So - a couple weeks ago I was tasked with making a presentation to the Alberta branch of the Canadian Bar Association relating to my work as a Director with their Board. The presentation related to how to screen for future initiative ideas. How to avoid trying to do too much, and in the bargain, doing too little.
In my preparation for that presentation I came across a term which seemed to resonate with the group, being the need for organizations to avoid falling into a "culture of swirl." The concept was that by losing focus on your goals, and setting concrete steps to accomplish those goals, there is a tendency for large organizations to adopt a "culture of swirl" where they go around and around with discussions and meetings and data gathering... all, ultimately, resulting in little accomplishment, wasting resources and leaving staff feeling exhausted and depressed.
The starting point to avoid a lack of focus in larger organizations has become known as creating a shared, "mission statement". A clearly articulated, concise, statement of the fundamental goal or the organization.
So - then - imagine my surprise when last week I was having a conversation with fellow lawyer and friend Stephanie Dobson about a new project she has completed known as "Up Notch Learning" - a program providing support and advice for divorcing couples - where the concept of creating a "Mission Statement" was applied to divorce.
And after my initial surprise regarding the seeming incongruity of the board room and the intimacy of the breakdown of a relationship - as I thought about it more it struck me that the same considerations applied which would suggest the importance of a clear mission statement in a divorce.
The "culture of swirl" is something I see every day. Lawyers, clients and judges going around and around, devoting time and resources to minutia, while avoiding positive movement towards a defined goal. Tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees burned up like fall leaves, while the ultimate resolution of the clients' problems continues to be some illusive mirage.
The creation of a "Mission Statement" can help avoid that. It can help focus the clients and the lawyers on what the client wants and needs.
It's going to change how I interview my clients and should change how clients instruct their lawyers.
Clarity of purpose is the point. And it should be tailor-made to you and what you want. So - before you go charging off to your lawyer to set them off like a wild attack dog on your soon-to-be ex, prepare your own personal Mission Statement.
Here's a sample, starting with the first most important, simple, yet often ignored question:
What do I want?
I want resolution of our property issues in a manner which is acceptable.
I want to obtain a resolution of support issues that balances the economic consequences of our divorce in a manner which is also acceptable to me.
I want to be able to communicate in an effective, non-combative way regarding our children's needs, and to raise children to love and respect both of their parents.
I want to NOT pay $50,000.00 to my lawyer when it could be better applied to our children's university expenses.
I want resolution in a timely fashion - no offense, but I would rather not spend the next three or four years joined to my lawyer's hip.
I want to get over the pain and anxiety of losing someone who used to be important to me in a way which makes it possible for me to feel joy and peace, instead of ongoing anger and resentment.
As the divorce progresses, you can then use this as your "touch stone". Is your current lawyer's effort moving you closer to one of your goals? If not, it may be best let go of.
After all, it is YOUR divorce.