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Facilitating group discussions
Facilitating group discussions

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3 Facilitation styles

Facilitating has a number of different styles. Let’s explore what they are and how, why and when to use different styles in different contexts.

Part of a facilitator’s role is to adapt to the needs of the group. Sometimes the facilitator will be expected to direct the group’s discussions or activities; sometimes they will cooperate with the group, and at other times the facilitator may have to make suggestions to the group.

Groups vary in their ‘maturity’ – i.e. in the way they behave, not just the length of time they have been working together.

The styles of facilitation required in each of the three situations can be simplified as shown in Table 1.

Table 1 Facilitator styles
Facilitator styleGroup’s maturity

DIRECT

Facilitator directs methods used within the group

IMMATURE

Newly formed or one-off group

COOPERATE

Facilitator works with the group to decide choice of methods and when to provide assistance

SEMI-MATURE

Group formed for some time but still not performing to full potential

SUGGEST

Facilitator respects autonomy of group and gives them freedom to find their own way

MATURE GROUP

Self directing and generally working effectively together

To test your understanding of the different facilitation styles, complete the following activity

Activity 4

Part One

Look at the stage of group maturity and decide which style of facilitation would be most appropriate. Type your responses in the boxes before looking at the answers.

1. You have been asked by another department to facilitate a focus group. The participants will be customers of the department, many of whom have not met previously. The discussions are to last for one hour.

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Answer

Direct

Part Two

2. You work as a facilitator for a group of customer services staff. Much of the team’s work is self-directed and the team work well together.

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Answer

Suggest

Part Three

3. You have been asked to attend a management meeting as a facilitator. The group of managers know each other well and have been working together for some time. However, their director feels there is conflict in the group and has asked you to facilitate this meeting.

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Answer

Cooperate