What Moves Us

Spark Your Team Into Action Today

Use the Ripple Question

If anyone knows me or ISI Consulting, you know we take great pride in never (or almost never) doing the same thing with a group or organization. I don’t ever want to be considered a “one-trick pony” facilitator. That’s just unfair for everyone. It’s painful for a group who experienced that same activity a year ago to be forced to do it all again. And it would be just plain boring for me.

However, I have found myself using the same open-ended question for lots of groups lately and I’m not tired of it yet. And the groups I’ve used it with have found this question extremely helpful. So, what is it? “What conversation, if begun today, could ripple out and create new possibilities for the future of ___________?” That blank could be women leaders in higher education, philanthropic funders, dental hygienists…whatever! You fill in the blank, and then just let folks go. I promise you will be amazed and encouraged by what comes out of your group. The wisdom it needs is already present and accessible. What are you hearing? What contributions are emerging? What ideas are beginning to connect? What new possibilities are you noticing?

I encourage you to use the Ripple Question at your next team meeting, staff retreat, board meeting or even with your small group of confidants. This question alone can fill 30 minutes, or even an hour, of time with worthwhile discussion. To start, I like to have small groups (no more than 7 participants) wrestle with the question. Then I move to a medium-sized group (about 14 participants), before bringing all the themes together with the entire group. This ensures everyone’s voice is heard and helps keep the groups focused.

You don’t need to hire a consultant to help you start thinking strategically as a team. You simply need to carve out time and space for reflection. Then use the open-ended Ripple Question for your team to engage in, ponder over, and explore. But, hey…if you do need a consultant to help get your team back on track or moving forward to the next level, I can help with that, too. Give me a call today, and let’s make a plan.

Holly Hayes

Holly Hayes, President & Founder
ISI Consulting

Hats, Haircuts, and Tattoos

The amazing writer James Clear, author of the book Atomic Habits, has developed a decision-making tool that I think is freaking genius. He divides all decisions into one of three categories – HATS, HAIRCUTS, or TATTOOS. (See the graphic below.)

Decision Making

Hats are low-risk, low investment decisions, like what t-shirt to wear to a meeting. If they don’t work out, there’s little cost to making a change (or damage done). Haircuts require a little more investment, but not that much. For example, if you paint your office that beautiful aqua you once loved but now hate, changing it takes some money and sweat equity, but it won’t break the bank. There are a few decisions, though, that are like tattoos. Once you make them, you have to live with them.

Most of the decisions we make on a daily or even monthly basis are simply a hat or haircut. If they don’t work out, it’s not that big a deal. We can simply change the hat or wait six to eight weeks for our bad bang decision to grow out.

Hat decisions sometimes need to involve a couple of other people, or even your whole team, but often they can be made on your own. One of my hat decisions went wrong this week. I invited too many people to a key meeting, and it turned out to be a “hot mess express.” So what? There will be other meetings, and I can make changes. I will choose a different hat next time and move on.

And what about those haircut decisions? They can be things like hiring a new employee or converting the office to a new project management software. If it doesn’t work out, it will take time for you and your team to recover, reassess, and move on to the next best decision (bangs, bobs, or extensions – who knows?). But here’s the thing…I very often see groups get stuck on haircut decisions. They discuss, discuss, and discuss some more when what they really need to do is ACT. Better to take a risk and try something than to have the same horrible haircut you’ve had since the ‘90’s.

Finally, those tattoo decisions…the big, hairy, scary ones. The ones that are incredibly hard to change. The ones with truly lasting impacts on you and your organization. Decisions like, should we merge with this other nonprofit, or not? Should we expand into a new state (or states), or stay where we are? Is it time to expand our mission and take on a new role? As Clear emphasizes, “When you’re dealing with an irreversible choice, move slowly and think carefully.” For these types of decisions, we need to seek wise counsel and really consider all of the consequences before getting the ink and needle out. I don’t have a single tattoo (and don’t plan to add one), but I know from going to water parks that a lot of folks have not just one, but several. I sometimes wonder if they regret any of those permanent additions to their body’s landscape. If they do, getting rid of it will be costly and painful. Be patient and keep that tattoo item on your agenda as long as you need to until you and your team have all the input you need to make the best decision possible.

In conclusion, I want you to revisit your last board meeting or team agenda. Think about what items are hat, haircut, or tattoo decisions. Let’s take the hat decisions off the agenda for you to figure out by yourself or after talking one-on-one with a colleague. Keep it simple. Let’s act and get clippin’ on those haircut decisions and remember that they’re not forever. Finally, let’s slow our roll on tattoo decisions. They’re permanent and deserve our time, attention, and deliberation. That’s easiest when we’re not bogged down with hats and haircuts.  

Holly Hayes

Holly Hayes, President & Founder
ISI Consulting