Kristinesargsyan's Blog

January 31, 2010

DIFFERENT CULTURES IN THE WORKPLACE, by Claire Claire Belilos, March 18, 2008

Filed under: Favorite Articles and Posts — by kristinesargsyan @ 12:29 pm

We often see the expression “diversity training”, which indicate that “we” have to “train” others on how to work together. The first and most important person to educate with regard to the different cultures of employees in our organization is ourselves. Every workplace today has supervisors and employees from different cultures. To achieve harmony, we must learn and understand those cultures. We often find ourselves dealing with employees and supervisors, from different ethnic and national cultures, with above average intelligence and of a cooperative nature, who never come forward to us with useful suggestions for improvement, or critique of operations, even when we invite them to. The same happens in educational and training settings. Like everyone else, I thought that silence from such individuals was due to shyness or doubt as to how suggestions and critique would be construed. We make the mistake of assuming that because people attended western educational institutions and worked in western organizations, that they adopted our codes of conduct along the way. We seem to forget that the strongest culture of all is that of their homeland, and of their personal social and family environment. If we want our people to perform the way we desire and work as a team, we owe it to ourselves, to them, and to the organization, to educate ourselves on the different cultures our employees come from. In some cultures, courtesy and politeness in human interaction are the overriding factor, even this comes at the expense of openness and truthful reporting. In some other cultures, there is a patriarchal hierarchy. The father figure to whom one owes obedience, and whom one never questions, criticize, or critique, and to whom one never comes forward with suggestions, is represented by either parent, older relative, teacher, boss, political and religious leaders. In some other cultures, women are not supposed to speak or have personal opinions, let alone critique or suggest. If we take these three examples, we can see why people coming from such cultures do not provide the feedback we expect from them. They keep their thoughts to themselves. And we miss out on possibly great contributions. We also miss out on discovering root causes of snags in operations, and shortcomings in production and service delivery procedures, as well as root causes of employee discord. To achieve a unified work force and performing team, it is imperative that we learn the social mores and accepted work habits of the cultures our employees come from, through reading, questioning of others, and through “one-on-one” conversations with these same employees. It is only after educating ourselves in this area, that we can plan a variety of training and social activities to bring “rapprochement” among our employees, and between employees and ourselves, so that we can all function as one team. We must also be aware of the different religions and show understanding for special religious days. Once I invited a student I had, originally from Sri Lanka, to come with me to the big annual Restaurant and Food Services Show (I had received two invitations). I had not thought of his religion since we did not discuss religion in class. It is only when we were actually there and he was politely refusing invitations to sample the different beverages and foods that I learned that he was Moslem and it happened to be the Ramadan Holiday, when Moslems fast during the day and eat at night. I felt so embarrassed! However, when the owners of the booths learned this, they prepared for him and for me many boxes with wonderful cakes, pizzas, and other goodies to take home. I remember this until today because I did feel quite embarrassed at not “thinking” about this student’s religious holiday. It was fortunate that the student in question appreciated my invitation and did not begrudge my taking him to a food fest while he was fasting. I hope that this article has opened a new avenue of thought, and will lead to improved management and training. I look forward to your feedback, and your sharing experiences and suggestions on this subject.

 By Claire Claire Belilos

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Author and activist Isabel Allende discusses women, creativity, the definition of feminism — and, of course, passion — in this talk. (From TED)

Filed under: Favorites from TED — by kristinesargsyan @ 9:44 am

http://www.ted.com/talks/isabel_allende_tells_tales_of_passion.html

What is leadership / Leadership in Armenian NGOs (Kristine Sargsyan)

Filed under: My Papers and Articles — by kristinesargsyan @ 1:23 am

What is leadership

This concept has been studied and discussed for hundred of years, but still practitioners and academics discover new leadership models and offer them to different targets. I think this is normal, as in different time periods different leadership styles and types appear. They usually vary from each other, which is in its turn conditioned with the environmental, social economic changes and needs of businesses or non governmental organizations. The history and humanity honored different great leaders studding their leadership style and specifications. Up to now people remember leaders like: Lenin, Gandy, Ford, Luther King and others. All those people and other famous leaders brought in new leadership styles. They have bee loved or hated, but humanity remembered them because of the strong impact they left on humanity life. Different people have different views on leadership and leaders. What is really interesting for me is that everybody emphasizes those features of leadership that they want to see in their leaders or they have as leaders. Here are some comments about leaders and leadership that emphasize leadership concept from different corners and differ from each other:

• Leadership is an art of mobilization others to want to struggle for shared aspiration to accomplish a common mission.

• Leadership is getting things done through other people willingly

When I tried to review different definitions of this concept more diversity of ideas was discovered. There are too many definitions for leadership, which emphasize different features of this concept and the power that it carries. Dictionary definition identifies Leader as one that provides guidance by going in front, or courses others to go with them. In dictionaries leadership is defined as capacity to lead. Apart from this dictionary definition I met many interesting and wonderful definitions of it while reviewing different literature on leadership.

 “Leadership and management” ECMU handbook, suggests that the managers should have leadership skills to foresee future challenges and opportunities to energize their organizations and direct them with vision and wisdom.

Another definition that I met for leaders was in Peter Senge, “Fifth discipline” book which says : In a larger organization leaders are designers, stewards, and teachers. They are responsible for building organizations where people continuously built their capacities to understand complexity, clarify vision and improve shared mental models,- that is , they are responsible for learning.

I met very interesting description of leadership in a book called “The leader of the future” developed by Drucker Foundation and edited by Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith and Richard Beckhard.

In this book Draker emphasize different features of leadership and leader. Here are some of them:

1. The only definition of leader is one that has followers. Some people are thinkers, some are prophets, both roles are important and badly needed, but without followers, there can be no leaders.

 2. An effective leader is not one who is loved or admired. He/ she is someone whose followers do right things. Popularity is not leadership. Results are

3. Leaders are highly visible therefore they set examples

4. Leadership is no rank privilege, title or money. It is responsibility.

Another wonderful description of leadership I met was in the book called “Clear Leadership” by Gervas Bush. In his book he says that excellent leaders should know and be able:

1. know about their experience as it is happening

2. describe their own experience to others

3. express curiosity about others experience

4. appreciate experience of others and encourage in others behavior small expression of those behaviors as they want more of it .

Bush says that excellent leaders are aware, descriptive, carouse and appreciative. He believes that people in all levels of organization can be leaders; he also believes that organizations need leaders who have reach life experience.

A research called “NGO leadership development” by Jhon Haily, INTRAC, Praxis Paper describe leadership in the following way:

1. leadership is a process

2. leadership involves influence

3. leadership occurs in a group context

4. leadership involves the attainment of goal

 This research suggests the following typology of different kinds of leadership in non governmental organizations. It outlines four different types of NGO leader: paternalistic, activist, managerialist, catalytic

1. Paternalistic leaders typically demonstrate a patriarchal or matriarchal style of leadership. Their approach is often built on established personal relationships. They can inspire great loyalty, and have strong, close, possibly even a familial relationship with staff and volunteers. But to outsiders they can appear autocratic, reliant on hierarchical ways of working and overly-dependent on traditional relationship which may not be sustainable in the long run.

 2. Activist leaders are actively engaged in advocacy and lobbying work. They are highly motivated, often charismatic, and typically focused on a single issue. They have the ability to channel the anger or concerns of local communities and solidarity groups to achieve political imperatives. In practice they energize and inspire ‘followers’ with clearly articulated messages – sometimes at the expense of dealing with more mundane managerial or organizational issues.

3. Managerial leaders are rated for their managerial and administrative abilities. They typically demonstrate an instrumental ability to manage organizations, and can effectively establish reliable systems and appropriate structures, as well as manage a diverse workforce with established roles and responsibilities. While they may not be comfortable with change or coping with diverse partners and external stakeholders, they demonstrate a ‘professional’ approach to development, have a track record in raising funds, meeting deadlines and undertaking commissions as a ‘contractor’.

4. Catalytic leaders typically act as strategic catalysts within the NGO context, and have the ability to promote and implement change. They demonstrate a wider world-view, and the capacity to take a longer-term strategic view while balancing tough decisions about strategic priorities with organizational values and identity. Their success as change agents depends on their ability to delegate work to talented colleagues, so freeing time to engage actively with external stakeholders and partners, build coalitions and strategic alliances, and be involved in a variety of networks. In Armenian NGOs you can definitely see representatives of all those types.

 I personally admire more activist and catalytic type of leaders and think that they are more effective then the other types brought in this research paper. Another idea that I really liked in this research paper and would agree with is that presently there is a problem with good leaders for NGOs and that’s why there is no any community of country where the majority of NGOs are famous. Usually famous and well known are those NGOS which have famous people as leaders, or in the governing bodies of the organization. All above mentioned definitions were those ones that I found more innovative or interesting. That’s why I wanted to discuss them. After reading all these definitions and different philosophies about leadership context I have decided to define leadership my own way. I have tried to describe what leadership means to me and what I find most important about leadership concept.

To me leadership is an art of motivating followers to work for common mission through creating incentives and building an environment where every member of the organization can fell free to participate in the development of shared vision and in the implementation of it. In past nine years I have been working in different international and local NGOs as a change agent (OD consultant) and I think the definition of leadership I gave is highly influenced what I have seen and learned about leadership in NGO context. Observations and Findings about Leadership and Leaders in Armenian NGOs and Other Organizations I have been working with more then hundreds of non governmental organizations in Armenia. During my work experience in the third sector I have observed a lot of obstacles and opportunities/ strengths that any NGO leadership can create for its organizations. I have seen leaders, who flourished the organizations and also ones that spoiled them. I have seen leaders who created wonderful conditions for team work and ones, who did “one men show”. 

 Observations on leadership and leaders in Armenian NGOs/organizations

• In Armenian NGOs lairdship is mostly attached to one person (either the president of the organization or the executive director). You will hardly meet any organization where the leader of the organization is not the president or the executive director (for example UNISON NGO). I think in Armenia there is a lack of understanding that leadership may assume group context and can involve all governing bodies of the organization, or at least several key people in the organization. I believe that this is typical not only for Armenia.

• Another interesting finding about leadership is that in Armenia, non governmental organizations are very much dependent on their leaders. Leaders are the engines of the organization. They are involver in earthling and hold all the key roles and responsibilities. They do strategy development, they raise funds, they keep contacts with government, media and other key stockholders, generate new ideas, they do the HR management and financial oversight of the organization, as well as the monitoring of the organizations activities and programs. In such organizations when you take out the leader of the organization, sooner or later the organization will ruin. (Mission Armenia, Merchant’s Union, UMBA)

• In Armenia usually organizations are characterized with an organizational culture, which streams from the leaders personality and carries most values, assumptions, hobbits, attitudes that the leader of the organization has. (Unison, Mission Armenia, GCC NGOs).

• Another interesting thing that I have noticed is that in Armenian leaders are always on the “top” of the organization and they feel comfortable with hierarchical structures. Usually for those leaders who are on the “top” of the organization, it is unbearable to have other leader on the other levels of organization. • Often you can see leaders who don’t clearly understand their role in the organization as a vision provides, motivator, strategy developer and somebody who can help employees and members to understand what is their role in reaching organization’s mission. Such leaders are more focused on making decisions and orders and monitoring others. Moreover often they focused on not loosing the power they have and therefore they struggle with everything and everybody to protect their position and not to lose it. Observations on leadership and leaders in general

• The misunderstanding of leadership philosophy makes people ill and put their thinking into “leadership box”. These types of people want to be leaders everywhere, and everybody to accept them as a leader. I had a chance to participate in one of the interviews, which was organized by one of the NGOs (Dilnet service NGO) for hiring project assistant. One of the candidates spent thirty minutes telling us about her leadership school and her leadership skills. She never asked a single word about the position she has applied for…

• Following above-mentioned story I can also mention that we all should be very careful while teaching leadership. If we give wrong massages about leadership it can bring very sad outcomes. The question “Are leaders made or born?” have been discussed a lot. I believe that borne leaders are wonderful and natural (For example, Gandy), but I also believe that we can make good leaders teaching them through giving them right massages about true and kind power of leadership, emphasizing that it is rather a responsibility and results then power and image.

• One of the major misleading assumptions about leadership is that leaders are able to do everything. They have answers to all questions and have “keys to open all doors”. This believe is so common among us that leaders themselves start creating such an image and afterwards get into big trouble, trying to sustain this image. It becomes very hard for them to accept their mistakes, or say sorry. In such situations leaders are afraid to show that they can be wrong as well. In such situations both parties: the leaders and the followers suffer psychologically and materialistically.

• In one of the above definitions of leadership it was mentioned that leaders set examples. This is really true. Recently I was doing an organizational assessment for one of Eurasia Foundation client NGOs and during the appreciative inquiry phase NGO staff members have told me that they have been working for two years without financial compensation. I have asked them why they stay with this NGO, what keeps them there. They have answered that they didn’t go because they had their leader coming in every day and working as usual up to the late evening. Some of them even mentioned that they were shay to leave the organization. They followed the example the leader gave to them. They stayed and worked. When I asked the leader of the organization why she stayed, she mentioned that she has a very high responsibility toward NGO beneficiaries. She said “I can not imagine that one of our beneficiaries can come to our office for help and find the door closed”. (MF)

• By the way I should mention that I ask this question: “Why do you stay with this organization?” to all organizations I work with. This question is a part of Appreciative Inquiry methodology that I am using. It is aimed at finding out the things that keep organization’s representatives in the organization. I should confirm that eighty percent of organizations I have worked with have mentioned their leaders as one of the main reasons, why they didn’t leave the organization.

• Another important thing that I have noticed about leaders is that they have a crucial role in developing a working environment, where everybody feels free to bring in his/ her thoughts. It is very important to have a leader, who is very supportive for crating a culture, where everybody feels free to bring in their thoughts and concerns, their suggestions and innovations. If employees are spending time protecting themselves, they don’t spend time thinking for the organization and for the implementation of common mission. There is an example for this that Peter Sengi’s brings. This happened in one of the famous American organizations called “Car Care”. He tells the leadership of the organization used to do evaluation of services and talk about the results on the quality of their services and customer satisfaction, after the evaluations were done. He tells that once the evaluations has shown that 95 % of the clients where satisfied with the services and only the 5% expressed some dissatisfaction about the services. So what happen then was that the management discussed only the negative part of the report and never expressed their gratefulness for the good job that the employees did on satisfying 95 % of customers. Management was discussing only the issue of this 5% and was trying to find reasons and guilty people. As a result of this the staff members started to protect them self. They started to care more for protecting them from comments and criticism, rather then thinking about customers and implementing their responsibilities. After this case, the next year evaluation has shown that only the 56 % of the customers were satisfied, while the 44% was dissatisfied with company services.

• My final observation about Leadership is that when leaders recognize, appreciate, celebrate and acknowledge the meaningful contributions that their employees or followers make it highly motivate and intensify employees to stay and work with that organization. Well, those are the main observations and findings that I would like to bring in and introduce in my paper work.

January 23, 2010

Great Discussion on Orientation Icebreakers (from LinkedIn Trainning and Development Group) )

Filed under: Uncategorized — by kristinesargsyan @ 1:30 am

Orientation icebreaker


I’m looking for a successful icebreaker that is useful for a group of 20 – 30 people to introduce themselves to others. Criteria is that it isinteresting , fast and engaging and doesn’t make people stand up at the front of the room and introduce themselve to the everyone else. Orientation icebreaker
I’m looking for a successful icebreaker that is useful for a group of 20 – 30 people to introduce themselves to others. Criteria is that it is interesting, fast and engaging and doesn’t make people stand up at the front of the room and introduce themselve to the everyone else.

I’ve also asked each person to bring along something from their desk or from where they work that personally represents what they do. Does anyone have suggestions?
Comments (13)
1. Todd Kaleto
I do introductions by pairing people up and asking them to interview the person they are paired with obtaining the following information. name, new position, favorite thing to do outside of work, 1 expectation for orientation, and perception or view of the employer (in my case the resort) before being offered a position. People are sometimes afraid to speak about themself in front of a group but more relaxed when speaking about someone else. I don’t require them to stand in front…it’s by choice only, whatever makes the person comfortable.

To pair people up…

I’ve asked people to talk with each other as an entire group to determine the years of experience in the industry, hospitality in my case, and then ask them to line up accordingly with most yrs of experience to the least yrs of experience. I pair people by selecting 1 person from each end working towards the middle. This gives people an opportunity to meet someone with lesser or greater experience and sometimes people find a mentor.
2.
Terrence Seamon
Jayne,
I like your idea of bringing something that represents an aspect of the person. Could be revealing and fun!
Terry
3.
Tony Park
5x5x5

Just random, high energy, to get people talking and interacting.

They have to introduce themselves to five people they don’t know…..find out five new things…..in five minutes.

The facilitator manages the clock and ensures people move on after each 60 seconds.
****************************************************************************************
Or create a bingo sheet of paper. 25 boxes with different things in it.

1. £20 pound in wallet/purse
2. Only child
3. Speak two or more languages
4. Lived abroad
5. Has pets
6. Has children
7. Likes country music
8. Watches football
9. Something topical based on current events or time of year like ……finishd xmas shoping
10 etc
11. etc

Hand out the sheets of paper and each person has to fill in as many boxes as possible in a given time period. Basically they find people who can tick a box and then they move on.
Kristy McDonald
I have had them draw something that represents them – their favorite place, vacation, hobby, etc. It’s not for everyone, depends on the group.
4. Jayanti Prasad
I ask them to tell the others their name and one ( or 2 depends on time available) adjective(s) that describe them as a person and the adjective should start with the first letter of their name or the sound of the first letter. If I have to introduce myself , I would say – Joyful Jayanti ( Starting with the first letter or Generous Jayanti- starting with the sound of the first letter of my name.)The adjective has to be positive.The second person repeats the first persons adjective and name and then gives his/her name and adjective. If the group is small , they repeat all names before their own otherwise at least two names before their own.A few start immediately. The members can help the others. You can also avoid repetition of adjectives if your group responds creatively.It gives a great start and a lot of positive environment gets created along with fun. If it is a new group they get to know one another more quickly.They can introduce from wherever they are. They don’t need to come in front of others.
5.
Andy O’Callaghan
To get things off with a bang, get each person to write three things about themselves onto a piece of paper they then roll up and insert into a balloon. The balloon is then blown up and tied so it’s bouyant. When everyone has done theirs, you give the signal for them to throw their balloon into the air and begin a 30 second bounce around where you push the balloons continually into the air.
When you call stop, you collect the balloon nearest you and wait for the facilitator to give the signal to pop the balloon making quite an impact as 30 balloons pop simultaineously!
They then have to find the person who’s three facts they have by going around and asking questions of the others in the group. The person must also offer up one fact about themselves to the other person so that something new is learned about each contact made and you can help others out if you know where they are.
This has been very useful on several occassions and has even been done as a mass balloon drop from the ceiling!
Posted 2 days ago | Reply Privately
6. Todd Kaleto
Andy,

I love your idea! Fun, interactive, and memorable!
7.
Mark Handel
Jayne, check out Sharon Bowman’s website, http://www.bowperson.com . She has a lot of great ideas and resources available; I highly recommend her.

Thanks, Mark
Robin Cook
Have each person get up & tell the group 3 or 4 things that the group might not know about themselves. 1 of those things will be a lie. The group then is to decide among themselves which is the lie.

Andy’s balloon exercise is a new one to me – I like it!
8.
Missy Covington
I’ve used a card exercise (which I think I first saw used by Thiagi) where each member of an audience gets a playing card–then everyone has to go around the room to try to create the best poker hand that they can. This generally involves some negotiation–and people really start talking with each other.

(It’s also good for the metaphor that we can do more together than we can do alone–if that’s something you’re trying to communicate at all.)
Diana Hauman
Similar to the desk item, I’ve asked people to bring a hat or a t-shirt that represents a part of their life outside of work. to share with others in small groups why they brought that particiular item.
Another way is asking people to pair up and get to know one another; then after a few minutes ask two pairs to form a quad; and keep the group expanding until it is one large group. Time permitting, you can ask for folks to share any interesting info — relevant to work! — that they learned from their colleagues.
1. To respond to Alan’s comment, I’ll often use “What’s in Your Wallet” to tie the ice breaker to the content. Everyone is asked to take an item out of their purse, wallet, or pocket at the start of the session, but they are not told why they need it. Then people are asked to introduce themselves using whatever criteria you wish. They must finish by saying how the item they selected relates to the training they are about to start. People get very creative and often very funny!

Doug Caldwell, Facilitator Extraordinaire’
Think chocolate or other candy. Get an assortment of candy which is passed out to the audience as they arrive. What you want to achieve is that depending on audience size is to get groups of 3-5 people who all have the same type of candy. At some point there is any audience breakout where they find others who have the same type of candy. If eaten before the breakout, save the wrapper. Once in their small groups proceed with your activity of choice.
Susan Reed
I’ve used several – 2 I particularly like:
1) either hand as they come into the room (like this as I get to meet each person) or place at the tables coloured candies. Ask people to find others with the same colour candy as them, find out an interesting fact from each person in that group that incorporates the colour – if time report the most interesting out to the rest of the group.

2) place random words for each person, facilitator starts with a word too, using a ball of yarn start a ‘story’ with the word, throw yarn to someone else int eh room and they continue the story while also telling us who they are. You can either use personal anecdotes or any other type topic. Idea is to get them up and talking.
Karen Carlson
I also like to use the Bingo! game. I put up a slide with the instructions about 15 minutes prior to class starting. The instructions have the participants immediately using their Bingo! sheet to interact with others as they arrive. Whenever they get 5 in a row, they need to yell out “Bingo!” and they continue on hoping for a Blackout. To tie it to the learning objectives, I used terms and acronyms for items on the agenda. They have to find someone who knows (or can give a good guess!) as to what that term means. The best part from a facilitator standpoint is that the icebreaker takes NO TIME from the training day as they are doing it as they arrive. Plus, they get to meet several people and thus are more likely to interact once official training begins.

Missy: Love the Poker game idea! I’ll be using that one!!
Bob Makarowski
WHO THE HECK HAS TIME FOR ICEBREAKERS?

I must be teaching on a different planet.

I’ve got a huge list of skills to cover, and ensure that my attendees achieve a decent level of competency. Instead of breaking the ice, put on the skates and start gliding. The clock is ticking and the person(s) paying your invoice will be judging you using their metrics, not kumbaya.

A number of years back I attended a one-day seminar entitled “50 ways to liven up your training.” Whatta waste! None of the techniques covered had anything to do with improving the assimilation of workshop content. They were all touchy-feely, pop-psychology relics.

Want repeat business from your clients? Create workshop graduates who can effectively use the material you are teaching. If you truly create graduates that are competent in the skills you’re teaching, they’ll be able to fund their own warm and fuzzy enlightenment.

Stick to the syllabus people.
Lynda Robitaille
Interesting point of view Bob, but I beg to differ and if you will allow me I will explain a further.

A new group coming together to learn or work on a task needs a facilitator/leader who can manage both task and maintenance. Icebreakers are one way to build trust in groups and is the beginnings of good maintenance.

I for one, like my groups to be open enough to discuss topics, ask questions and feel at ease to do so. Icebreakers are a good way to introduce and get comfortable. Always remember there are introverts in every group, with bright ideas and have reflected long enough to have some pretty good ones. They need to feel comfortable or they wont talk.

On another note, you can’t enter the “zone of proximal developement” (ZPD) without trust and without an icebreaker trust is very difficult to establish quickly.

If you are just lecturing using a syllabus …..different story and people learning in relationship is I guess not what you are looking for.
Cherie Bescript
The distinction, clearly, between “training” and “facilitating” makes all the difference. I do both and when facilitating a group of folks that do not already know each other but must address deeply personal work…well.
Deborah Moroy, AIC, IIA
I agree that icebreakers done professionally do help jump start a class. Professionally is the key word. I witnessed a carrier staff group that included as ice breakers some taboo ideas such as having everyone going around the room and telling their marital status, kids, etc which are questions not even allowed in an interview never mind in front of a classroom of staff employees. Another felt free to let an ice breaker get side tracked into off the cuff sexual comments so it’s important if ice breakers are used that the instructors are mentored on off limit questions or any planned ice breaker topics be preapproved. In today’s world, I was quite surprised this wasn’t common knowledge to the instructors before hand.
Susan Landay
President at Trainers Warehouse
Bob,

You certainly have a point when it comes to making sure each activity is purposeful and linked to your training goal.

And, I wouldn’t write off the value of icebreakers too quickly. The key reason so many have embraced the concept of icebreakers, interactivity and fun is that they reduce stress and induce laughter. Here are a couple of brain research facts that help it all make sense:

Stress causes your body to release cortisol into the bloodstream, which destroys glucose, the brain’s only source of food.” (Tina Konstant, Teach Yourself Speed Reading

Laughter reduces stress. Actually it reduces at least four of neuroendocrine hormones associated with stress response — epinephrine, cortisol, dopac, and growth hormone. Paul E. McGhee, PhD, Health, Healing and the Amuse System, 1999. http://www.LaughterRemedy.com

Events and information become more memorable when emotions are are involved (as long as they don’t overshadow) the content. David Sousa, How the Brain Learns, Corwin Press, 2006.
Aslam Mohammed
I rather liked the balloon idea. Fun, prop, physical movement and visibility all rolled into one class room.

My favorite which is a must in all my workshops is a game of virtual volleyball. Just divide the group into two teams. The number of members should not exceed 15 in each team. Then just play volley ball where the ball is passed by calling people’s first names. Normal volley ball rules would apply except the ball has to be passed three times before it is sent back to the opposite team.

End of the game – every body is involved – warmed up and best – remember each others first names. Especially in India where people use their initials to introduce themselves it is a very relevant exercise. Also the trainer is able to remember all the participants by first name at the end of the game.

Mohammed Aslam
We use something called a “thumball.” Participants toss it around the room and wherever their thumb lands, they must answer the question asked (e.g. favorite vacation). It’s a great conversation starter for people who don’t know each other well. You can buy a commercially produced one or make your own with questions specific to your organization. They still have to stand up, but it is much less intimidating, and more fun, than simply talking about themselves in front of the group.

Ciaran Mc Grath
We use the “Who’s Who?” game to good effect, it’s simple and only takes a few minutes.

Method
1. Break out into groups of 3 to 5 depending on numbers.

2. Give each team a flip chart and markers.

3. Assign one person on each team to do the writing.

4. Each team member gives an interesting fact about themselves or something that happened to them.
E.g. “I met Bruce Springsteen in the supermarket recently”; “I am a black belt in Judo”.

5. When each team has finished writing down their interesting personal facts, each team can take turns trying to guess which fact belongs to which person.

6. If you have odd numbers, join in yourself!

You can download a word version here: http://www.easytrainingtools.com/blog/free-tools/whos-who/

Lynda Robitaille
My favorite and one I use often in my workshops is the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. A group of 20 would be perfect.

You line the participants chairs facing each other (10 on one side, 10 on the other)

You ask them to introduce themselves and begin asking a question for a discussion. For example, If you were to visit one place in the world where would it be and why?

Each person speaks to the person in front of them and after 5 minutes have participants move clockwise one place.

Begin the process again.

The energy in this activity is really high!

You can find more information on the net, and you can develop your own interesting questions.
Some of these sound like loads of fun and good ways to get to know each other.
But is fun and knowing each other the only things you are looking to achieve?
If they are all in the room together I’m assuming it’s for some training that isn’t just about having fun or getting to know each other. So is there a way that you can link your icebreaker to the subject being learned?
Us grown ups like to have fun, and we will learn better if we are having a good time but we learn so much better if we see relevance. There is always the danger that an icebreaker just for ‘fun’ will turn off some people who will decide then and there that the whole day is a waste of time.
So whatever you do link to the topic in some way. Do that as part of the briefing for your icebreaker and see the learning start.
All the best
Alan
Barb Miller
Here’s another one to add to the terrific list:
Musical People: Have everyone pair up. Shout out a question like: What is your favorite vacation spot. The partners talk for a couple of minutes. Then you ask everyone to change partners and shout out another question like: What do you like to do in your non-work hours? You keep on changing partners and shouting out a different question depending on how much time you have and how many people. I like this because everyone has an opportunity to interact with someone different and they find things in common to talk about at breaks and lunch. If it is an intact team, they learn new things about one another. You can use work related questions like: what do you like about working here? What is one thing our team can improve?
Happy New Year
Barb Miller

I’ve also asked each person to bring along something from their desk or from where they work that personally represents what they do. Does anyone have suggestions?
Comments (13)
1. Todd Kaleto
I do introductions by pairing people up and asking them to interview the person they are paired with obtaining the following information. name, new position, favorite thing to do outside of work, 1 expectation for orientation, and perception or view of the employer (in my case the resort) before being offered a position. People are sometimes afraid to speak about themself in front of a group but more relaxed when speaking about someone else. I don’t require them to stand in front…it’s by choice only, whatever makes the person comfortable.

To pair people up…

I’ve asked people to talk with each other as an entire group to determine the years of experience in the industry, hospitality in my case, and then ask them to line up accordingly with most yrs of experience to the least yrs of experience. I pair people by selecting 1 person from each end working towards the middle. This gives people an opportunity to meet someone with lesser or greater experience and sometimes people find a mentor.
2.
Terrence Seamon
Jayne,
I like your idea of bringing something that represents an aspect of the person. Could be revealing and fun!
Terry
3.
Tony Park
5x5x5

Just random, high energy, to get people talking and interacting.

They have to introduce themselves to five people they don’t know…..find out five new things…..in five minutes.

The facilitator manages the clock and ensures people move on after each 60 seconds.
****************************************************************************************
Or create a bingo sheet of paper. 25 boxes with different things in it.

1. £20 pound in wallet/purse
2. Only child
3. Speak two or more languages
4. Lived abroad
5. Has pets
6. Has children
7. Likes country music
8. Watches football
9. Something topical based on current events or time of year like ……finishd xmas shoping
10 etc
11. etc

Hand out the sheets of paper and each person has to fill in as many boxes as possible in a given time period. Basically they find people who can tick a box and then they move on.
Kristy McDonald
I have had them draw something that represents them – their favorite place, vacation, hobby, etc. It’s not for everyone, depends on the group.
4. Jayanti Prasad
I ask them to tell the others their name and one ( or 2 depends on time available) adjective(s) that describe them as a person and the adjective should start with the first letter of their name or the sound of the first letter. If I have to introduce myself , I would say – Joyful Jayanti ( Starting with the first letter or Generous Jayanti- starting with the sound of the first letter of my name.)The adjective has to be positive.The second person repeats the first persons adjective and name and then gives his/her name and adjective. If the group is small , they repeat all names before their own otherwise at least two names before their own.A few start immediately. The members can help the others. You can also avoid repetition of adjectives if your group responds creatively.It gives a great start and a lot of positive environment gets created along with fun. If it is a new group they get to know one another more quickly.They can introduce from wherever they are. They don’t need to come in front of others.
5.
Andy O’Callaghan
To get things off with a bang, get each person to write three things about themselves onto a piece of paper they then roll up and insert into a balloon. The balloon is then blown up and tied so it’s bouyant. When everyone has done theirs, you give the signal for them to throw their balloon into the air and begin a 30 second bounce around where you push the balloons continually into the air.
When you call stop, you collect the balloon nearest you and wait for the facilitator to give the signal to pop the balloon making quite an impact as 30 balloons pop simultaineously!
They then have to find the person who’s three facts they have by going around and asking questions of the others in the group. The person must also offer up one fact about themselves to the other person so that something new is learned about each contact made and you can help others out if you know where they are.
This has been very useful on several occassions and has even been done as a mass balloon drop from the ceiling!
Posted 2 days ago | Reply Privately
6. Todd Kaleto
Andy,

I love your idea! Fun, interactive, and memorable!
7.
Mark Handel
Jayne, check out Sharon Bowman’s website, http://www.bowperson.com . She has a lot of great ideas and resources available; I highly recommend her.

Thanks, Mark
Robin Cook
Have each person get up & tell the group 3 or 4 things that the group might not know about themselves. 1 of those things will be a lie. The group then is to decide among themselves which is the lie.

Andy’s balloon exercise is a new one to me – I like it!
8.
Missy Covington
I’ve used a card exercise (which I think I first saw used by Thiagi) where each member of an audience gets a playing card–then everyone has to go around the room to try to create the best poker hand that they can. This generally involves some negotiation–and people really start talking with each other.

(It’s also good for the metaphor that we can do more together than we can do alone–if that’s something you’re trying to communicate at all.)
Diana Hauman
Similar to the desk item, I’ve asked people to bring a hat or a t-shirt that represents a part of their life outside of work. to share with others in small groups why they brought that particiular item.
Another way is asking people to pair up and get to know one another; then after a few minutes ask two pairs to form a quad; and keep the group expanding until it is one large group. Time permitting, you can ask for folks to share any interesting info — relevant to work! — that they learned from their colleagues.
1. To respond to Alan’s comment, I’ll often use “What’s in Your Wallet” to tie the ice breaker to the content. Everyone is asked to take an item out of their purse, wallet, or pocket at the start of the session, but they are not told why they need it. Then people are asked to introduce themselves using whatever criteria you wish. They must finish by saying how the item they selected relates to the training they are about to start. People get very creative and often very funny!

Doug Caldwell, Facilitator Extraordinaire’
Think chocolate or other candy. Get an assortment of candy which is passed out to the audience as they arrive. What you want to achieve is that depending on audience size is to get groups of 3-5 people who all have the same type of candy. At some point there is any audience breakout where they find others who have the same type of candy. If eaten before the breakout, save the wrapper. Once in their small groups proceed with your activity of choice.
Susan Reed
I’ve used several – 2 I particularly like:
1) either hand as they come into the room (like this as I get to meet each person) or place at the tables coloured candies. Ask people to find others with the same colour candy as them, find out an interesting fact from each person in that group that incorporates the colour – if time report the most interesting out to the rest of the group.

2) place random words for each person, facilitator starts with a word too, using a ball of yarn start a ‘story’ with the word, throw yarn to someone else int eh room and they continue the story while also telling us who they are. You can either use personal anecdotes or any other type topic. Idea is to get them up and talking.
Karen Carlson
I also like to use the Bingo! game. I put up a slide with the instructions about 15 minutes prior to class starting. The instructions have the participants immediately using their Bingo! sheet to interact with others as they arrive. Whenever they get 5 in a row, they need to yell out “Bingo!” and they continue on hoping for a Blackout. To tie it to the learning objectives, I used terms and acronyms for items on the agenda. They have to find someone who knows (or can give a good guess!) as to what that term means. The best part from a facilitator standpoint is that the icebreaker takes NO TIME from the training day as they are doing it as they arrive. Plus, they get to meet several people and thus are more likely to interact once official training begins.

Missy: Love the Poker game idea! I’ll be using that one!!
Bob Makarowski
WHO THE HECK HAS TIME FOR ICEBREAKERS?

I must be teaching on a different planet.

I’ve got a huge list of skills to cover, and ensure that my attendees achieve a decent level of competency. Instead of breaking the ice, put on the skates and start gliding. The clock is ticking and the person(s) paying your invoice will be judging you using their metrics, not kumbaya.

A number of years back I attended a one-day seminar entitled “50 ways to liven up your training.” Whatta waste! None of the techniques covered had anything to do with improving the assimilation of workshop content. They were all touchy-feely, pop-psychology relics.

Want repeat business from your clients? Create workshop graduates who can effectively use the material you are teaching. If you truly create graduates that are competent in the skills you’re teaching, they’ll be able to fund their own warm and fuzzy enlightenment.

Stick to the syllabus people.
Lynda Robitaille
Interesting point of view Bob, but I beg to differ and if you will allow me I will explain a further.

A new group coming together to learn or work on a task needs a facilitator/leader who can manage both task and maintenance. Icebreakers are one way to build trust in groups and is the beginnings of good maintenance.

I for one, like my groups to be open enough to discuss topics, ask questions and feel at ease to do so. Icebreakers are a good way to introduce and get comfortable. Always remember there are introverts in every group, with bright ideas and have reflected long enough to have some pretty good ones. They need to feel comfortable or they wont talk.

On another note, you can’t enter the “zone of proximal developement” (ZPD) without trust and without an icebreaker trust is very difficult to establish quickly.

If you are just lecturing using a syllabus …..different story and people learning in relationship is I guess not what you are looking for.
Cherie Bescript
The distinction, clearly, between “training” and “facilitating” makes all the difference. I do both and when facilitating a group of folks that do not already know each other but must address deeply personal work…well.
Deborah Moroy, AIC, IIA
I agree that icebreakers done professionally do help jump start a class. Professionally is the key word. I witnessed a carrier staff group that included as ice breakers some taboo ideas such as having everyone going around the room and telling their marital status, kids, etc which are questions not even allowed in an interview never mind in front of a classroom of staff employees. Another felt free to let an ice breaker get side tracked into off the cuff sexual comments so it’s important if ice breakers are used that the instructors are mentored on off limit questions or any planned ice breaker topics be preapproved. In today’s world, I was quite surprised this wasn’t common knowledge to the instructors before hand.
Susan Landay
President at Trainers Warehouse
Bob,

You certainly have a point when it comes to making sure each activity is purposeful and linked to your training goal.

And, I wouldn’t write off the value of icebreakers too quickly. The key reason so many have embraced the concept of icebreakers, interactivity and fun is that they reduce stress and induce laughter. Here are a couple of brain research facts that help it all make sense:

Stress causes your body to release cortisol into the bloodstream, which destroys glucose, the brain’s only source of food.” (Tina Konstant, Teach Yourself Speed Reading

Laughter reduces stress. Actually it reduces at least four of neuroendocrine hormones associated with stress response — epinephrine, cortisol, dopac, and growth hormone. Paul E. McGhee, PhD, Health, Healing and the Amuse System, 1999. http://www.LaughterRemedy.com

Events and information become more memorable when emotions are are involved (as long as they don’t overshadow) the content. David Sousa, How the Brain Learns, Corwin Press, 2006.
Aslam Mohammed
I rather liked the balloon idea. Fun, prop, physical movement and visibility all rolled into one class room.

My favorite which is a must in all my workshops is a game of virtual volleyball. Just divide the group into two teams. The number of members should not exceed 15 in each team. Then just play volley ball where the ball is passed by calling people’s first names. Normal volley ball rules would apply except the ball has to be passed three times before it is sent back to the opposite team.

End of the game – every body is involved – warmed up and best – remember each others first names. Especially in India where people use their initials to introduce themselves it is a very relevant exercise. Also the trainer is able to remember all the participants by first name at the end of the game.

Mohammed Aslam
We use something called a “thumball.” Participants toss it around the room and wherever their thumb lands, they must answer the question asked (e.g. favorite vacation). It’s a great conversation starter for people who don’t know each other well. You can buy a commercially produced one or make your own with questions specific to your organization. They still have to stand up, but it is much less intimidating, and more fun, than simply talking about themselves in front of the group.

Ciaran Mc Grath
We use the “Who’s Who?” game to good effect, it’s simple and only takes a few minutes.

Method
1. Break out into groups of 3 to 5 depending on numbers.

2. Give each team a flip chart and markers.

3. Assign one person on each team to do the writing.

4. Each team member gives an interesting fact about themselves or something that happened to them.
E.g. “I met Bruce Springsteen in the supermarket recently”; “I am a black belt in Judo”.

5. When each team has finished writing down their interesting personal facts, each team can take turns trying to guess which fact belongs to which person.

6. If you have odd numbers, join in yourself!

You can download a word version here: http://www.easytrainingtools.com/blog/free-tools/whos-who/

Lynda Robitaille
My favorite and one I use often in my workshops is the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. A group of 20 would be perfect.

You line the participants chairs facing each other (10 on one side, 10 on the other)

You ask them to introduce themselves and begin asking a question for a discussion. For example, If you were to visit one place in the world where would it be and why?

Each person speaks to the person in front of them and after 5 minutes have participants move clockwise one place.

Begin the process again.

The energy in this activity is really high!

You can find more information on the net, and you can develop your own interesting questions.
Some of these sound like loads of fun and good ways to get to know each other.
But is fun and knowing each other the only things you are looking to achieve?
If they are all in the room together I’m assuming it’s for some training that isn’t just about having fun or getting to know each other. So is there a way that you can link your icebreaker to the subject being learned?
Us grown ups like to have fun, and we will learn better if we are having a good time but we learn so much better if we see relevance. There is always the danger that an icebreaker just for ‘fun’ will turn off some people who will decide then and there that the whole day is a waste of time.
So whatever you do link to the topic in some way. Do that as part of the briefing for your icebreaker and see the learning start.
All the best
Alan
Barb Miller
Here’s another one to add to the terrific list:
Musical People: Have everyone pair up. Shout out a question like: What is your favorite vacation spot. The partners talk for a couple of minutes. Then you ask everyone to change partners and shout out another question like: What do you like to do in your non-work hours? You keep on changing partners and shouting out a different question depending on how much time you have and how many people. I like this because everyone has an opportunity to interact with someone different and they find things in common to talk about at breaks and lunch. If it is an intact team, they learn new things about one another. You can use work related questions like: what do you like about working here? What is one thing our team can improve?
Happy New Year
Barb Miller

ntation icebreaker
I’m looking for a successOrientation icebreaker
I’m looking for a successful icebreaker that is useful for a group of 20 – 30 people to introduce themselves to others. Criteria is that it is interesting, fast and engaging and doesn’t make people stand up at the front of the room and introduce themselve to the everyone else.

I’ve also asked each person to bring along something from their desk or from where they work that personally represents what they do. Does anyone have suggestions?
Comments (13)
1. Todd Kaleto
I do introductions by pairing people up and asking them to interview the person they are paired with obtaining the following information. name, new position, favorite thing to do outside of work, 1 expectation for orientation, and perception or view of the employer (in my case the resort) before being offered a position. People are sometimes afraid to speak about themself in front of a group but more relaxed when speaking about someone else. I don’t require them to stand in front…it’s by choice only, whatever makes the person comfortable.

To pair people up…

I’ve asked people to talk with each other as an entire group to determine the years of experience in the industry, hospitality in my case, and then ask them to line up accordingly with most yrs of experience to the least yrs of experience. I pair people by selecting 1 person from each end working towards the middle. This gives people an opportunity to meet someone with lesser or greater experience and sometimes people find a mentor.
2.
Terrence Seamon
Jayne,
I like your idea of bringing something that represents an aspect of the person. Could be revealing and fun!
Terry
3.
Tony Park
5x5x5

Just random, high energy, to get people talking and interacting.

They have to introduce themselves to five people they don’t know…..find out five new things…..in five minutes.

The facilitator manages the clock and ensures people move on after each 60 seconds.
****************************************************************************************

January 12, 2010

Great Discussion on Orientation Icebreakers (from LinkedIn Trainning and Development Group)

Filed under: Favorite Articles and Posts — by kristinesargsyan @ 1:28 pm

Orientation icebreaker

I’m looking for a successful icebreaker that is useful for a group of 20 – 30 people to introduce themselves to others. Criteria is that it is interesting, fast and engaging and doesn’t make people stand up at the front of the room and introduce themselve to the everyone else.

I’ve also asked each person to bring along something from their desk or from where they work that personally represents what they do. Does anyone have suggestions?

Todd Kaleto

I do introductions by pairing people up and asking them to interview the person they are paired with obtaining the following information. name, new position, favorite thing to do outside of work, 1 expectation for orientation, and perception or view of the employer (in my case the resort) before being offered a position. People are sometimes afraid to speak about themself in front of a group but more relaxed when speaking about someone else. I don’t require them to stand in front…it’s by choice only, whatever makes the person comfortable.

To pair people up…

I’ve asked people to talk with each other as an entire group to determine the years of experience in the industry, hospitality in my case, and then ask them to line up accordingly with most yrs of experience to the least yrs of experience. I pair people by selecting 1 person from each end working towards the middle. This gives people an opportunity to meet someone with lesser or greater experience and sometimes people find a mentor.

Terrence Seamon

Jayne,
I like your idea of bringing something that represents an aspect of the person. Could be revealing and fun!
Terry

Tony Park

5x5x5

Just random, high energy, to get people talking and interacting.

They have to introduce themselves to five people they don’t know…..find out five new things…..in five minutes.

The facilitator manages the clock and ensures people move on after each 60 seconds.
****************************************************************************************
Or create a bingo sheet of paper. 25 boxes with different things in it.

1. £20 pound in wallet/purse
2. Only child
3. Speak two or more languages
4. Lived abroad
5. Has pets
6. Has children
7. Likes country music
8. Watches football
9. Something topical based on current events or time of year like ……finishd xmas shoping
10 etc
11. etc

Hand out the sheets of paper and each person has to fill in as many boxes as possible in a given time period. Basically they find people who can tick a box and then they move on.

Kristy McDonald

I have had them draw something that represents them – their favorite place, vacation, hobby, etc. It’s not for everyone, depends on the group.

Jayanti Prasad

I ask them to tell the others their name and one ( or 2 depends on time available) adjective(s) that describe them as a person and the adjective should start with the first letter of their name or the sound of the first letter. If I have to introduce myself , I would say – Joyful Jayanti ( Starting with the first letter or Generous Jayanti- starting with the sound of the first letter of my name.)The adjective has to be positive.The second person repeats the first persons adjective and name and then gives his/her name and adjective. If the group is small , they repeat all names before their own otherwise at least two names before their own.A few start immediately. The members can help the others. You can also avoid repetition of adjectives if your group responds creatively.It gives a great start and a lot of positive environment gets created along with fun. If it is a new group they get to know one another more quickly.They can introduce from wherever they are. They don’t need to come in front of others.

Andy O’Callaghan

To get things off with a bang, get each person to write three things about themselves onto a piece of paper they then roll up and insert into a balloon. The balloon is then blown up and tied so it’s bouyant. When everyone has done theirs, you give the signal for them to throw their balloon into the air and begin a 30 second bounce around where you push the balloons continually into the air.
When you call stop, you collect the balloon nearest you and wait for the facilitator to give the signal to pop the balloon making quite an impact as 30 balloons pop simultaineously!
They then have to find the person who’s three facts they have by going around and asking questions of the others in the group. The person must also offer up one fact about themselves to the other person so that something new is learned about each contact made and you can help others out if you know where they are.
This has been very useful on several occassions and has even been done as a mass balloon drop from the ceiling!

Todd Kaleto

Andy,

I love your idea! Fun, interactive, and memorable!

Mark Handel

Jayne, check out Sharon Bowman’s website, http://www.bowperson.com . She has a lot of great ideas and resources available; I highly recommend her.

Thanks, Mark

Robin Cook

Have each person get up & tell the group 3 or 4 things that the group might not know about themselves. 1 of those things will be a lie. The group then is to decide among themselves which is the lie.

Andy’s balloon exercise is a new one to me – I like it!

Missy Covington

I’ve used a card exercise (which I think I first saw used by Thiagi) where each member of an audience gets a playing card–then everyone has to go around the room to try to create the best poker hand that they can. This generally involves some negotiation–and people really start talking with each other.

(It’s also good for the metaphor that we can do more together than we can do alone–if that’s something you’re trying to communicate at all.)

Diana Hauman

Similar to the desk item, I’ve asked people to bring a hat or a t-shirt that represents a part of their life outside of work. to share with others in small groups why they brought that particiular item.
Another way is asking people to pair up and get to know one another; then after a few minutes ask two pairs to form a quad; and keep the group expanding until it is one large group. Time permitting, you can ask for folks to share any interesting info — relevant to work! — that they learned from their colleagues.

1.      To respond to Alan’s comment, I’ll often use “What’s in Your Wallet” to tie the ice breaker to the content. Everyone is asked to take an item out of their purse, wallet, or pocket at the start of the session, but they are not told why they need it. Then people are asked to introduce themselves using whatever criteria you wish. They must finish by saying how the item they selected relates to the training they are about to start. People get very creative and often very funny!

 Doug Caldwell, Facilitator Extraordinaire’

Think chocolate or other candy. Get an assortment of candy which is passed out to the audience as they arrive. What you want to achieve is that depending on audience size is to get groups of 3-5 people who all have the same type of candy. At some point there is any audience breakout where they find others who have the same type of candy. If eaten before the breakout, save the wrapper. Once in their small groups proceed with your activity of choice.

Susan Reed

I’ve used several – 2 I particularly like:
1) either hand as they come into the room (like this as I get to meet each person) or place at the tables coloured candies. Ask people to find others with the same colour candy as them, find out an interesting fact from each person in that group that incorporates the colour – if time report the most interesting out to the rest of the group.

2) place random words for each person, facilitator starts with a word too, using a ball of yarn start a ‘story’ with the word, throw yarn to someone else int eh room and they continue the story while also telling us who they are. You can either use personal anecdotes or any other type topic. Idea is to get them up and talking.

Karen Carlson

I also like to use the Bingo! game. I put up a slide with the instructions about 15 minutes prior to class starting. The instructions have the participants immediately using their Bingo! sheet to interact with others as they arrive. Whenever they get 5 in a row, they need to yell out “Bingo!” and they continue on hoping for a Blackout. To tie it to the learning objectives, I used terms and acronyms for items on the agenda. They have to find someone who knows (or can give a good guess!) as to what that term means. The best part from a facilitator standpoint is that the icebreaker takes NO TIME from the training day as they are doing it as they arrive. Plus, they get to meet several people and thus are more likely to interact once official training begins.

Missy: Love the Poker game idea! I’ll be using that one!!

Bob Makarowski

WHO THE HECK HAS TIME FOR ICEBREAKERS?

I must be teaching on a different planet.

I’ve got a huge list of skills to cover, and ensure that my attendees achieve a decent level of competency. Instead of breaking the ice, put on the skates and start gliding. The clock is ticking and the person(s) paying your invoice will be judging you using their metrics, not kumbaya.

A number of years back I attended a one-day seminar entitled “50 ways to liven up your training.” Whatta waste! None of the techniques covered had anything to do with improving the assimilation of workshop content. They were all touchy-feely, pop-psychology relics.

Want repeat business from your clients? Create workshop graduates who can effectively use the material you are teaching. If you truly create graduates that are competent in the skills you’re teaching, they’ll be able to fund their own warm and fuzzy enlightenment.

Stick to the syllabus people.

Lynda Robitaille

Interesting point of view Bob, but I beg to differ and if you will allow me I will explain a further.

A new group coming together to learn or work on a task needs a facilitator/leader who can manage both task and maintenance. Icebreakers are one way to build trust in groups and is the beginnings of good maintenance.

I for one, like my groups to be open enough to discuss topics, ask questions and feel at ease to do so. Icebreakers are a good way to introduce and get comfortable. Always remember there are introverts in every group, with bright ideas and have reflected long enough to have some pretty good ones. They need to feel comfortable or they wont talk.

On another note, you can’t enter the “zone of proximal developement” (ZPD) without trust and without an icebreaker trust is very difficult to establish quickly.

If you are just lecturing using a syllabus …..different story and people learning in relationship is I guess not what you are looking for.

Cherie Bescript

The distinction, clearly, between “training” and “facilitating” makes all the difference. I do both and when facilitating a group of folks that do not already know each other but must address deeply personal work…well.

Deborah Moroy, AIC, IIA

I agree that icebreakers done professionally do help jump start a class. Professionally is the key word. I witnessed a carrier staff group that included as ice breakers some taboo ideas such as having everyone going around the room and telling their marital status, kids, etc which are questions not even allowed in an interview never mind in front of a classroom of staff employees. Another felt free to let an ice breaker get side tracked into off the cuff sexual comments so it’s important if ice breakers are used that the instructors are mentored on off limit questions or any planned ice breaker topics be preapproved. In today’s world, I was quite surprised this wasn’t common knowledge to the instructors before hand.

Susan Landay

President at Trainers Warehouse

Bob,

You certainly have a point when it comes to making sure each activity is purposeful and linked to your training goal.

And, I wouldn’t write off the value of icebreakers too quickly. The key reason so many have embraced the concept of icebreakers, interactivity and fun is that they reduce stress and induce laughter. Here are a couple of brain research facts that help it all make sense:

Stress causes your body to release cortisol into the bloodstream, which destroys glucose, the brain’s only source of food.” (Tina Konstant, Teach Yourself Speed Reading

Laughter reduces stress. Actually it reduces at least four of neuroendocrine hormones associated with stress response — epinephrine, cortisol, dopac, and growth hormone. Paul E. McGhee, PhD, Health, Healing and the Amuse System, 1999. http://www.LaughterRemedy.com

Events and information become more memorable when emotions are are involved (as long as they don’t overshadow) the content. David Sousa, How the Brain Learns, Corwin Press, 2006.

Aslam Mohammed

I rather liked the balloon idea. Fun, prop, physical movement and visibility all rolled into one class room.

My favorite which is a must in all my workshops is a game of virtual volleyball. Just divide the group into two teams. The number of members should not exceed 15 in each team. Then just play volley ball where the ball is passed by calling people’s first names. Normal volley ball rules would apply except the ball has to be passed three times before it is sent back to the opposite team.

End of the game – every body is involved – warmed up and best – remember each others first names. Especially in India where people use their initials to introduce themselves it is a very relevant exercise. Also the trainer is able to remember all the participants by first name at the end of the game.

Mohammed Aslam

We use something called a “thumball.” Participants toss it around the room and wherever their thumb lands, they must answer the question asked (e.g. favorite vacation). It’s a great conversation starter for people who don’t know each other well. You can buy a commercially produced one or make your own with questions specific to your organization. They still have to stand up, but it is much less intimidating, and more fun, than simply talking about themselves in front of the group.

 

          Ciaran Mc Grath

We use the “Who’s Who?” game to good effect, it’s simple and only takes a few minutes.

Method
1. Break out into groups of 3 to 5 depending on numbers.

2. Give each team a flip chart and markers.

3. Assign one person on each team to do the writing.

4. Each team member gives an interesting fact about themselves or something that happened to them.
E.g. “I met Bruce Springsteen in the supermarket recently”; “I am a black belt in Judo”.

5. When each team has finished writing down their interesting personal facts, each team can take turns trying to guess which fact belongs to which person.

6. If you have odd numbers, join in yourself!

You can download a word version here: http://www.easytrainingtools.com/blog/free-tools/whos-who/

 

Lynda Robitaille

My favorite and one I use often in my workshops is the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. A group of 20 would be perfect.

You line the participants chairs facing each other (10 on one side, 10 on the other)

You ask them to introduce themselves and begin asking a question for a discussion. For example, If you were to visit one place in the world where would it be and why?

Each person speaks to the person in front of them and after 5 minutes have participants move clockwise one place.

Begin the process again.

The energy in this activity is really high!

You can find more information on the net, and you can develop your own interesting questions.
Some of these sound like loads of fun and good ways to get to know each other.
But is fun and knowing each other the only things you are looking to achieve?
If they are all in the room together I’m assuming it’s for some training that isn’t just about having fun or getting to know each other. So is there a way that you can link your icebreaker to the subject being learned?
Us grown ups like to have fun, and we will learn better if we are having a good time but we learn so much better if we see relevance. There is always the danger that an icebreaker just for ‘fun’ will turn off some people who will decide then and there that the whole day is a waste of time.
So whatever you do link to the topic in some way. Do that as part of the briefing for your icebreaker and see the learning start.
All the best
Alan

Barb Miller

Here’s another one to add to the terrific list:
Musical People: Have everyone pair up. Shout out a question like: What is your favorite vacation spot. The partners talk for a couple of minutes. Then you ask everyone to change partners and shout out another question like: What do you like to do in your non-work hours? You keep on changing partners and shouting out a different question depending on how much time you have and how many people. I like this because everyone has an opportunity to interact with someone different and they find things in common to talk about at breaks and lunch. If it is an intact team, they learn new things about one another. You can use work related questions like: what do you like about working here? What is one thing our team can improve?
Happy New Year
Barb Miller

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