ice-breakers don’t have to suck

In response to the recent post about excessive ice-breakers at work, Sarah Lichtenstein Walter shared the guide she created for her team about how to design good ice-breakers and what to avoid. I love it and am sharing it here with her permission.

Lots of icebreaker questions can feel overly personal, put people on the spot, feel irrelevant to working together, or unintentionally feel exclusionary if someone doesn’t relate to the topic. A great icebreaker question: -Helps people get more comfortable with each other -Reveals something useful about someone’s personality -Relates to working together -Doesn’t require sharing outside of the bounds of work Work-related ice breaker ideas: – Who is your favorite person at company who is not on this team? – What are your favorite and least favorite work activities (e.g., making pivot tables in excel, updating the database, giving presentations, writing grants)? – What is the best piece of company advice you’ve ever received? – What is your go-to (productive?) procrastination move? (Think: organizing your desk rather than starting a project.) – What do you like about working from home? What do you miss about being in the office? – What’s your favorite standing meeting?

Sarah says, “My favorite of these is the favorite/least favorite work activities — it legitimately helped my team work together better. I hate longer form writing and love doing data matching in Excel. I have a teammate who is the exact opposite. She edited/rewrote a grant proposal I was working on and I created a template for her to manage a process she’d been struggling with!

The favorite person at the company who isn’t on the team was actually really nice too, and our VP shared the nice things that had been said about people with them and their bosses.”

{ 1 comment… read it below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Hi all, I understand there are mixed feelings on ice-breakers in general and these specifically, but I’m not comfortable having someone’s work attacked here when they’ve allowed me to credit them by name for a contribution. So I’m closing comments on this one. Take or leave the suggestions in the post as you wish!

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