How to Crack Open Any Group

Great cultures ,Hacks

I’ve attended and run a lot of events over the years and the early ice breakers fascinate me because they have a power to open people up and connect and connect them. The first two I came up with, the last three are from the legendary Jack Canfield.

These are best done in small groups of 3-6, though it can also be done in a big group that’s less than 30 people.

1. What are you obsessed with?

This is great because it can be revealing and safe at the same time. You can share a deep fascination or simply the show you’re binging. People laugh a lot through this one and find points of connection they wouldn’t otherwise hear from people only sharing their home town, job and hobbies.

2. What are your pet peeves?

I love going negative because there’s energy there. Like the obsession question, you get to find out something interesting about people, and even what triggers them. It also has the potential to go deep (like causes people care about), or simple (such as people chewing loudly).

3. Sometimes I pretend to…

Now it gets funny. Where are you faking it?  It starts out with answers like, “Sometimes I pretend I’m listening when I’ve really spaced out.” It’s great to  keep going around for more than one answer. This question and the next ones are really best for smaller groups because it gets more and more vulnerable.

4. Sometimes I feel…

Each person says an emotion they experience that may surprise others. It can be just the emotion (sadness), or the emotion plus a context (Sometimes I feel sad when I’m at a party and I have no idea how to connect with people).

5. If you really knew me, you’d know I…

This is great because it can be about experiences or feelings that are current, or from one’s past. Again, it’s great to keep this going around for a few minutes because there’s a lot of richness there.

Closing

After these exercises you can close by having people go around and acknowledge each other. Just a couple minutes with that person in the center and everyone else chimes in (popcorn style) to say what they respect or like about that person.

You can experiment with these for your group, or even use them one-on-one to get to know someone better.

Beware the Shadow Directive

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This is a danger when you have too many priorities. It happens when the leaders believe and communicate that everything is important.

Because they create so many goals, people know that it’s simply impossible to reach them all at once, so they do one of two things:

  1. Nothing – All those rules can’t be enforced, so why change behaviors?
  2. Follow the Shadow Directive – They realize that while the leaders say one thing, workers are being evaluated on something else that determines their future. Examples include:
  • Do whatever is on fire
  • Please my manager
  • Do whatever makes us money
  • Work long hours (even if not productive)
  • Keep head down and stay out of trouble

The alternative is the Prime Directive.

What’s the one or two big things that will move the needle on everything else?

The Real Purpose of Your To-Do List

Productivity

You think it’s to Get Stuff Done, right? Wrong. That’s actually a by-product of a well-done system. 

I’ve had to learn this the hard way, so hear me out…

First, basic systems theory states that the purpose of a system is not the design of a system. The purpose of a system is determined by its actual use and results. 

The result of a to-do list is not actually getting things done because sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t (am I right?)… BUT what is guaranteed from a well-structured system is a CLEAR VIEW OF THE TRUTH. 

That means, a clear view of:

**What’s actually getting done.

**What’s getting stuck

**What you’re waiting on from other people

**What is getting neglected. 

**What lingers for weeks and months

A great system shows you the truth in a fast snapshot. And then it’s your choice what you do with that truth. 

Oddly, the result is peace, because it all becomes conscious. There’s no more “I forgot” no more “They never got back to me.” No more “What the heck did I even do this week?” 

Do you have a system? “All change starts with the truth.” – Dan Sullivan

Was it Boeing’s technology that failed, or the culture?

Great cultures

Robots don’t make planes (yet). People do. And when Boeing opened up a new plant, in a new state, the demand to meet deadlines was prioritized over procedures and standards. It’s all well-covered in a podcast by the New York Times.  It’s amazing how it can take decades to build a reputation, and only moments to destroy it. Make values and principles the standard, over numbers and deadlines.