Author: Craig Freshley

Don’t just do something, sit there!

In principle, not every situation requires a decision and not every action requires a reaction. We are easily seduced into a sense of urgency, that we must “Don’t just sit there, do something!” Yet in reality the world works pretty well without us. Things usually play out just fine without any intervention on our part.

We often make decisions or leap into action not because the situation requires it, but because our ego requires it. Or perhaps we are conditioned into quick response by false fear or false responsibility. Whatever the reason, we can easily cause damage by deciding or doing too much or too quick. Not every annoyance needs to be fixed, by me, right now.

Practical Tip: Resist the impulse to decide or act quickly. Before deciding or acting, check in with yourself about why you want to “do something.” Unless the reasons are really good, allow yourself to lay low and let things happen rather than make things happen, and perhaps make a mess.

If you or your group don’t have clarity about what to decide, just sit there. Do nothing until clarity emerges. Be on watch for good things unfolding in spite of your inaction.

We are human beings, not human doings.

– Craig Freshley

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Leaders consider multiple interests

Good Group Tips

In principle, when a group leader makes a decision it is ideally based on multiple interests, based on more than just one perspective. We think of leaders as being “higher up.” They see more from where they sit.

Typically each group member has a relatively narrow interest; a specific recommendation for what the leader should decide based on a specific point of view. Yet the good group leader considers all the interests of all the group members and several other interests as well. My leaders rarely decide things just how I want. And that’s okay.

When deciding how to vote, the politician considers not only the interests of her constituents but also the interests of her colleagues with whom she has to work to remain effective, the interests of the government employees that have to implement the decision, the interests of other governments with whom her government must maintain good relations, and her personal interests which may include moral or ethical convictions; just to name a few. Whew! Leadership is hard.

Practical Tip: If you are a follower, accept that your leader will not make every decision in line with your own self interest. Convey your interest, play your part, and recognize that you are not seeing the whole picture.

If you are a leader, see the whole picture before deciding. Set aside your narrow self interest in lieu of broad group interests.

Whether you have a leadership title or not, practice leadership from wherever you sit by considering multiple interests. Leadership is not bestowed by title, it is the ability to rise above.

– Craig Freshley

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The Potato Salad Solution

It’s hard to disagree respectfully and come to peaceful resolution when we don’t know each other. Without understanding of where someone else is coming from, it’s all too easy to “make stuff up” about them and set ourselves against them. In this video Craig tells us to make a deliberate effort to get to know others, outside our meetings, as people – and how potato salad can help!


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 couple days ago I was at a reception with Senator Angus King. Angus King is the Independent United States Senator who represents Maine and he told the group gathered why the United States Senate is so dysfunctional these days.

It’s very simple, he says: it’s because the senators and their families don’t live in Washington. They used to live in Washington, and Senator King remembers those days. He was a staffer to a United States Senator forty years ago, and he remembers that their families lived there. Their kids went to school together, they got together on the weekends and had barbecues and traded recipes for potato salad. They disagreed on the floor of the Senate, but they knew each other’s wives and husbands and children and they understood where each other was coming from.

Today, typically, the first vote on the floor of the United States Senate occurs about 5 o’clock on Monday afternoon and the last vote occurs at 5 o’clock on Thursday afternoon, and for those long weekends the senators leave Washington to go home with their families.

When decision makers just fly in for the meeting, do the business, and then fly out — whether literally or figuratively — it’s hard to deal with each other as people. It’s hard to express compassion and respect for people whom you don’t know very well.

We’ve run into this in my neighborhood. I live in a cohousing community that we started before the invention of email, and when email came along it damn near ruined us, because we learned that we could do business with each other from within our houses and not face-to-face. And we found ourselves saying things to each other by email that we would never say face-to-face, and making assumptions about each other that we would never make face-to-face. We have since learned to not do business that way; to contain the ways in which we use email and do as much as possible face-to-face. We deliberately work on getting to know each other and where each other is coming from.

It is especially challenging these days when many groups don’t even meet to do business face-to-face; we do virtual meetings. It’s even harder to get to know each other.

I’m just naming this dynamic and reminding us that it is very hard to come to peaceful resolution to disagreements when we don’t know each other as people; when we don’t have that extra level of compassion and understanding and familiarity with where people are coming from.

In this day and age groups that want to make good decisions make extra special efforts to get to know each other outside of meetings, away from the floor of the Senate or the boardroom or the community meeting room.

Trade recipes for potato salad. Watch baseball games together. Tell stories from your past. It’s pretty remarkable how that contributes to good group decisions.

I hope this is helpful. Thanks for listening everybody!

I believe in us

Good Group Tips

In principle, there is perhaps no other belief, value, or attitude that has a greater impact on group success than this one. Am I in it for myself or am I in it for the group? Is it more important that I win or that the group wins?

This principle applies to groups of two such as marriages and it applies to groups of three and larger all the way up to the human race at 7 billion.

When I am in it for myself I have a competitive mindset and a conflict-ridden road, at the end of which I might win. When I am in it for the group I have a collaborative mindset and a willingness to let go of personal hopes and gripes for the good of the group. There is no end.

In a believe in me culture there are winners and losers and all the conflict that goes into figuring out who is who. In a believe in us culture there are no losers. We are on the same team.

Practical Tip: Try to do what’s best for your group, not just what’s best for you. When I am in a group I try to find solutions that meet our interests, not just my interests.

It works well when I look out for both of us, and so do you.

An attitude of I believe in me brings conflict and might bring short term gains to one or a few. An attitude of I believe in us brings peace and group sustainability.

– Craig Freshley

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Interest-Based Bargaining: A Creative Approach to Collective Bargaining

Traditional collective bargaining often begins with each side bringing their already-established positions to the table. Interest-Based Bargaining is a creative alternative that allows for a much less adversarial process. And it has proven to be very effective and efficient.

In this three-minute video made in the middle of a negotiation, Craig explains the basic steps in Interest-Based Bargaining.

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 am right in the middle of a management/union collective bargaining negotiation. Literally. Down this hall, management leaders are meeting in one room, union leaders are meeting in another room, and in a few minutes I’m going to bring them together. But here’s the thing: We are doing this collective bargaining following a method called interest-based bargaining.

Rather than each party establish their positions, bring them to the table, and then argue about which positions should prevail, with interest-based bargaining each party first identifies the issues that they would like to discuss. That’s what they’re doing right now; things about the contract that they think could be improved.

We then come together and blend the issues into a single list that the group as a whole — representatives from both union and management — owns. We all own the whole list of issues.

And then we work through them one at a time. With each issue we try to define the problem and then we share our interests. Each side gets to say what about this issue is so important. We haven’t started talking about solutions yet! We begin with interests.

After each side has expressed their interests, then we do shared problem-solving. As a group we try to come up with a solution that will match and meet all of our interests. We do that one issue at a time, right through the list. As we go we keep track of our solutions in writing on the wall. We then incorporate those solutions into a new version of the contract.

And I’m here to tell you that it works pretty well. I’m very excited to continue with the process right down the hall.

Thanks for letting me tell you about interest-based bargaining. I hope this approach helps you make good group decisions.

Strategic quitting

In principle, quitting is underrated. Of course we know that persistence often leads to success; and that success sometimes requires “hanging in there.” But persistence and “hanging in there” can also lead to losing money, losing health, and losing friends.

In spite of the “succeed at all costs” ethic that often surrounds us, quitting is often the best decision. Walking away is often the most practical thing to do, especially when it’s thoughtful, deliberate, strategic.

When groups do strategic planning they are often quick to add programs, products and services, but reluctant to make cuts. This results in strategic plans that are unrealistic on paper or unsustainable in reality. For strategic planning to result in realistic and sustainable plans, cuts must be considered.

Practical Tip: Do not overlook that quitting or leaving a relationship or cutting a program may in fact be the very best decision.

Don’t quit something on a whim or in anger or in haste, but if letting go or getting out really is the best strategy to achieve a higher objective, do it.

When strategic planning, don’t just decide what to add. Put equal thought into what to cut.

Groups waste energy and fall behind because they resist quitting something. Unfounded fear of cutting a program or a relationship can paralyze a group and cause huge expense. Quit while you are ahead.

– Craig Freshley

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

Change to stay the same

Good Group Tips

In principle, how things are now (the market share of our company, the mission impact of our nonprofit, the effectiveness of our government) depends on the interaction of two things: us and the world around us.

If our company, nonprofit or government does not change in spite of a changing world, then things don’t stay the same for us in spite of our stagnation. We have to change for things to stay the same: to maintain market share, mission impact, and effectiveness.

Practical Tip: Decide what things you want to stay the same, like “maintain market share,” or “keep serving the most needy people.” Then make a strategy to achieve those things. Include in the strategy changes that will need to be made. Do not assume that “maintain” or “keep” will be achieved with no changes. Then implement the strategy. Do things.

It is a bit like sailing a boat. For your course to stay the same you have to constantly change how the sails are set. Because the world around you – wind, weather, and waves – is always changing.

– Craig Freshley

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

Answer the question

Good Group Tips


In principle, the most efficient group discussions are focused on a precise question and the most efficient individual comments answer the question.

When group members are unsure what they are supposed to be talking about they are apt to ramble about anything and are apt to spend group time advancing individual interests.

When group members answer a question by sharing lots of information that they think the group might want to hear or by showing others how knowledgeable they are, it can be hugely inefficient. When I have a question, I want only the answer. If I want more information, I’ll ask another question.

Practical Tip: If you are leading a group discussion state a precise question to frame the discussion. If you want a broad range of answers, ask an open-ended question. If you want focused answers, ask a focused question.

If you are asked a question provide on-target answers, or listen with interest to others.

When I answer a question with maximum brevity I serve the group well. On the other hand when I answer a question with maximum information or to convey my own importance, I might advance my own interests but at the expense of group interests.

– Craig Freshley

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

People are complicated and colorful

From Seawall Beach in Maine Craig explains three negative consequences when we make “convenient” judgments. Convenience is over-rated, he says. Resisting quick judgments and holding ourselves open to all complexities and colors that might unfold has practical, long-term benefits.

Here’s a related one-page Good Group Tip that Craig wrote: Putting people in boxes is not okay.

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.

People are complicated and colorful.

You know, it’s convenient for me to see a man with a nice car and think, “Okay, I’m going to think of him as a rich person.” Or I might see a woman with long hair and sandals and I’m going to think of her as an environmentalist. Or I might see somebody over here and I’m not really sure what gender they are so I’m going to think of them as a bit of a weirdo.

Those are of course overly-simplistic ways of me to think of people. And people are never just that thing or just that thing or just that thing. We each come from such complicated backgrounds and we have such wild and different experiences that I can’t possibly try to figure out just at a glimpse.

I might see a piece of your life — like a picture — that you have painted for me in a moment. And I might like that picture or I might hate that picture but that picture actually has very little to do with the whole complexity and all the colors that you have to offer.

I think that convenience is over-rated. We put people in boxes because it’s convenient for me to think of them that way. But oftentimes when we do the thing that is most convenient it messes things up for the long run.

When I think of a person as just this or just this, three bad things are likely to result.

One is, I’m probably going to be disappointed when I find out that my judgment was incorrect.

Number two. I am preventing myself from enjoying all the benefits and gifts that person has to offer.

Number three. I am likely creating a bad relationship with that person. They can tell that I am thinking of them in an overly simplistic judgmental way and they are going to be less likely to want to interact and truly relate with me.

If you want short term convenience and a quick solution that helps you move on to the next thing — and a solution that lasts only for a second — then make simple judgments and put people in boxes. But if you want long-term quality relationships — long-term quality solutions — then hold yourself open to all the complexities that a person has to offer. No person is either black or white.

Thanks for listening. I hope you help your group make good decisions.


Good Group Tips

In principle, how we look back affects how we look forward. When we look back at things negatively – finding only faults and things gone wrong – we are apt to look forward with negativity. When we remind ourselves of things gone right we are more apt to look forward with optimism.

Practical Tip: Whenever you look back at a project, an event, or a span of time, keep a ledger column for plusses. Take stock of things gone well. With every evaluation, be sure to acknowledge and evaluate the good things that happened.

And there is no need to put a negative label on the other column. Call it Delta, the mathematical symbol for change. These are things that you would change if you could do it over, things you intend to improve in the future.

This two-column method of looking at the past, plus-delta, helps us learn from past mistakes yet carry optimism into the future.

– Craig Freshley

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