Like many long-time residents of the Tampa area, there is a special place in my heart for the Cuban Sandwich. It is a piece of home. Like a favored memory from childhood, a warm freshly pressed Cuban sandwich on buttery bread brings me back to positive memories of people, places and events.
Over the years I have cultivated my “favorite” Cuban sandwiches. It is to these select places and these sandwiches that I return over and over again.
During this summer of COVID-19, I have on occasion brought my teenage daughter to spend the day at my office. Usually we have some appointment or other to do (like picking up her yearbook from her high school) where it made sense to have her spend the day at work. On one of those occasions, I took her to a nearby bakery to grab Cuban sandwiches for lunch. I told her about how this was one of my preferred places to get a Cuban sandwich. That conversation spiraled into discussing and ranking which place made the best sandwich.
Each subsequent time that I brought my daughter to work this summer we intentionally went to a different sandwich shop to taste the difference. Each one good in its own way. Each one unique. On our last Cuban sandwich day we deviated from type and tried a restaurant which did a Cuban Sandwich / Bahn Mi mashup. It was not exactly the “true” Cuban sandwich that we had started our quest to find. But it was also a delicious change from what was expected. It worked, but in a different way that what we were used to seeing, and that was good.
The collaborative teams that we engage in are often like my favorite Cuban sandwiches. They involve known people, with known personalities, and a shared history of experiences from past collaborative cases. Without realizing it, the comfort of our “favorite” teams become a pattern of repetition. The result is the existence of a small handful of other professionals with whom we end up engaging in collaborative cases. We become blind from being in our comfort zone about other collaborative professionals with who we might do great things to help our clients transition through the collaborative process.
This unintended limiting of our teams impairs our ability to grow as collaborative professionals. It also impairs the growth of collaborative practice as a whole. Think about how many fresh faces we see at the NexGen and Pod meetings in the months after we host our initial training. Think about how many of those fresh faces last more than their initial year of membership, and of those who disappeared whether you ever saw them participate in a collaborative case.
Each one of us started out with our first case. Each one of us grew from being able to be part of collaborative teams. Much as the Cuban Sandwich quest with my daughter was enriched by trying that something different, our collaborative practices will be enriched when we try someone different. We should each make a point of trying to involve a “new” collaborative professional in each of our teams. They don’t have to be new to collaborative practice, just “new to you” in the context of a collaborative team.
If we all make this effort to expand the scope of potential collaborative professionals who get to participate in our collaborative cases, we will enrich our own collaborative experiences. We will also help keep them engaged in collaborative practice so that the fresh faces don’t keep disappearing from our meetings and from collaborative practice. It could be that the best Cuban Sandwich in Tampa, the best collaborative team for your case, is one that you have not had yet.