How To Successfully Facilitate Discussion at Work

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated December 14, 2021 | Published January 29, 2021

Updated December 14, 2021

Published January 29, 2021

A big part of effective collaboration in the workplace is open discussion. When team members have the freedom and willingness to share their ideas, there is a lot to learn from one another. Both managers and employees play a crucial role in establishing quality discussions at work. In this article, we explain how to facilitate discussion in a professional setting and offer some tips for success.

Related: How To Increase Collaboration in the Workplace

Why is it important to facilitate discussion at work?

Facilitating discussion at work is important for the following reasons:

Exchange of ideas

An active discussion can lead to more brainstorming and collaboration in the workplace. When everyone feels welcome to share their ideas and opinions, there is much more information to work with. Likewise, when a diverse group of people has a successful discussion, there is a lot to learn from each other's unique backgrounds.

Inclusive work environment

Rather than letting one person take over a discussion, managers and employees can give everyone else a chance to speak. By setting precedence where everyone must come to a meeting or discussion ready to share something, people may grow more comfortable speaking up. This opens opportunities for a much more inclusive and cohesive atmosphere at work.

Thoughtful innovations

When only a few people are participating in a discussion, they may overlook certain aspects of a project. By including more voices in the conversation, companies can be more socially aware and culturally sensitive.

Meaningful meetings

While it is useful the have silent pauses throughout meetings, it is also important to keep the conversation moving. By having strategies to facilitate discussion, people may be more willing to add to each other's ideas.

Better connections

When employees can discuss ideas and collaborate, they tend to form stronger connections with each other. This is an important part of increasing employee morale and a commitment to the success of the company.

How to facilitate discussion

Follow these steps to facilitate better discussions:

1. Act as a guide

When you are leading a discussion, it's important to offer your team support and guidance. Rather than completely controlling the conversation, make an effort to keep the conversation going and encourage participation. If you notice there are pauses in the conversation, give your team a moment to think things through. If the conversation is at a standstill, bring up a new point or ask thoughtful open-ended questions.

Related: How To Facilitate a Productive Meeting

2. Provide a clear structure

Before a group meeting, set some guidelines for your discussion. If you want everyone to participate, ask that they spend some time brainstorming ideas before the meeting. You could even let them know what kind of things you plan to discuss at the meeting.

Along with setting expectations, decide what kind of discussion structure you want. Here are a few ideas you can choose from:

  • Break-out groups: Separate your team members into smaller groups. This allows them to share their ideas in a more intimate setting. After some time, all the groups can come back together to share what they discussed.

  • Round robin: Go around the table and give everyone a chance to speak. This kind of structure is ideal for meetings where you gave your team some time to prepare a few ideas.

  • Free-for-all: Anyone can speak up whenever they want. This is ideal for initial brainstorming sessions.

Related: Encourage Participation in Team Meetings With This Agenda

3. Start with ice breakers

While some people enjoy sharing their ideas in front of others, some people may be more apprehensive. By helping your team members get to know one another better, you may be able to help shy employees feel more comfortable speaking during discussions.

Consider starting your discussion with a few ice breaker questions. Discussing fun or silly topics can help everyone loosen up and feel ready to have a real conversation. Here are a few ice breaker questions to get you started:

  • What did everyone do this weekend?

  • What is one thing you all are looking forward to?

  • Where is your dream vacation destination?

  • Share one hobby that you enjoy.

  • What is your all-time favorite movie?

  • If you could suddenly develop any skill, what would it be?

  • What is the top item on your bucket list?

  • What are your current goals?

Related: 12 Icebreaker Ideas for Small Groups

4. Come up with a few points to share

As a discussion leader, you need to have a general outline of the discussion prepared. This way, you can ensure the conversation continues to move forward. If no one else volunteers to speak first, have a few ideas that you can share with your team.

5. Praise positive behaviors

When you notice that your team is fluidly sharing their ideas and building on what one another has to say, make sure you offer them praise at the end of your discussion. By identifying what you liked about the discussion, your team members can learn what they should do during your next discussion.

6. Take notes

As people are speaking, make a point to write down some main ideas people shared. Highlight what ideas led to further conversation and what didn't move forward. Keeping track of the discussion may be helpful when you meet with your team again. This way, you can pick back up where you left off and avoid discussing the same things again.

7. Share the main ideas

Share a summary of what you all discussed at the end of your conversation. Having a recap can help everyone remember what you discussed and what you still need to talk about in the future. At the end of your discussion, work as a group to decide what you need to do next.

Consider typing up a document that you can share with the rest of your team after the meeting. In the document, include a plan of action for the next time you all meet. You may even want to include a few questions the team left unanswered.

Related: 45 Quotes on Team Work To Foster Healthy Collaboration

Tips for facilitating discussion

Use these tips when you are in charge of leading a discussion:

Be respectful of others

Even if you don't necessarily agree with someone's ideas, it's important to treat them with respect. Try to be a professional and polite role model throughout the course of your discussion. If you notice someone is focusing too much on one topic, subtly shift the conversation to a different one.

Encourage everyone to speak

When leading a discussion, make sure everyone has enough time to share their ideas. Make it clear that everyone needs to give the speaker their undivided attention. Before you start speaking, make sure the other person fully finished their thought.

Ask questions

One important aspect of active listening is asking follow-up questions after someone is done speaking. Try to think of questions that can help your team expand upon their ideas. Likewise, questions are a great way to learn more details and determine if an idea makes sense for your company.

Related: 75 Creative Team-Building Questions To Build Trust at Work

Allow for silence

Moments of silence can be helpful for an effective conversation. When there are pauses in the conversation, give your team a chance to think through a question or problem. If the silence goes on for a while, consider asking your team additional questions or rephrase what you already said.

Solve conflict with logic

If an argument arises among participants, try to solve the issue by referencing available information and data. Likewise, you can consult another person who might be an expert on the subject matter. If someone is on the losing side of the argument, focus on moving the conversation forward instead of dwelling on their error.

Know when disagreement is useful

Another thing to keep in mind is that disagreement doesn't always have to lead to conflict. When colleagues disagree with one another's ideas, this can lead to a more thorough analysis of a certain topic. If someone says they disagree with an idea, allow them to explain their point of view. Overall, make sure to help your team come to some kind of mutual understanding even if they don't fully agree on something.

Limit distractions

When everyone is having a discussion, ask that everyone turns off their cell phones and other notifications. You can also create a distraction-free environment by choosing a quiet meeting room that's away from other employees.

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