In principle, nothing breeds success like success. Achieving few or small goals provides motivation for achieving more and bigger goals. When there is a gap between a goal and achieving it, one way to close the gap is to improve ability but another way is to make the goal smaller.
“What do you say to the team?” I asked the coach of young hockey players about to lose their seventh game in a row. “You give them small goals,” he replied, “Things they can achieve other than winning the game. Things like more shots on goal or more successful passes than in the last game.”
Practical Tip: When it looks like your group is underachieving, when morale is down, establish achievable goals and get some successes under your belt. No matter how small the victory, see what it feels like to win.
Sometimes it is okay to move the bar down. Get over it. Boost morale. Move the bar back up later.
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 foster a sense of belonging and provide structure for creative contributions. Alternatively, it can reveal a lack of fit and indicate “let’s not go through with it.” Both outcomes are valuable.
Practical Tip: Be deliberate about orienting new members. Do not assume that a new member knows what the group is about, how things are done, and what is planned for the future. Provide each new member with information about the group’s purpose, strategic direction, and expectations for member behavior. Someone should spend one-on-one time with every new member.
Provide honest answers to questions even if it might turn someone away.
Be clear about where the group is headed and sincere about the invitation to come along.
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 requires creative thinking about next steps that could be taken in spite of the situation or attitudes of others. And it requires doing something, not just wishing.
Practical Tip: If moving forward is important to you and your group, take a step no matter how small. Don’t get bogged down complaining about the situation or trying to figure out why things are the way they are. Rather, accept the situation and say, “Okay, now what to do?” Find a way. Go around. Make new partners. Try something different. Get out and push.
In principle, it helps to take ownership of what I hear, which may be different from what the speaker intended. Messages often get changed between how they are launched and how they land. The person talking often means one thing yet the person listening often hears it differently. This is due to differences in culture and context. It is nobody’s fault.
When I begin a sentence with “I heard,” rather than “You said,” it acknowledges that I might not have heard it the way you intended. Speaking from my own perspective, using “I messages,” is disarming, safe, nonjudgmental, humble.
Practical Tip: Don’t tell someone what they said, what they launched. Rather, use your own words to describe what you heard, how the words landed on you. This allows the speaker to clarify any difference between launch and land, which furthers understanding, which contributes to good group decisions.
In principle, people appreciate a heads-up before having to decide something. It’s like making sure that the person to whom you are throwing a ball has his head up and sees you. With warning there is a better chance that the ball will be caught and no one gets hurt. With a heads-up our decisions are more thoughtful, inclusive, and less reactionary.
Practical Tip: Give your group advance notice of every decision that they will be asked to make. Sometimes a long advance is called for, like, “Group, in two months we’re going to have to decide the new product line.”
Sometimes it is an on-the-spot warning by the meeting facilitator like, “Okay everybody, later in this meeting I’m going to ask you to vote on this issue.”
Sometimes it is an advance written notice that a decision is expected, such as a memo or a meeting agenda circulated among the group.
It does not work well to pop a question and expect a fast reaction, especially in a group or public setting. Good group decisions are premeditated.
In principle, an important decision that every group makes is to select its leaders. High-functioning groups give their leaders a little push at the start of their term, special encouragement, a show of confidence. The word inauguration evokes the word augment: to enhance, increase, make greater.
Practical Tip: When people take on leadership roles in your group, inaugurate them. It need not be a fancy ceremony, but simple words, actions and attitudes that convey: we support you and we trust that you will do your best on our behalf.
Even if you did not agree with their selection, as long as the selection process was honorable, give group leaders the benefit of the doubt from the start. Sometimes people in new leadership roles surprise us with new leadership abilities. When we set new leaders up for success rather than for failure, our groups are more likely to succeed.
In principle, a key to achieving big things is to not be distracted by small things. It is good to be passionate about one or two things and it is okay to be indifferent to everything else.
Indifference is simply the absence of feeling for or against. It is to say, “I’m simply not thinking about that right now. I have no judgment about it, good or bad.” Having to make judgments about many things waters down our focus and lessens our ability to make good decisions about the most important things.
Practical Tip: Decide what is really important and focus on that. Give yourself and your group freedom to be indifferent toward things currently out of focus. Better to make no judgment than wrong judgment. Better to make good decisions about a few things than bad decisions about a lot of things. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know what I think about that.”
In principle, group decisions are creations and often benefit from recreation. When the group gets stuck it helps to take a break, call a recess, change perspective, and then come at it again. Engage in recreation.
Fun is often underrated in group decision making. Who says you can’t have fun while making good group decisions? I say that having fun helps make better decisions.
Practical Tip: Work hard together, play hard together. Get to know each other off topic and off site. Do fun, physical activities. Even on topic and on site, build in breaks and games to shake up the focus and encourage creativity.
In this video Craig talks about a dent in his car and tells the story of the consultant and the red X. How do YOU determine how much you should pay for something?
Craig’s answer might surprise you.
This video has captions. To see them, click CC on the video screen.
Here’s what Craig says in the video
Hey it’s Craig Freshley here.
This is my work vehicle. I got tables, easels, projectors, a screen. But I want to talk about the outside, right here.
I had a dent; a pretty big dent. I took it to my buddy Glenn who runs an auto body shop. I’ve been doing business with Glenn for 20 years and I asked him, “What’s it going to take to fix this dent?” He looked at it and he talked about how he was going to have to drill rivets and pull it out and sand and repaint. “Well,” he said, ‘two or three hundred maybe.”
And then he said, “Well, wait a minute. Sometimes….” and then he looked real careful here. He looked from the other side. And then he whammed it with his hand and the dent popped out! Just like it is right now. Fixed. Boom. Good as brand new in about five seconds.
It reminds me of the story of the consultant and the red X. Big manufacturing plant; one of their machines went down. It was costing thousands; tens of thousands of dollars a day in lost production. They were trying to get this machine fixed but couldn’t. Finally they called in a consultant who looked at it real careful. And then he pulled out a can of red spray paint and put a big X on the side of the machine. And then he pulled out a sledge hammer and he whammed that red ‘X’ right in the middle. And the machine started working! He sent them an invoice: $10,000. Well the folks that hired him were like, “What do you mean $10,000? You were only here for like, twenty minutes! Can you at least send us an itemized bill?” He said, “Ok, I can send you an itemized bill.” The bill came. Spray paint: $20. Sledgehammer: $80. Knowing where to put the X: $9,900.
That was the value; just like Glenn’s value was knowing exactly where and how hard to hit the back of my car to fix that dent in an instance.
If you’re part of a group having to make decisions about how to spend money, it’s tempting to want to base those decisions on hourly rates or cost of materials. Those are tried and true methods. But if some solution is going to come along which seems to have little baring on cost of materials or an hourly rate but gets you a fix in a hurry, that’s worth considering.
One way to access value is NOT looking at cost of material or hours spent but look at the alternative cost. In the case of that factory, the alternative was costing tens of thousands of dollars a day. In the case of this dent on the back of my car, the alternative was to spend two or three hundred dollars on Glenn and be without my car for a few days. So I whipped out my wallet and I offered to pay Glenn a hundred dollars on the spot because for me, that was good value even though it only took him five to ten seconds to fix it.
I’m just offering that there are different ways to think about value and don’t be tethered to the old fashioned ways. If you’ve got a solution that’s going to get the job done cheaper and more effective than any other solution, that’s all you need to know. Go for it.
I hope this helps you and your group make good decisions.
Thanks for listening everybody.
Oh, one more thing. A little plug for Glenn’s Auto Body, Route 125, Durham, Maine.
In principle, when we ask for feedback we increase our chances of making good group decisions. If we don’t ask we can’t expect people to tell us what’s going well and not so well. When we do ask we should be open to all answers. Asking for feedback takes courage but gives enlightenment. It helps us see things in new light, reflected off others.
Practical Tip: Ask how you are doing among those who care about what you do. What’s working well? What could be better? What questions or ideas do your stakeholders have? Be thankful for all invited feedback, positive or negative. Be open to how you might use it to make improvements.
Take positive comments to heart and share credit with others. When you receive a negative comment, consider that it’s probably not about you. It’s more likely about a particular idea, behavior, or situation. And, consider that negative comments are sometimes all about the world of the commentator and not about the topic at hand.
In principle, a look at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, referred to as a SWOT analysis, is an effective way to take stock of an organization or project and the context it exists in. It is often done at the start of a strategic planning process. It provides a solid foundation to build plans on. Practical Tip: Ask the …read more
Excerpt from this video: “There are times when I think it’s perfectly appropriate and in fact extremely helpful to the group if the facilitator makes suggestions, makes proposals.” What times? Craig explains in the video. This video has captions. To see them, click CC on the video screen. Here’s what Craig says in the video …read more