“Facilitate” will address how to help a group with meeting purpose, decision-making and follow-through. Check the postings below.

Feb 18 2012

Group Growth


Like people, groups undergo defined growth stages. Also like people, some groups grow up relatively quickly and smoothly, while other groups are dogged by erratic starts and stops. I’ve led groups that advance through the 3 developmental growth stages we’ll be talking about with minimal struggle. They pick up the usual bumps and bruises along the way, but nothing seems to stop them from progressing. I’ve worked with other groups that struggle with growth. They can’t agree on basic guidelines, they get bogged down by other’s opinions, and they find it hard to accept responsibility for their decisions.

This blog identifies the three defined and universal group growth stages. The next few blogs will address how you help facilitate groups through the three stages.

Stage One: Membership

In membership, a group is getting comfortable with themselves, you and with the purpose of the meeting. Their primary questions is; “Do I belong here?” Therefore, very early in the meeting, individuals will begin to task of seeking membership in the group. They will attempt to clarify roles and responsibilities. Some will express their membership needs in an expressive., open manner while others will seek to belong more quietly. No matter the approach used, almost all participants will look for some way to fit into the group.

Stage Two: Influence

In the second stage, group members seek a greater degree of interaction with one another. Participants work at and work through issues, ideas and problems. This is a busy time for both the facilitator and group members. Personal and professional needs are expressed in this stage. As challenging as this stage can be, it is also a time when individuals begin to bond with one another. Through the successful resolution of issues and challenges, participants form professional relationships. They assert their interdependence with the group and their independence as individual members.

Stage Three: Authenticity

In this highest stage of group growth, participants start to “be real” with one another. The group is productive and powerful at this stage. A level of trust has developed and if all has gone well, this will be an emotionally and socially satisfying phase. Participants are no longer limited by the hesitancy of the membership stage or the confusion, conflict or clarifying that takes place in the influence stage. They have worked at and through group issues, problems and challenges and are capable of being highly productive.

Group growth is very dynamic. As a facilitator, one of your primary roles is to help groups progressively advance their way to stage three if possible. However, something or someone can move them back to membership in a relatively short period of time. So the facilitator has learned to be a constant observer and catalyst to sustain and encourage group growth.

Just how does the facilitator do this? That is the topic of the next few blogs!!


Nov 10 2011

Signs of a Healthy Group

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What are the signs of a healthy, functioning group? Here are 12 signals to look for.

1. Trust and respect
When individuals trust and respect one another, an abundance of positive feelings and thoughts proliferate through the groups and a healthy, productive atmosphere is created. Trust, I believe, is based on what we feel about another person; respect is base on what we think of someone else. Trust is affective; respect is cognitive.

2. Balance between tasking and maintenance
Functional groups usually require a balance of tasking and maintenance. You’ll find yourself spending time guiding the group to stay on task and helping it to get along. Both are needed. When you are able to assess and respond to task and maintenance needs in an on-going way, you balance the group’s needs for tasking and maintenance.

3. Humour quotient
Are we having fun yet? When participants enjoy a joke or a humorous story, the group bonds. Too little humour leads to a dull group that takes itself too seriously. Too much humour and the group can upstage itself.

4. Process Observing
Individuals who spontaneously observe and articulate the process they are a part of are aware of their own needs and the needs of the group. They help to empower themselves by monitoring group interaction and group progress.

5. Energy Level
An appropriate level of energy is vital to group productivity. A stimulating environment helps those who are low key to get involved and keeps those with excess energy in check. Energy vitalizes the group.

6. Body Language
Body language can tell you a lot about the group’s ability to function productively. Your healthy group will smile, nod, and have open body stances that suggest comfort and compatibility. Closed body language gestures, like crossed legs, folded arms, and alack of eye contact usually characterize a group that is not open to working with one another.

7. Tension indicators
Tension erupts naturally as a group grows. If this tension is used as a constructive force and monitored, it actually helps a group to bond. The tension is vitalizing and strengthens the group as individuals and collectively.

8. Cognitive-Affective views
Healthy groups have a balance between the head and the heart. Not everything can be objectified or quantified, nor is everything wow and fantastic. Groups with a cognitive-affective balance have learned to balance these perspectives. Enlightenment and enthusiasm are both high on the list of group values.

9. Leadership factor
Healthy groups share leadership. They balance dependent tendencies and independent ambitions with an interdependent attitude towards leadership.

10. Clarity of purpose
Healthy groups articulate a clear purpose as early as possible in the meeting. They will even monitor activities based on the established purpose. They ask themselves; “Does this discussion contribute to the ends we’ve establish?”

11.  Conflict Management
Healthy groups have learned to manage conflict in a variety of ways, depending on circumstances. Generally, conflict is managed in one of five ways, depending on the situation. Any of the following options may be valid. The options include compete or I win- you lose; collaborate or win-win; compromise or win a bit, lose a bit; avoid or I lose- you lose and accommodate or I lose - you win.

12. Follow through
Healthy groups have members that speak to one another and stay in touch following the meeting. With all of the networking that takes place at a meeting, members follow through by keeping in touch.



Nov 10 2011

Dealing with Difficult Behaviour

Mutual understanding, not acceptance, is the key with difficult behaviour. Once you understand a problem you can explain your expectations in relation to it. Active listening skills can help you reach mutual understanding. Active listening is difficult at the best of times, so when you’re in the middle of facilitating, you can expect it to be even harder. But if you don’t take the time to understand a difficult participant, the situation can worsen.

When you actively listen to a meeting attendee, follow these four steps, which will then lead to the fifth step where you move from listening to explaining your point of view.

  1. Ask about the person’s point of view, position,  or description of the situation.
  2. Restate back what you heard.
  3. Ask the person to fill in the blanks you may have missed.
  4. Restate what you heard until the person feels you understand.

Now state your position. Speak for yourself. Use “I” statements; do not accuse or blame.

When you reach step five, the participant will either respond or react to your request. A response suggests your position has been received positively. Chances are you are going to be able to resolve the issue. A reaction, on the other hand, means your position has met with a negative reception. Despite your active listening, the person rejects, ignores or verbally attacks your position. When the person reacts, you will need to start the active listening process again. This, of course, takes time, so you need to determine what is an appropriate use of your time in view of the meeting agenda, goals, and outcomes. Active listening is a learned skill and, like any skill, the better you get at it, the more efficient your use of time.



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