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Facilitating group discussions
Facilitating group discussions

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3.1 Understanding your current style

Part of a facilitator’s skill is to adapt their natural style to meet the needs of the group. Recognising your own natural style will help you become more aware of where you need to adapt and how.

Those who have a directing style will tend to want to tell the group what to do. This style can be closely associated with training, as a trainer will tend to structure the group and what it does.

Cooperation involves a partnership between the facilitator and the group, where decisions on how the group operates are made on an equal basis.

A suggesting style leaves the group to decide how they work together. The facilitator makes inputs to the group only at the group’s suggestion.

Activity 5

Complete the questionnaire below as a quick guide to your preferred style of facilitating. For each statement, choose one reply that typifies your behaviour. Keep a note of your choices as you will score them when you finish.

Part One

  1. Someone comes to you with a problem they have with the behaviour of another member of the group.

    Are you most likely to:

    • a.Listen to their problem and then suggest to them what they should do?
    • b.Spend time with the person to discover the reason for the problem, and then work with them to help them work out a solution?
    • c.Ask the person what help they need from you?

Part Two

  1. You are facilitating a group, the meeting has been running for some time and you notice that people are looking tired.

    Are you most likely to say:

    • a.‘Everyone’s looking tired. Let’s stop here for a ten minute break.’
    • b.‘How are people feeling right now?’
    • c.‘I get the impression that everyone’s feeling tired right now. What do the group want to do about it?’

Part Three

  1. A group you are facilitating is trying to reach agreement on an important issue. Two of the six members have a different point of view from the rest.

    Are you most likely to say:

    • a.‘The group seems unable to agree unanimously on a solution – what do you think we should do?’
    • b.‘We have a majority agreement on this issue, let’s go with that.’
    • c.‘The group seems totally undecided. What would you like me to do to help you reach a decision?’

Part Four

  1. You have been asked to facilitate a group while their usual facilitator is on holiday.

    Are you most likely to:

    • a.Ask the group what they expect of you before the meeting begins?
    • b.At the beginning of the meeting, explain how you prefer to facilitate and the role of the facilitator?
    • c.Let the group get on with their meeting and only input when requested?


How to score

Look at Table 2 and for each question note whether your choice was allocated a C, a D or an S. Then count up the number of Cs, Ds and Ss you have scored.

Table 2 Scores
Question 1Question 2Question 3Question 4 
  • a.D
  • b.C
  • c.S
  • a.D
  • b.S
  • c.C
  • a.S
  • b.D
  • c.C
  • a.S
  • b.D
  • c.C
  • If you scored 2 or more Ds

    You have a tendency to ‘Direct’. This style can be appropriate for less mature groups. However, it may cause you problems when dealing with semi-mature and mature groups as it does not encourage ownership.

  • If you scored 2 or more Ss

    Your tendency is to ‘Suggest’. This style encourages groups to come up with their own solutions to problems and is best used with mature groups.

  • If you scored 2 or more Cs

    You tendency is to ‘Cooperate’. You have the ability to be flexible according to the needs of the group. You will work particularly well with semi-mature groups.

Whatever your natural tendency, remember: to be a successful facilitator you need to adapt your style to the needs of the group.

The next section offers some tips on how to do this.