Inbox Exercise Example


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. While you can score the number of pages completed within the allotted time or how many of the actions aligned with what is deemed “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.

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) of the exercise. The next two pages are for your eyes only and help you to understand the set-up and what you, as the facilitator, should do. The section that follows behind the “Worksheet” page is provided to participants once the Q and A portion of the instructions discussion is over.

Inbox Exercise resource link

Considerations:

  • If you choose to include priory setting as one of the test elements, consider using something like the Eisenhower/Covey matrix:

eisenhower covey priority box

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?

I am a firm believer in leaders learning through reflection. The hardest part about that for any leader is gaining awareness of his or her own style or impact or how to make something visible that is subconscious. Examples could be own motivations, unknown assumptions they make about their world and those they work with, how they really make decisions etc. Exercises like these can help by specifically tasking individuals with making decisions in a short time-frame which could increase pressure and therefore may highlight paradigm blind-spots.

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