First, a decision must be made as to whether or not a group is the appropriate vehicle for dealing with the conflict at hand. Is there a less costly way, in term of time, money and raised expectations, to obtain the desired results than convening a group? Second, if a meeting is warranted, then a specific assessment must be made concerning the status of the issue with which the group must deal. What are the responsibilities of the group with reference to this issue? This assessment and an answer to this question regarding group responsibility will further clarify the function of the group meeting.
Where is the group right now with regard to resolution of this issue? The answer to this question should tell one whether the meeting is primarily concerned with the management of a conflict or if it is primarily concerned with information sharing, problem solving or decision-making. Can the issue be resolved through the sharing of more information? Then an information-sharing meeting should be convened. If sufficient information is available, but the central issue is not clear, then the group should be conflict-focused. If the issue is clear and the group has effectively addressed the underlying conflict, then the group should focus on an appropriate and feasible solution to the problem embedded in this issue. If the solution has already been found, then the group is ready to come to a decision regarding how action will be taken to implement this solution
Conflict-Management and Leadership
The key concept in all forms of appreciative group facilitation is freeing the communication of group members. As a group leader, one should attempt to increase the autonomy of all group members and increase their sense of equality. One does this as a leader by encouraging group members to increase their understanding of the ideas of other group members and to share this understanding with these group members. To accomplish this, an appreciative group leader should make extensive use of paraphrase and encourage active attentive listening, which involves responsive listening, not just silence. In addition, the appreciative leader will seek out information to help her better understand other members of the group. She will primarily ask questions that are directly relevant to what the other person has said, rather then asking many questions that introduce new topics. The appreciative leader should also show her desire to relate to and understand other group members by checking out her own perception of the thoughts and feelings of these members and by showing acceptance of these feelings.
The appreciative leader should complement this concern for other group members by sharing personal thoughts and feelings about the issues facing the group. An effective group leader also will encourage members to understand each other’s thoughts and feelings by asking them to share information that has influenced their feelings and viewpoints. They also encourage group members to directly report on rather than just express their own feelings, and to offer alternative solutions to the issues being addressed. In an appreciative group, action proposals are hypotheses to be tested, rather than being fragile treasures to be protected against the competitive and insensitive assault of other group members.