In principle, the more information we have about something the better decision we’re likely to make about it. And, we’re likely to have the most information at the last minute. Deciding more than we really need to at any given moment can cause regrets later.
Practical Tip: Before you start making decisions, think about the order of decisions. What needs to get decided first? What next? What can wait? Break decisions up into pieces if possible, and if there’s anything to be gained by waiting to decide a piece (like more people getting more information), wait. Establish a date certain for deciding each piece.
The last minute, although stressful, is often the optimal time for good group decisions. “I love the last minute,” I once heard someone say. “If it weren’t for the last minute a lot of stuff wouldn’t get done.”
In principle, consensus generally means that all perspectives are heard and all concerns are addressed, resulting in decisions that all participants can willingly consent to. Many groups aspire to make decisions by consensus but very few have specific protocols in place to guide its implementation. There is no Robert’s Rules of Order for consensus. Groups often plunge ahead resolved to “use consensus” but with few or no structural underpinnings.
Practical Tip: If you are going to use consensus as your official decision-making method, be specific at the outset about what it means. How, specifically, will you make sure that all perspectives are heard, all concerns are addressed, and what steps will be followed when there is a “block?” Once decided, follow your rules with a degree of formality.
Structure and protocol are just as important in consensus decision making as in any other type of decision making. Being casual about the rules just makes a mess.
In principle, when we decide more than we have to, say more than we have to, or do more than just enough to get the job done, it might cause trouble.
We don’t have to decide everything right now. It works well to decide only what we have to, see how that plays out and then decide the next steps. One step at a time.
We don’t have to say everything we’re thinking. It works to first consider the purpose of speaking and then say just enough to achieve the purpose.
We don’t have to do too much, over-fix things, or fix things that aren’t really broken. That often causes inefficiency.
Practical Tip: You don’t have to do it all right now, or say it all, or decide it all. It’s okay to put some decisions off. Break projects into pieces and make decisions in pieces. The smaller the pieces, the less chance of bad decisions with big impact and the more chance of building on lessons learned.
In principle, in order to move from one topic to the next we have to have a next topic. Without something else important to do, there is little incentive to change what we are doing.
Strategic plans and meeting agendas are lists of next topics. The meeting facilitator moves the group forward by reminding them of the other important topics to be discussed. It’s not that we want to end this topic because we don’t care about it; it’s just that we need to start the next one.
If you or your group is in a negative place emotionally, the best medicine is often a healthy distraction.
Practical Tip: Have a next step always in mind. Make plans and agendas. Set group and personal development goals.
The skilled meeting facilitator and the effective leader know what’s next and are always prepared to go the next step. One need not always take the next step but, if one is prepared, at least it’s an option. Without a next step, we’re stuck.
In this video, Eunice and Jennie explain what it means to be “a complete listener”. They explain how listening to understand and being mindful of differences and similarities not only makes conversations more meaningful, but also makes us better people.
Thanks Eunice and Jennie!
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 just lead a workshop about inter-group dialogue, and Eunice here said that it really helps in conversations when someone is a complete listener.
I love that phrase and so I’m going to ask her and also Jennie to talk a little more about it. Let’s see what they have to say.
Okay, so Eunice, Jennie tell me what does it mean in your mind to be a complete listener?
“I think a tendency of people is to listen with the intent of responding as opposed to listening with the intent of understanding the perspective first, and then formulating some sort of response that will deepen the understanding, and then facilitate a conversation with their differences or similarities.” – Eunice
“I also think it’s about thinking about what assumptions you have going into the conversation. How your experiences have informed your own perception and then using that to think about how others also have their own experiences that are different from yours, and using that as a way to really authentically listen to what they have to say knowing that you have differences and similarities.” – Jennie
“And one more thing. Everybody has their own experiences through the lens catered to their experiences that they have, by listening you can see how somebody else sees it from a different level, from a different view and I think it’s important not only for the person in the conversation but also as a self-bettering assessment of being a person.” – Eunice
Awesome. Thanks Jennie. Thanks Eunice.
I hope this helps you, listeners, be a complete listener.
In principle, the best decisions are made when the answer is self-evident to everyone. When a group of reasonable people have a shared goal and they freely share information about the current situation and options for achieving that goal, they are very likely to come to a shared conclusion about what to do.
When the decision making process allows all participants to see all the evidence, the right thing to do reveals itself.
Practical Tip: Do not lead a group to a pre-established conclusion but rather provide opportunity and structure to consider and analyze all views. Be open to all possibilities and openly share all relevant information.
If you really want the best decision for the group as a whole, evidence-gathering may take a while: many conversations, several meetings, time for individual processing.
If there is not enough time, decide only as much as you have good information to support. Guessing, gambling, or rushing to judgment often causes more problems later.
In principle, speaking on behalf of others is fraught with potential conflict. It warrants caution. It encourages assumptions and blurs understanding. It slows and can even clog the decision-making process. To avoid misunderstanding, conflict, and inefficiency, it helps to ask questions of each other in real-time conversation. The most efficient and best decisions are usually made face-to-face among those most affected by the decision.
Sometimes people speak on behalf of others to stir up trouble or for entertainment, and it often amounts to exactly that.
Practical Tip: Resist the temptation to speak on behalf of others. Speak for yourself and encourage others to speak for themselves. Help create a group culture of support and respect so that people are not shy about speaking and standing up for themselves.
When information is delivered on behalf of others take it for what it is: once removed, half the story. Not to be ignored perhaps, but not to base a decision on.
There are times when speaking on behalf of someone else or a class of people is appropriate, in fact called for. There are times that a group should rightfully consider voices not present. However, a position on behalf of someone not present is rarely cause to block a decision. When forward progress is halted on behalf of someone not present, conflict erupts and inefficiencies abound.
In principle, the next great idea might come from anywhere, not just from the person with the most power or who talks the most. Groups seeking truly creative decisions invite and make room for creative suggestions from all participants. When naturally dominant people are humble and when naturally shy people are courageous, prospects for good group decisions are dramatically increased.
Practical Tip: If you have a strong opinion about something or recognize that you are dominating, consider even for a second that there might be a better way than yours; there might be better ideas out there worth hearing. The less you talk, the more you hear.
If you are part of a group where someone is dominating the conversation, speak up and say that you would like to hear from others. Say, “We appreciate your views but would like to hear other views also. Is there someone else who would like to weigh in on this?” In this way it’s not about shutting someone up, rather it’s about wanting to hear from others.
Appreciate and validate the dominant comments, then move on.
In principle, there are many things out of my control but, for most of us, within my control is how I spend my time and money. I get to decide what to participate in and what to opt out of. I cannot control a television show but I can opt out of watching it. I cannot control how a consumer product is made but I can opt out of buying it.
Another choice I have when I confront something I do not like is to try to defeat it. This is doing battle, sometimes in a straight path of destruction. Opting out is a winding path.
Both fighting and opting out affect the provider of the product or message we dislike. When people in large numbers opt out of buying a product, the provider stops providing it. Boycotting is a very effective way to make good group decisions, and peaceful.
Practical Tip: Don’t opt out of agreements already made but with new choices, steer your time and money away from things you oppose. Each personal choice you make sends a message.
As a group, make choices based on participation. If people aren’t showing up or otherwise contributing to a particular activity, discontinue it.
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 …read more
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 …read more