Benefits of a Regroup or Timeout

Benefits of a Regroup or Timeout

Learning Objective: Understand how and when to use a regrouping strategy when facilitating an activity.

Experiential activities are a great way to challenge groups to work through novel situations that mirror real life scenarios. It’s important to remember that these activities are not meant to be inherently simple or easy. It might be uncomfortable for you to watch your group struggle or even fail, but it is your role as a facilitator to help guide them through these conflicts not protect your team from them. It is important for groups to experience tension and frustration together, it’s a natural part of the Storming stage of the Group Development Model, and effectively working through these conflicts is what builds high performing teams. However, if these feelings are prolonged, go unaddressed, unfairly target certain individuals, or inhibit the group’s ability to make progress, it may be time to regroup.  

Before intervening in an activity make sure to ask yourself these things:

  1. Am I intervening because I really don’t want my group to fail?
  2. Am I intervening because I feel uncomfortable?
  3. Am I intervening because I’m impatient?

If you can answer ‘yes’ to any or all of these questions, it’s probably better to leave the group to work though the activity on their own and you can discuss your observations during the debrief. Remember conflict can be constructive!

If you answered ‘no’, then it might be a good time for the group to take a quick ‘working’ break. Here are some good times to take a timeout:

  • If your group seems ‘stuck’
    • What this might look like:
      • The group is taking too much time to complete the activity
      • The group has tried the same strategy repeatedly without making much progress
      • Members of the group appear visibly overwhelmed or defeated
    • Facilitator strategy: Ideation
    • Questions to ask your group:
      • What is challenging about this activity?
      • What people/skills/ or tools do we have as a group that can help us to solve this problem?
      • What are three new strategies or ideas that we haven’t tried yet?
    • If your group is still struggling, you may want to relax some of the rules, or simplify the activity.
  • If your group gets too far off track from the objective
    • What this might look like:
      • The group is not following instructions
      • One or two members of the group have hijacked the activity
      • Members of the group are confused or lost
    • Facilitator strategy: Redirection
    • Questions to ask your group:
      • What is the goal of this activity?
      • How near or far do you think we are from our objective? Why might that be?
      • What can we do as a group to get back on track?
  • If your group is resisting the experience
    • What this might look like:
      • The group is disinterested in participating
      • The group is asking more questions than taking action, even after you have provided clarification
      • The group has low energy
    • Facilitator strategy: Relational
    • Questions to ask your group:
      • What’s working? What’s not working?
      • Why do you think we do activities like this?
      • When have people not responded/ participated in the past with our group? How has that affected our success?
  • If your group is in-fighting
    • What this might look like:
      • The group is not following Groundrules
      • Negative feedback between group members may be escalating
      • Groups may dissolve into placing blame, arguing, yelling etc instead of strategizing or taking action
    • Facilitator strategy: Timeout
    • Questions to ask your group:
      • One word check in: How are each of you feeling about this activity right now? About our group members?
      • Why might this activity be challenging for our group right now?
      • What does ‘success’ look like in this activity?
      • What is the best possible thing that can happen if we are successful? What is the worst possible thing that can happen if we fail?
    • Deep breaths and stretching/ ‘shaking it out’ go a long way!
    • If your group is still experiencing ‘in-fighting’, give them one final attempt to the complete the activity and then have them walk away from it, no matter the outcome. Make sure to discuss in a thorough debrief.
  • If the activity is too easy for your group
    • What this might look like:
      • The group is completing the activity ahead of schedule
      • The group did not experience any trial and error
      • The group is boastful/ arrogant  
    • Facilitation strategy: Challenger
    • Strategies to use:
      • Celebrate how well your group is doing
      • Then, make the activity more challenging: blindfold participants, no talking, time to beat, add obstacles, etc.
      • Most activities have variations, give one a try!