Searching For Galahad (Succession Planning – Part I)

Succession planning entails developing internal people with leadership potential to fill key positions when they become vacant. It is identifying the critical roles of any organization and the core skills associated with those roles, and then identifying and training candidates to assume those roles when they become vacant.

I’ve spent a lot of time recently, pondering how to find the right people to lead the practice of Collaborative Dispute Resolution in Tampa, and in Florida.

Have you heard of Lancelot du Lac? He was the romantic hero of Arthurian legend, King Arthur’s close friend and one of the greatest Knights of the Round Table. A hero of many battles, quests, and tournaments, he is famed as the nearly unrivalled swordsman who, because of his imperfections, inadvertently brought about the downfall of Camelot.

But it was Lancelot’s son, Galahad, who, devoid of his father’s character flaws, became the perfect knight. He succeeded in completing the greatest of all quests, achieving the Holy Grail when Lancelot himself failed.

In succession planning, we search for the Galahad of collaborative dispute resolution.

The Ideal Collaborative Team Member

So, let’s talk about succession planning. Given this process, by definition, involves “internal” people, i.e., folks who are already collaborative, we cannot begin such a conversation without first exploring how to identify and then enlist the ideal collaborative team member.

According to Patrick Lencioni, the ideal team player is humble, hungry, and smart. You need all three attributes to be a successful team member. I have recommended many people into introductory trainings. And many have become successful collaborative team members, but a few have not.

Why not?

Self-Selection – Humility

What exactly is “humble, hungry, and smart?” I convinced a friend, a family counselor, whom I thought the perfect candidate for collaborative facilitator, to take the introductory training. He did, and then he served on several collaborative matters, two with me.

And he did present as humble, hungry, and smart.

However, in retrospect, I realize that what I perceived as humility was really a lack of self-confidence. He was generous and positive with others, but he discounted his own talent and contributions. It was just his nature. He was insecure; he didn’t appreciate his own worth. As such, he could not effectively lead collaborative teams.

Somehow, he was discerning enough that he removed himself from the process after a few matters.

I wonder if many everyday mental health professionals decline the opportunity to facilitate our collaborative teams for this very reason. Is a failure to appreciate one’s own worth a common quality of a licensed mental health counselor? Many seem uncomfortable with the demands of leadership, a necessary qualification for our facilitators.

Humility, real humility, is so necessary in our collaborative work. This may be why we have so much trouble signing up the “litigators” for our crusade, as well. As a trial lawyer myself, I can say that many of my breed have huge egos. These are the arrogant trial attorneys who make everything about them. Because their self-centered approach to the work we do fosters resentment, division, and politics, such professionals weaken teams. This is not helpful to the collaborative process.

We seek the truly humble professional.

How Do We Find the Humble Professional?

You already know that you’re taking this professional to lunch, or out for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine to explore the possibilities in an informal environment. Good for you; that’s best for what you’re about to do.

While you do that, be observant. How does she treat the service personnel? How does she interact with them? I chatted over a lunch recently with a potential collaborative neutral, who had a curious conversation with the waitress about his origins. (She thought she had heard “Chicago” in his accent.) He was focused on her, and yet, he clearly included me in their brief colloquy, glancing at me as they spoke so I didn’t feel ignored.

Listen attentively. I interviewed a lawyer who, telling me a story, mentioned his staff person who “works with me,” rather who “works for me.” That impressed me.

Ask questions. Don’t ask what she thinks. Ask instead what her staff/friends/family would say about her. Does she:

  • Compliment or praise people without hesitation?
  • Easily admit errors and graciously hear constructive criticism?
  • Perform lower-level work for the good of the office? The family? The group?
  • Gladly share credit for group accomplishments?
  • Readily acknowledge her weaknesses?
  • Offer and accept apologies graciously?
  • Prefer working alone or as part of a team? Why or why not?
  • Have experience leading a team? Can she tell a story about that?

There’s no right or wrong answer to these inquiries, but they should guide you in discerning whether your colleague is humble enough to be an ideal team member.

And in identifying the next leader for our statewide collaborative practice.

I hope sharing my thoughts with you was insightful and productive. Look for my next blog on how to find professionals who are hungry, who will share our passion to spread the word about collaborative magic. And share your own ideas with us. Reach out to me at The more we share our trials and our successes, the closer we come to making the collaborative approach the preferred practice in the State of Florida. We are the state leading the way!

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