Author: Craig Freshley

My responsibility

Good Group Tips

In principle, when we are part of a group we are apt to expect the group or other members of the group to do things on our behalf. When faced with a problem to be solved or a task to be done we might think, “someone else will take care of it.” This seems different from being independent where every problem and every task is “my responsibility.” Group belonging creates the illusion of group responsibility. But it is an illusion. Still, it is “my responsibility.”

When group members give up responsibility to the group as a whole, the group doesn’t get anything done.

We can spend a lot of time and energy wishing our group was different, complaining about our group, questioning other group members about their ways. But there is only one question that leads to real change: “What am I going to do about it?”

Practical Tip: Don’t just talk about how things should change. BE the change that you want for your group, for your world. Don’t just wish that problems were solved and tasks were done. Do things.

– Craig Freshley

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Adapt, migrate, or perish

Good Group Tips





In principle, when faced with discomfort, there are basically three choices: adapt, migrate, or perish. These are the alternatives available to species, communities, companies, governments, and individuals.

To adapt is to change one’s own behaviors. It’s about doing things differently. Although change is hard and often resisted, evolution has taught us that adaptation is the key to survival. In business terms, innovation is the key to prosperity.

To migrate is to leave one’s situation for a better one. This is sometimes the appropriate response to external factors. If your group, your partner, your company, or your community are doing you wrong and unlikely to change, you might exercise your choice to leave. But if your discomfort is caused by something internal, some attitude or habit that only you can change, when you leave you will simply take the discomfort with you. Best to adapt: the solution is to change something in yourself.

To perish is an option not to be overlooked. Sometimes the best choice is to actually go out of business, disband, surrender. This is often the way to peace.

Homo sapiens, with our enlarged brains, are inclined towards a fourth choice: wishful thinking. When faced with discomfort I am likely to spend huge amounts of energy wishing that things were different, complaining, trying to get others to adapt to me, denying my part in my discomfort, justifying why I am right and others are wrong, and being angry at the situation with all manner of adverse consequences. These approaches rarely, if ever, improve my comfort over the long run.

Practical Tip: If you or your group don’t like things the way they are, adapt, migrate, or perish.

– Craig Freshley

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Good Group Tips

In principle, detachment is the key to peace.

Sometimes we are so attached to things that we are apt to fight for them, so attached that when they disappear it brings great pain, so attached that our judgment is clouded to the point where we see and feel only conflict.

While right-sized compassion brings comfort, oversized attachment to people, ideas, or feelings brings turmoil and tension. While right-sized determination brings achievement, unwavering attachment to goals or ideals brings conflict.

Practical Tip: Do not be too attached to your group’s cause or decisions that you think the group should make. Do not be too attached to how you think things should be or how others should behave.

It is often those group members who are unreasonably dedicated — those who give an unreasonable amount of time or energy — who cause the most conflict.

Give your best without conditions. Speak your truth without expectations. Use the key, find peace.

– Craig Freshley

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Good information compels

Good Group Tips

In principle, there are basically three ways to influence the choices people make:

1. Regulate what people cannot do and punish violations.

2. Offer incentives to encourage certain choices.

3. Provide information that rings so true it compels good choices.

If you believe that, for the most part, people want to do the right thing, the most effective and peaceful method of influencing good decisions is to provide good information so the right thing becomes self-evident.

For example, Maine has historically had one of the highest teen smoking rates in the nation. We have made laws against teen smoking and punished violators. We have created incentives against smoking such as high taxes on cigarettes. These have not had satisfactory results. Only recently has the rate dramatically declined and it is because we launched an information campaign that made the detrimental health effects of cigarette smoking clear. We provided truthful information on television and radio. For all those teens who want to do the right thing, it’s now clear what that is.

Practical Tip: Provide all decision makers with the best possible information about the issue being considered. Good, truthful information is extremely compelling.

Actually, good information is the only thing that is truly compelling and results in sustainable decisions.

– Craig Freshley

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Shared vision required

Good Group Tips

In principle, it is a shared vision that holds a group together, a common view of how people want things to be different in the future. If my opinion of how things should change doesn’t overlap with yours in at least a tiny way, we have no reason to work together.

It may be that we disagree on specific approaches—how much money to spend, who to hire, when to do what—but for a good group decision to result we must have a shared vision of the outcome, where we’re heading.

Practical Tip: Identify and write down what we agree that we hope to achieve. For an established group this might be a mission statement, or a vision statement, or a set of goals. For a one-time group (perhaps gathered at a public hearing, for instance), begin with a statement of why the group is gathered and make sure at the outset that everyone is there for the same purpose.

When we may be inclined to disagree, it helps to know we have the same vision.

Do what you say

Good Group Tips

In principle, trust grows from the link between what we say and what we do. People trust you less if you do not do what you say you will do. Often the problem is not that you just couldn’t get to the thing done that you said you would, it’s that you didn’t speak truth when you volunteered in the first place. Often the error is not that we didn’t do something, it’s that we said we would do something.

Practical Tip: Before you publicly (in a meeting, for instance) volunteer for anything, consider the commitment you are making. For every commitment you make, write something down, either on your calendar or on a to-do list. Don’t just say “I’ll do this or that” because it sounds good in the moment. Words without action are just words and it is action that builds trust.

– Craig Freshley

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Public input in many ways

On site at a public input meeting, Craig describes four ways for people to give their opinions.

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 am at a meeting – the whole purpose is to gather public input. Tonight we’re in Brunswick, Maine asking people what they think the future of the town should be.

Now, when you ask people to provide information it’s really good if you can ask them to give it in several different ways because you know not everybody is comfortable raising a hand and speaking out loud in public. Sometimes we do that – take a look over here. We did that in this meeting earlier tonight and we showed right on the screen what people said. As they raised their hands and spoke out, we typed their comments.

But that’s not the only way. Also earlier tonight, we asked people to write their comments on these pieces of paper and we put them on the wall. We didn’t know how they were going to be organized. We organized them after we saw all the pieces of paper on the wall.

A third way that we’re asking people to make their comments tonight is by writing on pieces of paper at their tables. Look we’ve got a question right down on the chart and we’re asking people to discuss and write their answers.

That’s not all – come over here. We asked people to draw their ideas on maps. “Where do you want growth to occur in our town? Where do you want no growth?”

Look, the point is that whenever you’re asking for public input ask it in a way that gives many different types of opportunities to give their input. That’s how you help your group make good decisions.

Thanks for listening everybody.

Decision method right-sized

Good Group Tips

In principle, the amount of energy (time, money, etc.) invested in a group decision should be in proportion to the amount of impact it’s likely to have. The magnitude of the impact is a combination of how many people are affected, how deeply, and for how long into the future.

Consensus decisions are best suited to those that we expect to affect many people and last a long time — decisions that are expected to live longer than the current generation of decision makers. Consensus decisions are characterized by inclusive participation, shared understanding, and acceptance among all key stakeholders. This is when everybody decides for everybody.

Majority rule works well for medium-size decisions: decisions that are expected to last for awhile but are open to challenge and easily changed as majorities change (as generations of decision makers turn over). This is when most of the people decide for everybody.

One person in charge works well for decisions expected to last a short time with limited impact. Here, one person makes decisions on behalf of everybody.

Practical Tip: Don’t use the same decision method for all decisions. Up front, consider the likely magnitude of impact for each decision and choose consensus, majority rule, one decider, or some other method. You might use consensus for things like mission statements and strategic plans, majority rule for things like annual budgets, and leave day-to-day operations to individual deciders.

It’s not right-sized for just one person to decide the group’s 10-year plan, or for tomorrow’s schedule to be decided by consensus.

– Craig Freshley

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Good Group Tips

In principle, advice works best when it is solicited and unconditional.

Practical Tip: Generally, don’t give advice unless asked. Who are you to say that you know best, especially when you have not walked in the other’s shoes? If you give advice only when asked you are on solid ground and minimize reasons for regrets. Unsolicited advice is called for only when an intervention is truly warranted.

Give advice without expectations about what will result. Giving advice with strings — conditions or expectations — is a set up for disappointment. Besides, unconditional advice is much more useful to the receiver. Better decisions are made when the decider is free to act on all, part of, or none of the advice given.

Receive solicited advice with appreciation, whether you like it or not.

Ask for advice with specifics and parameters. You might ask for comments on a written proposal or answers to a specific question. Or you might describe a specific situation and ask, “What would you do?”

I hope you asked for this Tip. Use it however you like.

– Craig Freshley

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