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Managers Must Have Ice Breakers Handy

Settlers-of-CatanManagers have it tough. Not only are they expected to oversee budgets, timelines and resources, they are expected to manage all the personalities they have on their teams. Stubborn Steve, Critical Charles, Nitpicky Nancy and Always Forgettin’ Al, among the lot.

If all the personalities represented on our teams and in our departments got along without a hiccup, we may not need skilled managers. Alas, the variety is always present.

Part of every manager’s arsenal should be a reliable set of ice breakers. Ice breakers are essentially teambuilding activities which can be used as part of a plan or zipped out on the spot. They should be simple, easy to implement activities that can solve the problem or situation du jour, such as:

  • Low morale
  • Too much bickering
  • Personality obstacles
  • Loss of enthusiasm
  • Frustration
  • Poor or declining performance
  • Stuck-ness
  • Rewards and congrats

The effective managers I’ve observed are deft at providing activities that help them keep all those personalities on track and working well together. I once saw a manager talking to a staff person who was in distress. The manager’s first response was, “Go find Larry and Susan and play a game of Settlers of Catan. I’ll join you in a bit.” What? Play a board game together? What about the problem? This manager kept a few board games, card games, and toys around to use when the situation begged for it. The employee in distress did go off and begin a game of Settlers and I saw her distress level evaporate. Afterwards, the manager brought her back in to discuss her problem. He knew her personality well enough to know that, before he could have a meaningful exchange with her, her distressed-ness needed to be diffused. That’s one way to have an ice breaker ready. This manager really knew his personalities. Would this work in every office? Probably not, yet it was a very effective remedy for these personalities.

It was with the manager in mind that the products on this site (www.GamesandTeambuilding.com) were designed. They had to be simple activities that can be part of any manager’s arsenal to use on the spot or as part of a larger plan. For instance, the HUDDLE Biz Breaks for Business Teams are to be used before every department meeting. Over time, the personalities will learn more about each other than they would have without the ice breaker. And over time, they learn how to accept and work with their differences. I’ve called it Drip Team Building because it is a slow effect, not instantaneous.

Toys are often part of a manager’s ice breaker cache. One office has a funny looking (my description) hat that is passed around. It looks like what I call a Safari Hat. The lucky employee wearing the hat has earned special privileges. Of course, if you want to use this idea, you can define what those privileges might be and tailor it to the culture in your office. The point is, the manager is prepared with an ice breaker activity to keep the variety of personalities working well together.

Although managers are trained to be jugglers, they must also learn to be masterful at implementing ice breakers, toys and other team building activities with the personalities in their charge.

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