Author: Craig Freshley

Make amends

Good Group Tips

In principle, to amend is to change. To make amends is an action, not just a thought or a statement.

When we have done someone wrong we might apologize. Indeed, “I’m sorry” can be very helpful. At the very least it acknowledges wrong doing.

More than apologies, amends go further in strengthening relationships and building trust. To make an amend is to actually try to mend a past wrong (put things back the way they were, clean up the mess, give money to pay for something lost or broken) and/or put something (a new attitude or a new behavior) in place to help prevent a similar wrong from happening again in the future. To make an amend is to do something or change something; it’s more than to say something.

Practical Tip: When you have done someone wrong make an amend. To start an amend with words is okay as long as the words are something like, “What can I do to make things right?” To complete an amend requires follow through with an appropriate action. Actually do something. Change something.

Making genuine amends liberates the individuals involved and strengthens the group as a whole.

– Craig Freshley

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Best solutions begin with self

Good Group Tips

In principle, when things are not right, a natural instinct is to want someone else to do something different or to want a policy to be different, but rarely are these the best solutions. It is easy to think my problem would be solved if only you would change. It is easy to think that the law or policy is wrong, rather than me. Sometimes laws or other people’s attitudes or behaviors need to change, but it is often most effective to change my own attitudes or behaviors.

Practical Tip: Before going to the leaders of my group and suggesting a policy change, or before going to another group member and suggesting they should change, I ask, “What is my part in this? What can I change about my own attitude or behavior to fix things?” If I have answered those questions, acted on the answers, and still things aren’t right, then I ask my group or fellow group member to consider a change.

When we work to change a governing policy to fix an isolated problem, it can be hugely inefficient for many people. When we work to change the behaviors of others without willingness to change ourselves, it can take huge amounts of energy and result in damaged relations.

To help the efficiency of collaborative decisions the first question is not, “What should he or she or they do to make things better?” but rather, “What am I going to do to make things better?”

– Craig Freshley

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Men, Make Room

In this short video Craig explains that men have a responsibility to help women be heard.

That is, if you want good group decisions.

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 I know that there is a danger in categorical judgments, but I’m going to make one because this is something that I have seen over and over again in my meetings.

Men tend to talk more. Women tend to defer more. I bet that if you tracked the data in the last 100 meetings that I have been in……let’s say you looked at the proportion of men and women in each of those meetings and if you looked at the proportion of time of men talking and women talking, you would find that a disproportional amount of the time is dominated by men.

Now if your goal in the meeting is to get your way, to get the whole group to affirm what you already know to be true — without even having to hear from anybody else — then yeah, you should be a bit of a bully. You should dominate the conversation, you should interrupt others, and take up as much airtime as you can with your point of view. But if your goal is for the group to make a good decision with the very best available information and the very best chances of implementation because of buy-in, then spend more time listening and less time talking. Make room for everyone.

Now if you’re a man you might be thinking, “Well, if women don’t speak up that’s their fault; it’s their responsibility.” But I don’t think that’s entirely true. I think it’s a shared responsibility like pregnancy is a shared responsibility.

If you are a man in a meeting and you are thinking about making a comment — you know exactly what you want to say and you’re about to jump in — I’m encouraging you to pause, look around the room, especially at the women in the room, and give a chance for one of those women to take your turn. When I’m on my best behavior that’s what I do and I have found that the benefits are pretty amazing.

Men, make room. It will help your group make good decisions.

Thanks for listening everybody.

Ground rules

Good Group Tips

In principle, when everybody understands and plays by the same rules the experience is much more likely to be fun and rewarding than if people make up or assume their own rules and not everyone understands the rules. Like playground rules posted on a fence, meeting ground rules encourage us to play safe, have fun, and include everyone. Group decision making is more efficient and achieves better results when we have shared expectations of each other.

Practical Tip: Establish meeting ground rules at the start of every meeting — a simple list of ten or fewer statements about how we all agree to behave in the meeting. The group might make a list from scratch or discuss and revise a list proposed by a facilitator or other leader. Many groups use the same set of ground rules meeting after meeting.

All participants should be watchful for compliance with the ground rules and politely point out violations. Review the ground rules regularly and don’t hesitate to make additions or changes. Make sure new people understand the ground rules.

– Craig Freshley

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At home and in families

Good Group Tips

In principle, 90 percent of disease prevention and curing is done at home and in families. We all practice health care. We help each other eat well, get rest, and we take care of each other when sick. Only sometimes do we see a doctor or some other medical professional. Same with collaborative decisions: 90 percent of conflict prevention and resolution is done at home and in families. We help each other see things differently, we settle arguments, and we offer compassion and advice to those in conflict. Similarly, we all do the work of collaborative decisions in our jobs and in community groups. Only sometimes do we hire a facilitator or mediator.

Practical Tip: Just as I take 90 percent responsibility for my own health and my family’s health, I take 90 percent responsibility for peace and good decision making in the groups I belong to. To do it well I educate myself about what really works, beyond wives’ tales, and I try to actually do what I learn. Also, I self-diagnose. I ask, “What did I do today that contributed to a more peaceful world?” And, “How could I do better?” Like a sick person visualizing themselves as healthy, I try to see myself as a peacemaker. I don’t need a license to practice.

– Craig Freshley

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No one’s writing anything down!

Want to help your group be efficient? Write stuff down.

Want to look smart? Write stuff down.

Want to BE smart? Write stuff down.

Craig explains in this short video.

And here’s another video on this topic. It’s called Write stuff down.


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 was in a meeting the other day — lots of highly paid people giving important opinions, deciding important things — and I looked around the room and I said to myself, “No one’s writing anything down!”

I was in a one-on-one conversation with somebody the other day giving instructions — pretty complicated instructions — and thinking to myself, “they’re not writing anything down! How are they going to remember this?”

And you know what? The next time I talked with that person it was clear that they hadn’t remembered, or they got wrong, the things that I had said. And that group? The next time they met they had to go over the same ground.

Meetings get a bad reputation for being inefficient and a leading cause of inefficiency is having to go over the same stuff again and again. And an easy solution to that is to write stuff down. Circulate the notes to the people who were in the meeting, check and see if what got written down matches everyone’s understanding, and don’t turn back. Let that be a reflection of the discussion or the conclusion and keep going.

When it comes to work and important conversations, I’m a writer-downer. Every phone call, every conversation, I take notes and file them away. Every meeting that I facilitate, I take notes and circulate them to the people who participated.

And here’s the magic. Writing stuff down doesn’t only prevent you from having to rehash stuff it helps you remember stuff. When I have to write stuff down it makes me a better listener.

Somebody said to me recently, “Craig you are holding so much stuff, you’re amazing!” And you know what? It’s not that I’m amazing. It’s just that I write stuff down.

I hope this helps you help your group make good decisions.

Thanks for listening everybody.

Take a step

Good Group Tips

In principle, we don’t need to know the whole plan in order to take the next step. To avoid a stumble we don’t need to see the whole path illuminated, just the next few feet.

As if carrying a lantern through the dark, if I take just one step at a time more will be revealed. The light moves with me.

Practical Tip: Just because you can’t see how everything is going to work out, don’t let that stop you from taking the next step. If your group seems stuck with uncertainty, ask, “What do we need to know just to take the next step?” Let that be enough for now. Take a step. As an individual, let go of needing to know everything and trust that your lantern will see you through.

– Craig Freshley

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Discipline

Good Group Tips

 

 

 

 

In principle, discipline is remembering what I want.

Step one of course is to figure out what I want. That’s hard all by itself. Yet without a clear definition of the goal, discipline is impossible. Chasing fleeting aspirations willy-nilly often results in a random undisciplined path that amounts to little progress.

Step two is to stay on the path, remember what I want, where I want to be. It is so easy to be distracted. Disciplined people have learned how to resist distraction.

Step three is do the work. And the work is surprisingly easy, even fun, when you truly believe in a well-defined goal and when you are free from distraction.

And it’s the same for groups. This is why it is so important for groups to define their goals and honor their processes that are designed to get them there.

Practical tip: Define what you want. Remember what you want. Do the work, joyfully, that will get you what you want.

– Craig Freshley 

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When someone throws a brick at you

When someone throws a brick at Craig he has choices about how to react; three choices actually.

In this short video Craig explains on the sidewalk of Maine Street, Brunswick.


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.

Somebody might throw a brick at me. You know what I’m talking about: an insult, a resentment, a bad mood, somebody criticizes me unfairly. When somebody throws a brick at me I have a couple choices.

One thing I can do is I can catch the brick and then I can, like, carry it around with me. And it can weigh me down. I can be thinking about, “Did I really deserve that? Why am I such a bad person that I got a brick thrown at me?”

Another choice I have is that I can catch the brick and I can throw it back. I can insult the person who insulted me.

I have a third choice. Watch this, somebody is going to throw a brick at me. I can let it go by. I have a choice to not catch that brick, to not carry it around with me and let it be a burden, to not throw it back. I can…..I can let it go by and I can think to myself, “That was interesting.” And I can go about my day.

I hope this helps you help your group make good decisions.

Thanks for listening everybody!

Alternative solutions

Good Group Tips

In principle, considering alternative solutions makes for better decisions. Exploring alternatives results in one or more of the following:

1. Builds faith in the leading option. We get to see that the leading option really is the best among alternatives.

2. Leads to a new, better solution.

3. Reveals that we do not have a clear handle on the problem. Posing alternative solutions pushes us to clearly define the problem that we are trying to solve.

When we invite alternatives and genuinely consider them, it also builds credibility among those we ask and increases chances of their participation in the solution.

Practical Tip: Even when you think you have the right answer, pose alternatives. Consider, “What are some other ways to approach this? How else could we get the job done? How else could we solve the problem?” Be wildly creative. Be hypothetical. Like a child posing dolls or trucks, be imaginative. Decide after you have posed and considered alternative solutions.

– Craig Freshley

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