Tips, Videos, Handouts

Show What You Think

For some new teamwork skills check out this spontaneous video where Craig explains some cool tricks for communicating in meetings really effectively. Craig talks about the British Parliament, Southern Baptist Congregations, and Consensus Color Cards! And he explains how a few thumbs up can move a group forward by leaps and bounds.

Don’t just sit there in a meeting, show what you think even when you are not talking!

Here’s what Craig says in the video

A lot of groups have a culture that you’re supposed to quietly listen to a person talk before you talk yourself. And that’s a good culture, you know. We listen to each other without interrupting and we’re very thoughtful before we speak up.

Sounds great, but it can be really inefficient because here’s the thing. If I’m running the meeting and I ask a question or I state an idea, it’s very hard for me to tell what everybody’s thinking about it. Now I might see one or two hands get raised and I might call on one of those two people. But look, even then I’m only hearing from one or two people who have the guts to raise their hands.

Here some other ways to do it. One way, think of the British Parliament. Have you ever seen the British Parliament? Here’s what happens. A speaker rises to their feet gets recognized by the chair and starts saying their opinion. Immediately other people in the parliament say things like, “here here,” or sometimes even boo. But they are instantly letting everyone in the chamber know what they think.

Here’s another example. Think Southern Baptist Church. The preacher is talking from the pulpit and if people agree with what the preacher says they say, “Amen! Right on sister!” And whatever they want to say. Now look, I’m not pretending to be a Southern Baptist. I’m not pretending to be a member of the British Parliament. I’m just trying to convey that there are cultures out there where people are encouraged to speak up and give instant feedback. That can be very efficient.

Here’s another way. Let me show you. This a color card scheme here that we use with a group that I work with. Everybody in the in the group, when were sitting there at a meeting, has five of these cards. So as I’m sitting there listening to the meeting and participating, I have five of these cards in my lap or on the table in front of me and during the discussion I hold them up. If I have a question, I hold up a yellow card. If I have an answer, I hold up a green card. If I have a comment to make, I hold up a blue card. Orange is for….say I want to call for a vote. And red is, “stop the process,” there’s something wrong with the process.

This is during a discussion. Look, how many times does it happen, if we don’t have these color cards, that I might ask a question and three hands go up. Now I don’t know who among those three people actually has an answer to the question. And you know what happens nine times out of ten, I call on somebody and they don’t have an answer to the question at all. In fact, they have another question or they have something else to say that takes us on a different track and that first question that got asked never gets answered. Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to tell before I call on somebody what type of response they’re going to give? Very efficient to have a color card scheme showing everyone else in your group what you think.

Here’s how we use the cards for voting. We use them this way for discussion. But for voting, if I approve the proposal, I show a yellow card [green card, actually]. If I disapprove of the proposal, I show a red card. If I want to stand aside, I show an orange card. Now this is for consensus voting so that’s why there are these three choices. But again, terribly helpful and very efficient for showing everyone else in the group what you think.

Now look, I have described to you some very informal approaches for showing what you think: British Parliament, Southern Baptist Church. And I’ve shown you a formal way to show others in the group what you think: color cards with a very specific legend. There’s a middle ground. It’s called thumbs. Thumb up, thumb horizontal, thumb down. Somebody makes a comment; if I generally agree with that comment or that proposal, I show a thumb up. If I have concerns about it, I show a thumb down. If I’m facilitating that group, I will call on the people that have some concerns.

It is very helpful for me to see…..look, if I got a group of 20 people and I see 18 thumbs down, I know that we don’t need to talk about that proposal anymore. In fact we could all see that and we can move on. If I put out an idea, for a group of 20 people, and there’s only two or three thumbs down, well now we got something to talk about! And I might call on those two or three people who put a thumb down to explain their concern, maybe we can address it.

Look when you try to impose any of these kinds of schemes, color cards or thumbs, for the first time, people are resistant. They don’t want to vote; they don’t want to show their cards. But if you can develop a group culture where it is okay to show what you think it can be very very efficient. And here’s one way that you can help develop that culture. Give each other permission to change your mind. Recognize that when you do a straw poll with thumbs or color cards, it is just a quick snapshot, getting a quick feel of how the group feels as a whole. We are not going to hold every individual person to what they said and make them stick to it forever. We are allowed to change our minds. It’s just a quick straw poll. And groups that are highly efficient  — in an hour-long meeting where they’re trying to come to consensus on something — they might take four, five, a dozen straw polls in that meeting. It can move the group forward very quickly.

Look, you can probably think of other ways in which to show what you think without stopping and interrupting the process. If you have comments on this topic I would love for you to write them at my website, I know that these aren’t the only three ways in the world to show what you think. But I do know this, if you can develop a group culture of showing what you think, it will really improve your efficiency, and it will help your group make good decisions.

Thanks a lot everybody. Thanks for listening.

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