Running a Successful Group

We’ve learned a lot about what makes for a successful group experience. Members who take their participation seriously and do what it takes to get their needs met have the most success. Some members prefer to form groups with people who share certain lifestyle issues or situations — moms with small children, business owners, or empty nesters. Others prefer to be part of a more diverse group. The size of the group is important too. Experience has shown that the most productive and effective groups have 6 to 8 members. However you’ll want to get started as soon as you have one other person and then add people as they show up.

Since the intention is to create community and to stay in action, it’s important for your group to meet regularly. Weekly is best, biweekly is next to best, and monthly works well when you buddy up with someone you can check in with by phone every week. Commitment is the key to success. If you decide to start a group, have members make a commitment to attend for at least three months, and schedule these meetings in advance to make planning easy and to demonstrate your commitment to the group.

Follow Smart Group Guidelines

The following guidelines not only help create a safe place for a productive and enjoyable meeting, they help to eliminate the kind of habits that quickly dissolve a group. I recommend that you review the following guidelines at the start of every meeting:

  1. Commit to Confidentiality. Everything that is said at a Life Makeover Group™ meeting is strictly confidential.
  2. Give Everyone Equal Time. Be sure that each person has a chance to speak. While there may certainly be times when a member needs extra attention, it’s important to prevent members from continuously dominating the conversation. This is the one problem that I’ve seen ruin a group quicker than any other. To ensure that everyone gets equal time, use a timer or an alarm clock to keep members on track. Make sure that it sounds an alarm when time is up. Remember that your meeting should be focused on action not social chitchat.
  3. Don’t be critical or give unsolicited advice. Let each person ask for what they need.
  4. Share Facilitation. Have someone new facilitate your meetings each time you meet to prevent the group from having a “boss.” This is also important for those members who have a tendency to get caught up in the “teacher” role and end up not getting the support they need. Too often a member who needs the most support is the one who will take on the caretaker role of the group. Avoid this tendency by rotating leadership.
  5. Focus on the positive. Put the attention on what works. Look for and acknowledge a member’s strengths. Keep complaining and whining to a minimum — one minute or less (we all need to do it sometimes). If someone continuously comes to a meeting complaining or crying about the same problem without taking action to remedy the situation, this may be an indication that the member needs therapy or some other kind of individual support. Do this member a favor and be honest. Have someone from the group contact the person privately and offer to help them get the support they need. Don’t let a fellow member suffer by being “nice.” Tell the truth.
  6. Speak from your own experience. Use the word “I” not “you” when speaking to other members.
  7. Honor the group. Hold a regular “check-in” meeting to be sure that all members are satisfied with how the meetings are run. Tell the truth about how you feel (gracefully, of course). You might also check in at the end of each meeting, once a month, or once a quarter. If there is a problem, address it immediately! For example, if someone talks too much or ignores group guidelines by gossiping, you need to honor your group by telling the truth.

Group Facilitation

There are many formats you can use to run a successful group meeting. Some groups are working with the books (Stand Up for Your Life, Life Makeovers and Take Time for Your Life), while other groups have formed around a particular subject. For example, a popular topic is money. Readers are using Chapter Four in Take Time for Your Life (Invest in Your Financial Health) to help each other improve their finances.

Meeting Format

  1. Negotiate equal time for each member.
  2. Review group guidelines.
  3. Start with 15 minutes of success stories, catch up, or letting go of anything that might prevent you from being fully present.
  4. Begin the group discussion. The first person might talk about their reactions to a chapter, the homework they’ve completed, or the places where they got stuck. Allow the first person to speak without interruption for the allotted time. When finished, allow this member to ask for feedback and/or support from others. Challenge them to be specific!
  5. Commit to homework for the next meeting.
  6. Move on to the next person.
  7. Needs/Resources – When each member has had a chance to be fully heard, open the meeting and allow members to ask for and receive any additional help. For example, a member might need a supportive phone call before taking a difficult action, or contact information that will allow him or her to move forward.