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If you don’t have a stake, get out of the way

Good Group Tips

In principle, those who have a stake in the outcome—stakeholders—are the most appropriate participants in good group decisions. They stand to win, perhaps a lot, or lose a lot depending on the decision. In principle, those with the highest stakes tend to consider decisions most carefully. People who don’t have a real stake may want to participate but may not consider issues deeply because they do not have to. Non-stakeholders may give opinions based on shallow considerations, and those opinions can be in the way of the true stakeholders trying to achieve a good group decision.

Practical Tip: If you don’t have a real stake in the decision, don’t weigh in on the discussion. If you are about to say, “Well, I really don’t care either way, but…” or “It doesn’t matter to me, but…” consider saying nothing instead.

– Craig Freshley

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7 thoughts on “If you don’t have a stake, get out of the way

  1. Hi Craig….reading this makes me curious where you put the “devil’s advocate”? As I’ve always understood it, it’s the person who will intentionally take a significantly “opposite” point of view usually (if well-intended) to ensure all perspectives are being heard but it does mean you are putting forth views/values/opinions with which you do not agree….

  2. So true.
    A lot to be learned with this…”say nothing” statement.
    Listen carefully ….and only speak if there is something important to say that adds to the discussion or the outcome.

  3. Of course you raise a good point, John. I would say that if you care deeply about homelessness, to the point where you are willing to do something about it, you ARE a stakeholder. I think of stakeholders as those who can significantly advance or obstruct the thing under consideration. Those who are interested in talking only; those are the people who I think should get out of the way. I think the definition of “stakeholder” is best dependent on one’s future abilities and intentions rather than on one’s past experience or expertise.

  4. Thank you for the clarification, Craig. I think I see what you mean: in saying “get out of the way,” you’re referring to people who simply want to proclaim their opinions no matter how deeply (or not) they feel about an issue. Do I have that right?

    This might help sharpen the definition of “those who have a stake”: if you care enough to take part authentically in a dialogue–not just opining, but listening to the other, co-creating new ideas and solutions, bridging divides, etc.–you automatically have a stake. It means you care enough to do the hard work of dialogue. What do you think?

  5. Hello, Craig,

    I’ve enjoyed your tips and found wisdom in them. On this one, however, I’m ambivalent. Certainly those with a stake in the issue must be heard and their opinions highly valued–perhaps more than the opinions of others. What if, however, you feel passionately about an issue in which you have no personal stake? Would, for instance, we want to lose the perspectives of those who care deeply about homelessness but have never been homeless themselves or run a homeless agency? How can we welcome their passion (and the thinking that, perhaps, their passion has fueled) while still giving all due honor to those who do have a stake?

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