln, Nebraska for the Global Collaborative Law Council’s annual conference on civil collaborative practice and I am so glad I did!


What I love most about collaborative practice is the emphasis on client self-determination. As professionals we are there as guides and advisors, but the ultimate outcome is designed by the parties. It is, after all, their life and they will be the ones who will be living the plan on a daily basis so it should be something that works for their situation. We apply the same principle in Conscious Contracts® when we help clients design relational agreements that are grounded in their values, vision and how they work best. As someone who does both collaborative practice and Conscious Contracts® I have always seen a symmetry between the two methods.


Many years ago, a volunteer board that I served on read the book “To Lead is To Serve” by Shar McBee, which applies the concepts of servant leadership to volunteer management. The overarching theme I took away from that experience, and what I have seen play out in real life over and over, is that as servant leaders we succeed by helping other people be successful.


That philosophy is why I am a practitioner of Conscious Contracts® and Collaborative practice. Used in the civil context, these are proactive planning tools that empower clients to succeed long term. They allow us to work in a creative space using tools like appreciative inquiry, relational contracting, and mindfulness to shift clients out of fight/flight mode into deeper, more productive conversations that focus on long term solutions rather than just putting out the fire in front of us.


At the end of either process we have a written agreement but that is just a record of what was created. The real magic happens during the process, through dialogue designed to build relational trust, understanding of needs and alignment of goals. By facilitating a different kind of conversation, we teach our clients a new way of seeing and engaging with the world - and when we can change how people see the world, the world starts to change. That is the real gift of collaborative practice.

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