Author: Craig Freshley

No one’s writing anything down!

Want to help your group be efficient? Write stuff down.

Want to look smart? Write stuff down.

Want to BE smart? Write stuff down.

Craig explains in this short video.

And here’s another video on this topic. It’s called Write stuff down.

This video has captions. To see them, click CC on the video screen.

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hi everybody! Hey it’s Craig Freshley here.

I was in a meeting the other day — lots of highly paid people giving important opinions, deciding important things — and I looked around the room and I said to myself, “No one’s writing anything down!”

I was in a one-on-one conversation with somebody the other day giving instructions — pretty complicated instructions — and thinking to myself, “they’re not writing anything down! How are they going to remember this?”

And you know what? The next time I talked with that person it was clear that they hadn’t remembered, or they got wrong, the things that I had said. And that group? The next time they met they had to go over the same ground.

Meetings get a bad reputation for being inefficient and a leading cause of inefficiency is having to go over the same stuff again and again. And an easy solution to that is to write stuff down. Circulate the notes to the people who were in the meeting, check and see if what got written down matches everyone’s understanding, and don’t turn back. Let that be a reflection of the discussion or the conclusion and keep going.

When it comes to work and important conversations, I’m a writer-downer. Every phone call, every conversation, I take notes and file them away. Every meeting that I facilitate, I take notes and circulate them to the people who participated.

And here’s the magic. Writing stuff down doesn’t only prevent you from having to rehash stuff it helps you remember stuff. When I have to write stuff down it makes me a better listener.

Somebody said to me recently, “Craig you are holding so much stuff, you’re amazing!” And you know what? It’s not that I’m amazing. It’s just that I write stuff down.

I hope this helps you help your group make good decisions.

Thanks for listening everybody.

Take a step

Good Group Tips

In principle, we don’t need to know the whole plan in order to take the next step. To avoid a stumble we don’t need to see the whole path illuminated, just the next few feet.

As if carrying a lantern through the dark, if I take just one step at a time more will be revealed. The light moves with me.

Practical Tip: Just because you can’t see how everything is going to work out, don’t let that stop you from taking the next step. If your group seems stuck with uncertainty, ask, “What do we need to know just to take the next step?” Let that be enough for now. Take a step. As an individual, let go of needing to know everything and trust that your lantern will see you through.

– Craig Freshley

Click here for one-page PDF of this Tip, a great way to print or share.


Good Group Tips





In principle, discipline is remembering what I want.

Step one of course is to figure out what I want. That’s hard all by itself. Yet without a clear definition of the goal, discipline is impossible. Chasing fleeting aspirations willy-nilly often results in a random undisciplined path that amounts to little progress.

Step two is to stay on the path, remember what I want, where I want to be. It is so easy to be distracted. Disciplined people have learned how to resist distraction.

Step three is do the work. And the work is surprisingly easy, even fun, when you truly believe in a well-defined goal and when you are free from distraction.

And it’s the same for groups. This is why it is so important for groups to define their goals and honor their processes that are designed to get them there.

Practical tip: Define what you want. Remember what you want. Do the work, joyfully, that will get you what you want.

– Craig Freshley 

Click here for one-page PDF of this Tip, a great way to print or share.

When someone throws a brick at you

When someone throws a brick at Craig he has choices about how to react; three choices actually.

In this short video Craig explains on the sidewalk of Maine Street, Brunswick.

This video has captions. To see them, click CC on the video screen.

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hi everybody! Hey it’s Craig Freshley.

Somebody might throw a brick at me. You know what I’m talking about: an insult, a resentment, a bad mood, somebody criticizes me unfairly. When somebody throws a brick at me I have a couple choices.

One thing I can do is I can catch the brick and then I can, like, carry it around with me. And it can weigh me down. I can be thinking about, “Did I really deserve that? Why am I such a bad person that I got a brick thrown at me?”

Another choice I have is that I can catch the brick and I can throw it back. I can insult the person who insulted me.

I have a third choice. Watch this, somebody is going to throw a brick at me. I can let it go by. I have a choice to not catch that brick, to not carry it around with me and let it be a burden, to not throw it back. I can…..I can let it go by and I can think to myself, “That was interesting.” And I can go about my day.

I hope this helps you help your group make good decisions.

Thanks for listening everybody!

Alternative solutions

Good Group Tips

In principle, considering alternative solutions makes for better decisions. Exploring alternatives results in one or more of the following:

1. Builds faith in the leading option. We get to see that the leading option really is the best among alternatives.

2. Leads to a new, better solution.

3. Reveals that we do not have a clear handle on the problem. Posing alternative solutions pushes us to clearly define the problem that we are trying to solve.

When we invite alternatives and genuinely consider them, it also builds credibility among those we ask and increases chances of their participation in the solution.

Practical Tip: Even when you think you have the right answer, pose alternatives. Consider, “What are some other ways to approach this? How else could we get the job done? How else could we solve the problem?” Be wildly creative. Be hypothetical. Like a child posing dolls or trucks, be imaginative. Decide after you have posed and considered alternative solutions.

– Craig Freshley

Click here for one-page PDF of this Tip, a great way to print or share.

Connect with your Mission

From the shores of Millinocket Lake, Craig encourages board members to connect with the mission of their organization by getting out and seeing the organization’s work first hand. This really helps board members feel the impact of their contributions and inspires them to continue their support and involvement.

This video has captions. To see them, click CC on the video screen.

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hi everybody. It’s Craig Freshley here on the shores of Millinocket Lake.

I’m here today with The Nature Conservancy Board of Directors. The Nature Conservancy’s mission is to preserve biodiversity on Earth. They have projects in this region and all over Maine and every once in a while they get their Board of Trustees out into the Maine wilderness. They are connecting their trustees with their mission.

If you’re on the board of a research facility, tour the lab. If you’re on the board of college or university, attend a class. If you’re on the board of a food pantry, get in line, volunteer, and serve food.

It is connecting board members with the mission that helps them see exactly what their organization does and the impact they have. And it’s what inspires trustees to give to the organization: financially, volunteer support, and good advice.

From the shores of Millinocket Lake in northern Maine, I hope this helps you help your group make good decisions.

Decide how to decide

Good Group Tips

In principle, when parties cannot agree on an issue the next peaceful step is for them to decide how they are going to decide the issue. For instance, “We can’t agree on the floor plan for the new building, so we’re going to spend time on this at our next meeting, hear both sides, and vote. Is that okay with everyone?” If everyone can agree on how the thorny issue will be decided, that’s progress toward agreement. When we send something to a committee or say something like, “Let’s ask Louise and let her decide,” we are making a decision about how to decide.

When diplomats or politicians spend time on meeting arrangements, seating plans, and the details of meeting agendas — the conditions under which the parties agree to meet — they are really deciding how they will decide. They are building agreement.

Practical Tip: When it seems like you are stuck and cannot decide something, at least decide how you will decide. Name a next step that moves you in the direction of eventual agreement. Make a plan for a future discussion and vote, send it to a small group or committee with a specific charge, or name a third party decider.

– Craig Freshley

Click here for one-page PDF of this Tip, a great way to print or share.

What is a vision statement?

Confusion often emerges around vision statements: is it a vision for what we want our organization to look like in the future, or a vision for what we want the world to look like (the world in which we are working) in the future? In this video Craig encourages clearing up vision statement confusion at the outset of any long-term planning process.

This video has captions. To see them, click CC on the video screen.

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hi everybody! Hey it’s Craig Freshley here. A lot of organizations, such as nonprofits or corporations, either have or think that they should have a vision statement.

What is a vision statement? One way of thinking of a vision statement is that it’s a depiction of how we envision the organization to be in the future. It’s a description of the future organization. But there’s another way of thinking of a vision statement, and that is as a depiction of the world as we’d like it to be.

These are two very different ways. And as I work with organizations doing strategic planning or any kind of long-term planning, there’s often confusion about what we mean by a vision statement. My main message here is: decide at the outset which of these two versions of a vision statement you’re going for. I don’t think that either one is wrong.

I will tell you that my preference is for the one that describes the world in which we would like to operate. If you are an organization working on the revitalization of a downtown, your vision statement describes – ideally – what you would like that downtown to be like. And then it’s the mission statement that describes what your organization is going to do about it.

Just be thoughtful from the outset about what you mean when you say a vision statement.

I hope this helps your group make good decisions.

Reflective pause

Good Group Tips

In principle, it’s rarely beneficial to say the first thing that comes to mind. I do not have to say the first thing I think. Even when there’s a sense of urgency—especially when there’s a sense of urgency—I’m better off if I take time to breathe, reflect, and consider my words before speaking them.

A reflective pause helps me avoid saying something that I will later regret. When I say regretful things it causes unnecessary tension and potentially huge inefficiencies in my group.

Practical Tip: In a group setting, honor a moment of silence before and after each comment, like bookends. If tensions in a group are dangerously high, call for a break or a few moments of silence before proceeding. As a group participant, refrain from hasty reactions.

We have heard, “Don’t just sit there, do something!” There is a healthy alternative: “Don’t just do something, sit there!”

Thank God I have learned the value of placing a pause between receiving and reacting. I have seen how the peacefulness of one breath can avert a windstorm of trouble.

– Craig Freshley

Click here for one-page PDF of this Tip, a great way to print or share.

Positive feedback

Good Group Tips





In principle, positive feedback is like rocket fuel. It propels one forward in the direction already headed. Negative feedback is like a brake. Both positive and negative feedback can be very helpful, especially when invited. Gas pedals and brakes work really well. Zero feedback might provide selfish strategic advantage but is little help to others.

Practical Tip: If you agree with what someone is saying or approve of what someone is doing, the best way to get them to say or do more is to provide positive feedback. Tell them. And it need not be with fanfare or fireworks or even written or spoken; a nod or a smile can ignite forward momentum.

If someone is talking in front of a group or acting on behalf of a group we can’t expect them to say or do positive things in the absence of positive feedback. It’s very inefficient to expect someone to figure out, with zero feedback, what would meet our approval. Want efficiency and stellar performance? Provide positive feedback.

– Craig Freshley

Click here for one-page PDF of this Tip, a great way to print or share.