Teamwork Exercise: Key Punch
Ron Clark, award winning teacher, Oprah guest, author shares his "Excellent 11"

Ask The Teamwork Coach: Should a manager new to the team lead an icebreaker in an attempt to address the low trust?

Here's a question I received via my "Ask The Teamwork Coach" service:

Hi Tom, I have a new internal client who has asked me to work with him on restructuring his management team. The manager's been in the position 2 months and his take on the team of managers who report to him is there is a lack of trust. He'd like to do an icebreaker to kick off the day's meeting/work with something leading to trust -- my concern is:

1. I like to use ice breaker that will build into the material and theme of the day;
2. I'm concerned that any ice breaker with trust could go into a negative direction and I'd like the day to start upbeat.

And here's my response...

Hi Nancy,

Based on the information you've supplied I would not advise this manager lead an icebreaker. 

If he is sensing trust is low then he needs your help designing a system to address this issue. 

Leading an icebreaker could actually diminish the level of trust the team has in him especially if the manager is not skilled at leading and debriefing/processing the experience.

Do you know the book "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team" by Patrick Lencioni?  CLICK HERE

The book has a simple and easy to administer team assessment.  Start with that. 

Have the team read the book and decide if they want to build a high performing team using the principles/model outlined in the book.

All meetings led by the manager should follow the guidelines presented in Lencioni's book entitled "Death By MeetingCLICK HERE

The experiential activities (icebreakers, team activities, etc.) need to be in alignment with where the team is going.  The disjointed, whimsical use of experiential activities will hurt the team.

CLICK HERE for an example of how you can use experiential activities that are in harmony with the program design:

And her response...

Oh my gosh—this is perfect! Thank you, so much! I so appreciate your help and your very speedy reply!

What advice do YOU have for Nancy?  Place your comments below.

Do you have a question for Tom Heck the Teamwork Coach?  If yes, send it to [email protected]

NOTE:  Names have been changed to protect privacy.



I used the information in the book mentioned above and constructed a pyramid with positive statements such as trust, constructive conflict, commitment, accountability and attention to results - I had my team rate itself on each rung using a scale of 1-3 = this enabled us to assess where we stood as a team and what we needed to work on - it was a very valuable exercise-

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