Icebreakers are not just games or frivolous activities. Many people have memories of cringeworthy and awkward games played under the pretense of “team building.” I was one of them. But the research on icebreakers is pretty clear. Icebreakers are powerful tools that can help teams find uncommon commonalities and build strong connections.
Icebreakers can be the key to unlocking a more collaborative, understanding, and high-performing team. However, the effectiveness of an icebreaker hinges on its relevance and comfort level. They should be personally meaningful and not make team members uncomfortable.
In this article, we’ll cover four such icebreakers for team meetings. They’re quick, and not cringe. Each of these icebreakers is designed to help teams connect, understand each other better, and perform at a higher level.
1. Energy Check
The Energy Check is an icebreaker that encourages team members to rate their energy level and discuss ways the team can support each other. This is done by having each team member rate their energy level on a scale of 1 to 5—with 1 being dead tired and 5 being energy to spare. Whatever the answer, the team can follow up with question about what they can do to support the person speaking. This opens up a conversation about ways the team can support each other and learn about each other’s challenges and weaknesses.
By encouraging open discussion about energy levels and support needs, this icebreaker fosters a culture of empathy and understanding within the team. It helps team members to understand that they are not alone in their struggles and that they can rely on their team for support. This can significantly improve team cohesion and performance.
2. Triple H
Triple H is an icebreaker that allows team members to share a hero, highlight, and hardship in their life or career. Each team member is asked to share a hero who inspires them, a highlight from their life or career, and a hardship they have faced. This not only allows team members to disclose personal preferences, values, and experiences, but also creates the opportunity to find uncommon commonalities and build bonds through shared experiences.
By sharing their heroes, highlights, and hardships, team members can gain a deeper understanding of each other’s motivations, achievements, and challenges. This can lead to increased empathy, respect, and cooperation within the team.
3. Defining Moment
Defining Moment is an icebreaker where team members share a defining moment that shaped who they are today. Think of it as a faster version of Triple H—one that just focuses on the highlight. Each team member is asked to share a significant event or experience in their life or career that has had a profound impact on them. This encourages team members to share something personally meaningful and helps find uncommon commonalities that are deeper and more personally meaningful.
By sharing their defining moments, team members can reveal aspects of their personality and values that may not be apparent in a professional setting. This can lead to increased understanding and respect among team members, fostering a more harmonious and productive team environment.
4. Three Snaps
Three Snaps is an icebreaker where team members share three meaningful photos from their camera roll. Each team member is asked to share three photos that are meaningful to them. This allows team members to share about themselves to the level they’re comfortable with and helps find commonalities and build connections through shared experiences and interests.
By sharing their photos, team members can give others a glimpse into their personal lives, interests, and experiences. This can lead to increased understanding and connection among team members, fostering a more cohesive and collaborative team environment.
These icebreakers, when used effectively, can be powerful tools for building a more connected, understanding, and high-performing team. They can help teams find uncommon commonalities, build strong connections, and understand each other better. In other words, these short, non-cringe icebreakers can help any team do its best work ever.
About the author
David Burkus is an organizational psychologist, keynote speaker, and bestselling author of five books on leadership and teamwork.