Tips, Videos, Handouts

My part

Good Group Tips

In principle, there are at least two pieces to every puzzle, at least two parts to every solution. No solution to a problem is entirely in the hands of just one person.

For example, people at the back of a room might have a hard time hearing the speaker at the front. When this happens someone is apt to suggest to the speaker: “Speak up.” But another solution is in the hands of the listeners: “Move closer.”

If I have a problem with someone’s behavior, one solution is for them to change. Another solution is for me to change. I can change how I interact with them or I can change my attitude toward them.

When I assume my problem is entirely because of someone else, I am hiding an important part of the solution. When I deny my part, I am in the way of the group moving forward.

We can spend a lot of time and energy wishing our group was different, complaining about our group, questioning other group members about their ways. But there is only one question that leads to real change: “What am I going to do about it?”

Practical Tip: With every problem remember that there are multiple parts to the solution. Ask, “What’s my part?” If you want the problem solved, act in ways that will help solve the problem rather than talk about how others should solve it.

Be the change that you want for your group, for your world.

– Craig Freshley

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

Agreements stand until changed

Good Group Tips

In principle, the same formality is required to change an agreement as to make an agreement. For instance, if an agreement is made in a group meeting and properly documented, no member of the group should assume that the agreement has changed or act in ways contrary to the agreement until the agreement is changed in a group meeting and properly documented.

Group agreements often get ignored over time and people come to think it is okay to behave contrary to what was agreed to. The problem with this is that expectations become unclear, especially for newcomers. People are navigating according to different maps—some written, some imagined—and many people are lost. There is inefficiency, frustration, and resentment.

Practical Tip: Make group agreements with a degree of formality and write them down (in meeting notes or otherwise). When it becomes apparent that people are behaving contrary to an agreement there are two choices: Point out how behavior is contrary to an agreement (people may simply not know) and, if contrary behavior continues, enforce the agreement by imposing consequences on violators. Or, formally change the agreement to be in line with behavior. Things change and sometimes agreements need to change, fine.

Ignoring, condoning, or practicing disagreeable behavior is not a choice; not if you are striving for harmony, productivity, and efficiency in your group.

– 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.

Is it okay to shut someone down?

Is a facilitator ever justified in “shutting someone down”? Craig thinks the answer is yes, IF three conditions are met. Here he explains the conditions and how he handled this situation in a meeting.


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, on a beautiful autumn day in Maine.

Is a facilitator ever justified in shutting someone down? I think yes, if three conditions are met.

One: if the facilitator has laid out the expectation that we are going to give everybody an opportunity to speak and try to make room for all voices. Number two: if the facilitator has given adequate warnings that the conversation is going to be ending soon and we’re going to change formats. And three: if there is somebody who’s dominating the conversation, taking up too much airtime.

I had such a situation recently in a meeting, a full group format. I was running around with the microphone, I had given the ground rules, I had explained that we were about to change formats and go to small group discussions and informal paired discussions, and I had a person who wanted to say more. I gave him his last word, and went to a couple others; he wanted to say more. I went back to him. I let him say what he wanted to say but then, you know, what he said triggered some other hands so I took some other hands, and what those people said triggered him and he wanted to say more. We were over time. And he was saying a lot. In fact he had given up on using the microphone and was just talking loudly to be heard – even without the microphone, even though I was trying to give other people a chance to talk.

In that situation I believe that I was justified in forcing the group to go to the small discussion format. And here’s why: because as facilitators, I think we have a responsibility to make sure that everybody has a voice. And when I have to shut somebody down, it’s not about shutting him or her down, it’s about making room for others to speak up.

Now, I feel sorry for that guy. My actions are not about him, not against him, and had nothing to do with what he said or who he was. I know that he had a lot of energy and passion around this issue but no matter how much energy and passion somebody has, that is not a justifiable reason for making it so others cannot express their energy and passion around an issue.

We need to try and make room for everybody’s passion and energy to be heard in the room, and sometimes that requires shutting someone down.

At least that’s how I see it. And I hope that how I see it, helps you make good group decisions.

Thanks for listening everybody.

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