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How to foster thriving connections in your small group

Gifts from the Edge Podcast
Gifts from the Edge Podcast

August 17, 2023

Small group dynamics can be hard to manage!

It seems so simple. A small bunch of people gathered in a room, having a respectful conversation. Is that really so difficult?

Anyone who has attempted to facilitate a small group space, knows that small groups are (ahem) ‘challenging’ at best. 😊

There are dominant talkers. There are passive non-contributors. There are over-sharers, tangent-takers, critics and judges. And then some just walk away or don't show up at all, because it’s all too overwhelming.

Most of the time, a leaders response is to turn their small group into a mini lecture - to control the space using their position. This is a mistake, IF you want your small group to be a place that fosters authentic human connection, learning, and ultimately change.

I’ve been running small groups for more than 20 years - and it’s been a battle sometimes - but in the last decade I’ve learned some powerful strategies for creating respectful, harmonious, engaging spaces where life-changing conversations can take place.

There are 2 ends of the spectrum when we're looking at 'conversational dynamics'.

Most people are used to operating in one-on-one conversations, where the aim is to be heard and understood. Most people know how to do this well. They take turns and make turns and connection can take place - BUT one-on-one is slooowww... if you're trying to make big social impact in your community.

The alternative is the lecture-style framework - where you speak, and they don't. They listen. This reaches a lot of people at once, BUT it's passive. Participants are often not highly engaged.

The small group exist somewhere in between these 2 extremes, however participants usually haven't had a lot of exposure to healthy small-group dynamics, and so they suck at it! - until they learn the skills to contribute to a positive culture. A good leader needs to show them HOW to get there if they want to reap the win/win benefits of small groups.

So, how do we create spaces where people take turns and contribute, but then make turns, listen to others, AND also tune in to the themes of the conversation, raising their awareness to hear the ‘collective voice’ of the group?

In this episode of the podcast I’m going to unpack 3 different insights that I have learned over my years successfully running small groups…

  1. The Triangle and The Circle - 2 social structures that, when we become aware of them, can change the way we do business with one another.

  2. The Perceptual Positions - a mental framework for understanding different ways of being in a conversation

  3. Understanding the relationship between Leadership and Culture - Edgar Schein says that Leadership and Culture are flip sides of the same coin. How can YOU become a better leader?

You can get a better understanding of the Perceptual Positions in my Mindset Training program - Dangerous Minds.

If you’d like to talk more about some specific strategies that you can use in your small group - be it a family, a home-group, a classroom, or a business team - give me a call. I’d love to help.


This episode is proudly sponsored by the Dangerous Minds course

Dangerous Minds Course


Links mentioned in this episode:


"The answers you need are never very far away - you just need to know the right questions to ask."

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