Author: Craig Freshley

Say your third thought

In this video, high school student Coutia Giriteka explains how she got the idea to always “say your third thought.” She came up with this idea while participating in a program called Can We? It’s a collaboration of seven Maine High Schools to promote understanding and civil dialogue on hard issues.

Thanks Coutia!

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’ve just been learning about a project called “Can We?” where high school students from several different high schools came together and they learned how to talk with each other about really hard things.

One of those high school students: her name is Coutia. She goes to Deering High School here in Portland, Maine. She had this idea that it’s probably best not to say your first thought but you should always your third thought. I’ve asked her to explain that idea. Here she is.

We were having this really intense dialogue on race and it was just, for the first hour and a half, it was just screaming back and forth with people waiting for one person to finish talking and then jumping in. And in the midst of that there was this one girl who did an impassionate speech about what it’s like to be a person of color and the response that was given by another persons opinion just really irked me. Because I was like, “That did not come from a place of really understanding someone else’s feelings. That came from a place of like Oh you’re done talking now I’m going to talk.” And it really made me think about how people should take a moment, pause and say their third thought (or maybe not the first thing that comes to mind). And I think that’s when I really adopted the motto of: ‘Say my third thought.”

Credit the group

Good Group Tips

In principle, members of high-functioning groups are focused on the success of the group as a whole rather than on who should get credit or blame within the group. Harry Truman said, “It is amazing what you can do if you do not care who gets the credit.” Similarly, groups get more done when unconcerned with assigning blame.

Rather than spend energy accounting for past individual credit or blame, it is better to invest lessons from the past into future good group decisions. When I believe in my group I know that, over the long run, what is good for the group will be good for me—probably better for me than I could ever have achieved on my own.

Practical Tip: Give your ideas and efforts to the group without conditions, without lingering ownership. Welcome contributions from others without jealousy, without resentment. Show public appreciation for others in your group. Own your share of things gone wrong and credit the group for things gone right.

A mark of a high-functioning team is that each member wants to make other members look good.

– Craig Freshley

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

Stakeholders at the table

Good Group Tips

In principle, stakeholders are those who have a significant stake in a particular decision; that is, they stand to win a lot, lose a lot, or they are in a position to significantly help or hinder implementation of the decision. If stakeholders don’t participate in making the decision, chances are it won’t be a good one.

Having all stakeholders “at the table” for decision making can be very challenging but it paves the way for smooth implementation. When stakeholders don’t participate in decision making, there is a good chance they will work against decision implementing.

Practical Tip: At the outset, identify stakeholders and invite their input. For the really key stakeholders, actively encourage participation, even insist on their input.

If your group is deciding something that only some other person or group can implement, that other person or group should have an opportunity to influence the decision.

It is very helpful when stakeholders at least bless the decision-making process and agree to honor it.

– Craig Freshley

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

Revenge is never a reason

Good Group Tips

In principle, just because you did something bad to me is never a reason for me to do something bad to you. Doing something for revenge or to get even just makes more bad things happen.

Sometimes we justify harming someone to teach them a lesson. If this is my goal, I should first ask, “What is the very best way for the lesson to be taught? Am I the best teacher? Is this the best method?” Probably not.

Another justification is that harming you will bring me peace. Really? If it is emotional peace that I want, I should first consider all the possible ways to get it, including changing my own attitudes and behaviors. Among all the options, revenge is rarely the most effective path to personal peace.

Practical Tip: Make decisions always in the best interests of the group going forward. Base decisions only on what you think will make the future better, not on what you think will fix the past. Decide to harm only as a last resort, when there are no other ways to achieve the group’s primary interests.

– Craig Freshley

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

Great gifts are not always new

In this super short video Craig explains that you don’t always have to do a big, new thing.  Instead, following through with what you already agreed to is often the greatest gift.

Thanks for holding the camera, Ellis!

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, a lot of people are inspired to give to their group or give to their community. And many people even get divine messages to give some big, new, great thing; start some new initiative for their group or community. But it might be that the greatest gift you can give is to follow up on the last stuff you agreed to.

Sometimes the great gift does come from divine messaging and it’s a big new initiative. But often times the greatest thing you can do for your group is the next right thing, that’s right in front of you.

I hope this helps you help your group.

Thanks for listening everybody.

Earth community

Good Group Tips

In principle, each group of decision makers is part of a larger group or larger community. Ultimately, we are all part of the great community we call Earth.

I want what is best for my group, but which group? Over the long run, it is not okay for my local group to profit at the expense of my larger group—that simply shifts expenses to others. Over the long run, doing what is best for my club is not okay if it hurts my town. Doing what is best for my town is not okay if it hurts my country. Doing what is best for my country is not okay if it hurts Earth community.

Practical Tip: As your group makes decisions, consider the impact of those decisions on other groups and over time. Expand the circle of concern all the way to Earth community and into the future. Decide things locally that will help the whole world. Decide things now that will help our kids and our kids’ kids. To make good group decisions, we resist the temptation to be guided entirely by local, short-term gain.

– Craig Freshley

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

Not everything is a problem that needs to be fixed

When a person dies the attending physician is not allowed to list “natural causes” or “old age” as the cause of death. Rather, there needs to be a diagnosis; a problem.

Craig thinks this is wrong. In this video he explains.

Thanks for holding the camera, Molly!

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

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hey everybody! Hey it’s Craig Freshley here. In Baxter State Park. In February.

I was just having a conversation with a friend of mine. She’s a hospice nurse and we got to talking about end-of-life and how the last time somebody died from “old age” was in the 60’s or something. People aren’t allowed, anymore,to die of that. People aren’t allowed to die of “natural causes.”

In fact, everything tends to be seen as a problem that needs to be fixed.

Well I’m here to say that in group dynamics and group settings, it can really be helpful to not think of everything as a problem that needs to be fixed.

You know what? Stuff dies. Things break. And sometimes the best course of action is to simply accept that that’s the way it’s supposed to be right now. Not everything is a problem that needs to be fixed.

Thanks for listening and I hope this helps your group make good decisions.

Okay to change plans and rules

Good Group Tips

In principle, an amateur may follow the script perfectly but a professional knows when to change the script or even leave it entirely, depending on the energy of the audience. A novice may know the rules but a veteran knows the exceptions. It is good to have scripts, plans, and rules, but experience warns against unwavering allegiance to them.

Practical Tip: Keep in mind that plans and rules are never an end in themselves but are rather just means to an end. Plans and rules are there to keep us on track toward long-term goals, but if we get off track we need to change plans and rules accordingly.

If a meeting agenda is not achieving the meeting objectives, change it. If an annual work plan is not resulting in the right amount or quality of work getting done, change it. If a law is not having the desired effect, change it.

If you find that a plan or rule is not working for your group, don’t make an independent decision to ignore it. Rather, work within established group processes to change it.

Achieving long-term ends requires ever-changing means.

– Craig Freshley

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

Agendas with end times are efficient

In a meeting room about to implement an agenda, Craig explains how useful it is to state an ending time.

Thanks for holding the camera, Wanda!

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 about to facilitate a meeting in this room and today I want to talk about the importance of an agenda having an ending time. Come this way.

A lot of groups — especially government councils and commissions — tend to have meeting agendas without an ending time because there is an ethic that we want to give everybody a chance to say everything that they need to say. We want to give all the time that’s required for a particular agenda item.

And I get that, but a downside of not having an end time to an agenda is that the facilitator — the leader of the meeting — has no leverage. There is nothing that I can do or say as the facilitator to speed things along, to call people out when comments are being repeated; to take a hard line about things that are off-topic.

When an agenda has an end time, at various points through the agenda I can say, “look we’ve only got 45 minutes. Look I understand that what you’re saying is important but we’ve only got 20 minutes left in this meeting and I want to hear from some others.” As we get close to the end time I can be more and more pushy.

And what I find is that it actually doesn’t have the result of limiting comments. It has the result of making comments more efficient, and honestly that’s what we want in a meeting. If you want your meetings to be productive and efficient, wherever possible state an end time and stick to it.

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