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Leadership Icebreakers and Short Exercises


Good leadership is the ability to motivate, inspire, engage and build respect with others. Participants will learn about effective leadership skills and practices, and how to effectively implement them.

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Document TitleDuration
(mins)
   
Art Gallery - Creating a Visual Representation
40
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Art Gallery - Creating a Visual Representation

Time:
The exercise in this module will take about 30 minutes to complete. In total, allowing for discussion, we recommend allowing 40 minutes to complete this module.

Aims:
• To explore a particular concept, idea or problem, in an enjoyable way.
• To develop shared understanding of the concept, idea or problem.
• To identify areas of uncertainty or misunderstanding.
• To identify lack of knowledge, which the facilitator can address in the rest of the session.

Group Size:
This module is suitable for use with groups of up to 15 participants.

Useful For:
Staff at all levels.

You'll Need:
Coloured stickers or shapes (see note).

Notes:
There is a variant version to this ice breaker which entails asking participants to prepare a collage from the materials you have for them rather than just a drawing. Instructions, timing etc for the variant version are included in brackets in the text. Whether you choose to use them will depend mainly on how much time you are able to allow.

For this exercise you will need:

Basic version:
Flipchart paper, coloured pens and coloured stickers or shapes.

Variation:
As above, plus a collection of old magazines, journals, postcards, birthday cards or similar, scissors and glue pens.

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Course Introduction - A Basic Introduction to Training Events
45
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Course Introduction - A Basic Introduction to Training Events

Time:
The exercise in this module will take about 15 minutes to complete. In total, allowing for discussion, we recommend allowing 45 minutes to complete this module.

Aims:
• To welcome the participants.
• To introduce the facilitator(s) and participants to each other.
• To introduce the facilities.
• To agree the course objectives and timetable.

Group Size:
This module is suitable for use with groups of any size.

Useful For:
Staff at all levels.

You'll Need:
Nothing, other than the materials provided.

Notes:
This initial introductory module allows the facilitator to find out more about the participants, to understand their expectations and to match them as closely as possible to the course objectives. By getting participant agreement at the start of the course, boundaries are set for what will and will not be covered. Where necessary the facilitator will be able to change or alter activities that will not meet participants' requirements or to spend more time on those that will. The objectives and expectations can then be reviewed at the end of the day.

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Dominoes
30
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Dominoes

Time:
The exercise in this module can be completed in about 15 minutes. In total, allowing for discussion, we recommend allowing about 30 minutes for this module.

Aims:
• To test leadership, teamwork and problem solving.

Group Size:
This module can be used with groups of any size although you do need a minimum of 8 participants.

Useful For:
All staff including managers.

You'll Need:
• A set of domino cards. (See note as to how many you will need to print.)

Notes:
This is a fun activity that can lead to confusion but will test your participants’ ability to organise themselves and communicate effectively.

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Getting Knotted! - Teamwork and Communication
30
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Getting Knotted! - Teamwork and Communication

Time:
The exercise in this module will take about 15 minutes to complete. In total, allowing for discussion, we recommend allowing 30 minutes to complete this module.

Aims:
• To test participants’ team and communication skills.
• To test participants’ abilities to work together to analyse and solve a problem.
• To provide a high energy energiser, or introduction to training.

Group Size:
This module is suitable for use with groups of up to 25 participants.

Useful For:
Staff at all levels.

You'll Need:
String.

Notes:
This exercise involves bending and twisting and may not be suitable for all participants. Please remind participants to take care in this exercise.

Whilst the lengths of string are not essential (participants can simply hold hands) they do give participants more room to move and can reduce encroachment on ‘personal space’. Nevertheless, participants are going to be working in close proximity to each other in this exercise!

You will need a minimum of six participants for this exercise, and it works better with larger numbers than this in each team.

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Glasstap Sheep Trials - An Exercise in Communication and Continuous Improvement
30
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Glasstap Sheep Trials - An Exercise in Communication and Continuous Improvement

Time:
This exercise will take about 15 minutes to complete. In total, allowing for discussion, we recommend allowing 30 minutes to complete this module.

Aims:
• To test participants' planning and communication skills.
• To demonstrate the importance of listening and using summary and clarification to check understanding.
• To consider what makes communication effective and the dangers of getting it wrong.
• To energise a group of participants.

Group Size:
This module is suitable for use with groups of up to 25 participants.

Useful For:
Staff at all levels.

You'll Need:
• Whistles.
• A stopwatch.
• Blindfolds.
• Skittles and hoops (or similar-see note).
• Prizes.
Many of the items needed to run this exercise are available from Trainers' Market.

Notes:
We don't often develop exercises specifically for the outdoors, but this is a simple exercise that can be used by anyone with access to a park, lawn or yard. A great energiser for sunny days and one which really does contain some important lessons about communication and the importance of checking understanding.

This exercise does require some preparation as you'll need to devise a 'course' for your participants to follow. Preparation will take about 5 minutes once you have the items you'll need. The course maps show three different routes through the same course, which means you won't have to change the course itself if playing more than one round.

We suggest using hula-hoops for your 'pens'. If not, you can mark the 'pens' out using other things like rope or giant pick-up sticks. Skittles, cones or balls can be used to mark out the rest of the course.

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Hopes and Fears - Establishing Aims and Objectives
45
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Hopes and Fears - Establishing Aims and Objectives

Time:
The exercise in this module will take about 20 minutes to complete. In total, allowing for discussion, we recommend allowing 45 minutes to complete this module.

Aims:
• To establish participants’ worries about the training they’re attending.
• To identify what participants are hoping for in the training.
• To help establish/develop some objectives and ground rules for the training.
• To encourage an atmosphere of empathy and mutual support.

Group Size:
This module is suitable for use with groups of up to 15 participants.

Useful For:
Staff at all levels.

You'll Need:
• A hat or other receptacle.
Hats can be purchased from Trainers' Market.

Notes:
This can be a really useful introduction to training that participants might be worried about. A typical example is presentation skills, where participants are often worried about having to make a presentation to fellow participants.

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Horror and Happy Ever After Stories - Sharing Experiences
30
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Horror and Happy Ever After Stories - Sharing Experiences

Time:
The exercise in this module will take about 15 minutes to complete. In total, allowing for discussion, we recommend allowing 30 minutes to complete this module.

Aims:
• To provide an opportunity for participants to share good and bad experiences.
• To gather real-life examples that can be referred to throughout the training.

Group Size:
This module is suitable for use with groups of up to 25 participants.

Useful For:
Staff at all levels.

You'll Need:
Nothing other than the materials provided.

Notes:
Our thanks to Buffy Sparks for her help in writing this icebreaker.

This exercise can be adapted to training on almost any topic, including, for example, sales, performance management, negotiation, change.

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Idols - Examining Values and Beliefs
30
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Idols - Examining Values and Beliefs

Time:
The exercise in this module will take about 15 minutes to complete. In total, allowing for discussion, we recommend allowing 30 minutes to complete this module.

Aims:
• To encourage participants to share information about themselves.
• To explore values and beliefs.
• To build rapport among participants.
• Explore stereotypes.
• Identify the behaviours of those people we consider ‘best in class.’

Group Size:
This module is suitable for use with groups of up to 25 participants.

Useful For:
Staff at all levels.

You'll Need:
Nothing other than the materials provided.

Notes:
This icebreaker can provide a particularly effective introduction to training related to creativity skills, diversity, or any topic where it is useful to examine values and beliefs.

The adapted version provides a useful means of examining the behaviours of those we hold up as role models, for example when looking at topics like leadership, creativity, performance management , negotiation etc.

Participants can be pre-briefed to come to the training event with an idol in mind. This gives participants time to really think about their choices.

In addition, if you ask them to email you with their choices before the event, it is possible to produce some visual aids to support the session. For example, in one course covering creativity skills, the Glasstap trainer produced posters representing each idol, with a picture of the individual in question, and something about them/their work.

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Leaders are Animals
40
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Leaders are Animals

Time:
The exercise in this module can be completed in about 10 minutes. In total, allowing for discussion, we recommend allowing about 40 minutes for this module.

Aims:
• To identify behaviours participants would want their leaders to exhibit and those they would not.
• To generate discussion about the skills and behaviours exhibited by great leaders.

Group Size:
This module can be used with groups of any size however, if you have more than 12 participants you should restrict the number of cards distributed to the teams to avoid too much duplication.

Useful For:
Those who are new to a leadership role.

You'll Need:
• A set of ‘animal’ cards, provided.

Notes:
The amount of time needed for the discussion will depend on the number of ‘animal’ cards you distribute or whether teams share their thoughts with the whole group or a sub-section of it (the latter is recommended for very large groups).

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Little Known Facts - Matching the Facts to the Participant
15
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Little Known Facts - Matching the Facts to the Participant

Time:
This exercise will take about 10 minutes to complete (longer for large groups). In total, allowing for discussion, we recommend allowing 15 minutes to complete this module.

Aims:
• To encourage participants to share information in a fun, lively and non-threatening way.
• To help participants get to know more about one another and identify some common ground/points of interest for them to use when working together.
• To inject energy and movement into the start of the day.

Group Size:
This module is suitable for use with groups of up to 15 participants. Whilst it could conceivably be used for much larger groups, it would require much more time, or slight adaption.

Useful For:
Staff at all levels. It can be used with people who don't know one another at all, or who have met/worked together previously.

You'll Need:
A set of pens of the same colour and style - one for each participant. A set of cards (e.g., blank index cards) or slips of paper - six per participant. (The cards/pieces of paper must all be the same size.)

Notes:
This icebreaker works best when there are at least six participants, in order to ensure there are sufficient responses to make it challenging.

This icebreaker works particularly well as an introduction to communication skills, presentation skills and interpersonal skills courses. It is useful where participants are going to be working together in small group activities (pairs/threes etc.) during the course as it helps people to get to know informal/fun facts about one another, which can help them relate to one another more quickly.

It can be used after more formal introductions have been completed.

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Metaphor - Aims and Objectives
30
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Metaphor - Aims and Objectives

Time:
The exercise in this module will take about 10 minutes to complete. In total, allowing for discussion, we recommend allowing 30 minutes to complete this module.

Aims:
• To identify how participants are feeling.
• To explore their thoughts, fears and concerns in a comfortable way.
• To establish learning objectives for the course or programme.

Group Size:
This module is suitable for use with groups of up to 25 participants.

Useful For:
Staff at all levels.

You'll Need:
Nothing other than the materials provided.

Notes:
This icebreaker can be useful for putting participants at ease. It provides a tool through which participants can highlight concerns and areas for personal development in a non-threatening and potentially humorous way. It is particularly useful when training around areas that participants may feel uncomfortable about or which they may find challenging.

The use of the metaphor makes it easier for participants to discuss their own development needs and any challenges that they face.

Depending on the subject matter, it is also possible to use the metaphor as a theme for the course or programme. Course handouts and other materials can be branded and themed around the metaphor that is used.

You will need to spend some time in advance of the session choosing a suitable metaphor for the topic(s) to be covered in the training.

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My Picture Says... - Identifying Values and/or Objectives
30
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My Picture Says... - Identifying Values and/or Objectives

Time:
The exercise in this module can be completed in about 20 minutes. In total, allowing for discussion, we recommend allowing about 30 minutes.

Aims:
• To provide an opportunity for participants to learn something about each other.
• To help participants learn more about each other’s values and motivators.
Or
• To help participants identify group and individual objectives for the course/workshop they’re attending.

Group Size:
This module is suitable for use with groups of up to about 15 participants.

Useful For:
Staff at all levels.

You'll Need:
For Version1:
A selection of images, each printed on to an A4 sheet of paper. The images could be very varied and include, for example, abstract images, landscapes, animals, people and holiday scenes.

For Version 2:
A selection of images from Trainers’ Images (or a similar resource) that could be used to illustrate particular challenges, behaviours or problems that might be relevant to the participants.

Notes:
The time needed for this exercise will be influenced by the number of participants in your group. Allow 5 minutes for the initial exercise and 2 minutes for each participant to explain their choice.

We’d like to thank Nicki Davey of Saltbox Training and Events (www.salt-box.co.uk) for the idea for this icebreaker.

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Pass the Baton - Sharing Positive and Negative Experiences
30
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Pass the Baton - Sharing Positive and Negative Experiences

Time:
The exercise in this module will take about 15 minutes to complete. In total, allowing for discussion, we recommend allowing 30 minutes to complete this module.

Aims:
• To encourage participants to share good and bad experiences relevant to the subject of your course/workshop.
• To help identify issues related to the topic.
• To help participants identify key learning objectives for the course/workshop.

Group Size:
This module is suitable for use with groups of up to 25 participants.

Useful For:
Staff at all levels.

You'll Need:
For this exercise you will need a baton, or two. (Two is nice, because you can have a red one for the negative experiences and a green one for the positives). You can make a baton out of rolled up paper, or alternatively, for a fun twist, you might like to replace your batons with sticks of rock (candy), with the 'winner' from each round keeping the rock as a prize.

Notes:
This is a simple, fun exercise that really does encourage participants to disclose information about difficult situations they may have faced that are relevant to the course/workshop you are facilitating. It also enables positive experiences to be shared.

The icebreaker can be adapted to almost any topic, including for example, customer service, appraisals, negotiation skills and recruitment.

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Postcard Review - Post-Training Review
15
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Postcard Review - Post-Training Review

Time:
The exercise in this module will take about 10 minutes to complete. In total, allowing for discussion, we recommend allowing 15 minutes to complete this module.

Aims:
• To provide a memorable review of training participants have received.
• To remind participants of key learning points or action points from a course or workshop.

Group Size:
This module is suitable for use with groups of up to 25 participants.

Useful For:
Staff at all levels.

You'll Need:
A selection of picture postcards - one postcard per participant, and a few spare ones.

Select postcards with a variety of images: Countryside, coastal, historic buildings, modes of transport, animals etc.

Notes:
This exercise was developed from an idea submitted by Barbara Buffton. Barbara Buffton is an international training consultant, performance coach and published author. Much of her experience (and her clients keep coming back for more) is with large multi-national companies. She has had four books published, including The Which? Guide to Choosing a Career (1998).

Her most recent book, Follow Your Dream, is available from http://www.bookshaker.com/product_info.php?products_id=134

Contact Barbara on info@bbassociates.freeserve.co.uk

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SMART Objectives
90
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SMART Objectives

Time:
The exercises in this module will take about 50 minutes to complete. In total, allowing for discussion, we recommend allowing 90 minutes to complete this module.

Aims:
• To welcome participants to the course.
• To introduce the facilitator and participants to each other.
• To discover the participants needs.
• To encourage interaction and discussion.
• To practise writing SMART objectives.

Group Size:
This module is suitable for use with groups of up to 25 participants.

Useful For:
Supervisors and above.

You'll Need:
Nothing other than the materials provided.

Notes:
This module provides a long introduction to courses, but is particularly useful where the concept of SMART objectives is important to the training being delivered. It provides an ideal introduction to performance management training for example.

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Stepping Stones - Team Development
30
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Stepping Stones - Team Development

Time:
The exercise in this module will take about 15 minutes to complete. In total, allowing for discussion, we recommend allowing 30 minutes to complete this module.

Aims:
• To encourage team development.
• To focus discussion on the team's approach to problem solving, communication, success and failure and team leadership.

Group Size:
This module is suitable for use with groups of up to 15 participants. 12 is an ideal number of participants for this exercise. More than 12 can make it a little unwieldy to run.

Useful For:
Staff at all levels.

You'll Need:
• One stepping stone per participant plus one extra.
Stepping stones could be sheets of newspaper (though these will easily tear) or used flipchart sheets (good for recycling). For a more robust alternative, you could use carpet squares (perhaps left over remnants from a local store) or Throw Down Marker Lines (available to buy from Trainers' Market).

You will also need sufficient space for participants to be able to stand as though in a queue.

Notes:
You will need an even number of participants for this exercise. If you have an odd number of participants you could ask for a volunteer to help observe and give feedback to the group.

12 is an ideal number for this exercise. More than 12 can make it a little unwieldy to run.

If you have more than 12 participants you could run the exercise simultaneously with two smaller groups - if you have the space and an additional observer.

Although we've listed this exercise as an icebreaker, and it can be used as a simple icebreaker to get participants thinking, it's also a great exercise for prompting a detailed examination of the way teams' work and can provoke plenty of discussion and learning.

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Sweet Review - A Simple Review/Preview Exercise
20
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Sweet Review - A Simple Review/Preview Exercise

Time:
This exercise will take about 15 minutes to complete. In total, allowing for discussion, we recommend allowing 20 minutes to complete this module.

Aims:
• To encourage participants to review learning.
• To encourage transfer and personal application of learning.
• To check understanding.
• To agree any changes to a training agenda.
• To check that participants’ objectives are being met.

Group Sizes:
This module is suitable for use with groups of up to about 25 participants.

Useful For:
Staff at all levels.

You'll Need:
For this exercise you will need sweets of various colours – enough sweets for each person to take at least two. Avoid using nut-based sweets (e.g., Peanut M&Ms) due to the risk of allergy.

Notes:
This exercise provides a simple, fun and totally random way of reviewing learning or setting up any desired outcomes for the day ahead.

Prior to the exercise you will need to devise a different question/request for each sweet colour you have.

For example, for a review, you might use:
• Red: Tell me what was your most useful learning point from the course.
• Yellow: What one thing will you do differently as a result of being here?
• Green: Who else will you need to share your learning or ideas with for it to be successful?
• Brown: What action are you going to take tomorrow as a result of your attendance on this course?

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The Winning Post - Celebrating Goals and Objectives
30
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The Winning Post - Celebrating Goals and Objectives

Time:
The exercise in this module will take about 15 minutes to complete. In total, allowing for discussion, we recommend allowing 30 minutes to complete this module.

Aims:
• To assess progress against programme and personal objectives.
• To provide participants with an opportunity to reflect upon the impact of the training so far.
• To focus on achievement in a fun way.

Group Size:
This module is suitable for use with groups of up to 25 participants.

Useful For:
Staff at all levels.

You'll Need:
• Coloured clay or Plasticine (available to buy from Trainers' Market).
• Wet wipes.
• A camera is nice but not essential.

Notes:
This exercise is designed to be used as an energiser and to assess participants’ feelings and sense of progress in a creative and enjoyable way. It is especially suited to open-minded, creative groups and is useful on training and development programmes where participants attend over a series of separate days.

The exercise is also easily adapted for use as an icebreaker, or as part of the review process.

For the exercise you will need a selection of pots or packs of coloured modelling clay or plasticine. We also recommend that you provide wet wipes for your participants, who may get a bit messy.

If available, a camera can be used to record the results.

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Where Did You Get That Hat? - An Exercise in Creativity
40
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Where Did You Get That Hat? - An Exercise in Creativity

Time:
The exercise in this module will take about 30 minutes to complete. In total, allowing for discussion, we recommend allowing 40 minutes to complete this module.

Aims:
• To introduce participants to each other in a fun manner.
• To demonstrate how creative ideas can be generated – even in a short space of time.
• To get teams and participants to share resources and work appropriately within a given time limit.

Group Size:
This module is suitable for use with groups of any size.

Useful For:
Staff at all levels.

You'll Need:
To run this exercise you will need to provide a box of resources. These can easily be collected and used again and again. Try to add things to the box that are unusual. The basic resources we suggest are: - Varied topic magazines/colour supplements, sticky tape, scissors, newspapers, ribbon, coloured card, feathers, balloons, scraps of material, coloured markers or felt tip pens. You might also choose to award a few small prizes such as sweets, fruit etc.

Notes:
This fun activity is suitable for very large audiences as well as smaller groups.

The activity is designed to get people working in teams, sharing resources and ideas and working against the clock. It is meant to be a fast and FUN exercise.

The exercise also works well if the participants are staying overnight on a residential course when, as an alternative to a conventional icebreaker, you can use this exercise last thing in the day. Ask all the participants to turn up for dinner wearing their hats – prizes can be awarded over dinner.

We've included some suggested competition categories in the handout but you may wish to add others (particularly if working with a very large group).

The handout refers to a 50 pence spending limit. Customers from outside the UK may wish to change this by downloading and amending the Word version of the handout.

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