Denise had just spent two intense hours explaining to Marcus why the changes he wanted were likely to set the project back. Marcus kept insisting that removing requirements should save time, not cost time, and Denise just couldn't explain to Marcus why that just ain't so.
Finally, Marcus understood her point, and that's when he told Denise that the changes had been agreed to at the CEO level. So that was that. "If only I had known," Denise thought, "I wouldn't have wasted the afternoon debating it." Not a great day for Denise.
How much time and energy do we expend, only to learn later that it was all for naught? How much anger do we experience, only to feel sheepishly regretful later, when we see the full picture? How often have we kept to ourselves words of kindness or appreciation, because of the embarrassment that we've felt about giving them voice?
The Temperature Reading, invented by Virginia Satir, gives team members an opportunity to speak their minds, with little risk of embarrassment or hurt. All you need is a quiet, comfortable room.
In its most usual form, the Temperature Reading has five parts. In each part, team members voluntarily come to the front of the group to offer their thoughts to all.
- First we express appreciation for anything meaningful — large or small — for support, contributions, understanding, or even a good joke. Once the appreciations start rolling, they gather momentum, and they build positive feelings that make the rest of the Temperature Reading so successful.
- New Information
- Here we offer information that we think others might not know yet. Often this section clears up puzzles and resolves complaints even before they're voiced.
- Puzzles are questions we have that we don't know how to answer. Offering the question to the whole group makes everyone aware of the puzzle at once, and helps engage everybody in resolving it, once the Temperature Reading ends.
- Complaints with Recommendations
- The Temperature Reading
gives team members an
opportunity to speak their
minds, with little risk of
embarrassment or hurt
- Next we can complain, provided we also recommend something that helps resolve the issue we raise. Complaints are usually heartfelt and are almost always heard that way.
- Hopes and Wishes
- Closing the Temperature Reading on a high note — one of hopes and wishes for the future — gives us a chance to express our dreams. It can be inspiring and we can sometimes inspire others.
Like all group activities, the Temperature Reading improves with practice. Once you've learned the rhythm, regular Temperature Readings can keep a well-functioning team in the groove, and help take a troubled team — one that's too cold or too hot — to a place of comfortable warmth. Top Next Issue
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Although the Temperature Reading process was originally developed by Virginia Satir to support her work in family systems, it's no less valuable for groups in the workplace. My program, "Managing in Fluid Environments," explores how to apply this process to bring forth valuable but hidden information in situations where changes come along at such a rapid rate that the next change comes along before we reach the "New Status Quo" of the changes we're already dealing with. More about this program.
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- And on October 24: Conversation Irritants: I
- Conversations at work can be frustrating even when everyone tries to be polite, clear, and unambiguous. But some people actually try to be nasty, unclear, and ambiguous. Here's Part I of a small collection of their techniques. Available here and by RSS on October 24.
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