Tag: Craig Freshley

Teacher Appreciation

Thank you Professor Eugene Mawhinney!

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, Craig explains what made his teachers great and encourages us to teach each other, by example.

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Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hi everybody! Hey it’s Craig Freshley here.

It’s teacher appreciation week and here in Maine our Commissioner of the Department of Education is encouraging people to make little videos thanking their teachers.

I would like to thank Professor Eugene Mawhinney who taught Constitutional Law at the University of Maine. Gene Mawhinney was a great teacher because, not only did he have command of constitutional law, he also held us to high standards. But he also engendered in us a love for law and for the Constitution.

Here’s inside the book by the way; pretty beat up, written all over. I loved this course. Duct tape on the outside.

Now many of us have had great teachers in the classroom; you might call it book learning. But a lot of us learn about good group decisions from other people in the group. Those are our teachers too; the elders, the veterans, the people who don’t just talk about how to do things but who do things in ways that work really well for the group. Follow those people. And if you are one of those people, continue to set a good example and be a good teacher.

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

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.”

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.

When someone throws a brick at you

When someone throws a brick at Craig he has choices about how to react; three choices actually.

In this short video Craig explains on the sidewalk of Maine Street, Brunswick.

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Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hi everybody! Hey it’s Craig Freshley.

Somebody might throw a brick at me. You know what I’m talking about: an insult, a resentment, a bad mood, somebody criticizes me unfairly. When somebody throws a brick at me I have a couple choices.

One thing I can do is I can catch the brick and then I can, like, carry it around with me. And it can weigh me down. I can be thinking about, “Did I really deserve that? Why am I such a bad person that I got a brick thrown at me?”

Another choice I have is that I can catch the brick and I can throw it back. I can insult the person who insulted me.

I have a third choice. Watch this, somebody is going to throw a brick at me. I can let it go by. I have a choice to not catch that brick, to not carry it around with me and let it be a burden, to not throw it back. I can…..I can let it go by and I can think to myself, “That was interesting.” And I can go about my day.

I hope this helps you help your group make good decisions.

Thanks for listening everybody!

Make the most of your pre-meeting

Wondering “Why aren’t these people talking to each other?”, Craig offers his advice for how to make the most of pre-meeting time: put away your screen and start a conversation with someone. It just might result in better meeting outcomes.


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 run a lot of meetings where I walk into the meeting room before it starts and people are here, you know, waiting for the meeting to start. And everybody’s, like, looking at their phone or looking at their laptop. People aren’t talking to each other. And I’m thinking to myself, “Why aren’t these people talking to each other?”

Now, I get it – a lot of times the meeting is a group of staff that have a chance to talk to each other all the time, and before the meeting starts they just want to get stuff done. But a lot of times the people in the meeting room are perhaps meeting together for the first time, or they only meet together once in a while. And in those situations I’m wondering why somebody thinks that a screen is more important than a conversation with another person, because honestly that’s what it looks like to me. If I walk into a room and see a person with their head down looking at a screen, I receive a message that that machine is more important to them than I am.

I love it when I walk into a room and somebody closes their screen and looks up at me and starts a conversation. Or better yet, hasn’t been looking at a screen at all; is simply available for me to start a conversation with them.

Now we might say, “Look, the meeting hasn’t started yet. I don’t need to pay attention to other people before the start of the meeting. I’ll get to do that when it starts.” But I have come to realize that a big part of the magic that happens in meetings happens before it starts, during the break, and after the meeting ends. It’s that unprogrammed casual time where we get to know each other. We ask questions about each other, and we learn that we have things in common that we never even suspected. Sometimes it’s those things that help us be most productive in the meeting and in doing stuff together after the meeting.

Thanks for listening everybody.

I hope this helps your group make good group decisions.

Double-check your decision

In this two-minute video Craig explains a simple technique to make sure everyone is on the same page with a group decision.

The idea comes from Patrick Lencioni and his book called The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Don’t perpetuate the “lack of commitment” dysfunction. Double-check your decisions.

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.

So you work through the issues, you’ve made compromises, you have come to a group decision. Everybody goes their own ways and when you come back together the next time, it’s clear that when you left thinking you had made a group decision there were different interpretations of what you had actually decided. It seemed clear in the moment but when you went out into the world and told other people about the decision or started actually implementing the decision, it started to become apparent that maybe you weren’t as clear on what that decision was as you thought you were.

Here is a simple and effective way to double-check your decision. Before you leave out into the world ask yourself, “How are we going to communicate this decision to others?’ It’s like two parents working through some sort of issue with the family and then they ask the question, “What are we going to tell the kids?”

Asking that question — well yeah it helps you explore what you’re going to actually tell the kids or the employees or the constituents or the members or whatever — but it also forces you to go back and see if you’re on the same page about what you decided.

When you actually have to figure out the messaging that you’re going to use to convey the thing that you decided, it makes you double-check what it is that you actually decided.

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

When you speak from personal experience

When you speak from personal experience you are on solid ground. When you speak on authority of divine guidance or even on scientific authority, you are more subject to challenge. Craig explains in the video.

And he made this a video at a Make Shift Coffee House! It’s a place where people come to understand each other’s political views. Learn more here: MakeShiftCoffeeHouse.com

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 been thinking about speaking from authority. There are two or three different authorities that somebody can speak from when they’re trying to persuade others of a certain way; a certain belief.

One set of authority is scientific fact and when I speak from that place of authority, I might get in a debate about which scientific facts are more correct than others.

Another basis for authority is divine authority. I might say this is what God has told me to believe or this is what the Bible says and when I try to persuade somebody of something based on that platform of authority, I might find myself in a debate about whether my God knows better than your God.

But there’s a third basis for authority and that is personal experience. When I talk about what I have seen and what I have felt, I’m on solid ground. It’s very hard to argue with my personal experience and not only that, when I talk from a basis of personal experience, I am, when I’m at my best, I am allowing you to speak from the basis of your personal experiences and we don’t even have a debate.

My personal experience is true for me, your personal experience is true for you and it is speaking from a platform of personal experience; that’s what we do at a Make Shift Coffee House. We’re about to have a Make Shift Coffee House right now. It’s a place where we hear some music, we have some food.

Come on in, I’ll show you what’s going on here. We share our personal experiences and all we try to do is understand each other. People are going to be gathered here in a few minutes and we’re going to share some stories, we’re going to learn some things from each other, we’re going to ask people to sign up, and we’re going to sell stickers and we’re going to walk out of here each understanding more about where each other is coming from than when we walked in.

Thanks for listening everybody.

When to unpack conflict as a group

When should the whole group confront a conflict, and when not to? In this video, Craig explains that if it’s truly “in the way,” then you are going to have to “unpack” it. And he explains why.

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. Sometimes there’s something that happened in a group which has upset a lot of people and there’s some people in the group that just can’t move forward, or you know it’s attention that is in the way of getting stuff done. There’s often a discussion about whether we need to as a group confront that thing and talk about it or can we just, you know, move on without talking about that thing.

I have come to believe that if you’ve got a thing, a resentment, a disagreement, a misunderstanding, somebody’s angry at somebody – if you’ve got a thing like that that is in the way of making forward progress on other things, you should talk about it as a group. Three reasons why.

One is: if you don’t, that thing is going to come up in other ways and other settings anyway. It’s going to continue to plague your group.

Number two: Until you talk about it, there is a power imbalance and it’s because some people in the group know about the thing and some people don’t, and it’s just a weird dynamic and a sense of uncertainty among some people of not really knowing the story.

Number three: By unpacking and talking about the thing, you’ll learn some new things. You’ll “out” some lessons learned. You will be a better group going forward because you unpacked the thing.

Now, the way that you unpack the thing is critical. It helps if you have a professional or somebody from among your group who knows what they’re doing. It helps if you encourage people to simply tell their stories from their own individual perspective and it helps if you don’t try to draw any grand conclusion about the thing. You don’t need to do that. The goal of unpacking a thing that’s in the way of making forward progress is shared understanding of the thing, so everybody can move forward in a healthy and productive way.

I hope this helps you help your group make good decisions.

Thanks for listening everybody!

Attribution Bias

We have a tendency to trust people in “our tribe” but in this video – with a little side rant about the express checkout lane at the grocery store – Craig cautions us to consider our biases if we want to make good group decisions.

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 want to explain a concept called attribution bias.

I’m at the grocery store. I’m in the checkout line. Actually, the line that I’m in says express – 14 items or less – and I’m pretty sure that the person in front of me has like 27 items in their cart. Not that I’m counting.

They get up to the clerk and the clerk says, “Excuse me, but you’re only supposed to have 14 items if you’re in this line.” And the person responds like in a real snippy voice,“Well, that’s just too bad isn’t it? Ring me up anyways.”

Now if that person is part of my tribe I am apt to look upon them favorably. If they look like me, same skin color, same age, wearing the same kind of clothes. Maybe I’m a Democrat and they’ve got a button that says Hillary or something like that. I might give them a break. I might think, “Okay, she said a mean thing to the clerk but you know, she probably had a long hard day just like I did. She’s probably got problems at home just like I do.” And I’d be inclined to give her a break.

Now if that person is not part of my tribe, if they look different than me – maybe it’s a young man. Maybe he’s got a haircut and tattoos that I don’t like. Maybe I’m a Democrat, and maybe he’s got a Trump sticker. I might be apt to think, “Well gosh darn, that guy is a jerk. He should respect his elders and the grocery store clerk, and why are these people so mean all the time.”

In both of those cases I have attributed characteristics to those people that I actually have no idea about. Because of my bias I attribute motive. I make a character judgment. It happens in grocery store lines and it happens when we are trying to make decisions in groups.

I might make a proposal in a meeting and somebody else opposes me. If they’re of “my tribe” I might think, “Well they might have a good point – I need to hear them out and see what they have to say about this.” If they are not in “my tribe” I might think “There she goes again. Just being mean. She just doesn’t get it, she doesn’t see the world correctly like I do.” When I let my attribution biases come to the surface, I prevent me and my group from gaining the best possible wisdom available.

When I shut people off because of what I think are their motives or their character, I’m robbing both of us of some good opportunities to make the world better. When I’m at my best, I am burying my biases and I am looking upon each person I meet, regardless of what they look like, as somebody who has things to give and as somebody who might have had a hard day and who has problems at home.

I hope this helps you and your group make good decisions.

Thanks for listening everybody.

Let a small group resolve it

Not everyone needs to be involved in solving every disagreement! In this video from Camp Kieve on Damariscotta Lake, Craig explains a very efficient way for disagreements to get resolved.

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. Sometimes in a group there is a disagreement – probably the disagreement is mostly between three or four people, but yet there’s a tendency for the whole group to want to be involved in resolving that disagreement.

Also, sometimes the main points of the disagreement are represented by just two or three or four or five most outspoken people. So here’s a technique: If you have disagreement in your group think about the subset, the small group of people for whom, if those people were to agree, everyone else would agree.

You know, sometimes I’m on the fringe of the controversy. I don’t feel strongly about it. But if those people who do feel strongly about it could come to some agreement, I’d go along with that. So don’t necessarily involve the whole group in solving every disagreement or every tension. Think about the subset of people for whom, if those people could come to a resolution, we could all come to a resolution. That’s how groups resolve tensions and solve disagreements most efficiently.

I hope that little tip helps you help your group make good decisions.

Thanks for listening everybody!