by Lauren DelGandio
Each week the PAIRS team — including lead instructors, assistants, research, finance, and administrative staff – meets for one to two hours to review lessons learned, best practices, and assure we’re aligned and ready for the challenges of the days ahead. The meetings regularly take place at our office in Weston, Florida from where we direct implementation of a federally funded project that has touched the lives of thousands of local men, women, teenagers and families since beginning in October 2006.
While schedules are often packed full with classes, previews, data analysis, reporting, and other time-sensitive activities, the meetings are invaluable to building, sustaining, and motivating a team that is able to consistently meet the highest expectations of the people we serve. Although each member of our team makes significant contributions, organizationally, I believe our nearly 100% client satisfaction rate is closely related to the interactions that take place in our weekly meetings.
Every meeting follows the same format, modeled after an exercise taught in PAIRS classes that was originally developed by the late Virginia Satir, known as the Daily Temperature Reading (DTR):
- Appreciations: Team members take turns acknowledging each other for specific actions over the previous week that made a difference, creating an environment in which contributions are purposefully recognized and collectively appreciated. Sharing appreciations is an opportunity to focus on what is working for us as a team and contributes to our strength of purpose in accomplishing our goals.
- New Information: Team members take turns sharing details of tasks they are working on, from classes and previews planned, goals established, research reports, lessons learned, and challenges overcome, assuring the full team is up-to-date and aware of the interconnectedness of our efforts.
- Puzzles: Team members ask questions about anything they’re wondering about – and get answers, whether they’re seeking more information on a planned activity, deeper understanding of an assigned task, details of an expectation, or general information about organizational issues. Regularly checking things out prevents misunderstandings or communication breakdowns as we move into a new week.
- Concerns with Recommendations: Team members are invited to share concerns over issues or actions that could be getting in the way of our effectiveness, focusing on a specific situation, including, as appropriate, how they felt about the situation, and offering a specific recommendation for what we should do instead. Much of our growth and improvement as an organization over the past several years has emerged from the concerns and recommendations freely shared in weekly meetings.
- Wishes, Hopes, Dreams: Team members are invited to share whatever their hopes are for the week ahead, whether it’s personal or professional. Expressions are often related to shared goals for an upcoming class, the impact of our efforts, or for a new project we’ve taken on. Sometimes they’re connected to personal hopes for someone struggling with an illness, going on a trip, adjusting to a significant life change, or celebrating a special moment. Whatever they are, it’s an opportunity to stay connected to the personal and collective aspirations that are unique to each member of our team.
The Daily Temperature Reading is used as a structure for larger group meetings as well. At Wynwood Apartments, a Carrfour Supportive Housing community in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood, staff use the Daily Temperature Reading as the agenda for resident meetings. The process is the same and has given formerly homeless men and women a safe, open forum to share whatever is there for them, improve communication, and strengthen relationships among neighbors. The exercise has become an important aspect of supportive services for Veteran families and others who are rebuilding their lives after being homeless.
By beginning with appreciations, the Daily Temperature Reading encourages neighbors to call attention to the good they see in each other. They reflect on strengths often overlooked and have the chance to recognize the inherent miracle in each other.
Next, residents share what is new in their lives, the building, at work, or within their wider community. They keep each other informed of personal accomplishments and challenges and also things happening in their shared home. Residents and staff are reminded that they are connected to one another and strengthen their sense of common interest.
After appreciating each other and sharing what’s new, neighbors are open to hearing puzzles, or questions, that need addressing. Clarifying information instead of drawing conclusions helps avoid misunderstandings and situations that could otherwise escalate.
Concerns with Recommendations are next. For staff and residents alike, this is an important chance to look at concerns that may be getting in the way of creating the home environment they are striving for. Concerns for each other, safety, health or housing issues are brought up along with the underlying feelings. Specific recommendations are made about how these issues can be handled so everyone feels heard, valued and honored.
The meeting closes with sharing of wishes, hopes and dreams. Participants are encouraged to express whatever they are wishing for in the coming weeks, whether it is a personal hope or something they envision for their community. So often we have seen the seeds of wishes, hopes and dreams planted during the Daily Temperature Reading take root and become reality merely by speaking the words aloud.
Used regularly, the Daily Temperature Reading is a powerful tool for connecting groups, teams, families and building community.