How to Run a Group

Here are some suggestions about what works in creating and facilitating groups. The ideal group size is 6-8 members, but certainly you can have this work with just two people, or 20. Many groups start with just 2-3 members, and then add others as time goes on.

As you want the meeting to be focused and productive, and as some people may share very intimately, it’s best to set it up so that children are not present.

It is important to meet regularly, ideally once each week, to create constancy and generate momentum. If you have to meet less frequently, you can still set up brief conference calls to stay in communication.  Everyone should commit to attending at least 10 meetings.

The first meeting is the most important. At this meeting, you’ll set structure and guidelines for all future meetings.  Ideally you would schedule the next 10 meetings in advance.

Initial Meeting
Lay out ground rules.  This will only works if everyone keeps their commitments and operates with a high degree of integrity. One person slacking off, not doing the reading or the exercises, showing up late to meetings or missing meetings, etc., significantly impacts the integrity of the entire group. Commit to keep agreements.  Agree to keep everything discussed in these meetings confidential. Agree to switch the Facilitator role each week.

Lay out what you’ll do each week.  E.g., each week everyone agrees to:

  1. Read one chapter of From Intuition to Entrepreneurship and do the exercise in the chapter.
  2. Come prepared to share about the exercise and to request any support.
  3. Make agreements about what you’ll do by next time.
  4. Complete any agreements you made to the group last time.

Facilitator should record everyone’s agreements. Acknowledge each other.

Each Subsequent Meeting
The agenda for each subsequent meeting might be as follows:

9:00 – 9:10     Socialize, catch up, stragglers arrive.
9:10 – 9:15     Facilitator reads the Meeting Introduction.*
9:15 – 10:15   Review agreements made at the last meeting and make agreements for next time.**
10:15 – 10:30  Address requests for special support.***  Acknowledge each other.

*Start this part of the meeting on time, whether or not everyone is present. This will encourage people to be on time to future meetings. The first 15 minutes is also a good time for people to communicate, with the intention of letting go, any issues or feelings that might otherwise keep them from being present.

Meeting Introductions:
General Guidelines for Facilitating Support Group Meetings

At the start of each meeting, Facilitator should briefly cover the following points.

  1. Unless otherwise stated, everything discussed in these meetings is confidential.
  2. Please keep storytelling to a minimum. When you are speaking, please speak to forward the action.
  3. Don’t be critical – focus on the positive. Speak from your own, non-omniscient perspective and use “I messages” when speaking to other members.  E.g., instead of, “That’s a bad idea” you can say, “I feel that that’s a bad idea.”
  4. Don’t give unsolicited advice.  Let each person ask for what they need.
  5. Request a facilitator for next week. Try not to have the same person facilitating two weeks in a row.
  6. Remind each other that the success of the group depends on everyone’s integrity.  Acknowledge everyone that is there. If there are any integrity issues (e.g., people habitually arriving late or missing meetings, people speaking omnisciently, people spending too much time storytelling, etc., address it.).
  7. Ask if anyone would like extra time at the end of the meeting.

**Divide the hour by the number of people.  For example, if there are 6 members, everyone gets 10 minutes. Facilitator watches the clock.  Facilitator says to the first person, “Jane, last week you said you’d read Chapter 4 and do the exercise. Did you do that?”

If not, Facilitator asks the question, “What did you make more important than keeping that agreement?” and let her answer.

If so, Facilitator asks the question, “What did you get out of reading the chapter and doing the exercise?”

Facilitator then asks what agreements she’d like to make for next week. Then ask her if she needs any support.  If she says, “Yes, I’d like someone to call me midweek and check that I’m on track” then Facilitator has someone from the group (or herself), commit to calling Jane (which, itself is another type of agreement).  Facilitator for next week records all agreements.

***The last 15 minutes are resolved for special support or discussion. Someone may wish to discuss a particular problem she’s having, or something about which she’s particularly excited.  Note, it’s important for the Facilitator to keep these conversations purposeful. If you let people ramble on with their stories. (“When I woke up this morning, I had a headache.  I hate headaches, don’t you.  Blah blah blah.”)  If this happens too often, you’ll lose people.  The purpose of the group is to provide support. Now, in some cases, support might just be acknowledgment. Or it could be, “I just need you to hear this and ‘get me’ – feel my pain, etc.” Or it could be to provide advice and guidance.  Whatever the support that’s desired, the person speaking should be clear that what’s she’s requesting, so the group knows how to respond. And it’s the Facilitator’s job to ensure the person speaking is clear about what support she’s looking for.

How to Form a Group

Structure, Purpose and Intended Results of Support Groups

How to Find New Members

How to Run a Group