By Frank J. Rich
Making decisions within a group can often be challenging. When things go well, they can go very well. However, when things go wrong, groups can end up mired in conflict. Some group members may fight for recognition and position, others may be over-critical or disruptive, while still others may sit quietly and not contribute anything to the overall effort. Because of this, groups can often spin out of control and make poor decisions, suggesting that decisions by individuals working on their own is a better approach.
When this happens, it’s easy to see why some throw up their hands in frustration and give up. But when a group works in effective ways, it really works. Groups that function effectively together can outperform individuals and make much better decisions.
But how do you make your group effective? How do you get all members to contribute and inspire one another to great ideas and solutions? One way is to “prepare” the group for success. This is a “tried and true” method, and is applied across the board in most decision-making. Good preparation makes good practice, and good results.
- Set an agenda that requires interaction. Ask group members to speak of their experience with the meeting topic and how it might contribute to an understanding of the issues and the expected outcomes. Alerting them to the interactive exercise ahead will stir their creative juices.
- Assemble those who would carry the initiative forward — that is, those who have both the skills and the inclination to contribute to the venture going forward. You’ll begin to see the workings of the team you’ve assembled and form a view of the cohesiveness of the group and any missing links.
- Ask group members to recommend the talents of those in the room for assignment. Each ought to be given the opportunity to elucidate the special talents of group members. This prepares people for the selfless dedication to the other’s success that best informs teamwork.
The Stepladder Technique
The Stepladder Technique is another useful method for encouraging individual participation in “group decision-making.” This simple tool manages how members enter the decision-making group. It encourages all members to contribute on an individual level before being influenced by others. It results in a wider variety of ideas, prevents people from “hiding” within the group, and it helps people avoid being “stepped on” or overpowered by stronger, louder group members.
How to Use the Tool
The Stepladder Technique has five basic steps:
Step 1: Before getting together as a group, present the task or problem to all members. Give everyone sufficient time to think about what needs to be done and to form their own opinions on how to best accomplish the task or solve the problem.
Step 2: Form a core group of two members. Have them discuss the problem.
Step 3: Add a third group member to the core group. The third member presents ideas to the first two members BEFORE hearing the ideas that have already been discussed. After all three members have laid out their solutions and ideas, they discuss their options together.
Step 4: Repeat the same process by adding a fourth member, and so on, to the group. Allow time for discussion after each additional member has presented his or her ideas.
Step 5: Reach a final decision only after all members have been brought in and presented their ideas.
The Stepladder Technique is similar to the Delphi Method, another tool that’s often used in groups to prevent Groupthink* and to encourage participation. While both tools have the same objective, they differ in a few key ways:
- In the Delphi Method, an objective facilitator or leader manages the group. In the Stepladder Technique, all members are equal.
- The Delphi Method keeps members anonymous. The facilitator manages the flow of information, and members may have no idea who else is in the group. The Stepladder Technique involves face-to-face meetings, so everyone knows who the other members are.
- The Delphi Method is a lengthy process, while the Stepladder Technique is much quicker.
- The Delphi Method is often used for major decisions that need input from a large number of people. The Stepladder Technique works best with smaller groups that make a wide range of decisions.
Some groups can begin to lose their effectiveness and ability to make quality decisions if they have too many members. Keep your group small — four to six team members — to maximize effectiveness.
The Stepladder Technique is a step-by-step approach to help ensure that all members of a group participate and are heard. The technique allows shy, quiet people to present their ideas before other group members can influence them, and it allows everyone to hear many different viewpoints before reaching a final decision. All of this helps the group make better decisions. The techniques help curb worker ferment and eliminate fainéant members who fear engagement.
*Groupthink is a phenomenon that occurs when the desire for group consensus overrides people’s commonsense desire to present alternatives, critique a position, or express an unpopular opinion. This is what happens in the legislatures of most nations, where the unique view of parties divides people in the decision-making process into membership of a common view.
October 12, 2018 | admin
Fast facts about service dogs
(Family Features) Service dogs work hard each and every day to protect their human counterparts. Not only are they constant companions, but they are hardworking animals that can help reduce stress and anxiety levels, which can help lessen the symptoms of posttraumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, for example.
In honor of National Service Dog Month, consider these facts about the four-legged service animals:
Common Misconceptions About Service Dogs
Because they’re often cute and cuddly, it’s not unusual for people to forget that service dogs are working animals, not pets, and they have been individually trained to help people with disabilities. Guide, hearing and service dogs typically accompany a person anywhere the general public is allowed, including restaurants, businesses and on airplanes, providing support as their owners go about their daily lives.
However, a survey by American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization, suggests that employees are not educated about the unique needs of customers with service dogs. Nearly seven in 10 (69 percent) retail employees said they never received training from their employer on the questions they are legally allowed to ask customers to verify an animal is a service dog.
Further adding to confusion is a lack of understanding of the difference between service dogs and other assistance animals. Emotional support dogs and therapy dogs assist people in their daily lives, but they do not have the same responsibilities as service animals. For instance, therapy dogs provide affection and comfort to their owners, but they do not have special rights of access in all buildings or public areas. Since service animals often provide mobility assistance or communicate medical alerts, they should always be allowed to accompany their owners.
A Helping Paw
At times, these innocent misconceptions can lead to discrimination against those who rely on the support of a service dog. To combat this problem, American Humane and Mars Petcare, the world’s leading pet nutrition and health care business, created resources, such as training videos, to help businesses better accommodate patrons who have service dogs. Aligning with the Better Cities For Pets™ initiative, the videos and other resources help provide an understanding of the roles service dogs play to help create a world where pets and working animals are welcome across all communities.
“Dogs have incredible abilities, including saving lives and making the world a better place,” said Angel May, corporate citizenship lead at Mars Petcare. “Service dogs are animals that should be celebrated for the good they bring to society, and we hope that increased awareness of their working nature leads to a deeper understanding of their important role.”
For additional information on service dogs, visit bettercitiesforpets.com/servicedogs.
October 10, 2018 | admin
By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel
What would Halloween be without pumpkins and spooky activities? Imagine a place to visit where thousands of these are on display and provide a great way for family and friends to celebrate the beautiful autumn season. Adults coming without children will enjoy this outing as well!
Once again The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze®, the Hudson Valley’s biggest all-ages fall extravaganza, will run for a record 45 select evenings from late September through Thanksgiving weekend. The walk-through experience lights up the wooded pathways, orchards, and gardens of historic Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., where a small team of artists hand-carve more than 7,000 jack o’lanterns and elaborate pumpkin sculptures. Visitors will love seeing Blaze favorites, such as a giant spider web and the mammoth sea serpent, and will be awed by more pumpkin power than ever before! New additions include a medieval castle guarded by a flock of Jack O’Lantern owls, a functioning windmill, and a full set of Instagrammable zodiac signs. The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze Shop offers a full bounty of Blaze-specific merchandise including candles, hats, T-shirts, magnets, caps, mugs, and jewelry. An onsite café also sells refreshments.
Visit the Horseman’s Hollow at Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y. to experience Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow at its most terrifying extremes. Visitors will walk a haunted trail where creatures lurk in the shadows, ready to strike fear into the hearts of those brave enough to venture into the darkness. Professional actors, award-winning feature-film makeup artists, and state-of-the-art special effects make the Horseman’s Hollow experience all too real. This 16-night haunted attraction at Philipsburg Manor is recommended for ages ten and up.
Also at Philipsburg Manor is The Unsilent Picture, a brand-new event for 2018. The immersive theater experience features an original black and white film starring Tony Award-winning actor Bill Irwin accompanied by musicians and an in-the-flesh special effects Foley artist. The movie, which was commissioned by Historic Hudson Valley and shot on location in buildings at Van Cortlandt Manor, is the center of this 16-night experience. It is recommended for ages ten and up and contains scenes of drinking alcohol, smoking and snuff tobacco use, implied violence, and mature themes.
There are more opportunities to be captivated by Irving’s Legend than ever before. Master storytellers Jonathan Kruk and Jim Keyes, accompanied by live organ music bring to life The Legend of Sleepy Hollow during afternoon and evening performances at Sleepy Hollow’s circa-1685 Old Dutch Church. Irving’s Legend runs for 16 select dates in October and is recommended for ages ten and up. All events are held rain or shine. Proceeds support Historic Hudson Valley, the Tarrytown-based private, non-profit educational organization that owns and operates the historic sites that host these events.
These events have limited capacity and sell out quickly. All admissions are by advance purchase timed tickets.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.hudsonvalley.org or by calling 914-366-6900. There is a $2 per ticket surcharge for phone orders and for tickets purchased onsite (if available).
October 10, 2018 | admin
(Family Features) Eating healthy isn’t always easy, and when your family is rushing around in the evenings it can seem like a daunting task to put a well-balanced, nutritious meal on the table.
However, cooking at home with a lean protein you can feel good about serving, like seafood, is one way to serve up quick, good-for-you meals. In fact, one-third of people surveyed reported they increased their fish consumption at home in the past year, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Research published in the “Journal of the American Medical Association” showed eating seafood 2-3 times per week can improve brain, eye, heart and prenatal health. Seafood also provides unique health benefits as one of the best sources for omega-3 fatty acids, which are healthy fats essential to human health and development.
As only one out of 10 Americans meets the Dietary Guidelines recommendation of two servings of seafood per week, National Seafood Month is a great time to incorporate more seafood into you and your family’s meals. Check out these tips from the Seafood Nutrition Partnership:
- Make a game plan or meal plan for the week to figure out when you can incorporate seafood into your meals.
- Stock up on canned and frozen seafood at the grocery store and keep an eye out for sales or coupons.
- Make easy swaps, like using white fish or shrimp in tacos instead of beef or a salmon patty instead of a burger patty.
- Try doubling recipes so you only have to cook it once but can reap the benefits of eating seafood twice in one week.
- Use kitchen gadgets like slow cookers and pressure cookers to prepare seafood-based meals in a pinch.
For recipes, ideas and inspiration for eating seafood at least two times per week, visit seafoodnutrition.org or follow #Seafood2xWk on social media.
One Pan Fish Dish
Recipe courtesy of Michael-Ann Rowe on behalf of the Seafood Nutrition Partnership
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
1/8 cup canola oil
1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 medium onion, quartered
2 cups broccoli florets
1 lemon, half sliced and half juiced, divided
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 pound white fish (such as snapper, grouper, flounder or barramundi)
4 tablespoons olive oil
fresh rosemary sprigs (optional)
In pan over medium heat, heat canola oil about 1 minute.
Add tomatoes, onions and broccoli to pan; cook 5 minutes, uncovered.
Drizzle lemon juice over vegetables and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Place fish on top of vegetables in center of pan and place two lemon slices on top of fish.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste.
Cover pan and cook on medium heat 10-12 minutes depending on thickness of fish.
Drizzle olive oil over fish and top with rosemary, if desired, before serving.
October 10, 2018 | admin
By Frank J. Rich
Every day most of us go to work. We do so with the expectation that what awaits us is familiar and within our ability to accomplish. The usual preparation notwithstanding, some of us keep a schedule of “continuing education” to ensure the competency we might otherwise take for granted. Apart from professionals, most of us find our own path to CE, either by personal study, structured programs, or by the hand of a coach. In effect, CE and other improvement efforts are forms of preparation; the very thing—combined with opportunity—that spells success. Common among all approaches is that we see opportunity in the exercise. I regularly read books, view CDs, and attend online seminars to achieve the same result, but whatever form it takes the 5 “Ps” hold up as well today as ever. Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.
Recently, I took such an opportunity at an Association meeting my wife and I attended. The main purpose of the two-day session was to prepare a strategic plan of sorts, and for this the association hired a professional management consultant to facilitate the process. I met him the night before the planning session was to begin. The more we spoke the clearer it became (at least in my view) that Andy had all of the right principles firmly in place, and that the collaborative results of the ensuing sessions would bear fruit. Andy Hoh was doing it right, and I was encouraged that the association members gathered would be in good hands over the next two days.
A strategic plan is usually not something you can accomplish in just a couple of days. Few of us are capable of pulling together the thoughts that inform a realistic view of the future in the short span of a day or two. The competition, internal and market initiatives, resource development, and technology forecasting, to name a few, can be complex issues to plan. Consensus, which must follow, is not always a given under the circumstances.
I took the opportunity to join the group for a short segment of the sessions, having already reviewed what had gone before it with my wife. It was a good learning experience. Not only was Andy a capable facilitator, he was equipped with the knowledge of best practices, and a style that transferred it easily. Taking the opportunity to “check” the competition proved to be as valuable as I had hoped it would be.
Andy began by asking board members to visualize their future. It’s no surprise to discover the opportunity in our future when we take the time to consider it. You’ll see the same advice from Jack and Suzie Welch in their weekly column: “Start with a clear purpose and vision in mind.” A mission statement resulted. Next, he asked the most fundamental of all questions: “What do we want to accomplish more than anything else?” It’s the right stuff. It’s hard to know how to get somewhere if we don’t know where we’re going. As Andy listened to responses, he wrote them down on a flip chart and organized them on the walls of the room for easy reference. Why? Because “what’s not on paper turns to vapor.”
Andy moved quickly through the process, ever sensitive to the need to do “real work” and in the time allotted. Another honored principle was revealed—to do what you can, with what you’ve got, in the time you have—and gave needed perspective to the process. Right again! When Andy moved the discussion to goals he was careful to encourage specificity, measurability, attainability, realism, and targeted output. Few goals without these guidelines end in the desired results.
Organizational strengths and weaknesses were next, the stuff of opportunity. Without problem identity there can be no solution. We cannot solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Root cause analysis followed in an effort to avoid a cursory view of the opportunities for the association. Symptomatic failure is the number one reason for not achieving one’s goals. When we see blue lips on a friend it’s fair to conclude that he is oxygen deprived. The same holds true for organizations. Without a careful analysis of the symptom (problem) we often throw good money after bad. Too many organizations are starving for oxygen.
After the strategies were in place it was time to put together an outline of the action plans for each of the strategic initiatives put forth by the team, a critical element of which is team building. This was a loosely constructed group of volunteers, not people with clear ties to an accountability system. It was necessary for Andy to do two things at this point: emphasize ownership of the goals and their outcomes, and encourage a spirit of teamwork that positioned team members’ success above their own. This may be the most significant accomplishment of any group effort because the yoking of determinant minds is like going against the goads.
Responsibility for tasks within each of the strategic initiatives was assigned, and the group concluded with an enthusiasm for the desired outcomes that I thought might not be impossible to achieve under the circumstances. They agreed to keep short accounts of progress in each area of development, and established a review and reporting mechanism to do so. On the way home my wife continued the discussions of the two days, reviewing for me the process and excitement in the opportunity to realize the mission of the association—unity and prosperity for all members.
Andy had done his job well. He had prepared the group to do the thinking and the doing of strategic planning. What an interesting idea—think about the future by looking at how we got to the present, then project a better future. I think we can all take a lesson from this story of planning for achievement.
October 8, 2018 | admin
Margaret Carey Receives Her Dedication to the Community Through the Brewster and Carmel Editions Hyperlocal Digital Publication, HamletHub
The Putnam Community Service Network Awards presented Margaret Carey with the Lyn & Buzz Burr Excellence in Communication Award on on October 3, 2018 at the PCSN Ceremony at the Putnam County Golf Club.
The award is given to an individual or group who has exemplified commitment to community and human service in Putnam County during the past year in communication venues, including but not limited to, newspapers, radio, cable, newsletters, websites, presentations, etc.
Ms. Carey was nominated for her work as an editor of HamletHub. She started out with just a few online readers, but today thousands of area residents rely on HamletHub website and associated social media as their source of up-to-the-minute community news for Brewster, Carmel, and surrounding communities. Margaret uses the HamletHub platform to generate local news with a very personal touch that brings communities together and attracts an even larger following.
HamletHub has a “feel-good” vibe that comes from Margaret’s passion to make the community a better place to live, play, and raise a family. Margaret also wears many hats. Her dedication to the Cultural Arts Coalition, Brewster-Carmel Master Networks, Brewster Music and Fall Festival, Carmel High School Drama Club and other local theatrical performances shows her true commitment to serving her community.
You can sign up for the HamletHub Nightly Newsletter at www.BrewsterHamletHub.com and www.CarmelHamletHub.com or follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Congratulations to Margaret and all the nominees and award winners of the Putnam Community Service Network Awards. The PCSN is an educational program of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Putnam County.
October 8, 2018 | admin