Sales meetings, committee meetings, team meetings, board meetings. Summer is often the time when new board members and committee members are selected. That often means kick-off meetings and what would a kick-off meeting be without an icebreaker?
Icebreakers are intended to put at ease a bunch of folks who don’t know each other particularly well. By the time you break for lunch and mingle, you can reference something you learned during the icebreaker (e.g. “I’ve been to Japan, too!”) Typically, the leader of the meeting asks everyone around a conference room table to introduce themselves and say what they do, where they live and maybe something surprising about themselves.
Some people have a very polished response such as ”people would be surprised to know that I was a competitive diver in my teens.” Other people sit there with mental paralysis —“what do I say?!”—dreading their turn. The irony in that scenario is that most people are so consumed with thinking about what they are going to say that they don’t even hear you speaking when it’s your turn.
So, when it comes to icebreakers, most leaders fail at doing what they set out to accomplish.
As a leader, you are expected to help put your team at ease. You want to elicit a response from people that does not embarrass them, make others feel excluded, or provoke an overly emotional response. Icebreakers focused on current events or icebreakers that assume everyone has children are bad ideas.
Aside from adding a little levity, icebreakers should also provide us with enough information about someone so that the solid line between professional and personal becomes a bit dotted. Those little bits of information are what professional relationships are built from.
If you would like to read more about how to hold a great meeting with an engaging icebreaker, take a look at my piece on LinkedIn!