Breaking the ice, warming the soul

My most recent LinkedIn post on icebreakers and connecting at work.

icebreaker

Forging the way – The Polar Explorer Icebreaker in Rovaniemi, Finland

At a recent stakeholder workshop, I ran an icebreaker to….well, break the ice. The participants were not all from the same business area. Many were meeting for the first time. So, the icebreaker had to be suitable – nothing that required prior knowledge of one another, nothing too personal, something to forge common ground.

Armed with post-it notes and a list of A/B questions, we went through an activity called This or That? which involved me calling out two options for a number of categories, and participants holding up a blue or a yellow post-it note to indicate their preference. (Note: The activity was designed for everyone to stand up and move into A/B groups. We didn’t have the space, but we had post-it notes and creativity.)

We started out with everyday, ‘safe’ preferences – Coffee or Tea? Dog or Cat? Beach or Countryside? – to get everyone comfortable with the idea. Then we moved on to the more entertaining – Singing or Dancing? AFL or Rugby? Star Trek or Star Wars? Adele or Justin Bieber?

justinbieberIt was a simple exercise but allowed us all to look around and learn something about our colleagues. There were smiles, nods of understanding and some moments of surprise. We learned that within this group, there was a church choir singer, several Trekkies, and…..just one Bieber fan.

But we don’t need to wait for scheduled opportunities to form connections. These are usually few and far between. Just as RU OK Day should be a starting point for regular conversations, icebreakers can be useful to kick-start connections with colleagues. And why wait for a workshop?

Considering that we spend a lot of time at work, how well do we really know our colleagues? Let’s take the time to get to know the people with whom we spend a third of our day. Don’t just ask if they’re OK on one designated day of the year.

iceberg

Conversations over lunch or in the office kitchen, discussions of weekend plans, noticing a photo or a book on your team-mate’s desk – these can provide insights into someone’s life outside of work and open up beautiful opportunities for connection.

Small talk can have a big impact when it grows into something greater that can break through barriers and reveal what lies beneath. Take the time to ask, to share, to connect.

After all, “We’re all just walking each other home.” – Ram Dass

©Seetha Nambiar Dodd

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