International Association of Facilitators
1999 Annual Meeting
Williamsburg, Virginia, USA

January 14-17, 1999

Thread #3: Teambuilding & Communication

Facilitation Skills in Group Dynamics

Sandy Dignes
Sandy Dignes and Associates
3561 Old Mountain View Drive
Lafayette, CA 94549 USA
(925) 284-8553


The facilitator’s role goes beyond facilitating to include understanding the dynamics of the group with which they are working. In this session we will focus on three aspects of how the individuals of the group influence the dynamics of the group as a whole. The first area we will look at is the various Myers-Briggs personality types and how they act and influence others in team settings. The next section will address different listening styles that the facilitator may use with the team in order to be sure that the individuals in the group feel heard and therefore are encouraged to participate. We will discuss four listening styles: paraphrasing, mirroring, drawing people out and making space. As we now may better understand the individuals in the group, it may make it easier to understand what listening skills are best to use with a specific personality type. Finally, we will also observe the individuals to discern their non-verbal messages that their body language is telling us. This may also better help us to be more aware of the dynamics of the group so that we can better facilitate the team to meet their needs.  


As a facilitator, one needs not only to understand the role of the facilitator and to know facilitation techniques, but also to understand group dynamics. A facilitator needs to operate on several levels at one time. Not only does one need to be listening to the content, but they also need to be engaged with the group as an observer of the individuals and the group as a whole. Being sensitive to silent group dynamics, the facilitator can better understand the whole and be better able to move the group forward. The discussion of group dynamics can be vast. In this session we will discuss a few elements of group dynamics: Myers-Briggs personality types in teams, some listening skills that will aid your ability as a facilitator to lead the group and finally a look at some nonverbal cues that your group members may be exhibiting.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator was developed by a Mother/Daughter team: Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers. It was based on Carl Jung’s work and their careful observation of a set of individuals over a period of time. It has been statistically validated and is one of the most widely used psychological tools. The MBTI is an inventory to help individuals understand their basic personality preferences. It looks at four areas of one’s personality: 1) where an individual gets their energy (Introversion or Extroversion), 2) how he or she gathers information (Sensing or iNtuition), 3) how one makes decisions (Thinking or Feeling), and 4) their lifestyle preference (Judging or Perceiving). Sixteen personality types result from combining these 4 preference scales. More specifically, to determine Introversion (I) or Extroversion(E), one looks at where they get their energy from whether it is from the inner world (I), or the outside world (E). If you use Sensing (S) to gather information, you gather it in a precise and exact manner. Those who are iNtuitive (N) gather information in a novel or inspired manner. In decision making a Thinking (T) person seeks general truths and objectivity. A Feeling (F) person seeks individual and interpersonal harmony when making decisions. Finally, the Judging (J) person likes to come to closure and act on the decision. The Perceiving (P) person prefers to remain open and adapt to new information. It is best to understand your own type before trying to understand others. Therefore, in the session we will spend a few minutes reviewing a set of questions for each preference for the individuals to make an informal assessment of their type. For those who are interested in a more formal assessment, there is a pencil and paper inventory that can be taken. These are available from qualified MBTI professionals who are usually career development professionals or therapists.

MBTI in Team Settings

Research has shown that teams with similar personality types will understand each other sooner and reach decisions faster, but that there may be errors because there was inadequate representation from all viewpoints. In a team where opposites on all four preferences are represented there may be problems in achieving understanding. However, those teams who appreciate differences may have less conflicts. In addition, if there is one person on a team who is the only representative of a preference, they may be seen as "different". Now we will look at the sixteen types to see how they behave in a team setting. This will only be a look at a few of their behaviors that may show up in group facilitation work, but hopefully this will give you an idea of the personality types that are in your group and their team behavior . We will look at the sixteen types in groups of four represented by the two middle letters.

ST: Focuses on data collected by senses.

Uses impersonal analysis of data to reason logically from cause to effect







Being open to facts

Expressing ideas that blend and integrate varied viewpoints

Being too task focused and losing the overall meaning


Using a quiet, indirect authority

Sharing opinions and experience when asked

Being picky about specifics



Articulating the problem, gathering opinions, offering alternatives, summarizing, and making a decision that works

Being enthusiastic, logical and nonjudgmental toward others suggestions

Acting too quickly and relying on improvisation


Defining and clarifying issues, goals, problems, and purposes

Displaying high energy and commitment

Taking over


SF: Focuses on data collected by senses.

Is sympathetic and makes decisions based on values







Being thorough, organized, and task oriented; paying close attention to pace and closure

Resolving issues one-on-one or outside the team meeting

Being too serious or exacting


Listening to all ideas, persuading dissidents to comply, and gaining overall support for the solution

Subtly generating ideas and allowing others to pursue them

Being too nice too often


Starting the process and summarizing the decisions made

Getting others excited, motivated, and energized

Using too much humor; being seen as having too much fun


Working to achieve consensus and closure by following the agenda and honoring time commitments

Using persuasive arguments that take others’ feelings into account

Talking an issue to death


NF: Focuses on what might be, not on what is

Is sympathetic and makes decisions based on values







Developing the overview or "big picture"

Compromising easily unless there is a conflict with personal values

Stubbornly sticking to an idea


Eliciting group consensus to facilitate goals and closure

Encouraging other to look at new possibilities

Being overly perfectionistic or idealistic


Democratically soliciting everyone’s opinions, listening carefully, and negotiating any differences

Presenting positive alternatives for consideration

Talking too much or randomly interjecting ideas


Facilitating goal accomplishment through cooperation and consideration of all opinions

Calling attention to the process as well as the content

Appearing "bossy" or doing too much for others


NT: Focuses on what might be, not on what is

Uses impersonal analysis of data to reason logically from cause to effect







Helping team define, decide on, and accomplish its purpose

persuading through clear thinking, argumentation, logic, observation, and suggestions

Being single-minded in the pursuit of a task or objective


Providing options so that decisions can be made by majority or consensus

Using logic and reason

Constantly finding flaws or forgetting to consider other’s opinions


Generating ideas

questioning and critiquing various possibilities

Stealing the show


Providing models to enhance understanding and completion

Using straightforward logic

Overpowering and overcontrolling the team


Listening Skills

Another competence that a facilitator needs to employ is the ability to use listening skills. It is extremely valuable to use these skills when brainstorming with the group. The individuals feel that there ideas have been validated, and this in turn encourages others to participate. There are four listening skills that we will cover in this session: paraphrasing, drawing people out, mirroring and making space.

Paraphrasing is repeating back to the speaker what they have said using your own words. This is especially useful in synthesizing a large amount of information.

Mirroring is repeating the speaker’s exact words back to them. Some people need this kind of accuracy in order to feel heard. If the facilitator has paraphrased, but the speaker seems frustrated, mirroring may work best for this individual.

Drawing people out helps those individuals who are having difficulty in getting their ideas out. The facilitator encourages the speaker by adding open-ended questions such as, "and…", "what do you mean by…", "so…". The facilitator can also ask questions of the speaker such as, "can you say more about that?"

Making space invites quiet individuals to participate. As a facilitator, you will be observing all members of the team. If you notice that there are some individuals who have not participated, or whose body language indicates that they want to participate, you can call on the individual and create an opening for them by asking if they have a thought that they would like to share with the team. Another approach is to go around the room one at a time, giving each individual a chance to participate. The key to this approach is not to put unwanted pressure on someone to participate.

Body Language 

Body language often speaks as loudly about how the individual is feeling as does their words. By observing the participant’s body language, the facilitator can be attentive to addressing the individual’s needs or feelings that may be unspoken.

Interrupting gestures: We are trained in childhood to raise our hand in school when we want to speak. This transfers into adulthood with ear tugging, carrying the index finger to the lips, or flicking hand upwards and then let the hand fall down again. Acknowledging interrupt gestures will make the listener feel that you are a great listener.

Relaxed aggressiveness: Usually used by males - leaning back with hands behind the head. This person is in the drivers seat and sure of himself.

Confidence: Steepling the fingers by matching finger tips. Research has shown that the more important an executive is, the higher he holds his hands in a steeple position. Women tend to hold the steeple position in their laps or at belt level when standing.

Cooperation and attentiveness: Tilting head, leaning forward and sitting on the edge of the chair (if accompanied by other cooperative gestures. Maintaining eye contact, looking upward, resting chin on hands, and leaning back in one’s chair are signs of attentiveness


Hirsh, Sandra Krebs. Introduction to Type and Teams. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc., 1992.

Kaner, Sam. Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making. Philidelphia, PA: New Society Publishers, 1996.

Nierenberg, Gerald I. and Henry H.Calero. How to Read a Person Like a Book. New York, NY: Pocket Books, 1971.

The Presenter

Sandy Dignes is the principal and founder of Sandy Dignes and Associates, a professional facilitation firm. Ms. Dignes started her career in facilitation 10 years ago at Pacific Bell through internal training and extensive work with he concept of Total Quality Management (TQM). She has since completed extensive professional facilitation coursework. Her company now helps teams in brainstorming, problem analysis and consensus management. Her current area of specialization is working with Information Systems project teams in the areas of project design and risk assessment. Ms. Dignes is a member of the International Association of Facilitators and was part of the core planning team for the 1998 IAF Annual Conference. She is also a member of the National Association of Female Executives. Ms. Dignes received her M.B.A. from Golden Gate University and holds a M.S. from the University of Rhode Island. Her B.S. is from the University of New Hampshire. In addition, she is a qualified Myers-Briggs Practitioner. Sandy’s clients include Hewlett Packard, IBM and Pacific Bell. She has presented workshops at the Women’s Business Conference, the Junior League of the Oakland-East Bay Inc., and the R&D Strategies Conference sponsored by the Institute for International Research.