Tag: Group dynamics

It’s the planning, not the plan

In this fireside video from a lodge on a lake in Maine, Craig talks about the value of having a plan vs. making a plan.

If you are a planning skeptic, check this one out.

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.

I’m about to start a meeting in this awesome room. I’m at the Kennedy Learning Center on the shores of Damariscotta Lake, right out those windows. We’re going to sit around this table and were going to make a plan.

Now a lot of people don’t like plans. A lot of people say that plans are useless. In fact, Dwight Eisenhower said, “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” And I get that.

Sometimes — actually most of the time — after you make a plan, circumstances change and the whole plan is no longer valid. But the process of planning is indispensable even if you don’t stick to the plan. Having gone through the effort to think through what is it that we want to achieve — what are the steps, in what order, who’s responsible for what, how much money is each step going to cost — having thought through those plans helps us later even when we have to go off the plan. Even when circumstances change; because we went through the planning process we much better know how to adapt.

So even if you think plans are obsolete I hope you agree with me that the effort of planning is indispensable.

Thanks for listening everybody.

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.

I didn’t do anything wrong

Just because it’s a bad outcome doesn’t mean I did something wrong. Craig explains in this short, spontaneous video on the street.

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

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hey everybody! Hi. It’s Craig Freshley here.

I was just in a meeting and a lady told a story. Somebody asked her a question – looking back on her life – and her first response was, “I don’t know where I went wrong.” Her first response was to feel bad about the way things had turned out and particularly bad about her own actions and the things she had done wrong. And she couldn’t figure it out. But then she had a second reaction and the second reaction was, “Maybe I didn’t do anything wrong.”

You know, stuff just happens. Outcomes are not entirely my responsibility there are many many different things that contribute to a particular outcome. And it’s not always healthy to think that a bad outcome is because of something that I did wrong.

Now there are people who are always thinking, “I didn’t do anything wrong;” who are frankly in denial about their part of things. This video is not for those people. My message today is for the people who tend to think that they did do things wrong and that every bad outcome is in part because of something that they did.

Give yourself a break. Realize that, “I am not responsible for every bad outcome.” Sometimes things just happen.

We can get so caught up in our heads in assessing both credit and blame and if we can release ourselves from the burden of having to evaluate credit and blame in every situation and simply go to the next situation, it can be really freeing for me and for my group.

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

Recalculating

Just like that person who gives you voice commands through your Maps app, Craig is always “recalculating” when he’s running a meeting. Or in a conversation. Or navigating through a relationship!

Craig explains in this short video from a historic Inn on the Maine coast.

(Oh, and he tries a British accent.)

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. I just facilitated a day-long meeting right here. It’s called the Harpswell Inn on the coast of Maine. It was an international Board of Directors. We had people here from South America, North America, Europe, Asia.

At the afternoon break somebody came up to me. I’ll even do an accent for you. “I was just on the phone to someone back home and I was telling them that you’re like that woman in Google Maps! The one that says: recalculating.” And yeah. It occurred to me, and this guy, that that’s kind of what I do when I’m facilitating a meeting.

There were several times today when I made a new plan for the rest of the agenda. There were several times today when I wrote a conclusion on the wall and then rewrote it. There were several times today when I made a proposal for what the group might do as next steps, and then based on what they said and how the meeting went, crossed it out and made another proposal.

If you are a meeting facilitator or if you are in a conversation with somebody or if you’re in a relationship with somebody of any kind, you do well to be always recalculating.

It’s good to have a map and a plan but you know what? We make wrong turns, we drive off the map, stuff happens that we don’t anticipate — like traffic — and we have to continually recalculate.

I serve my group, my conversation, my relationship well when I’m not wedded to the initial plan; when I am always focused on trying to get that person or trying to get us to our destination. When I’m always “recalculating.”

I hope this helps you help 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.


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.

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!

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.

Many Stories, Many Truths

This video is about The Danger of a Single Story, a TED Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Watch the video for yourself right here. It’s really great.

Craig explains how good meetings guard against the danger of a single story and help us 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.

It’s really easy to make up a single-story or a single truth about a person or a whole group of people. I might learn one thing about a person and based on that one thing I know, or based on that one thing I see, I make up all kinds of stuff about them. I pretend to know what their whole story is.

I might meet one person from a group of people — a black person, a woman, a person from New York City — and I make up all kinds of stuff about all people who are black, female or from New York City. And when I say things or do things based on that single-story or single truth, I’m apt to make mistakes. In fact, I’m guaranteed to be wrong because in reality there is no single-story, or no single truth.

There’s a woman named Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, she’s made a wonderful video available on YouTube. It’s a TED talk video. Here’s the link. And she has a speech called, “The Danger of a Single Story.” And she tells of a woman who saw all African people as the same. This white woman in America had a single story about African people: African people are poor, African people are uneducated, African people dance really well. But of course not every African person is those three things and even a single African person or a single any kind of person is never poor in all ways or uneducated on all things or a really good dancer to all beats. There is never a single way to describe a person or class of people. We know this but we forget this.

I am here to remind us of this and remind us of the magic of group decision-making. That’s the magic of meetings! When we get to bring together multiple stories, multiple truths. We tell our perspectives about how things have been, give our opinions on how things should be, and we have a much better chance of making a good decision that’s going to be right and helpful for a lot more people than if we make a bad decision based on a single story or a single truth.

Thanks for listening everybody.

Good Meeting Guidelines

Does your group have Meeting Guidelines? Should you?

Meeting at The Nature Conservancy, Craig noticed the “Good Meeting Guidelines” posted on the wall. He needed to learn more!

So in this on-the-spot video Craig interviewed TNC’s Maine State Director Kate Dempsey about why and how they use the Good Meeting Guidelines.

What a great idea! Decide your meeting guidelines, post them in your meeting room, and actually practice them!

By the way. No rehearsals. No second takes. No editing. Kate didn’t even know what Craig was going to ask her. She did a terrific job.

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

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Craig: Hi everybody! Hey it’s Craig Freshley and I’m here with Kate Dempsey. Kate is the director of the Nature Conservancy headquartered right here in Brunswick, Maine. I have been meeting with Kate and some of her staff and I couldn’t help but notice these Good Meeting Guidelines that they keep right here  in their meeting room. And I presume you use these?

Kate: We try to keep them actively in front of us and in our brains at all times.

Craig: So how was it that you decided to even do this and come up with these particular guidelines? Can you tell us a little about that?

Kate: Yeah. We’re an organization that actually spends a lot of time in meetings with partners and amongst ourselves. So over time we figured out that we really needed some guidance for ourselves about how to be active participants in meetings; how to make sure we’re hearing a diversity of opinion, even if it’s the same group of people that always meet together. Years and years of practice, in theory, means we are a little better than we would be if we didn’t practice. And I think it really does help because we have a lot of people coming through this office; we meet with a lot of partners and other partners use this space. So it helps share the learning and remind others that this is the culture we’re trying to create.

Craig: I love that; that it’s not just for you but for all the people that come through here. So do you have a practice of reviewing these and talking about them at the start of most of your meetings?

Kate: It’s funny we were just talking about how we needed to re-practice doing that. We’ve had a lot of new people come on to our team and — really in the last year — a huge amount of influx of new energy and new people. So I was just meeting with my director of operations and we were just saying how we really need to think of ways to make sure we are doing just that.

Kate: We are very good about being really clear about meeting purposes. We’re reminding ourselves about what the decision process is in any given situation and who’s making decisions and what input that group is seeking. And I think respecting the clock, we’re actually quite good at. Always reminding ourselves but I think we are very good at that.

Kate: And then I think that being open minded and listening honestly and having inquiring mindsets – what’s good about having this up front is that it allows someone to respectfully remind someone that maybe they’re jumping to a conclusion without seeking first understanding. So it’s a nice way of being able to practice together without anyone feeling badly if you question them.

Craig: Right, I love that. So many good reasons that you just pointed out for having ground rules.

Craig: If you are in a group that meets regularly, maybe even in the same room, you might consider investing in some Good Meeting Guidelines like The Nature Conservancy has. Thanks for explaining this to us.

Kate: Thanks Craig for being here.

Craig: Thanks for listening everybody.

How to Use Microphones for Group Interaction

Using microphones in a large group so everyone gets heard can be tricky. In this video, Craig explains his tricks! He even explains how modern-day microphones are like ancient talking sticks.

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.

A lot of times I do meetings with really large groups; so large that we need to use a microphone and a PA system, otherwise known as a public address system. My rule of thumb is about 40 to 60 people: if you have more than that you probably need to use a microphone.

When a microphone is called for, I like to use wireless handheld microphones because whenever I’m talking with a group, it’s going to be interactive. I’m not just stationary at the front. I am calling on people and I want to hear from other people and everybody who speaks in such a meeting needs to be using a microphone.

My preferred set up is a lavalier mic for me and two wireless handheld mics for me that I maintain control of. I like to get out and run around the audience and hold microphones for people. Sometimes I will let a person hold the microphone by themselves; and I’ve still got one to go take to somebody else. If I let that person hold the microphone while they’re talking, I circle back around and get this one. Sometimes I hold the microphone for somebody and whenever I do that I kneel down and get myself out of the way.

Using a microphone has an interesting effect on a meeting. It acts as a “talking stick.” You may be familiar with the Native American tradition of passing a talking stick in a group and the rule is that you can only talk if you’re holding the stick. A microphone is a lot like that and the good thing about it is it ensures that only one person talks at a time. And not only that, if I’m facilitating the meeting in the way I just described, I’m the one that gets to manage who talks when. The microphone can be extremely effective at preventing shout outs, crosstalk, interruptions, etc.

On the other hand, sometimes we want that spontaneity. We like it when people can quickly comment on each other’s comments, and if you have a strict rule that everyone who talks needs to talk into a microphone, you lose that.

Look, a lot of places that I speak and give workshops they have a house PA system. They have their own wireless microphones, lavalier mics, etc. But not always, so I went ahead and bought my own wireless microphone system. I’ve got two wireless mics and a lavalier mic and they channel into this receiver and then I plug the receiver into a simple 30 Watt amplifier. I take this on the road with me and this works pretty well for most situations that I’m in.

Look here’s just a few tips about how to use microphones in a meeting where you want audience interaction.

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

Thanks for listening everybody!