Tips For Preparing For And Leading A Discussion

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“Good teaching requires courage — the courage to expose one’s ignorance as well as insight, to invite contradiction as well as consent, to yield some control in order to empower the group, to evoke other people’s lives as well as reveal one’s own.” – Parker J. Palmer

Your primary role as the discussion leader is to get your team talking about why and how certain Harvard ManageMentor conceptsapply to your team. As the discussion leader, your task is not so much to teach participants as it is to encourage learning through the sharing of experiences, challenges, questions, and points of view. You will likely find that you are also a member of the learning group, since leaders often learn as much from their team as the team learns from them. The following tips are intended to help youprepare for this unique role.

Tips for preparing for the discussion



1. Review the topic and guide: To prepare for the discussion, review the Harvard ManageMentor topic and the accompanying discussion guide. The discussion guide offers questions for leading the discussion and responses to look for during the discussion.

2. Reflect on your audience and customize: Consider tailoring thequestions in the guide to meet any specific preferences or challenges of your team.

3. Consider pairing up: Consider pairing up with a peer manager to co-lead the discussion for your combined teams. This can make leading the discussion somewhat easier, and each team can benefit from insights and questions from the other team.

4. Sharpen your perspective: Prior to the discussion, reflect on yourown perspectives regarding the concepts to be discussed. Although you’ll be encouraging participants to share their perspectives during the discussion, you can lead by providing insight into the importance and effectiveness of certain ideas and how the ideas apply to your team.

5. Identify relevant stories and examples: Sharing examples or stories from your experience during the discussioncan be very powerful. They are very memorable and can bring audiences closer to the reality of how certain concepts apply to them. Consider preparing a story or two ahead of time that draws a connection between the discussion topics and your experiences.

6. Identify the time and location for the discussion: Select an appropriate meeting time and location, and confirm availability of space and anyneeded equipment. Consider holding a discussion during a portion of a team meeting or even over lunch. Also, please note that although PowerPoint slides are provided for your use during the discussion, the slides are not required. Many leaders find having an informal conversation with their team around a conference table with no slides can be an effective way to discuss the concepts.

7. Tailoryour invitation: You can tailor the accompanying sample e-mail text as needed to fit your situation.



Tips for leading the discussion

When leading the discussion, you will likely leverage a combination of probing questions, effective listening techniques, and encouraging responses to stimulate and guide the discussion.

Questioning:

• Use the questions in the discussion guide, aswell as any of your own design, to lead the discussion. The questions invite different perspectives, encourage analysis, and help participants think about how the concepts apply to their situation.

• Ensure that participants do more talking than you do. Remember that the best learning occurs when the participants are involved in dialogue and are allowed to reach their own conclusions.

• Ifyour team seems stuck on a question, summarize the group’s opinion(s) and move on to the next question in the guide.

• To stimulate discussion or steer the conversation to certain key points, consider using a variety of the following questioning techniques during the discussion:

o To encourage more analysis, ask: “Why?” “Could you say a little more about that?” “Why is that...
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