Everyone likes it when a discussion has a good outcome. Unfortunately, group discussions aren’t always as productive or enjoyable as we want. Group dynamics, tangents, and conflicting opinions all reduce the effectiveness of a discussion. Not only that, while we think we are good at guiding a conversation, the reality is often different. Instead of leaving the quality of a discussion to chance, you should use a facilitator. Three of the main benefits of a well facilitated discussion are:
- Better outcomes.
- Less tension.
- Greater inclusion.
Good facilitation means better outcomes
Well facilitated discussions have better outcomes.
Why? Well, first of all a facilitator ensures the group understands the desired outcome. It doesn’t matter if the goal is to design a solution, identify the cause of a problem, or agree a path forwards. If everyone in group isn’t aligned on the purpose of the discussion there is less chance of a good outcome.
Secondly, a facilitator keeps the group focused on the desired outcome. Conversations have twists and turns. A good facilitator keeps the group on track towards the primary outcome. They allow some exploration of sidebar ideas as long as the discussion continues towards the original goal.
When everyone understands the goal and stays focused on it the chance of a good outcome is much higher.
Good facilitation reduces tension
Well facilitated discussions create less tension for the people involved.
Groups are made up from individuals and every person can have different opinions and ideas. These differences can lead to disagreement, and disagreement can lead to tension. Don’t get me wrong, diverse opinions are important. They hep generate new ideas and usually lead to a better outcome. But if the differences of opinion get out of hand, they can lead to frustration and tension in the group.
A facilitator helps avoid this problem. They identify the differences of opinion and use a variety of techniques to keep the discussion positive and focused on the outcome.
This is one of the reasons a facilitator must remain neutral. A neutral person can help diffuse tense situations.
Facilitators increase inclusion
Every group includes someone who talks more than the others. It is easy for these people to take over the discussion. They may not mean to, and they may not even notice it’s happening, but the result is the same. One or two people end up doing most of the talking and the other people don’t get a chance to speak.
When this happens, the discussion is less productive. Fewer people provide ideas and input. Expert opinions are left out, and people feel less engaged. None of which helps deliver a good outcome from the discussion.
A facilitator helps everyone be a part of the discussion. They do this by observing the group and providing opportunities for quieter members to have a say. As an example, a simple statement like, ‘That’s a great point, Sarah. Ahmed, is there anything you think we’ve missed?’ would help bring Ahmed into the discussion and make use of his expertise. When everyone is included in the conversation the outcome is better and the way people feel about the discussion is better, too.
We spend a lot of time at work discussing things in groups. The success of our work relies on the output of these discussions. Not only that, the experience of the discussion impacts how we feel about our work. With so much riding on group discussions we shouldn’t leave the outcome to chance.
Make sure you consider the benefits of a well-facilitated discussion before starting your next group conversation.