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Aligning conversations for Decision-making

Updated: May 19, 2022

We have all been in meetings where discussions, brain-storming, assessment discussions and the like are like ships passing in the night or a train wreak just waiting to happen. Everyone is approaching an idea or topic but the group cannot make sense of enough of anything to be helpful. One person brings in the emotional side of things. Another appeals to the factual side of things. Then, a couple of people have all these "good creative ideas" on how it can be made or marketed but it often seems more like wishful thinking than sound input. Then there's the one or two who cannot help but point out all the troubles or difficulties that resides around the topic. And so it goes from there, a lot of verbiage but it might just be easier herding cats. As a team leader, mom, or time oriented person involved this can seem almost hopeless and down-right frustrating. What can be done?

One of the best resources, I have found for assisting in aligning the flow of conversation towards listening and hearing each other for progress and decisions, is Edward de Bono's book 6 Hat Thinking. Here is a link to the de Bono Group website. Here is a link on Amazon Prime's booklist - Six Hat Thinking.

Edward de Bono points out that a team leader, or the whole team can develop the skills of using this six hat tool for aligning the discussions that seem to be a mess. Now this is a helpful tool and I would encourage you to read the book, but simply knowing isn't the same as being skilled in using this technique and tool. That is where I can encourage you to consider allow me to help you with some coaching sessions. Simply set up a free coaching session with me from the home page.

The hats are as follows:

White Hat - This is the hat that a person can put on to help discuss the factual side of the issue or topic. It affords the family, team, or individual the unified purpose of gaining insight on the information known or what needs to be known for enhancing the conversation and thus making a sound and rational decision.

Red Hat - The Red hat is the counter side to the White hat in that a person or group signifies feelings, hunches and intuition. When using this hat you can express emotions and feelings and share fears, likes, dislikes, loves, and hates.

Yellow Hat - This hat symbolizes brightness and optimism. While wearing this hat the positives are explored and the values are probed and beneficially evaluated. Yellow hat thinking opens up the variations on any one theme.

Black Hat - The Black hat is the counter side to the Yellow hat by aligning the discussion around the risks, difficulties, and potential problems inherent or related with the primary focus. In a sense, this the risk management Hat and is probably the most powerful Hat. As one of the many hats, the black hat can be overused. Still, this hat can help spot difficulties where things might go wrong, why something may not work, inherently an action hat with the intent to point out issues of risk with intent to overcome them.

Green Hat - Green hat approaches the interactions by focusing on creativity; the possibilities, alternatives, and new ideas. It’s an opportunity to express new concepts and new perceptions. This hat works in correspondence with the Yellow hat and can feed off or build upon it. It is the leader's responsibility to give room for this, but not let it be diverged from what the original focus was to be on or about.

Blue Hat - The Blue Hat is used to manage the thinking process. It’s the control mechanism that ensures the Six Thinking Hats® guidelines are observed. A vital part of this hat's responsibilities rests on making sure together the group thinks about thinking even when wearing the various hats. If the leader, mom, or whom ever senses that things are getting out of hand then the blue hat becomes a necessity in re-establishing the boundary lines for helpful interaction and alignment.

Some people have called the use of the six hats as "parallel thinking". All this seeks to help the group or team that uses it to not talk through and around each other, but to look at things in common ways for discussion, discovery, and decision-making.

Coaching Questions to help you towards application:

What would be some early flags for helping you recognize when people are just talking through and around each other instead of cooperating in conversation?

What would your "step in" statement be for moving the group towards using the Hat process to align their thinking without creating added tension?

What might block you from taking the time and energy to help your team or group get to know the six hat thinking for better group discussions & decisions?

How will you help bring consistency of using the six hats, when necessary, so that it becomes a natural part of your culture or life-style?

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