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Facilitation: A newly formed group

Facilitating a newly formed group has unique challenges and opportunities that need to be considered. In a newly formed group, you need to consider that the group members may not know one another and may have very different perspectives on the topic or purpose of the group. It’s really important to assess and build relationships within your newly formed group in order to successfully work together as a group. Join me this week as I provide 3 recommendations on facilitating a newly formed group.

  1. Take time to get to know one another. Do more than just a name and organizational introduction. Provide time for them to share why they are part of the group/expectations for the group or even something that connects them on a more personal level. This could be as simple as their favorite flavor of ice cream, a place they would like to visit or a favorite hobby. Continue to find ways for the group members to get to know one another at subsequent meetings as well. This is really important for relationship-building and continued engagement.
  2. Develop a clear purpose and priority for the group. Although you have convened a group around a topic of interest, the group needs to spend time figuring out what they will actually work on together – and how they will work together.  If possible, encourage the group to narrow to one or two priorities so that they can achieve collective success early. Once they have been successful, they can move to other projects or priorities. Several years ago, we developed a group focused on lung cancer. We thought we would select one aspect of prevention or early detection; however, the group wanted to include several aspects of prevention and early detection. Rather than picking a “project” as a group, we decided our initial purpose and priority was to focus on creating a forum for networking and coordinating efforts across several different areas related to lung cancer.  Then our first project was to develop some clear communication messages for different audiences related to each of these areas. As a facilitator, it was important to be clear on what the new group wanted to be and then follow-through with that. Next week, I’ll be highlighting what to do with a group that has been meeting for a while, so be sure to join me for more of this conversation. 🙂
  3. Convene regularly and make progress. Each group will have its own rhythm depending upon the participants and the projects. There may also need to be small sub-groups working together on specific tasks within an overall project or priority. Ask the group how often they are willing and able to meet in order to move forward on the overall work. Also, find out from the group what types of meetings they would like to have. This will vary depending upon the purpose and participants; however, it’s important to meet regularly to keep the group moving toward the collective purpose. I’ve found that it’s often best for a new group to meet in some way at least once per month. Depending upon where participants are located, this could be in-person or via video/webinar, but it’s helpful for a new group to convene regularly and see progress toward agreed-upon priorities.  

One important caveat to consider is capacity. You will need dedicated staff to facilitate and lead the group and keep the group moving toward collective goals and objectives. You cannot expect the group to convene on it’s own. If you don’t think you have capacity for this, it may not be time to start a new group.

If you would like to learn more about the formation of teams and expectations for dynamics, check out this post from MIT that was written about Bruce Tuckman’s stages of team development known as forming, storming, norming, performing and termination/ending.

So what about you? What have you found helpful in facilitating a new group?

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Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

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