We can often find ourselves in a group situation or committee that are responsible for making important decisions. This might be a work committee, a sporting club committee, a church committee, a kindergarten/pre-school, school or university committee, a fundraising committee or even a social committee. Often, the purpose of these committees is to share meaning and make good decisions. Committees err when they make decisions with insufficient meaning.
We live in a fast-paced, results-oriented world. Often in our effort to keep up and get things done, we miss crucial information. What’s great about Crucial Conversations is it isn’t about communication for communication’s sake. It’s about results. Whether in our professional, personal, or ecclesiastical lives, we are trying to make good decisions that lead to results, and Crucial Conversations skills can help.
The key to making good decisions is having what we call a full pool of shared meaning. Each person brings their opinions, feelings, and experiences to each situation. As each person shares their meaning, it adds to the pool. Fuller pools of meaning lead to better decisions.
Committees serve as a reservoir for the pool of meaning. In effective committees, everyone’s voice is shared, acknowledged, considered, and appreciated.
The challenge becomes the speed with which we operate. It’s easy to not adequately fill the pool of meaning. This can result in missed decisions, uncommitted actions, and weakened results.
If this begins happening, it needs to be raised with the group. Here are three suggestions that should help as you share your concerns with the committee.
- CLARIFY YOUR STORIES
One of the biggest barriers to effective communication is the emotion caused by the stories we tell ourselves about the situation. These stories not only fill us with emotion but can prompt others’ emotions and limit their ability to receive our message. Ask yourself, “What stories am I telling myself?” In this case, there are a few stories that may be impacting your ability to effectively share your concerns. See if you can spot any you might be telling yourself. Are you telling yourself any stories about the motives or abilities of the committee related to these conclusions?
- The committee isn’t listening
- The committee is minimising the concerns of the wide groups members/participants
- The committee is moving too quickly
- The members/participants don’t understand.
Stories are the conclusions we draw and judgments we make about the behaviour of others. And while our stories may be correct, they sometimes aren’t. Clarifying your stories isn’t about confirming or denying your stories. The goal isn’t necessarily accuracy. The point is to get behind the stories to minimize the emotion they cause. Facts are more digestible than conclusions. Ask yourself, “What did I see or hear that leads me to believe the committee isn’t listening? Or that they are moving too fast?” The answer to these questions will give you the clarity you need as you share your concerns.
- MAKE YOUR MOTIVES KNOWN
Make it clear you have good motives so the committee members feel safe to receive your message. It would be very easy for your fellow members to internalise your words, become defensive, and either shutdown or fire back. This is especially true if they are uncertain of your motives.
Begin by asking if you can share some concerns you have regarding the way the committee has been functioning. This will set the stage for the content. Then share your intent. Let them know that your intention is not to be critical and to call anyone out. Rather, your goal is to make sure you are filling the pool of shared meaning with as much information and perspective as possible. Good motives open the door so you can share meaning, and more meaning expands vision.
- SHOW DON’T TELL
With clarity behind your stories, and your motives known, factually describe your concerns in detail. Share the answers to the questions you asked above. What did you see, hear, or experience that caused you to make the conclusions that you made?
When we “tell” others our concerns, we typically share our stories. We lead with our inferences and conclusions—effectually painting a picture that may or may not be accurate. When we “show” our concerns we use facts that describe in detail the actual events and behaviours. It allows them to create their own accurate picture of what happened.
When you lean on these three skills, you can illuminate the problem in a way that is void of judgement and emotion. This will ensure people can see the problem for what it is, and together you can find solutions to solve it. Think of the great quote from the Spiderman movie, “With great power comes great responsibility.” As a governing body of a kindergarten/pre-school, school, a sporting club, a church, a fundraising, or social group, you have great responsibility. By helping your committee better solicit, listen to, and consider the needs and concerns of the wider group, you are magnifying your stewardship to those you serve.