18 Ground Rules for Group Discussions

While guiding the group toward solutions for the issues they want to solve, it’s important to pay attention to how individuals within the group may be feeling about the course of things. So, finding the right process is about finding the structure that will help the group to think effectively. This may be an open discussion, or a structured one, where you as the facilitator use different techniques to help the group to exchange viewpoints, analyze issues, generate ideas and make decisions. The general rule of thumb says that preparing a group process / group facilitation usually takes twice as much as the actual net meeting time where the facilitation takes place. As a trainer, you need to put more emphasis on learning design skills and possess more knowledge about adult learning principles. Also, even in an interactive, well-facilitated training session, you will spend a significant proportion of time presenting concepts, as you need to provide certain theories and information to deliver the core content of your training.

Facilitators often establish rules that explicitly prohibit certain problematic behaviors, and developing protocols for managing difficult, disruptive, or threatening individuals is often part of the planning process for a community dialogue or process. Facilitation, like any skill, is something that improves with experience. It calls for advanced preparation as well as the ability to provide direction and make adjustments on the fly. In its most effective form, facilitation is practiced from a place of unbiased, objective curiosity. While the skills outlined here are useful for dedicated facilitators, they can be applied by anyone to help create more fruitful and focused discussions whether you’re building consensus around how a team operates or solving a complicated problem.

Facilitation skills for facilitating the meeting:

A facilitator helps establish shared understanding by making ideas or decisions visible and clarifying details during conversations. A facilitator creates the agenda to support the meeting’s goal and is then responsible for keeping the group on track and sticking to the agenda to ensure efficiency. Keep in mind that there will be times when it is necessary and appropriate to stray from the agenda if it’s in the group’s best interest. For example, the group may be engaged in a productive discussion that goes over the allotted time for that topic. It may be best to allow the discussion to continue as to not stunt the creative flow and adjust time elsewhere, i.e. shorten another part of the meeting to make up for the time.

  • Many were run by people who had no clue about meeting ground rules for facilitators, as it wasn’t anything we were ever trained on.
  • Group facilitation with large or complicated groups especially ask for good time management skills.
  • To chair a difficult meeting, I think it makes a big difference to let the team know ahead of time what is going to be discussed.
  • Implementing facilitation principles in practice will not only make your job as a facilitator much, much easier, it will also make the workshop more energizing and engaging to be in for your participants.
  • A facilitator must be able to keep the training or meeting focused toward achieving the outcome identified beforehand.

Making collaborative work feel frictionless by avoiding the usual pitfalls of teamwork like team politics, and circular discussions, and making sure every person in the room gets heard. A facilitator (or a Workshopper, as we like to call them!) is a problem-solving and decision-making expert that can guide a team through a structured step-by-step process that ensures solid outcomes. A facilitator should encourage all learners or team members to actively engage and contribute in meetings, depending on their individual comfort levels. This includes creating a safe and comfortable atmosphere in which group members are willing to share their feelings and opinions. • Define success ahead of time, so activities can be designed to help learners achieve a specific goal. “Go for Quantity” is a great rule to establish before diving into a brainstorming session.

Review the agenda, objectives and ground rules for the meeting

“Be the crew, not the passenger” highlights the value of actively contributing to the meeting , instead of falling back into the role of an observer . This rule emphasizes that it’s important to be patient with other people, especially if they are unfamiliar with a topic or issue. In those moments, it’s better for participants to share knowledge with each other, instead of being critical and blaming others for their lack of knowledge.

In some cases, facilitators may ask the group for a volunteer who would like to take notes, or they may design the process so that note-taking responsibilities may be shared by multiple participants taking turns. Facilitators will often check in with a group at regular intervals in a process to confirm that the main ideas are being captured accurately, and efforts are usually made to record discussions, to the extent possible, in the participants’ own words. When participants can visually see that their specific comments and contributions have been accurately recorded by a facilitator or notetaker, it can help to increase trust and confidence in a process. Having a skilled, effective facilitator guide a meeting or a workshop can make a world of difference to the meeting’s outcomes and team’s efficiency!

Basic rules of facilitation

For structured events, activities, and dialogues, facilitators typically establish group agreements—sometimes called “ground rules” or “group norms,” among other terms—before a discussion or process gets underway. In many schools, organizations, and communities, the only individuals with facilitation experience or skills are certain kinds of professionals—such as educators, school administrators, or public officials—who routinely use facilitation in their work. When facilitation skills are unevenly distributed, facilitation roles often default to those with experience.

One of the most important sets of skills for leaders and members are facilitation skills. These are the “process” skills we use to guide and direct key parts of our organizing work with groups of people such as meetings, planning sessions, and training of our members and leaders. Beyond the obvious distractions, building a shared understanding of what “done” looks like provides direction and helps a team identify when they’ve gone astray. As teams work through challenges, the facilitator gently reminds them of the specific goal under consideration to guide discussions and keep them moving steadily forward. Creating an environment where everyone participates is a critical component of facilitation.

“Tolerate and teach, don’t shame and blame”

Facilitators may also provide information or data to establish a set of baseline facts for a discussion or process. When discussions are based on assumptions, misinterpretations, flawed information, or rumors, for example, it can derail productive discussions, cause confusion, and compromise the effectiveness of a problem-solving activity or decision-making process . Whether it’s the demographic data for a community, disciplinary rates for a school, or the pros and cons of a proposed policy, grounding a discussion or process in a set of agreed-upon facts can help to keep discussions focused and constructive. If a dispute arises about the accuracy of particular information, the disagreement can be noted and recorded by the facilitator for fact-checking later on—a facilitation strategy that can help refocus the group on the issue under discussion and keep the process moving forward.

Structure conversations and apply appropriate group facilitation techniques to keep discussions effective. If you have a large team, break down the components and have meetings with each group that is specific to their goals and needs. Mentally, that’s just about how long we can expect our brains to stay focused on one person reading a list of topics, rules, or changes to policy and procedure. Once the team starts to feel a regular social connection, they will be more apt to stay focused at staff meetings. Facilitation is a valuable skill for measuring the user experience. A good facilitator ensures sessions run smoothly, make participants comfortable, and extract the right data for even the most difficult scenarios, stakeholders, or participants.

What are facilitation skills?

Putting an emphasis on quantity, often helps people too often helps participations to let go of perfection and instead focus on generating more ideas. The best way to learn anything is to implement your new-found knowledge in a real-life setting directly. This will allow you to remember the concepts better and help you get more confident in your facilitation skills. Mastering the facilitation mindset is key to becoming an effective facilitator and is also the thing MOST facilitators (novice and experts alike!) get wrong.

Basic rules of facilitation

Remember that the most important aspect of preparing for a meeting with an agenda is to construct the most productive meeting possible. Use it as a guide and keep the people and the work as the focus. Establishing clear expectations at the outset of a dialogue or process can also help participants feel at ease. When expectations depart significantly from the actual experience, participants are more likely to experience frustration and other negative reactions that make them less open with other participants or less receptive to the experience. Participants may also be anxious about the conversation or process.

Circular discussions are one of the main reasons conventional meetings are such a drag to be in. They drain the group’s energy, waste time, and don’t bring you any closer to finding a solution. Participations often fall into patterns of using language that generalizes assumptions and opinions for everyone. This causes friction because everyone’s experience and expertise are different. Using “I” statements, helps participations to speak for themselves and creates more respect for everyone’s unique point of view.

What is the purpose of having ground rules?

Take five minutes at the end of each team meeting to discuss where you used the ground rules well and where you can improve. If you find yourself having these conversations outside the team, you’re not building a better team. Develop a team mindset that’s congruent with the ground rules. The behaviors your agile team facilitation basic rules team uses are driven by the mindset you operate from. If you adopt effective ground rules but operate from an ineffective mindset, the ground rules won’t work. For example, if you assume that you are right about Bob being off topic, you won’t test your inference — you’ll just tell him to get back on topic.

How do you keep meetings on time?

Facilitators are usually trained and prepared to address unproductive conflicts that might arise or behaviors that are disruptive or intimidating. Problematic social behavior can be caused by a wide variety of factors, including a distrust of the facilitators, organizers, or hosts due to negatives experiences they may have had in the past. The reason you need to do this is because workshops are INTENSE.

And not only for you as a facilitator, but for your participants as well! The workshop attendees will have to work hard to keep their concentration for long periods of time, take in a lot of information, and then put it into practice, so it’s 99% likely they’ll feel overwhelmed at a certain point during the workshop. Now that we’ve covered what facilitation actually is, what role the facilitator plays, as well as debunked some of the most common myths, it’s time to get to the heart of learning how to facilitate effectively – the core principles of facilitation. An excellent facilitator not only knows the core principles of facilitation, but leaves in breaths in every workshop they run. Implementing facilitation principles in practice will not only make your job as a facilitator much, much easier, it will also make the workshop more energizing and engaging to be in for your participants. Discuss how you are using the ground rules and how to improve.

Great skills of facilitation include a lot of methods of problem-solving. For example, they have to be able to detect the problem, analyze reasons for it, and possible solutions. Also, they need to understand the pros and cons of this decision and choose the best of them.

Facilitation is one of the 23 capabilities in ATD’s Talent Development Capability Model. More information on facilitation can be found in the Talent Development Body of Knowledge. ATD Members have access to a variety of facilitation tools. The thing is, there is NO way to avoid mishaps or little hiccups in your workshop. The key here is to be prepared for each possible scenario and be willing to adapt ad-hoc. This will make you a more active listener and take the pressure off of you because you don’t need to worry about solving the challenge yourself and can instead focus on observing the group, tuning into their needs, and making sure the workshop moves along swiftly.

It won’t always be smooth sailing, and you, as a facilitator, need to be prepared for that. Energy is a crucial component in facilitation, and it directly influences the outcomes of your workshop. The key here is to treat energy like a delicate finite resource it is and not try to jam-pack your workshops with as many activities as possible.

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