Every single thing on this planet has a lifecycle: food perishes, clothes wear out, businesses mature and people age. Teams at a workplace have a lifespan too. Each team goes through four stages of development:
- Mutual acceptance: in this stage group members start breaking the ice – they share information about themselves and get to know one another. They discuss subjects unrelated to work and adapt. In the later phase of this stage, the group may start discussing organizational politics and eventually turn to their business.
- Communication and decision making: after the group members started accepting one another, they begin sharing their viewpoints more openly and show more tolerance towards different opinions. The group develops norms of behavior, decides on its goals, and divides the tasks and responsibilities among the members.
- Motivation and productivity: in this stage the group actually starts performing. Members are motivated to accomplish their tasks, help others if needed and move toward achieving the group goals.
- Control and organization: in this final stage, the group is mature, self-correcting, flexible and adaptive.
Armed with this information, managers need a few tactics to introduce themselves to new employees in a way that they actually become a part of the team and go through the same development path as the rest of the members. With carefully chosen activities the managers will succeed to effectively implement the group building.
Here are some icebreaker tips for better group building with new associates.
1. The basic intro session
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. This makes the nature of the intro session more important. If you are a new manager, then you need to make sure that the intro session about you is a two-way conversation, not a boring monologue where you talk endlessly and the listeners capture only 10 percent of the whole biography (as it usually happens).
Talk in a way to encourage questions. Ask questions as well and make your conversation more open and relaxed. Have beverages and snacks for everyone in the room (learn their preferences and tailor the menu to their taste to add a personal touch to the meeting).
Here are a few questions for you to ask that will provoke more questions and answers.
- What do you enjoy the most about your work experience here?
- How would you rank your group cohesiveness in a scale from 1 to 10?
- What hinders you as a team to accomplish your goals and hit the targets?
- What is it that keeps the group sticking together?
- Can you describe the agent-principal relationship in three words?
Questions about expectations:
- What do you want to be changed that would benefit your work?
- What are some norms that you would like me to be familiar with?
- How do we need to communicate about our milestones and accomplishments? Emails, live chats, video calls, stand-up meetings?
- What do I need to do to make your motivation skyrocket?
- What’s the strangest word you know?
- Share something you didn’t understand about the world as a kid.
- What sound or noise do you love?
- What is one of your hobbies outside of work?
Some questions for you to get ready in advance:
- What is your professional background?
- What is your management style? Democratic, laissez faire, something else?
- What is your action plan for the upcoming six months?
- How do you see the organization in 10 years?
- What are some of the things you would like to change in the organization?
After you have learned enough for the intro session, gather around the table and celebrate your successful cooperation over snacks.
2. Vis-à-vis meetings
After the group intro session, make sure to hold vis-à–vis meetings with each of your team members. This 30-minute meetings will help to get better acquainted with the members and will create an opportunity to discuss more personal issues that the employees might have had before you took your position.
Given that you keep all the confidential information, you will earn the employees’ trust. Finally, all of this information will help you manage your team more effectively and plan the activities and group behavior more carefully.
3. Games: Tell me about me
As you finish your basic intro session, your next icebreaker activity can come in a week or two where you will initiate a game to anonymously share feelings of associates about one another.
You will need sticky flip chart papers in the amount equal to the number of your group members (15 group members, including yourself = 15 flip chart papers ). Then you should write each member’s name on each of the flip chart papers and distribute markers of various colors to your team members. Afterward, you will ask them to move around the room and write something on each flip chart paper. That something can be a work feedback or an interpersonal comment, e.g. “You’re too noisy, man!”, “I love your leadership style” or “I would love to brainstorm this issue with you”.
This icebreaker will make the members think about one another more deeply, concentrate on their behavior and will act as a 360-degree feedback where the employee receives any kind of feedback from colleagues holding various positions. For the manager, this will be a tool to analyze how the team accepts him/her so far and what the next steps should be.
This icebreaker game can also be played paperless with Swift Polling. The manager creates the poll. Each poll question should include the employee’s name and relevant details, e.g. “What do you think about Amy Sacks?” Then different responses can be offered, e.g. “Amy is an excellent work neighbor,” “Amy performs well,” etc. The votes can be submitted via sms polls which also provide an opportunity to send feedback to the moderator who facilitated the game.
Create a free poll here
4. Schedule team gatherings
Team building with new associates is a never-ending process. Looking back at the team lifecycle, we need to keep in mind that even an integrated group can stand at the edge of the decline stage. Therefore, the team relationships should be renewed and revitalized periodically. For this very reason, you as a new manager should never miss a chance to throw a gathering and celebrate the group achievements or prominent partnerships. This could be a participative or at your expense gathering where you go out for a dinner, go skiing or try bowling.
Such icebreaker activities will assimilate you with your new associates, will create trust along with a team spirit and will put everyone on the success path.
Now that you have all the icebreaker tips in your hands, which one do you think is the most effective for you?