Author: Craig Freshley

Direction more important than pace

Good Group Tips

In principle, moving quickly often seems like a good idea but moving quickly in the wrong direction simply gets you to the wrong place fast. Most groups have a high need for quick achievement. We have all heard someone say, “Enough talk, let’s just do something!” And we have all seen groups charge off quickly and with much enthusiasm…in the wrong direction.

Practical Tip: Even when under pressure to accomplish something in a hurry, resist the temptation to achieve a quick, although shabby, result. Quality group decisions, like anything of quality, require upfront investment. Determine your objective before springing into action. Spend some time planning. Read the directions. Check out the map. As Bob Dylan says, “I know my song well before I start singing.”

No matter how slowly you go, if you are headed in the right direction you might eventually get there.

– Craig Freshley

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I didn’t do anything wrong

Just because it’s a bad outcome doesn’t mean I did something wrong. Craig explains in this short, spontaneous video on the street.

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

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hey everybody! Hi. It’s Craig Freshley here.

I was just in a meeting and a lady told a story. Somebody asked her a question – looking back on her life – and her first response was, “I don’t know where I went wrong.” Her first response was to feel bad about the way things had turned out and particularly bad about her own actions and the things she had done wrong. And she couldn’t figure it out. But then she had a second reaction and the second reaction was, “Maybe I didn’t do anything wrong.”

You know, stuff just happens. Outcomes are not entirely my responsibility there are many many different things that contribute to a particular outcome. And it’s not always healthy to think that a bad outcome is because of something that I did wrong.

Now there are people who are always thinking, “I didn’t do anything wrong;” who are frankly in denial about their part of things. This video is not for those people. My message today is for the people who tend to think that they did do things wrong and that every bad outcome is in part because of something that they did.

Give yourself a break. Realize that, “I am not responsible for every bad outcome.” Sometimes things just happen.

We can get so caught up in our heads in assessing both credit and blame and if we can release ourselves from the burden of having to evaluate credit and blame in every situation and simply go to the next situation, it can be really freeing for me and for my group.

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

Freedom of speech

Good Group Tips

In principle, to make good group decisions we need to hear all perspectives. We need be able to openly disagree with respect and civility. We need to have the courage to speak what’s on our minds and hearts even in the face of opposition. When a group’s culture makes it not okay to voice certain views or when participants feel intimidated about sharing, those suppressed viewpoints don’t go away; they just fester and turn into conflict later.

Practical Tip: Help create a group culture that encourages open sharing of all points of view. Offer encouragement and support to those who express minority opinions, even if you disagree. Stand tall and speak your own truth, and be genuinely open to considering other truths.

Expressing our differing opinions gives us a chance to understand each other better, talk, and inch toward eventual resolution. When views are suppressed it might appear orderly in the short run, but inches us toward eventual conflict.

Not her fault, her type

Good Group Tips

In principle, we each have a personality type, hardwired into us, not likely to change. There are many methods of assessing personality types, Myers-Briggs the most popular among them. Most assessments consist of a written test that reveals one’s basic type. Categorizing people into basic types has been going on since 400 B.C. Hippocrates called them the four temperaments. In medieval times they were called the four humors.

With a certain personality type come certain personality traits. Our type has to do with how we learn, how we act, how we perceive others and the world, and how some abilities come naturally to us and some don’t.

Practical Tip: To help make good group decisions, I keep in mind that people are different, not everyone is good at everything, and that others see things differently than me, instinctively. When someone doesn’t do something the way I would do it, I figure it’s not his intention to be difficult, he’s just different.

That people are different from me is never their fault. Actually, it’s their gift. I try to embrace and build on the gifts of others, and my own.

– Craig Freshley

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If your glass is half empty, get a smaller glass

There are many things we can’t control, but one thing we can control — Craig explains in this little video — is our attitude; how we look at things.


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.

If your glass is half-empty get a smaller glass!

You know what I’m talking about: the old analogy. Do you see the glass as half-full or half empty? Some people are optimistic and grateful. They think that what they got is fullness. Some people are pessimistic and resentful. They think that what they got is emptiness.

This analogy is all about perspective. What it’s trying to say is that it depends on how you look at it. And sometimes when we see the glass as half empty, let’s imagine that we compare the stuff we got to a smaller surroundings. Especially in the world in which we live — with the internet and so much information available to us — we have the opportunity to compare our lives to some pretty spectacular unusual lives. We can compare our groups to some pretty spectacular unusual groups. And it might make us feel empty or small or unfulfilled.

I have the power to change my perspective and change who and what I compare myself to.

There’s lots of things in this world that I don’t have a choice about: facts, situations, what other people do or think. But one thing that I do have a choice about is my attitude and how I choose to look at things.

This phrase, “she made me feel bad,” or “he made me feel small” is actually a myth. I believe like Eleanor Roosevelt did that nobody can make me feel small without my permission. I have a choice about how I feel and how I see things. And if I want to I can get a smaller glass. I can see my glass as half full rather than half empty it’s up to me.

Thanks for listening everybody.

Outside issues

Good Group Tips

In principle, if a disagreement is caused by an outside issue that has nothing to do with the group issue at hand, then it must be dealt with outside the group.

An outside issue is a disagreement because of, for example, some incident between the parties that happened years ago and was never dealt with, or because of a mental disorder or perhaps an addiction. Or perhaps the conflict is related to a misconception closely-held since childhood or an illogical fear.

Outside issues are usually personal and often completely unrelated to the group’s immediate business, although they can get hugely in the way of the group’s immediate business. Outside issues prevent people from seeing or acting clearly.

If an outside issue is in the way, agreement will only come about if the issue is dealt with. If an outside issue is not dealt with and disagreeing parties are unable to let go of the issue, then the group is at risk of being paralyzed, held hostage by an issue that they have no ability to fix.

Practical Tip: Once you recognize that an outside issue is the cause of a disagreement, encourage the parties to deal with it outside the group. Perhaps mediation is called for, or perhaps therapy.

If those with outside issues are unwilling or unable to get outside help, take a vote, bring in an arbitrator, or have somehow otherwise resolve the issue—even over objections. Someone might lose but losing is not always bad. Sometimes it’s the only thing that will allow some people to move forward.

It is better that one or two people lose a single issue than for the group as a whole to get bogged down and unable to make progress.

– Craig Freshley

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Recalculating

Just like that person who gives you voice commands through your Maps app, Craig is always “recalculating” when he’s running a meeting. Or in a conversation. Or navigating through a relationship!

Craig explains in this short video from a historic Inn on the Maine coast.

(Oh, and he tries a British accent.)

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. I just facilitated a day-long meeting right here. It’s called the Harpswell Inn on the coast of Maine. It was an international Board of Directors. We had people here from South America, North America, Europe, Asia.

At the afternoon break somebody came up to me. I’ll even do an accent for you. “I was just on the phone to someone back home and I was telling them that you’re like that woman in Google Maps! The one that says: recalculating.” And yeah. It occurred to me, and this guy, that that’s kind of what I do when I’m facilitating a meeting.

There were several times today when I made a new plan for the rest of the agenda. There were several times today when I wrote a conclusion on the wall and then rewrote it. There were several times today when I made a proposal for what the group might do as next steps, and then based on what they said and how the meeting went, crossed it out and made another proposal.

If you are a meeting facilitator or if you are in a conversation with somebody or if you’re in a relationship with somebody of any kind, you do well to be always recalculating.

It’s good to have a map and a plan but you know what? We make wrong turns, we drive off the map, stuff happens that we don’t anticipate — like traffic — and we have to continually recalculate.

I serve my group, my conversation, my relationship well when I’m not wedded to the initial plan; when I am always focused on trying to get that person or trying to get us to our destination. When I’m always “recalculating.”

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

My first thought is probably not my best

Good Group Tips

In principle, my initial reaction—my first thought—is very rarely my best thought. Often my first thought is absurd and shows me how not to react.

Like first brush strokes on a canvas, first thoughts provide a starting place for more refined thoughts, for subsequent brush strokes. First thoughts, like initial brush strokes, are rarely worth sharing. In fact, sharing first thoughts can be deeply counter-productive to good group decisions.

Practical Tip: Just because I think something, doesn’t mean I have to say it or act on it. When we share first thoughts we run a substantial risk of offending others, saying things we will regret, and requiring the group to spend time on issues that turn out to be a waste of time. Best to sit with our thoughts until a clear picture emerges of what we want to say.

– Craig Freshley

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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

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