Nick Walsh

Icebreaker questions for teams - a list of our favorites

Learn how to strengthen team culture

Ah, New Year’s resolutions. A 4,000 year-old tradition that lately centers around diets, wealth, and no small amount of guilt when recalling last year’s resolutions.

As 2021 kicks off, while diets aren't our forte, we wanted to offer tangible assistance to folks resolving to help each person on their team work better. Ask any coworker at most any organization large to small, services to manufacturers, local to distributed if they'd like their remote teams to be more effective, and they'll say “yes!” But mapping how to exactly do that, which activity or game to use, or even where to start, can be tough.

A great place to start is icebreaking: asking questions to bring people into the fold. So we’ve added 100 new questions to our free Icebreaker tool. You now have 350 questions to engage your team and help them to get to know each other better. An ice breaker question gets each person sharing, and others listening

Effective teams and psychological safety

There’s much research and guidance around how to understand and build effective teams, such as Google’s Re:work project, but as we talk with our customers, we consistently hear the same thing: great teams start with psychological safety.

Teams where each individual — whether they’re remote or local — feels safe to speak up with ideas, concerns, and questions are teams that aren’t just more effective. They’re teams that trust each other, and teams people want to be part of.

Fostering trust starts with encouraging everyone to participate by modeling curiosity.

In other words, a great way to engage your team is to answer team-building questions together. Each question is an opportunity for people to share a bit more about themselves, and for the team to learn a little bit more about each other. These games quickly turns into team bonding, as well as break up busy work days.

The right Q’s for the right A’s

We've seen how impactful a simple icebreaker question can be, and believe in them so much we built a list of them into our product. As part of a daily check in, you can configure Range to prompt your team with a simple question, that teammates can answer at anytime over the course of the day (asynchronously).

Then we built a free tool called Icebreaker so people could just ask the questions on their own schedule, at any time, in team meetings, or by just pasting links into Slack. And today we've just updated Icebreaker with 100 more questions (350 total) that span three levels:

  • Questions that cover introductions and small talk, especially good for new teams and new team members.
  • Questions that are more detailed and designed for virtual teams that are more familiar with each other.
  • Questions that are a bit more existential and aimed to help those who've worked together for a while to discover something new.

Try using the Icebreaker to source questions for team meetings, or collect the answers in advance (or use Range even more questions are built in).

Sharing your mood in virtual meetings

We’ve also discovered that emojis can offer fast and insightful answers to the classic question “How are you feeling today?” That’s why we’ve built it into our product too. Here’s a look at our team’s collective moods for the past year.

Mood graph for the year in Range

This might sound overly simplistic, but we’ve found that sharing a simple emoji mood lowers the weight of talking about emotions and how we’re doing - and a team leader should do this too.. It also gives the rest of the team permission to ask how someone is doing or to offer help. Adding a check in round to your morning standup or sharing an emoji over Slack is a great way to start this practice and is a great team building activity.

10 of our favorites

Here's a comprehensive list of some of our favorite fun Icebreaker questions from the last year for your remote team. They helped make our team our team, rather than just a random collection of coworkers.

1. What was your first job?

By far, this question has prompted the most interesting responses for the companies we work with. Employees are always finding it hilarious to learn that their boss' first job was as a pool boy, or find it fascinating that a coworker's first job was working in her mom's doctor's office. While it's an unassuming question, the responses stand out.

2. Seen any good movies lately you'd recommend?

Perhaps you've asked this question before but don't overlook it. Movies are a great shared conversation topic. It never fails to be one that people like to answer and like to see other people's answers too. Often times, people will end up going to see the movies that are recommended and talking about it over lunch, etc.

3. What was the first thing you bought with your own money?

Maybe it was a goldfish as a pet or a pair of Air Jordans. This is another great question that fosters a sense of nostalgia and provides insights into people's interests in the past and what they valued when they were younger.

4. What’s the worst haircut you’ve ever had?

5. What professional skills would you like to develop next?

6. If this team had a mascot, what would it be?

7. What are a few ways in which you express your gratitude?

8. Think about the last mistake you made at work. What happened? What did you learn?

9. How do you recognize when you’re stressed?

10. What’s your favorite children’s book? Why?

As you can see, the point of icebreaker questions id to get the virtual team to share and let down their guard - and if they can learn a bit about each other and have a laugh, that's a big step in virtual team building. We hope these tools and the previous list of ice breakers help your team, even in small ways, work better together. Here's to a great 2021, and best of luck with those resolutions.

Icebreaker questions for teams - a list of our favorites
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