What are some best practices you know of that ensure a positive flow of conversation during group meetings and discussions? What can be imporved upon to have better, more constuctive conversations?
30 to 50 minutes
- Five large sheets of paper numbered 1 to 5
- Paper plates or construction paper
- Distribute a marker and 10 plates to each participant. Display the following words and phrases on a flip chart and ask the participants to write one word or phrase on each plate. Be sure that each participant prints large enough to be read by everyone in a small group. These are remarks people make in a board setting which have to do with the way business is being conducted.
- Slow down
- Express opinions
- Check agreement
- Check understanding
- Focus on agenda
- Divide participants into groups of 6-10 and assign each a topic to discuss. Possible topics include:
- Developing a project for the organization.
- Participating in a fundraiser.
- Planning a board retreat.
- Naming important qualities of trustees.
- Discussing meaning of the common good.
- Note, there are two aspects involved in any group discussion: (1) the task or what the group is working on and (2) the process or how the group is working on the task. The pie plates have different process comments that can be made to help keep a group productive and moving along. Instruct each small group to discuss an assigned topic. Participants will use the “road signs” to make comments on the group process during the discussion. When they see the need to make a process comment, they simply hold up the plate so all group members can see their comments. If they have a process comment that is not included in the activity, they can write their comment on a blank plate and then hold it up.
After 10 minutes of small group discussion, ask small groups to discuss the following:
- How did you feel holding up your road sign?
- Did the signs change the group’s process?
- What new signs were added or could have been added?
- What are the most important road signs a group should remember?
After 5 minutes of small group discussions, bring everyone back together to finish processing as a full group. Stress the importance of making process comments. In the best groups, everyone, not just the leader, pays attention to group process and makes process comments.