Tips, Videos, Handouts

Whole Picture in Brief

If you want a group to focus on the whole picture it helps to provide them with tools to see the whole picture. In this short video Craig explains how he condensed a complicated list of recommendations into a two-page paper “ballot” that group members could use to select their top priorities.

You might also like this video: How to get a group to cut down a list.


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 have been working with a group called the Casco Bay Nutrient Council. I’ve been helping them write this report. It contains all kinds of data and analysis about nutrient pollution in Casco Bay. It’s made up of regulators and scientists and public interest groups. And the report also contains lots of complex recommendations; in fact, the way it is right now, it contains too many recommendations. So we had a meeting to prioritize them and try to figure out what are the most important recommendations.

But I’ll tell you, to ask a group to analyze a report of this complexity and then try to come to consensus on what in this report is most important — that’s a tall order. If you want a group to go from a large complex report to a short list of high-priority things, give them a short list to start with.

What this is, is it’s a high-level overview of all the recommendations in the report, organized by topic and number. I would have to say that the highest value I added to that particular meeting was making this piece of paper. I teased out of this 78 page report a list of relatively manageable recommendations. And look at this, I not only numbered them, I provided some columns over here that we used for, well, ranked choice voting you might say.

Even though we might not have time to get to consensus on a short list of recommendations in the meeting, at least I can ask each person to show their preferences, turn them in, and we can analyze the data and start the next meeting with an even shorter list.

If you want a group to condense the big picture you got to show them the whole picture. If you want a group to stay on the high ground, you’ve got to cut out all the other stuff and give them just the high ground. I hope that this helps this group make good decisions and I hope it helps you help your group make good decisions.

Thanks for listening everybody.

Put the Tips in action for your group. Click here to learn about Craig’s Keynotes and Seminars.

Conflict resolution steps

Good Group Tips

In principle, most conflicts are based on misunderstandings. When we make the effort to truly understand the other’s perspective and when we have shared understanding of future expectations, conflict often goes away.

Practical Tip: When in conflict, do something about it. Either change your attitude about it so it is no longer a conflict for you or work directly with your adversary. You might try these steps:

1. Pause. Breathe. Step away. Do not immediately react with words or actions you might regret later.

2. Share stories. Tell how the conflict came to be, what it was like from your perspective, and what it is like now. Listen to the other person’s story, how it was for them, and how it is now. Try to understand how the other person’s experience could lead them to their way of thinking and acting.

3. Share feelings. How does the conflict make you feel? Figure this out and share it. No one can argue with your feelings. Try to understand how others feel.

4. Share underlying interests. Why is this so important to you? What is the need in you that resolving this conflict will satisfy? What are your underlying, long-term interests? Share your answers to these questions and listen to the answers of others.

5. What are you going to do about it? Speak for yourself: what are you going to do differently so that underlying interests are achieved? Listen to what others intend to do. You might want to write down intentions in the form of a written agreement or contract.

6. Do it. Things will not change if people do not actually do things differently. Take responsibility for acting out your new intentions as best you can.

– Craig Freshley 

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

Put the Tips in action for your group. Click here to learn about Craig’s Keynotes and Seminars.

Objectives, agenda, ground rules

Good Group Tips

In principle, when we are meeting as a group to make decisions it helps if everyone knows what we expect to achieve (meeting objectives) and how we expect to achieve it (agenda and ground rules).

Naming the objectives up front minimizes chances for mismatched expectations. The objectives also provide an anchor if things start to go adrift.

Agendas also help people know what to expect. And when the group agrees to a specific agenda it serves as a mandate to move from one item to the next in a deliberate and honorable way.

Ground rules also help us be efficient. And they remind us to be respectful of each other. Ground rules are shared expectations about how we will interact.

All three — objectives, agenda, ground rules — combine to establish a safe structure within which creativity may flourish.

Practical Tip: At the start of every meeting review the meeting objectives, agenda, and ground rules, in that order, even if very briefly. It is helpful if group members agree to them (with revisions if necessary) and agree to implement them.

If it seems as if the group is straying from the agenda or if people are ignoring the ground rules, interrupt and point out the discrepancy. If wayward behavior persists, either ask for compliance or that the agenda or ground rules be changed to match the behavior.

When behavior gets out of sync with established expectations, safety fades, creativity suffers, and frustration results.

– Craig Freshley

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

Put the Tips in action for your group. Click here to learn about Craig’s Keynotes and Seminars.