As you practice Recording Tensions for Governance, here are 3 tips to improve the meeting process.
1. Get specific about the issue.
As the Proposer: Share your direct experience. What's the issue? Who? What? Where? When? Describe the problem—not just your proposed solution. So, don’t just say, “I propose a new Accounting role.” Share why you need that role (e.g. “I needed the account number for our Chicago client and no one knew where it was.”). And be specific. Getting specific and concrete is much better than a vague generalization (e.g. “We just need to do something about our Accounting process!”).
For everyone else: If you're not the Proposer, then make sure to ask, “What is the tension?” during Clarifying Questions (if you’re not super clear already). Understanding the Proposer’s tension will make it easier for you to raise an objection.
2. Be careful with the Reaction Round.
As the Proposer: The tendency is to treat the Reaction Round as “the place where you get help”. It isn't. That's not what it's designed for. Sure, you may harvest an idea from it, but it's really space for others to figure out if they'll have an objection.
For everyone else: When reacting to someone else’s proposal, don't sell your ideas. Share them, but don't sell them. Doing so puts pressure on the proposer to integrate your tensions, but again, it's not your call. The process gives you space for that in objections and integration.
3. Encourage objections!
As the Proposer: Don’t try to prevent objections by amending your proposal in response to reactions. Objections ensure that others can get their needs met without preventing you from finding a solution to your problem. You don’t need to worry about others, not because others don’t matter, but because it’s much more efficient and fair to let them speak for themselves. Instead of fearing objections—encourage them! So, you might say in Amend & Clarify, “Thanks for the reactions. I’ll keep the proposal, but if you think it causes harm, then please raise an objection.” Trusting that others will raise objections allows you to stay focused on getting your needs met without excluding anyone else’s.
For everyone else: Always err on the side of raising objections. Raising an objection isn't invalidating the proposer’s problem. It isn't saying that you don't like the proposal. It's simply saying that the proposed solution isn’t workable because it creates a new tension (it doesn’t make sense to resolve one tension only to create a new one). Also, don’t assume that others will raise objections for you. Don’t neglect your own perspective. Every warning light on a car’s dashboard tells a different story. The “Low Fuel” light doesn’t need the “Check Engine” light to agree with it. You are a critically important sensor for your organization. If you think you might have an objection, raise it!
Note: At first, everyone is uncomfortable with objections (maybe even especially the Facilitator). So, if you've already mastered objections, great. Go for it. But even if you're still really uncomfortable with them, raise them anyway because, for better or worse, it's the only way to get comfortable (e.g. “I'd like to try an objection...” or as Facilitator, “Would you like to try an objection?”).
When we simply express our feelings, it may not be clear to the listener what we want them to do....the clearer we are about what we want, the more likely it is that we’ll get it. —Marshall Rosenberg, author of Nonviolent Communication