Six rules for working in groups
I was just asked: Do you have a set of ground rules you use when facilitating a group?
Mine are fairly simple. Here’s the list. The explanations follow.
- Share space
- Share responsibility
- Honor time
- Savor humans and humor
- “Everyone has a piece of the truth”
- Phones on vibrate
This rule includes physical and air space. I let participants know that they shouldn’t feel constrained by the chairs or break schedule. If they need to stretch, their aching back requires them to stand, they need refreshments or a bio-break, or to open or close a window, they should take charge of their comfort and environment.
I also note that some of us think by talking, while others need time to think before sharing their thoughts. So we thinking talkers need to rein ourselves in a bit and also allow some pauses to linger while those who think first prepare to share their thoughts. And those who think first may need to be a bit more daring and perhaps put forward a few not-completely-formed comments now and then.
While I’ve been hired to guide the process, the outcomes of the meeting are the group’s responsibility. If the agenda needs reworking, if individuals have particular insights that would be helpful to the process, please share. And of course, what happens after the retreat is the work of the participants.
It also means that individuals need to put onto the table the issues and ideas that need discussing. If you don’t mention it yourself, no one else is likely to do it for you.
My commitment is to guide the group through the agenda items and end the meeting on time (and sometimes even earlier if possible). That requires everyone’s attention to assignments and commitments to arrive and return from breaks at the agreed upon time. If it looks like critical discussions are taking place that require more time, I’ll negotiate that with the group with options for trimming items or extending a few minutes.
Savor humans and humor
This is the rule where I bundle rules such as respecting each other and treating each other with kindness. And of course, every meeting can benefit from good hearted smiles, chuckles and shared laughter now and then.
Everyone has a piece of the truth
This Quaker saying, also attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, reminds us to listen carefully and learn from different perspectives.
Phones on vibrate
There’s nothing more disturbing than a cell phone ringing right in the middle of a deep discussion. This comes with the request that if you need to take that call, please do it outside the room.
Every group may have its own additional set of rules or special ways of being together. I like to leave space for ensuring this, or accommodating special needs like a color vision deficiency.
I share these rules at the beginning of the meeting and ask the group if it can agree to work with them as the guide. I then hang the flip chart up where I’ve recorded them so that I can point back to the agreement on the off chance that someone forgot a rule in the heat of a discussion.
What rules guide your group work? I’d love to have you share.