Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Archive for January, 2012

An effective and cool ice breaker for your next team meeting.

Thought you might appreciate hearing about this great exercise that you can use as part of a staff meeting, or to kick off a morning or afternoon session with a working team. All you need is 15 to 30 minutes (depending on the size of the team), and a simple worksheet with this partial sentence printed on it: Everyone (on my team) may want to know…..

Participants will have the opportunity to complete the sentence with just one specific piece of information that may help their co-workers communicate or collaborate more effectively with them. Or, the tidbit they offer may simply help their teammates understand them better. For example: Everyone may want to know …..that I’m not a morning person, so if possible, it’s best to approach me after I’ve had an hour in the office; or Everyone may want to know …..that I strongly prefer email over voice mail; or Everyone may want to know ……that when I get busy I sometimes get very focused on what I’m doing and may appear as though I don’t want to be bothered, so please approach me anyway if you need me!

If you’re facilitating the exercise, you may want to follow these—or a variation on these—steps:
– Give people a few minutes to complete the sentence about themselves. Again, they’re sharing information that may help their teammates better communicate or collaborate with, or understand them. You may want to offer a couple of examples (like the ones mentioned above) to get them started.
– Once people have had sufficient time to write their sentence, you may want to break the team up into triads so that people can share their statements conversationally within a smaller group, to start.
– Then, debrief the larger group: Before going around the room so that each person could very briefly state/share their sentence (encourage people to take notes about their teammates), you may want to ask the large group a few quick questions such as: Did anyone hear something from a teammate that they weren’t already aware of? Or: How many of you were already aware of what your teammates shared with you in your small group? Or: How many of you feel that what you learned about your teammate will help you work better with them, and how?

This simple exercise will offer an opportunity to actively engage participants during a meeting, while giving team members a great opportunity to learn more about one another and how they can work better together. And, it may generate some interesting conversations well-beyond the meeting.

If you decide to give this exercise a try, I hope you’ll share your comments/feedback about your and your team’s experience with it. Everyone may want to know……that I’ll appreciate your taking the time to comment!

The power of choice

This past week, I had a great opportunity to be the luncheon speaker for the 2012 Spouses Program of the Council of Independent Colleges’ Annual Presidents Institute. The conference was held in Marco Island, Florida, so in addition to meeting interesting professionals from yet another walk of life, I enjoyed a very brief and surrealistic summer break from the NY winter weather, on the Gulf shore. Other than having a sandwich snatched from my hand by a seagull on the beach, and then being chased by his fellow gulls overhead, it was a treat.

The luncheon topic was Choosing or Re-Choosing Your Role. In preparing and presenting, I was reminded that there are choices to be made regardless of the situation or role we find ourselves in. And reflecting on our choices, in wonderful or tough situations, can be validating and empowering.

Whether you’re contemplating a new role or situation, faced with a conflict, hoping to breathe some life into an existing role or situation, or you’re simply interested in tapping into your gratitude, these guidelines may help you explore your choices:

– Note what you enjoy about—or how you most benefit from—your job or the situation you’re in, or contemplating. Whether it be a volunteer role, or a paid position, revisiting the good stuff can be invigorating and can generate your gratitude even in challenging times.
– Note those things that you find or anticipate as tough or unfulfilling about the role or situation. Being realistic about your challenges is just as important as reflecting on the positive. It helps to clarify the full scope of what you’re choosing.
– Ask yourself what choices you have at the moment. For example, you may not have a choice about the task that needs to be fulfilled, yet you may have a menu of choices about the mindset you might choose as you approach the task. Or, you may be experiencing an unresolved conflict with an individual or a difference of opinion with your manager or colleagues, yet you may have the choice to address the conflict more directly while recommending a collaborative solution.

This exercise may help you re-choose what you’re currently doing because it fits well into your family plan at the moment, or allows you some other enjoyment outside of the job that outshines the challenges. You may clarify that the challenges outweigh the joys or satisfaction, which may guide you to choose or explore other options. Or you may simply choose to shift your approach in a specific situation.

Regardless of limitations or requirements, there are choices to be made with every experience, and the great news is that many of those choices are yours.