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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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Virtual Communications: III
- Participating in or managing a virtual team presents special communications challenges. Here's Part
III of some guidelines for communicating with members of virtual teams.
- The Shower Effect: Sudden Insights
- Ever have a brilliant insight, a forehead-slapping moment? You think, "Now I get it!" or "Why
didn't I think of this before?" What causes these moments? How can we make them happen sooner?
- Seven Ways to Get Nowhere
- Ever have the feeling that you're getting nowhere? You have the sense of movement, but you're making
no real progress towards the goal. How does this happen? What can you do about it?
- When It's Just Not Your Job
- Has your job become frustrating because the organization has lost its way? Is circumventing the craziness
making you crazy too? How can you recover your perspective despite the situation?
- Constancy Assumptions
- We necessarily make assumptions about our lives, including our work, because assumptions simplify things.
And usually, our assumptions are valid. But not always.
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.
Are you planning an offsite or retreat for your organization? Or a conference for your professional society? My programs are fresh, original, and loaded with concrete tips that make an immediate difference. ChacoCanyon.com.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 13: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: I
- To take the risks that learning and practicing new ways require, we all need a sense that trial-and-error approaches are safe. Organizations seeking to improve processes would do well to begin by assessing their level of psychological safety. Available here and by RSS on December 13.
- And on December 20: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: II
- When we begin using new tools or processes, we make mistakes. Practice is the cure, but practice can be scary if the grace period for early mistakes is too short. For teams adopting new methods, psychological safety is a fundamental component of success. Available here and by RSS on December 20.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenogMhuqCxAnbfLvzbner@ChacigAthhhYwzZDgxshoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
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