One of the duties of leadership is the ability to effectively lead group discussions.
Every discussion is different, and being a successful leader requires you to adapt to your situation. To lead a group discussion effectively, you should read this article:
Use tools that promote discussion
Flip charts, white boards, and sticky notes are ideal. The nature of these tools makes them ideal for encouraging participation: a blank canvas, easy to erase or turn the page, and iterate.
Slides feel permanent and give the impression that there is nothing left to discuss. Occasionally, you may kick start a discussion with a few slides to set the context, but don’t overuse them.
Diverge first, then converge. And repeat as necessary
Your role as a discussion leader is complex and requires great mental tact.
A basic mistake made by discussion leaders is converging too early. Not only does this strategy carry the risk of missing a great idea, but it makes members tentative, fearing embarrassment for offering an opinion that may be immediately eliminated.
Instead, consider starting your session by brainstorming and letting the ideas flow without analysis and judgment. This encourages early participation and gets everyone involved. Later, with many ideas on the table, start narrowing the options together and concentrate on the best ideas.
Restate and summarize often
Make sure that your summary reflects the opinions expressed by your group; do not skew reality to push your agenda.
In short discussions, it is sufficient to summarize only at the end.
In long discussions, you should summarize at regular intervals. This allows you to naturally “close” one topic and move on to the next.
Be open-minded and curious
Be genuinely interested in hearing the opinions of others, and be open to changing any preconceptions you hold. You should ask questions sincerely. When someone gives a fresh idea, explore it completely, regardless of what your initial reaction might be.
Also, do not attempt to systematically convince everyone else in the room that you are always right.
When the discussion heats up, emotions may run high among participants. If you left unchecked, the atmosphere may begin to feel combative. Participants may start to dig in and entrench themselves in positions and forget about the common objectives.
You should help all participants understand and appreciate other perspectives.
Also, you should resist the temptation to “take sides” or pretend that you are the judge or referee. You need help all participants understand and appreciate the perspectives being offered by others. In addition, find the common ground which binds together different ideas and share these connections.
To succeed, draw upon classic public speaking skills. For instance, you should tell stories, make analogies, walk up and down the ladder of abstraction.
Beware negative language
As a leader, to lead a group discussion, you have great influence over the mood of the room. The words you choose and the non-verbal communication you exude are infectious, whether positive or negative.
Exhibit genuine positive emotions, such as happiness, excitement, curiosity, optimism, surprise, and thoughtfulness.
Besides, attempt to stifle negative emotions, such as anger, boredom, disappointment, disgust, indifference, hopelessness, or misery. This is not always easy, but you must try your best!
Record minutes as you go
If minutes are required for your discussion, it is your responsibility as the leader to warrant they are recorded. Do not attempt to do this yourself. You should delegate someone from the group to take minutes.
The moments when you summarize verbally are excellent opportunities to document the decisions you have reached. Each time you record a shared decision, it builds momentum for the group.
Stay on schedule
When the discussion is flowing, it is tempting to ignore the clock and let it flow. This is a dangerous habit. Schedule slips inevitably lead to unsatisfied objectives.
Sometimes, you need to be flexible and consciously reschedule on the flight. It is wiser to stick to the schedule. In a lengthy session, enforcing the schedule early sends a message to all participants that the schedule is “real” and not “just a guideline”.
Take care of your participants
Remember to take breaks at regular intervals. Because exhausted participants will tend to lose focus and become quiet.
Also, resolve problems with the environment as they occur. Act decisively.
Lead a group discussion is a huge part of leadership.
We believe that you did know the answer to “How can you keep the discussion steadily flowing productively at the right pace towards achieving your objectives?”