Some people hate icebreakers; others love them…with good reason. Ice breakers are usually short activities done during a meeting to help build relationships, teamwork, or to just have fun. At times, ice breakers can be non-starters, and then again they can be the best part of a meeting. Ice breakers that are designed appropriately for the right group can renew relationships, improve group communications, improve decision making processes and outcomes, and create momentum towards accomplishing specific goals or end products. Who knew that having fun could be so useful?

Example Ice Breakers

Some ice breakers are fun, physical exercises such as introducing yourself to someone new in the room. Other exercises may focus on having the group think about a particular issue, memory, or challenge. Some ice breakers are simple, like introducing yourself. Others can be quite involved, and the worst ones are embarrassing, non-starters that waste time and group resources.

One low risk ice breaker for a newly formed group is to have each person in the room introduce themselves (such as name, job, and where they work). This simple introduction could be leveraged by having participants not only share their basic ‘stats’ but also share more strategic information such as what their vision of the future might be, or something else that could be used to support the meeting’s goals and objectives. Having participants share information about their first car might be fun and help the group build relationships, but it may not help solve a crisis.

Some People Hate Ice Breakers!!!

Many managers shy away from ice breakers. Why? They may be concerned about being embarrassed in front of their staff. Because of this a peer group will be much more likely to get involved and benefit from an ice breaker than a group of mixed managers and staff. To use an ice breaker in a mixed meeting, brief the manager before the meeting and make sure that they understand the goal of the ice breaker and how that relates to the overall meeting goal or desired outcome.

When to Use Them… and When to Lose Them

Use ice breakers as a ‘mixer’ to help energize the group and help them get to know each other.

Lose the volume -Just because there are a million different types of ice breakers doesn’t mean that all of them need to be used in a single meeting.

Use ice breakers that help set the stage for the meeting or solving an issue. Look for exercises that are new and avoid old (and sometimes boring) standbys that everyone has done a million times.

Lose ice breakers that are isolated events (i.e., they do not support the group, the meeting goals or objectives, or desired outcomes).

Use ice breakers to enhance group trust. Groups with a high level of trust will be more willing to try a wider variety of activities, speak their minds, and make decisions faster.

Lose ice breakers that require high risk activities such as divulging personal information. Keep the group focused on the meeting and avoid personal or sensitive disclosures.

Use ice breakers to build a common group vision. For instance, each member of the group could use an ice breaker to build a common future vision by sharing their thoughts on what the company might look like in 5-years. Look for areas of common agreements, innovative ideas, and opportunities.

Lose ice breakers that take too much time. An ice breaker should be something that can be done relatively quickly (like within 10 minutes). Check with the meeting manager or some of the key participants before dedicating precious meeting time to an ice breaker.

Best Business Practices – Ice breaker? NO WAY!

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