Ice Breakers To Get A Team On The Same Page

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about improving Credit Unions’ work group communication.

I work at a credit union and my manager is having us meet with another credit union to help their business. She asked me if I know any good starting tactics, like ice breakers or ways to start the meeting or if there’s a certain personality test everyone could take before coming to the meeting so everyone can find out how everyone communicates.

The other credit union is having problems functioning as a team and struggles with communication as well because some people take certain things one way when they were supposed to be taken another way. I hope this makes sense! Thanks for your help!

Signed, Breaking the Ice

Dear IceBreaker:

Congratulations, apparently your manager sees you as an effective communicator. You can access icebreakers on the Internet. Some are creative, but many of them take too much time from the purpose of a meeting and you must search for those that are relevant to the purpose of your meeting. So search to see if you can find any that are brief and relevant. Also there are communication tests that profile personal predispositions to communication; however, I doubt that they would be appropriate for improving communication for the kind of meeting your manager has in mind.

You say the purpose of this gathering is for your credit union to meet with another credit union to help their business. Therefore, with this purpose in mind, an icebreaker should 1. generate a fun atmosphere in which each member of your and those individuals from that other credit union can get acquainted and 2. focus on effective communication skills—those that might carry over to future for each credit union. With these two goals in mind, I’m suggesting an icebreaker that you might label: Ben’s Motivating Maxims and Do/Don’t Rules. You won’t find this icebreaker on the Internet; it’s an Ask the Workplace Doctors original.

Ideally each member will have her/his name clearly printed on a tent card. Ben’s Motivating Maxims should be typed on one sheet and handed to each participant. Each individual is then asked to read aloud one of Ben’s Maxims that he/she likes. This round robin voicing of a chosen maxim should take no more than about three minutes. If you want this to take more time, each individual could give a reason for her/his choice.

Once that is complete, a second sheet is distributed on which there are Do/Don’t Communication Rules, and each member is invited to choose one of those rules to read aloud that she/he would say would make their work group communicate more effectively. This too should take no more that 3-5 minutes, but if you manager wants it to serve as a springboard for the topic of the meeting, members could say why they chose the rule they did.

The natural outcome of this Ben’s Motivating Maxims and Do/Don’t Rules Icebreaker is that the work group from each Credit Union would be introduced to the value of collaborative communication rule making. I have included below examples of what you might prepare on a page of Ben’s Motivating Maxims and Do/Don’t Rules.

When you’re good to others, you are best to yourself.
— Benjamin Franklin
Lost time is never found again.
— Benjamin Franklin
Experience keeps a dear school, yet Fools will learn in no other.
— Benjamin Franklin
Love, and be loved.
— Benjamin Franklin
Having been poor is no shame, but being ashamed of it, is.
— Benjamin Franklin
Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
— Benjamin Franklin
Wish not so much to live long as to live well.
— Benjamin Franklin
Observe all men; thy self most.
— Benjamin Franklin
Think of three Things, whence you came, where you are going, and to whom you must account.
— Benjamin Franklin
The noblest question in the world is, What Good may I do in it?
— Benjamin Franklin
If you’d know the Value of Money, go and borrow some.
— Benjamin Franklin
The worst wheel of the cart makes the most noise.
— Benjamin Franklin
Whate’er’s begun in anger ends in shame.
— Benjamin Franklin
Haste makes Waste.
— Benjamin Franklin
If you want more maxims, there are a 100 of the on the Internet. Now next are my Rules of Communicating Effectively
Talk about talk is not a waste of time.
Making and following an agenda enables most concerns to be addressed.
Process procedures enables efficient talk.
Listen more than you talk.
Take turns, don’t dominate.
Encourage others to speak.
There’s rarely too many please and thank you.
Get clear about who should do what, but don’t boss others.
Misunderstanding is the rule and not the exception; therefore, speak clearly and be willing to ask for clarification before judging.
Seek solutions rather than blame.
Join don’t judge.
Don’t take credit that belongs to others.
Saving face of others is the way to save your own.
Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

You will notice that the last rule is my signature sentence I conclude answers to all questions I answer on Ask the Workplace Doctors. Please feel free to adapt this Icebreaker suggestion or to have it motivate you to create one you can call your own. And tell me what you do and how it works for you.