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Getting Team Discussions Moving in The Right Direction


Group discussions are where much of the creative work of teams is accomplished. Ideas and problem solutions from all team members are the desired outputs of group discussions. However, even experienced facilitators find leading team discussions a challenge, especially when issues are controversial and emotional.

So as the team facilitator, what do you do?

Though a facilitator's primary objective is to help the team come up with its own answers, that's tough when you are part of the team. And one of the hardest things to do is to get the discussion going in the right direction. The team facilitator is the catalyst that starts the ball rolling. You can't leave it up to the team to figure out how to get started talking.

Here are some tips to help you out so your team begins their discussion on the right foot. Try different approaches to see what works for you.

* Before beginning, ensure each team member can see and hear everyone else.

* Establish a time limit for the discussion.

* Use open-ended questions to get the ball rolling (e.g., "What has been your experience with??" - or - "What are your thoughts about??")

* Ask one question at a time. Have questions in a logical order.

* Give team members time to think and respond. Pause for at least 15 seconds before giving additional guidance or direction.

* If necessary, rephrase your question or provide examples for clarification.

* When team members respond, encourage them to speak to the full group, rather than back to you.

* Try "Brainwriting" when the team needs to develop a list of things. For example, ask everyone to jot down 2-3 reasons why a certain problem exists.

* Have team members respond to their neighbors, or work in threes, on a question or issue. Each group should then report its results back to the whole team.

* Ask team members to make an "educated guess." For example, if the team is trying to implement ways to reduce errors, ask them to guess the average amount of time a person spends resolving errors made by someone else.

Denise O'Berry (aka 'Team Doc') provides tools, tips and advice to help organizations build better teams. Find out more at http://www.teambuildingtips.com


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