Author: Craig Freshley

Revenge is never a reason

Good Group Tips

In principle, just because you did something bad to me is never a reason for me to do something bad to you. Doing something for revenge or to get even just makes more bad things happen.

Sometimes we justify harming someone to teach them a lesson. If this is my goal, I should first ask, “What is the very best way for the lesson to be taught? Am I the best teacher? Is this the best method?” Probably not.

Another justification is that harming you will bring me peace. Really? If it is emotional peace that I want, I should first consider all the possible ways to get it, including changing my own attitudes and behaviors. Among all the options, revenge is rarely the most effective path to personal peace.

Practical Tip: Make decisions always in the best interests of the group going forward. Base decisions only on what you think will make the future better, not on what you think will fix the past. Decide to harm only as a last resort, when there are no other ways to achieve the group’s primary interests.

– Craig Freshley

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

Great gifts are not always new

In this super short video Craig explains that you don’t always have to do a big, new thing.  Instead, following through with what you already agreed to is often the greatest gift.

Thanks for holding the camera, Ellis!

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.

Now, a lot of people are inspired to give to their group or give to their community. And many people even get divine messages to give some big, new, great thing; start some new initiative for their group or community. But it might be that the greatest gift you can give is to follow up on the last stuff you agreed to.

Sometimes the great gift does come from divine messaging and it’s a big new initiative. But often times the greatest thing you can do for your group is the next right thing, that’s right in front of you.

I hope this helps you help your group.

Thanks for listening everybody.

Earth community

Good Group Tips

In principle, each group of decision makers is part of a larger group or larger community. Ultimately, we are all part of the great community we call Earth.

I want what is best for my group, but which group? Over the long run, it is not okay for my local group to profit at the expense of my larger group—that simply shifts expenses to others. Over the long run, doing what is best for my club is not okay if it hurts my town. Doing what is best for my town is not okay if it hurts my country. Doing what is best for my country is not okay if it hurts Earth community.

Practical Tip: As your group makes decisions, consider the impact of those decisions on other groups and over time. Expand the circle of concern all the way to Earth community and into the future. Decide things locally that will help the whole world. Decide things now that will help our kids and our kids’ kids. To make good group decisions, we resist the temptation to be guided entirely by local, short-term gain.

– Craig Freshley

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

Not everything is a problem that needs to be fixed

When a person dies the attending physician is not allowed to list “natural causes” or “old age” as the cause of death. Rather, there needs to be a diagnosis; a problem.

Craig thinks this is wrong. In this video he explains.

Thanks for holding the camera, Molly!

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

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hey everybody! Hey it’s Craig Freshley here. In Baxter State Park. In February.

I was just having a conversation with a friend of mine. She’s a hospice nurse and we got to talking about end-of-life and how the last time somebody died from “old age” was in the 60’s or something. People aren’t allowed, anymore,to die of that. People aren’t allowed to die of “natural causes.”

In fact, everything tends to be seen as a problem that needs to be fixed.

Well I’m here to say that in group dynamics and group settings, it can really be helpful to not think of everything as a problem that needs to be fixed.

You know what? Stuff dies. Things break. And sometimes the best course of action is to simply accept that that’s the way it’s supposed to be right now. Not everything is a problem that needs to be fixed.

Thanks for listening and I hope this helps your group make good decisions.

Okay to change plans and rules

Good Group Tips

In principle, an amateur may follow the script perfectly but a professional knows when to change the script or even leave it entirely, depending on the energy of the audience. A novice may know the rules but a veteran knows the exceptions. It is good to have scripts, plans, and rules, but experience warns against unwavering allegiance to them.

Practical Tip: Keep in mind that plans and rules are never an end in themselves but are rather just means to an end. Plans and rules are there to keep us on track toward long-term goals, but if we get off track we need to change plans and rules accordingly.

If a meeting agenda is not achieving the meeting objectives, change it. If an annual work plan is not resulting in the right amount or quality of work getting done, change it. If a law is not having the desired effect, change it.

If you find that a plan or rule is not working for your group, don’t make an independent decision to ignore it. Rather, work within established group processes to change it.

Achieving long-term ends requires ever-changing means.

– Craig Freshley

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

Agendas with end times are efficient

In a meeting room about to implement an agenda, Craig explains how useful it is to state an ending time.

Thanks for holding the camera, Wanda!

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 about to facilitate a meeting in this room and today I want to talk about the importance of an agenda having an ending time. Come this way.

A lot of groups — especially government councils and commissions — tend to have meeting agendas without an ending time because there is an ethic that we want to give everybody a chance to say everything that they need to say. We want to give all the time that’s required for a particular agenda item.

And I get that, but a downside of not having an end time to an agenda is that the facilitator — the leader of the meeting — has no leverage. There is nothing that I can do or say as the facilitator to speed things along, to call people out when comments are being repeated; to take a hard line about things that are off-topic.

When an agenda has an end time, at various points through the agenda I can say, “look we’ve only got 45 minutes. Look I understand that what you’re saying is important but we’ve only got 20 minutes left in this meeting and I want to hear from some others.” As we get close to the end time I can be more and more pushy.

And what I find is that it actually doesn’t have the result of limiting comments. It has the result of making comments more efficient, and honestly that’s what we want in a meeting. If you want your meetings to be productive and efficient, wherever possible state an end time and stick to it.

I hope this helps your group make good decisions. Thanks for listening everybody.

Know your lines

Good Group Tips

In principle, members of high-functioning groups know their roles and play them well. When group members are unsure of their roles they are hesitant to take initiative for fear of embarrassment or offending others. When group decision making is inefficient it is often because roles are not well defined and/or group members are not playing their parts.

Lines are limits, a word derived from Latin limes. Lines are boundaries and it is helpful to know them and work within them. A line is also a set of words delivered in a play. In any good production, each player knows their lines.

Practical Tip: Take time to define expectations of each role within your group and make sure the expectations are widely understood. This is more than defining jobs, it is defining decision-making steps and expecting each member to keep step with the process; not act out of order. It is knowing when to weigh in and when to stand aside. It is the wisdom to know the difference between what to accept and what to change.

– Craig Freshley

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


Good Group Tips

In principle, decisions without enforcement grow weak and eventually wither. When rules or policies are not enforced it causes confusion, resentment, and conflict. The word enforcement comes from a Latin word meaning strength. To enforce decisions is to strengthen them.

Practical Tip: Take preventative measures to ensure that members of your group understand the rules of your group. Honor the rules of your group. If you disagree with the rules: Follow them anyway, leave the group, or work in peaceful ways to change the rules.

When you see someone breaking group rules, try these steps:

1.   Discuss with them what you saw. Don’t ignore it when you see practice out of sync with policy. Such a conversation may bring to light that they “simply didn’t know better,” or that they interpret the rule differently, or that a larger issue needs to be addressed. If that doesn’t work,

2.   Point out the consequences of the violation. “When you do ___________, it affects others in the following ways: ___________.” If that doesn’t work,

3.   Impose a penalty. Ideal penalties inflict just the right amount of hurt in order to tilt the scales toward compliance.

When rules are legitimately crafted through good group processes, it is okay to enforce them for the good of the group. Actually, it’s essential for the good of the group.

Six Simple Ground Rules for a Civil Conversation

In this two-minute video, Craig tells a live audience about the six ground rules that we use at Make Shift Coffee House: 1) Speak from your experience, 2) Listen to understand, 3) Everyone gets a turn, 4) No one criticizes, 5) Neutral facilitation, and 6) Share with others. These rules were designed to help us navigate challenging conversations about strongly held political opinions, but they can also help us keep things civil in families, teams, organizations, and communities. Learn more about Make Shift Coffee House guidelines here.

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

Here’s what Craig says in the video (speaking to a live audience):

In a moment here I’m going to ask one of you to put up your hands; I’m going to ask for a volunteer to tell us your answer to this question: “What’s right and/or wrong about how we handle guns in America?” And I might ask you a follow-up question. I might ask you, like I did with these folks, “Why do you believe what you believe? Where does that come from?”

As we have our conversation here, I want to keep in mind some of these typical ground rules that we have at these Make Shift Coffee House conversations:

  • We’re mostly about listening. As I said in the beginning, we’re not here to change each other’s minds on these topics. We’re here to understand the topics and understand each other.
  • I’m asking you to speak from your personal experience. I want to know not just the theory, the law, or even the science. I want to know why you believe what you believe.
  • We’re going to try to give everybody a turn. I’m going to ask that you raise hands.
  • No one criticizes. We are not here to blame, criticize, shame, or offend anybody else. That’s just not the purpose of this. The purpose of this is to understand each other.
  • I’m being a neutral facilitator tonight.
  • And the last one there says “Share with others.” And my hope here is that — after the conversation tonight — tomorrow, next week, next month, you will share with others what you learned here about how people think about guns but also the ways in which we had the conversation. I am imagining that we’re going to have a very civil conversation tonight. We’re already off to a great start. Watch how that happens and try to model and replicate these techniques in your conversations in your questions tomorrow, next week, next month. Share with others.

Let things die

Good Group Tips

In principle, groups can spend a lot of time and energy keeping ideas and projects artificially alive. We are all familiar with the agenda item that keeps coming up over and over again but that no one seems to have energy for; or the committee for which energy is fading, attendance is waning, and discussion becomes mostly about process rather than substance. Putting energy into dying things distracts attention from helping other things grow.

That things die is okay. The wonderful thing about dying is that it leads to new life. When things die, the energy goes to other places. Letting things die fertilizes new creativity.

Practical Tip: Make deliberate decisions about what you want to help grow and what you want to let die. Chasing instincts to save everything is inefficient. If a committee or project of your group is dying and it is not something that you care about or have optimism around, don’t put energy into keeping it alive.

Plan for dying. Create committees with sunset provisions that require them to die automatically if no one moves to save them, rather than that they live automatically if no one moves to kill them.

When dying things bring sadness, that’s okay too. Work to turn those emotions into new resolve for growth and creation of new things.

– Craig Freshley

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