Facilitation tips

One thing that sometimes worries people about facilitating a group activity is what happens between participants (including the facilitator) on the day – the unpredictable things that can arise from ‘group dynamics’. Here you will find a range of approaches and tips for handling the dynamics of a group activity.

Various factors can influence how your participants may respond. Understanding these can help you prepare and respond appropriately.

Expand All

 Tuckman’s ‘Group development model’, also known as ‘Forming, storming, norming, performing’, is a very useful approach. It suggests that  team members  will tend to behave in particular ways according to the state of the team as a whole – whether it is newly formed, or recently shaken up by changes, or has been working together for long enough to get to know each other,  or has had time for tensions to arise about certain things. This can help you to understand why people in the team may be reacting in certain ways, and here we give you some hints about possible helpful approaches; the aim is almost always to help the team move on to the next stage This applies to general, day to day management, but it can be especially useful in a group session.

If your team is going through a period of change, they may react in surprising ways, as if something personal and traumatic is happening to them. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross worked with people facing bereavement and the diagnosis of terminal illness, and her model of responses to grief has been widely applied to people undergoing changes in their work and organisations. People move through these stages at very different paces, and not always in the same order; understanding that they might be going through can help you to recognise where people may need more time to get used to an idea, or the source of an angry outburst.

There may be several reasons why people take on particular roles in a team, and these may have an impact on group activity. For example:

  • Team members with a preference for introversion may not express themselves openly at the start of a discussion; making sure that they have time to think and voice their thoughts later on will benefit the group’s  thinking process.
  • Some people thrive on visual stimulus and will come to the fore in a creative activity (such as ‘Rich Pictures’) while others will shine at drafting complex statements.
  • Some are task-focussed and will be keen to drive the team on towards a goal; others will concerned that not all voices have been heard and that more time is needed.
  • Participants’ concerns about their relative status may get in the way of full participation: people who are relatively new, or relatively junior, may need encouragement to voice their opinions.

Being aware of these possibilities will help you to manage the group’s process, ensuring that everyone gets a fair chance to contribute and all feel that their voices have been heard.

Some people love awaydays; for others, they threaten boredom at best, or are even a cause for fear. Their approach may be influenced by they are feeling about their work in general, or their colleagues; personal factors getting in the way; or just a result of a good or bad experience in the past. 

Here is some excellent advice on what to do if anyone is disruptive, or tries to dominate a meeting. The golden rule is keep calm and don’t take it personally!