A small Q&A of some common issues…
Q. No-one is coming
A. You will need to ask, not assume, why this is happening. Ask people who came but left. Get everyone in the group to ask someone new to come. Have something or someone that will draw a crowd. Are you meeting at the best time for your people? Another option is to end the group, maybe the reasons the group started have been resolved in other ways.
Q. We get off topic or bogged down
A. There are a few techniques to work on this:
We can have a list to revisit later or at another time, a large visible one on a whiteboard or butcher’s paper, which we call a car park/pantry (the “store it for later” list).
We can set up stricter timekeeping, using a person/rotating role, a mobile app or an egg timer.
We can change or itemize a stronger agenda, which everyone agrees to in advance.
Q. There is one or a few doing too much, others are not doing enough.
A. It’s important to recognise in this situation there is usually problems on both sides. Perhaps one person has run the group for a long time and everyone sees them as the expert. Perhaps you offered to do one thing but it was actually the other person’s favourite task. Perhaps someone said they’d take something on but then didn’t follow through. Perhaps someone new joined and was never asked to do a task.
This issue needs to be addressed by setting up clear expectations and communications. Do you have an election or a “give out the jobs” day/agenda item regularly? Can you share or alternate some tasks? Do you take holidays? See the example about change to think about how to raise this issue.
Q. Want to change something?
A. Clearly describe your issue and a possible suggestion:
I feel like it’s hard for me to … (get here to start at six, run the meeting and also meet new people) AND I’d really like it if we …..….., how does everyone feel about that?
While you might be the only one wanting this change, other people may want the same change, another variation, a different change or they don’t mind either way.
The health issue that your group deals with might influence how change happens. For example, a group working with anxiety needs to introduce change in a gentle way that won’t create more anxiety. You can seek some mentoring or advice in these cases.
Q. How do we deal with conflict?
A. Healthy debate and differences of opinion are a good thing, even though they may feel very difficult. Here is one process technique:
Braking: “So, P is making a point that x,y,z; is that correct P?”
“And M is making a point that q, r, s; is that correct M?”
“Who else would like to add to the points they’ve made?”
Additions only (someone saying I agree with M is not an addition)
Summarize all the points, then ask the group to think about how each point can be resolved. Take a break from discussion. Revisit point by point with the issues separated from the person who raised them.
Q. One person in particular is causing concern.
A. There are many reasons why someone may need more time, may be feeling particularly emotional or may not be connecting with the group. These situations can be difficult, but there are options:
You may remind them of group rules, describe the behaviour and ask the person not to do this any more, or ask them to leave or set up additional facilitator support. You can separate for a side or later conversation while the group continues. Also, review your seating arrangements and agenda structure.
The group could agree to focus on that person’s needs on this day (and the facilitator sets this up gently and clearly).