Author: Craig Freshley

Morality as agreed

Good Group Tips

In principle, if group members have not agreed to a particular morality or set of values, it is not okay to expect or impose that particular morality or set of values. People become uncomfortable when it feels like a specific moral code is being imposed without permission. Imposing morality creates enemies.

On the other hand, if your group has a moral code it is right to honor it. Speaking a certain morality without acting on it also creates enemies.

Practical Tip: Do not impose unwelcome morality. Act out agreed morality. Work to change group morality using agreed group processes.

For example, if a neighborhood association’s stated purpose and other governing documents say nothing of environmental values, group members should not impose environmental values as if they were group values. It is not okay to suggest that someone is being “anti-group” if they are being “anti-environment.” If you would like environmental values to become group values then work for that within the rules. Request discussion about it. Make a proposal. Practice environmental values in your own yard and in all ways that are not contrary to group decisions. But in the absence of stated group morality, it is not okay to behave as if such morality is shared by the group as a whole.

– Craig Freshley

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Hot hand

Good Group Tips

In principle, we each have our gifts. Some people are better at some things than others and we all have our good days and bad days. I know of a basketball coach who encourages his team to shoot around before every game and figure out who has the “hot hand”, who seems to be particularly gifted that day. Get the ball into the hands of that person, he encourages.

Practical Tip: For any given task on any given day, figure out who is most suited to lead. It could be anyone. If you are not the most able or not top-performing for whatever reasons, support someone who is.

Members of high-functioning groups are flexible and give the ball to whoever is most likely to succeed in the moment, regardless of prior established titles, positions, or plans.

– Craig Freshley

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Contain disagreement

Good Group Tips

In principle, when I disagree with someone’s particular idea or action it does not mean I have to disagree with them about everything. Using disagreement from one battle as ammunition for another battle works well if you want to perpetuate fighting. If you want to perpetuate peace, it works well to contain disagreement to the particular issue at hand. Peacemakers know how to respectfully disagree about one thing and at the same time work well together on another thing.

Practical Tip: Enter every discussion as a new discussion with a positive outlook and an open mind about your fellows, regardless of past or other present disagreements. Don’t hold grudges, seek revenge, or use a person’s stance on one issue as a weapon against them on another issue.

Just because I think your idea is wrong or your behavior is inappropriate does not mean I think you are a bad person; it just means that I disagree with that particular idea or behavior, that’s all. I am always willing to work with you, with an open mind and a positive attitude, to make the best decisions for our group.

– Craig Freshley

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High ground

Good Group Tips

In principle, groups often get bogged down in details (who should do what by when and how) and fail to stay on the high ground (strategic direction and guiding policies).

The group as a whole has the unique perspective of seeing all that the group is doing, all the opportunities, all the threats. It is a view from the hill top. An individual group member has the unique perspective of seeing the details on the ground and has the best sense of how to actually implement policies in the field.

Practical Tip: As a group responsible for establishing plans and policies, consider the big picture and make high-level decisions that guide implementation. Resist the temptation to dictate details. Encourage the group as a whole to stay on the high ground and trust individuals to handle the trenches.

– Craig Freshley

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Small goals

Good Group Tips

In principle, nothing breeds success like success. Achieving few or small goals provides motivation for achieving more and bigger goals. When there is a gap between a goal and achieving it, one way to close the gap is to improve ability but another way is to make the goal smaller.

“What do you say to the team?” I asked the coach of young hockey players about to lose their seventh game in a row. “You give them small goals,” he replied, “Things they can achieve other than winning the game. Things like more shots on goal or more successful passes than in the last game.”

Practical Tip: When it looks like your group is underachieving, when morale is down, establish achievable goals and get some successes under your belt. No matter how small the victory, see what it feels like to win.

Sometimes it is okay to move the bar down. Get over it. Boost morale. Move the bar back up later.

– Craig Freshley

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Orientation

Good Group Tips

In principle, orienting new people to your group prevents conflict and improves creativity. When new people come in without a solid understanding of the group’s purpose and how things are done, there will be mismatched expectations and then conflict. Good orientation ensures we are all on the same page headed in the same direction.

Orientation can foster a sense of belonging and provide structure for creative contributions. Alternatively, it can reveal a lack of fit and indicate “let’s not go through with it.” Both outcomes are valuable.

Practical Tip: Be deliberate about orienting new members. Do not assume that a new member knows what the group is about, how things are done, and what is planned for the future. Provide each new member with information about the group’s purpose, strategic direction, and expectations for member behavior. Someone should spend one-on-one time with every new member.

Provide honest answers to questions even if it might turn someone away.

Be clear about where the group is headed and sincere about the invitation to come along.

– Craig Freshley

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How to move forward

Good Group Tips

In principle, when stuck, the most important question is not “Why are we stuck?” or “Whose fault is it?” but “How to move forward in a positive, peaceful way?” Probably this requires an attitude change: a choice to see things differently and imagine things better or a decision to let go of something. Probably it also requires creative thinking about next steps that could be taken in spite of the situation or attitudes of others. And it requires doing something, not just wishing.

Practical Tip: If moving forward is important to you and your group, take a step no matter how small. Don’t get bogged down complaining about the situation or trying to figure out why things are the way they are. Rather, accept the situation and say, “Okay, now what to do?” Find a way. Go around. Make new partners. Try something different. Get out and push.

– Craig Freshley

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Difference between launch and land

Good Group Tips

In principle, it helps to take ownership of what I hear, which may be different from what the speaker intended. Messages often get changed between how they are launched and how they land. The person talking often means one thing yet the person listening often hears it differently. This is due to differences in culture and context. It is nobody’s fault.

When I begin a sentence with “I heard,” rather than “You said,” it acknowledges that I might not have heard it the way you intended. Speaking from my own perspective, using “I messages,” is disarming, safe, nonjudgmental, humble.

Practical Tip: Don’t tell someone what they said, what they launched. Rather, use your own words to describe what you heard, how the words landed on you. This allows the speaker to clarify any difference between launch and land, which furthers understanding, which contributes to good group decisions.

– Craig Freshley

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Heads up

Good Group Tips

In principle, people appreciate a heads-up before having to decide something. It’s like making sure that the person to whom you are throwing a ball has his head up and sees you. With warning there is a better chance that the ball will be caught and no one gets hurt. With a heads-up our decisions are more thoughtful, inclusive, and less reactionary.

Practical Tip:  Give your group advance notice of every decision that they will be asked to make. Sometimes a long advance is called for, like, “Group, in two months we’re going to have to decide the new product line.”

Sometimes it is an on-the-spot warning by the meeting facilitator like, “Okay everybody, later in this meeting I’m going to ask you to vote on this issue.”

Sometimes it is an advance written notice that a decision is expected, such as a memo or a meeting agenda circulated among the group.

It does not work well to pop a question and expect a fast reaction, especially in a group or public setting. Good group decisions are premeditated.

 

– Craig Freshley

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Inauguration

Good Group Tips

In principle, an important decision that every group makes is to select its leaders. High-functioning groups give their leaders a little push at the start of their term, special encouragement, a show of confidence. The word inauguration evokes the word augment: to enhance, increase, make greater.

Practical Tip: When people take on leadership roles in your group, inaugurate them. It need not be a fancy ceremony, but simple words, actions and attitudes that convey: we support you and we trust that you will do your best on our behalf.

Even if you did not agree with their selection, as long as the selection process was honorable, give group leaders the benefit of the doubt from the start. Sometimes people in new leadership roles surprise us with new leadership abilities. When we set new leaders up for success rather than for failure, our groups are more likely to succeed.

– Craig Freshley

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