Nick Walsh

How Icebreaker questions can help you build better teams in 2020

... and 10 of our favorites

Share with linkedin

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 2020 kicks off, while diets aren’t our forte, we wanted to offer tangible assistance to folks resolving to help their team work better. Ask people at most any organization — large to small, services to manufacturers, local to distributed — if they’d like their teams to be more effective, and they’ll say “yes!” But mapping how to exactly do that, 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 325 questions to engage your team and help them to get to know each other better.

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.

The right Q’s for the right A’s

We’ve seen how impactful simple questions can be, and believe in them so much we built them into our product. As part of a daily check in, you can configure Range to prompt your team with a 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, in team meetings, or by just pasting links into Slack. And today we’ve just updated Icebreaker with 100 more questions (325 total) that span three levels:

  • Intro questions cover introductions and small talk, especially good for new teams and new team members.
  • Tricky questions are more detailed and designed for teams that are more familiar with each other
  • Tough questions 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).

What’s in a mood?

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. 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.

10 of our favorites

Here’s a selection of some of our favorite Icebreaker questions from the last year. Whether folks on the team were in the office or working remotely, they helped make our team our team.

  1. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go? Why?
  2. What categories of trivia are you the best at?
  3. Name 3 things that you and your team have in common.
  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?

We hope these tools help your team, even in small ways, work better together. Here’s to a great 2020, and best of luck with those resolutions.

Support your team, grow as a leader

Subscribe to Lead Time for insights on building effective teams