I’m involved in several conversations around collaboration. I find that professional advisors often talk about being collaborative, but at the end of the day they really only want to get their deal done.
I’ve written a great deal about collaboration and how it always starts with the client. At the same time, there is almost always someone else involved besides the client in any work we do. It would be nice if we can collaborate with them, but that doesn’t always happen.
I’ve come to be happy if we can cooperate with others. Collaboration is a very difficult process and an expensive one to boot. If we can just cooperate with each other, do our jobs and allow the client to coordinate their deal, the client often gets a great result. This is especially true if the project we’re working on isn’t very complicated.
Cooperation means the client will be the coordinator. They will talk with each professional individually asking them to do whatever part of the project fits in with the advisor’s specialty. Professional cooperation happens when the people involved respect the work that each other does. We might not talk directly about the project, but we know the work that each is doing will help move the client forward.
The land mine with complicated projects is coercion. Sometimes coercion happens when an advisor is working in their own best interest. Sometimes it happens when a fight breaks out over “client control.” And, sometimes it just happens because the advisor misunderstands what the client wants.
I’ve seen times where an advisor in a project I’m working on is trying to get the client to do something that doesn’t feel right to the client. They will work on convincing the client their idea is the right one. Most of the time the client will back away, but sometimes they go ahead and let the advisor talk them into their idea. Often this leads to “buyers remorse.”
The second area of coercion is when an advisor is fighting for “client control.” This often resembles a food fight. One advisor will start to badmouth the ideas of the other advisors. If this happens I think it’s always a good idea to ask the client what they are trying to accomplish and why it’s important. This will often stop the insults and put the client back in control.
The third area is where coercion can be innocent. I spend a lot of time concentrating on being clear about what and why a client wants to do something. I don’t often see others doing this. Advisors will often make up their own reality about what is true and what the client should be doing.
When the advisor has decided what’s right for their client, they will often try to convince the client what the client should do. I consider this a form of coercion. The advisor isn’t respecting the client’s wishes and sometimes think they know “what’s right for the client.”
Our job is to help develop clarity and not define what’s right and wrong.
What is your thought about collaboration, cooperation and coercion? Have you ever felt pushed to do something you didn’t think was in your best interest? How did it feel?
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