Author: Craig Freshley

Consensus for endurance

 Good Group Tips

 

In principle, consensus among the whole group is worth the effort when decisions are intended to transcend generations. Consensus is achieved when every member of the group understands and consents to the same thing. It is much more arduous to make consensus decisions than it is to make majority-rule decisions or executive decisions. However, because they achieve full understanding and consent among all members, consensus decisions are much more likely to last. When there is real consensus about a decision there is no disgruntled minority working to change it later.

For a board of directors deciding its mission, values, or high-level policies — things intended to endure for future generations of board members — taking the time to develop consensus among all members is worth the effort. For deciding what the board will have for lunch — a decision that lasts only through dessert — consensus is not worth the effort.

Practical Tip: For every decision, consider how long it’s expected to last and choose an appropriate decision-making method. Be deliberate about using consensus for some things, majority vote for other things, and delegate the short-order things to individuals. We let individuals make short-term decisions on behalf of the members because we trust they will be in keeping with long-term decisions decided by consensus of all the members.

– Craig Freshley

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Admit mistakes

Good Group Tips


In principle,
 we know we’re prone to make mistakes; it’s part of being human. And, we know that mistakes are our best teachers. Learning from small mistakes prevents big mistakes. Yet we’re prone to cover up our mistakes, especially in our groups, and this can make a mess of things.

Collaborative decisions require humility among group members. I serve my group when I say, “I don’t have all the answers, I don’t do everything right, and it is okay for others to not be perfect.”

Accepting that we are not perfect frees us to move on from mistakes without burden. Admitting mistakes helps us learn from them and let go of them.

Practical Tip: Be on honest watch for mistakes, perhaps by taking a regular evening recount of the day’s successes and mistakes. I try to isolate my mistakes from mistakes or behaviors of others—what was my part? In the case of a mistake made, admit your mistake to yourself and at least one other person. If an apology or amend is in order, do it.

Humility lightens our load and our outlook.

– Craig Freshley

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If it fits in my head, it’s probably too small

 Good Group Tips

 

In principle, big ideas are always the result of putting our heads together. Really big ideas are already out there in the heads of many people just waiting to be put together. Without sharing my ideas with fellows and without openness to new ideas I am a prisoner of my own limitations, incapable of more than I can imagine.

Practical Tip: I serve the group best when I am humble. I accept that I probably don’t have all the best answers and if I do, the question is surely small. I talk with others about my ideas and their ideas. I release my ideas, let them be criticized, and let others build on them. I trust the wisdom of the group.

It’s okay that I don’t understand everything; that it doesn’t all fit in my head. I am open to ideas and achievements beyond my imagination.

– Craig Freshley

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Little Free Library: SO much fun!

 

At a time of isolation and screens, setting up a neighborhood Little Free Library has been a joy.

The kids were grateful to have a project. And the parents were grateful for the kids to have a project!

We ordered a kit from the nonprofit organization called Little Free Library.

Step one: prime all the parts!

 

 

 

And figure out how to put it all together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screwing on the roof!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five wet paintbrushes at the same time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screwing on the door!

 

 

 

 

 

 

And we needed a little footbridge to access our Little Free Library across a ditch. So we built that too.

 

 

 

 

 

Hammer. Hammer. Hammer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All hands on deck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sawing the post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had a Grand Opening!

Kids delivered paper invites to every house on our street and around the neighborhood.

We cut a ribbon and people brought books to start the library.

 

 

 

 

Waiting to put books in the library.

 

 

 

 

 

More books in the library!

We have officially registered our Little Free Library and so we are on a global map with over 100,000 registered Little Free Libraries around the world.

Of course there are many unregistered book boxes too.

It’s such a fun way to bring neighbors together.

And promote reading.

And imagination.

Without screens!

 

 

Here I am with some of the kids who helped.

 

 

 

 

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Ask, don’t tell

Good Group Tips

In principle, good group decisions are based on shared understanding and shared understanding comes from asking questions of each other. When we tell a peer what they should do without first asking their opinion, we risk having made a decision without the benefit of all available information. And we risk missing the opportunity for advance support of the decision.

Don’t ask, don’t tell contributes to inaction. Tell, don’t ask contributes to oppression. Ask, don’t tell contributes to good group decisions and resulting good actions.

Practical Tip: In relations among relatively equal peers, ask someone’s opinion before telling them what to do.

Facilitating leaders ask. Commanding leaders tell. Facilitating shared understanding and advance support for an action dramatically increases chances of it being implemented well.

Asking rather than telling is a spiritual attitude of humility and a practical way to muster all available information and enthusiasm.

– Craig Freshley

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Reverence

Good Group Tips

 

In principle, groups are apt to make better decisions when they do so with a sense of reverence; that is, when they are serious and focused, when group members feel that something special is happening, when there is extra respect for the moment and for each other. Reverence is associated with a sense of humility; a sense that there is more happening here than I alone can comprehend or control. Indeed that’s the thing about group decisions. It’s about more than just me.

Practical Tip: Instill reverence into your group decision making. Be fully present. Show respect for your group process and for each other.

Some groups instill reverence by beginning meetings with a pledge or a prayer or at least a call to order. Other groups instill reverence by meeting in a special place or wearing deliberate clothes or using formal speech or titles. Other signs of reverence are listening without interruption and turning off cell phones and other distractions.

Reverence is an outward showing of inward feelings of respect. To be reverent is to signal others that one is focused and serious, doing something special, that one is humble: all qualities that help chances of making good group decisions.

You might make group decisions without any sense of reverence, but then how does anyone know that the decision is to be taken seriously?

– Craig Freshley

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Putting people in boxes is not okay

Good Group Tips

In principle, when we look at people in certain ways, place labels on them, or “put them in boxes,” it limits what they have to offer. It is especially tempting to “contain” those who disagree with us. We’re tempted to ignore our adversaries, work around them, wall them off, shut them down. These techniques might help us win as individuals, but they work against making good group decisions.

In principle, the best group decisions come when we genuinely consider all offerings, not just the ones we like. In fact, what makes collaborative decisions better than individual decisions is the tension of initial disagreement. If you try to wall-off tension or put the tension-causer in a box, you may gain short-term peace but forgo more creative, enduring solutions.

Practical Tip: Muster the courage to really consider disagreement. Muster the discipline to work with people you don’t like. Resist labels, walls, and boxes and be open-minded to all offerings.

When someone is placed in a box — silenced, contained, ignored — they add about as much value to the decision as a cardboard box.

– Craig Freshley

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You decide how

Good Group Tips

In principle, when everyone has the same objective or interest, details are best decided closest to the action, on the ground floor, on the front line, by the people with the most information. It works well to give a group a task and let them decide how to get it done.

Practical Tip: If giving a task to a group, be clear on the objectives. If receiving a task as a group, be clear on the objectives. When everyone is clear on the objectives let each person do what they do best. Let a group split up responsibilities for themselves.  Let them change responsibilities, including leadership, according to task.

Don’t decide too much. Leave how-to details for the doers.

– Craig Freshley

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Head, heart, and hands

Good Group Tips

In principle, if we want our group decisions to be creative—that is, result in new and better ways of doing things—we need to draw on all our resources and blend them in new ways. Typical meetings are structured to put our heads together and, indeed, our knowledge and ideas are a tremendous resource. But we have more. Why not go further and put our hearts together, share our feelings, stories, fears, and passions? Further still, why not put our hands together and do physical activities as a group?

A group decision process that includes intellectual exchange, sharing from the heart, and hands-on physical activity is most likely to yield creative results.

Practical Tip: Don’t just do brainstorming, try heartstorming. Don’t just sit and talk about stuff together, get up and do stuff together, with your hands.

If you want truly creative group decisions, share ideas, feelings, and activities…all three.

– Craig Freshley

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Multiple truths

 

In principle, it is very rare for any two or more people to agree that a certain thing happened exactly the same way or for exactly the same reasons. How things look always depends on where one sits and no two people have the same perspective.

Many times I have heard a single event described by multiple people in multiple ways. He says this happened and she says that happened. Does this mean that one is right and one is wrong, or that one is lying and one is telling the truth? Maybe, but if they are honest people with good intentions they are probably both telling the truth as they see it.

Groups can spend huge amounts of energy and create huge amounts of conflict trying to agree on a single version of the truth. Such activities rarely end peacefully or constructively.

Practical Tip: Say, “I can see how that’s true for you.” Understand that although someone might have a different truth than you, it’s true for them. More often than not, it doesn’t matter what really happened or why. I don’t need to beat my fellows into seeing things my way. My group is much better served if we can find a solution that honors both your truth, whatever it is, and my truth, whatever it is.

Instead of wrestling with “this or that,” try “this and that.” Allow that seemingly contradictory things can both be true for different people with different perspectives. It’s amazing how much conflict can be avoided, how much respect can be preserved, and how much creativity can unfold when we allow for multiple truths.

-Craig Freshley

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