Breaking the Ice in Development Training

Breaking the Ice in Development Training

Whenever you start a training and development session, be it a day, a week or longer, the opening sessions usually feel a little awkward. This is true whether we’re training with strangers from other organisations, or colleagues. In fact, sometimes training with close colleagues is harder as we’re all out of the usual normalised professional relationships.

So it’s always a good idea to break the ice early on in ways that reveal something of our true personalities – but in a safe and fun way. Most trainers find ways of doing this, but often, the activities feel a little cliché. Most of us have seen such hackneyed examples; “if you could be any kind of animal…”, “tell us something particularly memorable about yourself”, “who would you be if you could be anyone else?” etc.

So how about trying something a little different?

Using Tarot

For example, taking psychic readings from a professional reader is an amazing way to get people to open up about themselves. It’s also great fun. A good tarot reader (who is aware of the training needs) can guide you carefully to what revealing the cards is supposed to say about you, with you adding into the conversation and talking about details of your life, your hopes and fears etc. If people feel able to do this in front of training and development “colleagues” then it’s a real talking point and a great ice-breaker. People often reveal fascinating details about their lives, but in a safe context, of course. The most interesting people are usually not the extroverts, and this is a particularly good way of tackling this obstacle. More importantly, it’s enjoyable. Just make sure the tarot reader is on-board with the training and development plan so s/he can steer things accordingly and keep it within safe limits.

Using Art

If tarot is a little too outré for your tastes, but you still don’t want to follow the conventional type of ice-breaker games (which do have their place) then how about a little art? Giving people the tools to paint a picture, for example, representing how they see their place in life and the organisation for which they’re working is quite a kind of “intimate” way of safely revealing someone’s personality – in a professional context. The goal here is to help people reveal their personality within the safe bounds of professionalism. An added feature to this work is to allow people to make their artwork in private, then to get an interpretive professional to talk about what the works reveal and for the course participants to guess who painted it. This is fun and, once the true painter has been revealed, s/he can talk about how accurate, or not, the insights were; interpreting art offers fascinating insights.

If this isn’t working for you, then on a similar basis, how about the children’s game of dressing up? For this, you need a whole bunch of different clothes in many different colours and styles etc. One at a time, a participant goes into another room and dresses for the occasion you’ve dreamed up – or simply picked the clothes that appeal most to him or her. The wackier this gets, the better and more fun it is. It breaks down barriers and helps people reveal what we might call their “true colours”!

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