Not all icebreakers add value to a meeting. Here are some we love and why we love them.

We frequently include icebreakers in our meetings, starting with the basic goals:

  • Get people participating
  • Help the humans see each other as humans (vs the various issues or positions they might represent)

We also use icebreakers to serve a timely need for the team, group, or meeting, such as:

  • Talent and strengths inventory
    (Who can we learn from or lean on for help?)
  • Systems learning
    (Learning what an individual “actually” does in this organization helps us understand how our system creates value, how information flows.)
  • Storytelling practice
  • Trust building
    (Stories that share human vulnerability and uniqueness help a team build the trust needed to have healthy conflict and welcome the elephants.)

The icebreakers we love serve a few of these goals with each exercise.

Icebreakers We Love

Actual Title: Share your name, current role, and also what your “actual” title would be if it described what you do every day.

Past Roles: Share the past five roles that you’ve had in your career. For those with only a few roles in your career, you can also include what you’ve studied, how you’ve volunteered, or how you’ve helped your family or community.

Superpowers (and Kryptonite): What is your superpower, what your friends and colleagues come to you for? What is your kryptonite–your biggest weakness that we should all lean in to help you with?

Childhood Challenge Overcome: Share your name, how many siblings, your birth order, and a challenge you overcame in childhood. This icebreaker was introduced in Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team; The Table Group has a great version online, here.

The Career you Almost Had: What careers did you consider, perhaps even train for or try–before you chose the path you’re on now? 

StrengthsFinder: Share your top five strengths with a quick explanation/story of what they mean to you, and what they might mean for others working with you. We suggest using CliftonStrengths, having each participant and facilitator take the assessment the week before the meeting.

Favorite Vacation: Tell us about your favorite vacation ever. What did you love most about it?

We suggest ice breakers even for those groups that already know each other well: Practice reinforcing humanness, vulnerability, trust building and storytelling.

Something Unknown: This one is fun. It’s simple to ask, hard to answer: What is one thing about you that no one in this room yet knows about you?

Two Truths and a Lie: This one takes more time: Take a few minutes to write down three stories about yourself that you’ll read verbatim. Two of them should be true. One should be false. Each person reads their three stories, with the group voting for which they think is the “lie”.

What is your favorite icebreaker? Favorite icebreaker resource? Join the conversation on LinkedIn