Thursday, June 22, 2023

Techniques of Teaching : Course Opening Technique 4: Don’t forget to choose the “Leader”


In my previous writings on opening techniques 1-2-3, I realized that I forgot to mention a crucial aspect of team motivation - "selecting a group leader."

If the course involves team collaboration and relies on team motivation throughout the day, then the role of the group leader becomes extremely important. When giving instructions, it's essential for each group to have a point person who can relay information effectively. However, there are some tips and tricks to select a group leader at the beginning of the training. Let's take a look at two methods that may lead to failure:

Method likely failed

Voluntary-based: "Is there anyone willing to take on the role of group leader?" This approach might result in an immediate icy silence and awkwardness in the room!

Discussion-based: "Let's discuss and decide who would be the most suitable group leader." However, at the beginning of the training, when participants are unfamiliar with each other (such as cross-departmental or public classes), it becomes challenging to generate meaningful discussions and can lead to a prolonged deadlock.

You might be wondering, "If neither volunteers nor discussions work, what should we do then?" Well, worry not! Even when it comes to selecting group leaders in professional settings, there are optimized methods. Allow me to share two commonly used techniques.

Teacher Assignment: "Please exchange opinions within your groups. The person who lives farthest from here/has the longest hair/is the tallest will be the group leader for today! Group leaders, please stand up!"

This method is quick and allows participants to exchange information, fostering better familiarity within the group. However, when teachers make the assignment, not all participants may be pleased, and some information (such as age) could be sensitive, so careful consideration should be given when selecting criteria.

Method likely to be Successful

One method that I frequently use is as follows:

Finger Comparison: "The role of the group leader is crucial today. When I mention the group leader, I want everyone to extend their fingers and point to the person you consider the group leader in your heart. Remember to compare within your own group and not with others (laughs). Alright, please extend your fingers. Who is the group leader? (Comparison). Will the group leader please stand up?"

Once familiar with this method, it yields excellent results and generates laughter. Remember to ask the group leader to stand up. You will likely notice that a few groups might struggle to reach a consensus (with varying finger comparisons). In such cases, the teacher can intervene by saying, "I won't get involved in political disputes. Let's quickly establish a consensus... Group leader, please stand up." Since other groups already have someone standing, the teacher can apply some pressure to the hesitant group leader, encouraging them to stand up promptly. If it becomes challenging to choose a leader, the teacher can make an assignment and ask someone to stand up.


After selecting the group leader, it is essential to perform a ritualized action to affirm their role and have the team acknowledge them as the leader. A simple applause for the group leader is quite cliché! I prefer to make it more energetic, like this:

"The group leader will be serving all of you throughout the day, so I need everyone to cheer them on. When I say so, please give your group leader a high-five and say, 'Go, group leader!' and the group leader should respond with 'Got it.' Let me demonstrate with one person first." (At this point, the group leader is still standing, and the teacher walks towards one group leader to demonstrate). "Alright, now everyone, let's cheer on your group leader!" (Background music plays, and the teacher gives the signal to cheer).

Next, everyone stands up and high-fives their group leader! The atmosphere becomes lively and joyful, and the tension starts to melt away. This is the kind of scene that the facilitator delights in witnessing!

Keep reading to discover more techniques to enhance team dynamics and engagement.

Unexpected Responsibilities for Group Leaders

After selecting the group leader, everyone is usually quite happy, except for the group leader, who may feel a bit of pressure and unhappiness because they don't know what comes next. Therefore, it's crucial to put the group leader at ease.

"Group leaders, you've done a great job. Before we start the course, I want to inform the group leaders of their one and only task for today... which is to assign someone to come up on stage! Whenever I say, 'Group leader, please designate someone to come up on stage,' the group leader doesn't need to say anything; they just need to point with their hand! The designated person will then come up on stage!" (At this point, the group leaders will all chuckle!)


In addition to the two methods mentioned above, there are other creative approaches that can be used, such as using playing cards, numbering or coloring handouts, and various other innovative techniques. You might have noticed that even the process of selecting a group leader involves careful planning and attention to detail. I'm not trying to make things complicated or mysterious; it's just that as professional instructors, every action and decision we make on stage is aimed at maximizing the effectiveness of the course and learning outcomes. Starting with the selection of the group leader, throughout the entire day of the course, the group leader plays a significant role. During group discussions, the group leader leads the team; during exercises or presentations, the group leader assigns members to participate. Some instructions or coordination can also be communicated with the group leader in advance. There are even instances where friendly instructors ask the group leader to be responsible for raising hands and answering questions during the course (poor group leaders, they have a tough job!). However, once the group leader is engaged, you will notice an unexpected increase in their level of participation (the Hawthorne effect)!

While the above actions may seem detailed when broken down, once you become familiar with them, they can be executed smoothly and quickly. Remember, even though there are multiple actions involved, the opening should still be fast-paced. You want the flow to be seamless and not eat into valuable starting time!


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