Author: Craig Freshley

Measure to manage

Good Group Tips

In principle, to manage any activity—to know what to do more of, less of, and what to do differently—we need to be able to measure it. We ask, “How is it going?” And to measure any activity we need a measuring stick, something against which to compare.

Some call it “benchmarking,” where progress is compared to:

1. A reference group of similar activities or organizations (like an average or median),

2. One’s own past performance (like how you did last year, or over the past several years), or,

3. A quantifiable goal (like a fundraising thermometer/sign posted in front of the building).

Without anything to compare against, we cannot actually say anything about the success of an activity or how to manage it for greater success.

Practical Tip: When your group decides on a new activity or policy, decide also how you will know if it is successful. Set a goal. Be specific. Write it in such a way that you will be able to know if you achieved it. If possible, state the goal relative to the performance of other similar groups or activities, or relative to your own group’s past performance.

Measuring progress not only helps you manage future activities, it encourages better performance.

– Craig Freshley

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Hands off

Good Group Tips

In principle, high-functioning leadership groups are “hands on” regarding the tasks they are supposed to do and the decisions they are supposed to make. They also understand what tasks and decisions they should keep their hands off. High-functioning leaders delegate responsibility to committees or individuals and then stand aside to let them do their job in their own way with their own creative spirit.

Practical Tip: Before your group takes up an issue, ask “Should we be handling this?” Don’t spend unnecessary time on things you have already decided to let others handle. When you give responsibility to others, it helps when the expectations are written and clearly understood.

Good leaders facilitate rather than micro-manage. A mark of a good leader is that their followers become good leaders. Facilitative leaders clarify expectations, offer encouragement, demonstrate exemplary behavior, and let go.

Incrementally

Good Group Tips

In principle, the best things are always built in tiny stages. Often there is the illusion of dramatic change, but even seemingly miraculous changes result from thousands of small steps. Taking small steps forward on a project lets us learn as we go and adjust. Big steps are risky. Small steps are sure-footed. Nature builds in very small increments and achieves very great things.

Practical Tip: Do things small before you do them big, on small stages before big stages. Make use of pilot projects, test cases, and trial runs. Make commitments incrementally. Proceed with many small steps rather than a few giant leaps. When your group wants to rush ahead asking, “What’s the biggest step we can take to achieve our objective?” ask also, “What’s the smallest step we can take?”

It is better to take a small step in what we know is the right direction than to take a large step in what might be the wrong direction.

– Craig Freshley

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At least two ways

Good Group Tips

In principle, there are at least two ways to solve every problem. When we are able to be nonjudgmental, we are able to see problems not as problems at all but as misalignments. For example, the problem is not that I am right and you are wrong, it is simply that we see things differently. The problem is not that we are spending too much, it is simply that we are spending more than we are earning. When we see difficulties as misalignments rather than problems, it is easier to see more solutions. For example, you could change your view or I could change mine. We could decrease expenses or we could increase revenues.

Practical Tip: When faced with a problem remember there are always at least two ways to solve it. See problems as misalignments, without judgment. Identify all the creative ways to achieve alignment.

– Craig Freshley

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Get a second

Good Group Tips

In principle, a virtue of most decision-making systems such as Robert’s Rules of Order is that for a group to consider an idea, at least two members need to think it worthy of the full group’s time. A motion needs a second in order to be considered. Requiring that I get one other person bought into my idea before taking up the full group’s time assures that the group cannot be dominated by a single person or an untested idea. Further, requiring at least one collaborator enhances creativity.

Practical Tip: Before you take your idea to the whole group, take it to at least one other person first. Be open to feedback and adaptation. Take your idea to someone who could lend credibility and help you take it to others. If initially rejected, try someone else. When at least one other respected group member believes in your idea then perhaps it is time to take it to the full group. If you cannot get at least one other person to believe in your idea, change it.

– Craig Freshley

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Free from past

Good Group Tips

In principle, every encounter, every meeting, is an opportunity to start anew. It is good to learn from the past but not be artificially constrained by it.

Just because we have spent a lot of money or effort on something (referred to by economists as sunk costs) is not by itself justification for spending more. The proper decision criterion for spending money or effort is how it might affect the future, not how it might change the past. Revenge too may create the illusion of making the past better but in fact only makes the future worse.

We cannot change the past by the decisions we make today, but we can change our feelings about the past by making good decisions for tomorrow.

Practical Tip: Glance back over your shoulder, but not so much that you stumble on what’s ahead. Let the past inform the future, but not dominate it.

Experiences from our past are like rocks, best used to pile up and stand upon, see clearly, and step off into the future in any direction—not to be used for building walls.

– Craig Freshley

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Start with a question

Good Group Tips

In principle, when I enter into a discussion with a statement rather than a question I am presuming to already know all the answers. Most conflicts are due to misunderstanding so when my opinion is based on presumption I am probably headed for conflict.

When I begin a discussion with a question I show respect for others, that I want to hear what they have to say. The longer I remain truly open-minded the greater the chances that my opinion is based on complete understanding.

Practical Tip: Even though you might have an opinion forming in your head, hold off expressing it and start with questions instead. Be genuinely open to changing your opinion based on new things you learn. Good questions start with “why”, “how” and “what.” Good questions are open ended. Examples: “Why do you think that? How has it worked well in the past? What do you think is the cause of the problem?”

When I start with a question I am less threatening to others, I am more likely to develop a well-informed opinion, and I increase prospects for avoiding conflict entirely.

– Craig Freshley

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Outside influence

Good Group Tips

In principle, if we want things to be different we have to see or do things differently. If a group of people are seemingly unable to solve a problem among themselves, perhaps they don’t have the wherewithal among themselves. If a group seems stuck in its ways— unenthusiastic, mediocre—perhaps it’s time for some outside influence.

Outside influences can jar things loose, knock things off track, light motivational fires; exactly what might be needed.

Practical Tip: Always bring new influences into your group: outside speakers, visitors, new information. Seek out those with special expertise and relevant experiences. Do not be threatened by outside influences; welcome them.

Outside influences can help you confirm that you are on the right track or inspire you towards a new track. Both are good.

– Craig Freshley

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It’s the planning, not the plan

In this fireside video from a lodge on a lake in Maine, Craig talks about the value of having a plan vs. making a plan.

If you are a planning skeptic, check this one out.

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’m about to start a meeting in this awesome room. I’m at the Kennedy Learning Center on the shores of Damariscotta Lake, right out those windows. We’re going to sit around this table and were going to make a plan.

Now a lot of people don’t like plans. A lot of people say that plans are useless. In fact, Dwight Eisenhower said, “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” And I get that.

Sometimes — actually most of the time — after you make a plan, circumstances change and the whole plan is no longer valid. But the process of planning is indispensable even if you don’t stick to the plan. Having gone through the effort to think through what is it that we want to achieve — what are the steps, in what order, who’s responsible for what, how much money is each step going to cost — having thought through those plans helps us later even when we have to go off the plan. Even when circumstances change; because we went through the planning process we much better know how to adapt.

So even if you think plans are obsolete I hope you agree with me that the effort of planning is indispensable.

Thanks for listening everybody.

Understanding is always partial

A quick reminder from Quaker Meeting.

Thanks for holding the camera Kitsie!

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.

Just finished a Quaker Meeting in this room where a woman said, “Understanding is always partial.” What a good reminder. You know sometimes I’m apt to think that I understand it all but I do well to keep in mind that I never understand it all. There are always other people that have a piece of the truth. There is always more for me to learn.

When I think I know it all, for one, I miss the opportunity of anybody else being able to contribute. And two, I miss the opportunity of me learning anything new.

Understanding it’s great. It’s wonderful for me to be able to say, “I get it, I understand that.” But it’s also great to be able to say, “I don’t understand it at all. I don’t know what else is to be revealed.”

You can help your group by always remembering that understanding is always partial.

Thanks for listening everybody.