This icebreaker works well with new teams or when you have had quite a few new members who recently joined a team. The time, materials and space requirements are very economical so this is easy to combine with team meetings. Running this exercise can help you lead a new team into the right discussions to break down barriers to trust among (new) team members.
This ice breaker is a simple exercise which requires very limited instructions to get started and completed.
The most valuable part of this exercise is most likely the debriefing questions you (as the facilitator) choose to use: (some options)
Did anyone see something on an advertising board that was surprising about team members?
What are the strengths you think this team has?
Where do you think this team could get into trouble (given these team members and what you now know about them?)
This exercise is fun to do and the creativity of your teams may surprise you!
I would recommend that you use this exercise as part of a series of exercises to help new teams succeed in the long run. The Team Effectiveness Snapshot can be a great follow-up tool to introduce to the new team to help them on their journey of trust building and achieving a high level of performance.
Brand-new teams typically work well since most of the team members are “playing nice” at first, but as the team moves through the various stages of team formation things can change. A lot of teams never make it out of the Storming phase so early introduction of team orientation, induction and assessment tools to help teams understand naturally occurring team dysfunctions can help them deal with these situations successfully. The advertising board icebreaker is a great way for teams in forming mode to break through the “niceness” and go a little deeper into the “who are you really” and “what do you bring to this team” discussion.
Teams or groups mostly get upset with each other due to ill-defined or badly executed processes or unclear interface issues between them. There are of course other reasons too, but whatever the cause inter-team upsets can cause an overall failure to achieve planned outcomes and a project/location not achieving targets.
This process that can be used to help two (or more) teams/groups work through their issues with each other and how they are impacting each other.
The process and activity is described in the document which you can download above. Estimated timing for each step of the process is also included. The timing is based on only two groups/teams working through the process. If you add teams/groups, do add additional presentation and discussion time to the combined portions of the process.
Each group or team have an assignment to work on independently and when the groups all gather together the results are presented and discussed in the larger group. The objective is to improve everyone’s understanding of exactly where things go wrong, what works and what does not work and how we will move forward with a new agreement of how we will work together.
The process requires at least one facilitator provided the combined groups comprise of no more than 18 people. If you combine more than two groups I would also consider having an additional facilitator to assist in the breakout sessions. The opening and closing sessions should be attended by one senior manager or executive that interfaces with all of the attending groups – to make opening comments to set the scene and establish the importance of the meeting and also to close off the event with encouraging and appreciative comments.
The process is flexible and it would be up to you, as the facilitator, to make judgment calls along the way. Looking at how you are doing on timing and how well the process is going you may choose to avoid the second breakout session and instead have that discussion in the combined-group setting.
This process may not work well if the inter-group/team dysfunctions have been going on for quite some time and the frustration levels are high. In such cases I would recommend that you prepare for the session by first doing a pre-session interview with all or most of the intended participants. That way you can prepare for an intervention having a clear understanding of the issues at hand and the mindsets of those that will be attending. This may cause you to choose for a more comprehensive intervention.
If more than one facilitator is involved, do make sure every facilitator is completely aware of how the process will work. This is especially important when you choose to make some changes along the way – i.e. skipping the 2nd breakout session in favor of a large group discussion on the same topic. It can be quite frustrating for groups/teams when they receive mismatched instructions from different facilitators for the activity they are to complete.
Some coaches like to use a tool to help someone they coach look at his or her own life and how things are going from a big picture perspective as opposed to just focusing on one specific aspect of someone’s life like their career success. The goal is to see how much balance there is across various areas in someone’s life. The template helps identify life values and then it helps as a check-up to do maybe once a year to see how things are going in terms of maintaining a balanced life.
People dealing with signs of burn-out may also benefit from using this kind of tool with their coach to see where their lives may not be balanced or may not be a good reflection of their values. Meaning that the choices they make in how they spend their time (for example) do not line up with the things that they care about the most.
Imagine your life looked like a pizza
The starting point is to imagine your life has segments or aspects that matter to you. Imagine there is a segment called Financial health which is important to you because you like to have nice new clothes and a nice car. So you would have to make sure you pay attention to being able to earn money so that you are able to buy those things that matter to you. Another segment may be friends – and it would be important to spend time with your friends or you may find they are less engaged with you. This is how one starts to identify what each of those “pizza slices” of your life may be.
Once you have answered the questions and determined the total score for each segment in your life you can color it in to see a result like this example above. In this case the “friends” segment has a very high score in the result but another aspect like career has a very low score.
This template can be the basis for evaluating your “life set-up” and then you can work with your coach to discuss how balanced this is for you given your priorities in life. If you want to increase the outcomes in a specific area, simply start setting some goals in that area and then plan to follow through with actions to help achieve it.
Interpreting the results from this kind of tool is best done with someone who has experience in this area – like a coach. It is also easier to set goals and create a plan to meet them when you have someone to help you think it through. Holding yourself accountable to make sure you actually work on the actions you have planned can also be supported best by a trusted buddy or coach who can remind you what you had committed to take action on and highlight to you when you seem to be off-track.
Inbox exercises are often used when there is an evaluation of leadership/management style and skills or training in time management, judgment or decision-making. I believe the value of this resource lies in revealing the thought processes of an exercise participant. It reveals HOW the person going through the exercise reasons and reacts to typical tasks that they could face as a manager or supervisor.
While you can keep track of how many pages the person completed within the time provided or how many of the actions the person chose aligned with what is considered “correct” in your company (and desired company culture) the highest value (for me) is the coaching conversations that can be had around the reasons that the actions were chosen. These conversations can really help leaders understand their impact on others and improve their self-awareness as a result.
The exercise setup
The attached inbox exercise requires you to print out items and provide them to intended participants in the exercise. The first page describes the situation which you should share with the participant(s) as part of the exercise. The next two pages are then for your eyes only and they will help you to understand the set-up and what you, as the facilitator, should do with that particular exercise page. The section that follows behind the “Worksheet” page is provided to participants once the Q and A portion of the instructions discussion is over.
Once the participant understands the scenario the worksheets are handed out to him/her to complete. This is the inbox exercise and it is usually a timed exercise. Exercises include aspects like this:
If you choose to include priory setting as one of the test elements, consider using something like the Eisenhower/Covey matrix:
You can read more about it here : Priority matrix write-up If you decide to include priority-setting as an element, this approach will give you a better foundation for debriefing discussions.
You can use this exercise with a class of participants and then I would suggest you have each participant check the work of his/her neighbor once the exercise has been timed-out. Read out the action considered best for each of the incidents and assign a score for correct answers. Of course you can use your own judgment when some participants have similar answers/responses, but just worded it differently.
I prefer to use this with a small group of people who are in a coaching program. The results of their work can then be debriefed more fully with their coaches who can explore their responses deeper by asking questions around : how did they interpret the note/incident? Why did they choose that action? Did they consider other options? If so, which ones? How/why did they decide to select that particular action? How did the limited time impact their thinking and responses?
Leaders learn through reflection and an experience such as this inbox exercise is full of opportunities to reflect on own actions, choices and mindsets. The hardest part about improving one’s mindset or way of doing things, is gaining awareness of one’s own style or impact on others. The specific examples that come out of this inbox exercise is a very tangible basis for reflection with a coach and then choosing better ways in the future.
Starting a meeting or dealing with the after-lunch session involving a group of people often requires that you use some sort of ice breaking exercise or activity to help participants get to know each other better, have some fun and in many cases move around the room a bit. Most facilitators have their own set of ice breaking activities and exercises in their mind in case they need it. If you are new at it, you may need some inspiration and this post may be for you!
There is a list of questions you can download below. Use them and then you have a few ways to use them for ice breaking activities:
Use it to start the meeting and incorporate the introductions and capture expectations at the same time. Ask each participant to share his/her name, location, role, expectations for the session/day and then answer one of the questions on the list. (There is a reason to ask them to share their answer to one of the questions AFTER they stated their expectations – so you have time to write down their expectations on a flip-chart before the next participant starts sharing)
Use it at the start of the meeting. Ask participants to get up and move around the room while introducing themselves to others they encounter along the way. Sharing their answer to the question you gave the group and asking the other person to share his/her answer to the same question. Let them mingle in this way for about 5 to 10 minutes (depending on the size of your group). Ask them to return to their seats and ask a volunteer (or a few) to share the most surprising response they heard.
If the groupissmall (12 people or less). Ask each person to provide an answer to the question you selected on a post-in note. Collect all of them. Read out the answer and have participants try to guess who responded in this way. (Rules for this exercise includes that the writer of the answer cannot participate in guessing who wrote it).
If you have more time, you can do this: Give the group a question and ask them to first consider how they would answer it and write their own answers down on a post-it note. Then you ask them to walk around in the room and when they encounter another meeting participant, to guess what the other would have answered then have the other reveal how they really did answer the question. The other then guesses the first person’s response and again the first person would reveal how he or she really did answer that question. Encourage them to briefly discuss why they guessed the answer in the way that they did. It can get to deeper discussions about assumptions we make about people – whether we already know them or not. You can time the interactions and give them a signal when to move on to a new conversation participant to engage with around guessing each other’s answers. When everyone has completed the conversations you can debrief the group with questions like: How often were you right in what you guessed the other person would say? Did you learn anything surprising from those you talked to ? (aspects of his/her personality that you had no idea about?) How accurate do you think guessing is when it comes to how other people think?
Ice breakers can be really effective in breaking down barriers to making contact with people you have never met before at a meeting or training event. Yes, extroverts mostly don’t have any difficulties approaching and talking to strangers, but introverts often do. These kinds of exercises help everyone to get to know each other without feeling too inhibited during the initial contact moments.
It can be frustrating to try and figure out where things went wrong when the outcomes you had hoped for, did not work out. Sometimes it could be an object or piece of equipment that is not working well. It could also be a process that is at fault or perhaps it is human action or inaction that is causing the lack of performance.
This template helps one to work what you know and finding the facts in order to fix the issues that are stopping you from obtaining the right outcomes. This offers a better chance of discovering the root cause that is stopping you from achieving the planned good results.
After defining at the top what the problem is which you would like to solve, the worksheet takes you through a systematic process covering: The What, Where, When and How Big aspects are. Across the top moving from left to right on the columns, the worksheet has space to write down what you can see (what is observed) and it moves to any facts you are aware of which could relate to the observations, then writing down what the differences are between what you have observed and the facts until you finally arrive at the last column where you are able to narrow things down to the most likely causes that things are not working out with the problem you are trying to address.
It may seem tedious at first to complete the information indicated, but when the reasons or causes are less obvious this is a great way to summarize what you know about the situation in one place. We often know more than we realize and we simply need a way to put things together logically to spot the reasons behind a malfunctioning element in a failing piece of equipment or a process.
This tool can be used by an individual or in a group context. Sometimes it helps to have more than one person look at the same information and brainstorm through the elements shown in this template to get to the root cause(s). I also recommend that you retain a copy of this completed template to serve as a “lessons learned” to others. I believe each one of us and every company/team should continuously strive to learn to remain competitive and innovative (creative). Others may be able to solve future issues by reviewing your completed sheet for the issue you solved.
After a survey, a brainstorming session or a discussion it is often true that you end up with a long list of actions that should be put into an action plan. With many actions, maybe only a small number of people available to execute on those actions and possibly a small budget available for some of the actions, this could seem overwhelming. The important question is: How can you prioritize the actions so you can make the most of the available resources (people to work on them) and funding (available budget)? And on top of that make sure that the most important actions are completed first?
Rate all the projects or activities on two questions:
what is the level of impact on your company, project, company if you completed that project/activity? (high means it would me a very big difference (positively))
how hard is it to implement this? (referring to available resources, skills and knowledge needed, tools needed, funding needed) (very difficult means you have very limited resources and budget and this project or activity would need more than you have available right now)
Use the scores obtained to plot your planned projects or activities onto this graphic: (the graphic shows an example based on the table and ratings above)
Use the guide below to understand which of your projects or activities should be a high priority, low priority or medium priority with possible additional research needed.
One the one hand the question is: can you overcome what is difficult about that particular activity or project? Can you (for example) convince someone make more funding available if you present a very solid business case to highlight the value to the company or the project?
Or can you get more people to help? The other question to look into is whether the impact is really as low as you imagine? Speak to others to hear their views of how such a project or activity could possibly benefit more areas than you think. Perhaps the project is much more valuable than you think and it moves into the “green” quadrant meaning it should be a high priority for you to work on and complete.
If your dots appear in one of the yellow sections, you have some questions to ponder. If you can solve the question in each case you may be able to move that particular action into a different “zone” by changing the score. This means you are able to for example make it easier to implement by solving an issue which made it particularly difficult to implement. Or it could mean you realize the business impact is bigger than you previously realized because the company could gain a competitive edge if you implemented that particular action. Your final action plan for immediate focus areas should contain those actions which finally end up in the green zone on the legend.
Be sure to communicate the reasoning behind your high priority actions to the key stakeholders in the outcomes of the action plan. They may have additional insights to share which could further cause you to change the scoring of actions.
You can use the Action Plan posted here to capture the actions that you will implement, monitor status of and report on regularly.
While it is a good idea for coaches to periodically discuss how well the process may be working for those that they are coaching, it is also a good idea for HR/Learning and Development to get feedback on the coaching program on an annual basis. Occasional informal feedback from the person being coached to the coach directly may help the coach improve the person’s coaching experience and outcomes reached.
A formal annual survey helps the department responsible for managing and monitoring the coaching program to understand a few things:
General questions that coaching participants may still have about the process or program objectives.
How to improve the training of coaches to improve developmental outcomes.
How well the relationships are working between coaches and those being coached. Perhaps an intervention may be needed in cases where a high level of dissatisfaction is recorded?
Whether the coaching process is working well in general – meetings are held on a regular basis and the right topics are being discussed.
The coaching survey above (see download option) contains questions you may want to consider for your annual coaching effectiveness survey and it also contains some suggested wording for the introduction email to those who are being coached to explain the survey and its purposes.
Gather the survey feedback and analyze it for overall coaching program effectiveness, but also look at individual responses to see if anyone is having a particularly negative view about his or her coach or the coaching process. When you take action on individual responses pay close attention to the confidentiality statement you put in the email that went with the survey. Do not reveal someone’s input to his or her coach unless it was expressly established that the survey respondent consent to this course of action. Also use the information gathered from the survey to improve your orientation slides for the next coaching program and to improve future training you offer to coaches.
All coaching programs should contain an orientation as one of the starting elements. This session should cover the objectives of the program, what the expectations are for both coaches and those to be coached and any other general information that would be important for the participants of your coaching program. You can choose to combine the two groups for the session or you could choose to do separate sessions for coaches and those to be coached. If you choose the former you may want to add a training or reminder section of any specific coaching aspects that you wish to empathize.
The download file above contains a series of slides to help you get started creating your own. It shows some of the typical questions that coaching program participants may have and answers that may be relevant, but of course subject to your edits to suit your specific needs.
Be sure to have a Q and A portion to answer any specific questions that anyone may have.
The front part of the presentation which sets the scene in terms of “no entitlement to promotion etc.” would be relevant if you have experienced that as an issue in your workforce or talented employee pool. In some cultures that may be seen as “offensive” or even “threatening” that it would be mentioned. So be culturally sensitive when you consider keeping that comment.
In the roles section I mention HR as the function supporting the coaching program – depending on your organization that could be your Learning and Development department, your Organization Development (OD) group or any other department/group.
Be sure to provide the coaches and those to be coached with all the tools they will need. If not printed and handed out at your orientation session, then perhaps a soft copy on a USB stick or per email after the session. Coaching questions or Preparation for Coaching
Coaching sessions and programs are more successful when there are clear coaching goals and actions planned are documented. These developmental actions and activities should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis. It helps both the coach and the person being coached to maintain focus on desired outcomes..
Many employees who are new to coaching have misguided expectations about the coaching process and their own role in it. They expect the coach would show up at each session ready to provide them with useful information and advice and all they needed to do was to show up. In reality the coaching process works much better when both parties actively participate and prepare for each session.
This process graphic shows that each party in the coaching process provides input and participates in the process. The results are written down and shared to ensure a common understanding of the goals and that progress towards goal achievement is maintained.
For those being coached: make sure you get your completed preparation sheet to your coach at least a few days before the session so that the coach can take your feedback into account. This helps him or her prepare to answer your questions and obtain any additional information and resources that may be useful to you at this time and bring it to the session.
For coaches: take note of the questions and struggles that may be noted in the preparation sheet. Consider how you can best help address those issues and which resources can you provide to help in the process? What is the best way to approach the coaching session – given those questions, issues and of course the overall goals that had been set for the coaching process?
Do remember to look back at previous preparation sheets and also the updated development plan on occasion (maybe once every 6 months) to recognize and appreciate progress made to date and to help motivate those being coached to take the next steps that may be required towards ultimate goal achievement.
Coaching is a shared responsibility between the coach and the person being coached. Only then, does the process yield the best results. And preparation is a key part of this shared responsibility.