Four Tips For Professionals Leading Clients

By Joryn Jenkins

Every collaborative divorce professional plays an instrumental role in leading his clients through their divorce processes. So when working with your collaborative clients, remember the traits that make good leaders.

Even in corporate America, gone are the days when successful leaders are aggressive fearmongers. And this is truer in our kinder, gentler divorce processes. Consider the following tips to provide your divorce clients, not just a safe container for their tense divorce work, but an environment in which they can experience as successful a collaborative experience as possible.

Lead By Love

Don’t we all flourish in a loving environment? One that encourages peace, honesty, originality, and respect? Of course, we do. And it should be no different in the collaborative setting, when clients need our support more than ever during their emotional struggles over separation, financial crisis, and their angst over their children. When participants feel safe, they cope, create, and collaborate more easily.

Regardless of who you are, or who your clients are, we all benefit by surrounding ourselves with the strong support and affection of others, even when these relationships are the short-term, goal-oriented ones we create to get our clients divorced.

Love conquers fear. Professor Dumbledore would have said it, and, as always, he would have been right. Clients are stressed enough during their family separation disputes. Don’t add to that anxiety by exploring only the worst possible outcomes and spending too much time on options that frighten your clients. No matter what role you play on the collaborative team, whether neutral or aligned professional, this is not helpful in the collaborative environment, in which we value transparency but also work as a team to brainstorm best resolutions together.

Leaders who allow anxiety to overwhelm their clients will kill their internal motivation to be creative and to reach successful conclusions. Dread will inhibit clients from taking reasonable risks, offering valuable input, and making wise decisions.

Believe In The Folks You Lead

This may be difficult in every collaborative process in which clients run the gamut in personality, from the submissive wet noodle who will agree to anything to finish quickly to those who have completely unreasonable beliefs in what is “fair.” However, the professionals on the collaborative team are trained to work together to guide the participants in acting reasonably.

Offer your clients your trust as a gift rather than expecting them to earn it.

Your Humility Makes You A Strong Leader

Although this may seem obvious, exhibiting traits of narcissism, dictatorialism, and arrogant egotism, even only on occasion, is not acceptable in the collaborative setting, no matter how much some of our clients may crave or even demand our “zealous advocacy.” Advocacy is not the same thing in collaboration as it is in the courtroom.

Humility is the antithesis of all those types of behavior. If you’re a former litigator, it may be difficult to set these behaviors aside. But recognizing the damaging effect they have on the collaborative process is an invaluable lesson to learn. Why? Because those of us who are low in humility are aggressive during conflicts; such folks seek revenge and, ultimately, to win. And that is not the goal in collaboration, unless it’s for both clients to “win.”

Instead, humility will work to build respectful working relationships with everyone on the team, clients and other professionals alike.


As always, leaders who implement good active listening and communication skills demonstrate that the input of others may be just as valuable as their own contributions. These skills promote respect and encourage creativity. Instead of one professional controlling the process and coming up with ideas to destroy the other side, the collaborative team works together to offer peaceful resolution options. Ask questions. Listen without pondering what you will say next. Really hear your client and other team members.

When forming collaborative teams, include professionals who exhibit these skills of a strong leader. Sure, we’ve all heard that too many cooks spoil the broth, and one collaborative professional, like the neutral facilitator, will likely take the lead, but when all collaborative professionals on a team display strong, respectful leadership skills, our clients have a greater chance to find their own collaborative successes.

For more information on how to make the best collaborative teams and other helpful advice, visit me at Joryn Jenkins.

Joryn, attorney and Open Palm Founder, began her own firm here in Tampa after a 14-year career in law, 2 of which she served as a professor of law at Stetson University. She is a recipient of the prestigious A. Sherman Christensen Award, an honor bestowed upon those who have provided exceptional leadership to The American Inns of Court Movement. For more information on Joryn’s professional experience, take a look at her resume.

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