Home leadership Activities Team Building Activities Engagement Activities Leadership Insights Focusing a Team Team Leader Challenge
Performance Management Effective Meetings The Workplace In-House Coaching Facilitation Inventories Self-Development

Engagement Continued



College Grazing

FREE self discovery surveys to help college bound students focus their college search


Teachers on Target

Free professional development ideas and classroom activities


IX Clip Art Captions 

Author: Tom Siebold is a writer and business consultant in Minneapolis.  He is also co-owner of Collegegrazing.com--a site to help college bound teens to learn more about what they need and want in a college.

Objective (s): To use clip art to explore the dimensions of a topic

How the author has used this activity:  I have used this clip art exercise with topics like conflict, communication, team busters, and interpersonal skills.  The trick is to find interesting and potentially humorous pictures that fit your topic.

Activity Description: The format of this activity can be used with a wide variety of topics.  The example below works to address the topic of " interpersonal 'sins' at the office.” Here is how it works…

Before the session, select five humorous clip art scenes that depict different looks at human interaction.  Print a set of the pictures for each participant. Divide the participants into five small groups and have them write a caption for each clip art picture.  These captions should focus on some “sin” of office interpersonal relations. Encourage participants to have some fun with this.  If they want they can add to each picture—thought bubbles, signs, drawings, etc.  

When they are done, post the pictures around the room and give people time to view them.  Reconvene and put together a master list of the "seven deadly sins of office interpersonal relations."  This should open the door to some good discussion about strategies for working together effectively.

Options: If your group isn't too large, you have the participants do the captions in full group.  If you do, project the pictures so all can see clearly. 

Added thoughts or considerations:  Be certain that your group is open to this kind of creative and humorous activity.  This activity in the hands of the wrong group will flop.

--Return to Activities Listing--


X. Conversation Starters

Author: Bill Gjetson is a consultant and coach specializing in leadership development for Senior Leaders, Managers, and High Potential employees.   His areas of interest are action learning and storytelling.

Objective(s):  To initiate conversation in groups and create a readiness for interaction

How the author has used this exercise:  This exercise can be used in small groups and in larger groups with up to 30 participants.  It is used to quickly engage participants.

Activity Description:  Arrange participants in a circle.  Distribute the list of ten Conversation Starters and instruct participants to introduce themselves by name and use one of the starters as a “springboard” to make some personal comments.  The instructor/group facilitator may need to ask questions to help participants explain their comments or describe their experiences.

Ten Conversation Starters: 1)The best measure of success is….; 2)Employees will give their best effort if…..; 3)Nothing is so frustrating as…..; 4) I miss…..; 5) There are times when I…..; 6) When I have something to say, I…; 7) Ten years from now, I…..; 8) My hometown is ___________ and it is important to me because….; 9) My three favorite letters in the alphabet are _________ because…; 10) The best teacher I ever had….

Options:  Instead of handing out the list of Conversation Starters, the facilitator can have the only copy and call out subjects to be used, and invite responses, until everyone has had the opportunity to introduce themselves and comment. 

Added thoughts or considerations:  Participants can be paired to interview each other on one of the ten Conversation Starters.  When the full group reconvenes, each person reports on what his or her partner said.

--Return to Activities Listing--

XI. Change Timeline

Author: T. Leonard is a business consultant and coach in the Twin Cities.  

Objective(s):  To focus thinking around workplace change

How the author has used this exercise:  Employees often feel victimized by change in the workplace.  I use this exercise to help participants find strategies to cope or even thrive on change.  

Activity Description: Handout Post-It notes to all participants.  Ask each participant to write down examples of workplace changes that they have seen over the last five years (or since they were hired).—both large and small changes. This may include new committees, programs, initiatives, training, work procedures, teams, new hires, organizational structure, etc.  Then have them paste the sticky notes on a five year timeline drawn on the white board. 

After they have had a chance to review the Post-It display, ask the participants to draw conclusions.  Move to the following theme:  “The workplace is a dynamic and changing place.  Each person must find strategies to deal with change.”

Added thoughts or considerations:  The Post-It timeline is a very graphic and powerful way to see the scope of change. Usually participants will be amazed at the amount of change that they have witnessed. 

  --Return to Activities Listing--

XII. Stories of Adversity

Author: T. Leonard is a business consultant and coach in the Twin Cities. 

Objective(s):  To introduce the topic of workplace change through personal stories

How the author has used this exercise:  I find this exercise captures the attention of the participants and sets the stage for productive change discussion.   

Activity Description: Ask the group to share an example of someone they know who had to overcome adversity.  Typically, most of the participants can recall dramatic examples.  After a number of examples draw the following conclusion to introduce the concept of change: “Sometimes people have to confront dramatic changes—and they come out of it ok. All of us face change every day.  Each person must find a way to deal with change.”  From here the facilitator can develop the topic of workplace change.

Added thoughts or considerations:  Be careful not to let this exercise go on too long.  You will want to move to workplace change when the interest level is on the upswing, not when it is waning.

  --Return to Activities Listing--

XIII. Postal Reminder 

Author: Sara Carney.  Sara works with non profits to train both employees and volunteers.


Objective (s): To build a bridge between a training session and improved on-the-job performance.

How the author has used this exercise: I will use this activity to remind training participants to transfer workshop learning to everyday performance.    

Activity Description: At the end of a training session I have the participants identify specific actions and/or changes that they will enact personally.  I have them write them down on a self-addressed post card.  Then I collect the cards and hold on to them until I feel they need a “workshop reminder.”  It is at this point that I will mail the cards so participants can see what they had promised themselves they would do.  This is an easy follow-up exercise to remind participants to apply their learning.

Added thoughts or considerations:  This activity is particularly good if there are multiple training sessions with the same group.  It serves as a connector between sessions and helps keep the workshop material “alive.”

  --Return to Activities Listing--

XIV. Learning Debrief 

Author: Sara Carney.  Sara works with non profits to train both employees and volunteers.


Objective (s): To crystallize learning or new information.

How the author has used this exercise:  During a meeting, workshop, or just about any work place learning situation I will take time to debrief what we are discussing and/or learning.  This helps give the session a sense of organization and supports individuals as they absorb what they are hearing and discussing.

Activity Description: To debrief a training session I will ask two different types of questions: feeling and content. 

  1. Feeling Debriefing Questions--Depending on the content of the training, I will ask the participants to take a quick time out and tell each other how they are feeling about the direction of the discussion: “Have you changed an attitude or perception because of our work together?” or “What feelings do you have right now about the topic?  Is this different than what you felt at the outset?”

  2. Content Debriefing Questions“What new learning have you gained from our work together?” or “What do you know now that you didn’t know before we began?”

After the participants have responded to my debriefing questions I always ask them a variation of the following question:Where should we go from this point forward?” or “What has to be done now?”

Added thoughts or considerations:  It is important to give participants an opportunity to articulate what they are learning. 

--Return to Activities Listing--

XV. Energized Work Place 

Author: Sara Carney.  Sara works with non profits to train both employees and volunteers.


Objective (s): To build on behaviors that energize employees.

How the author has used this exercise: I like to have participants build on strengths rather than constantly dwell on problems.  This simple exercise helps focus groups on the positive.

Activity Description: I like to tee up this exercise by discussing how energy and employee motivation and engagement are directly linked.  I will then ask the participants to list three work place tasks, behaviors, or responsibilities that energize them.  The answers are almost always surprising.  I then have volunteers share their lists with the group. As they speak, I write their responses on a flip chart.

After we have a list of five to ten “energizers,” I ask the group to brainstorm for action items to infuse more energy into the work environment.

Added thoughts or considerations:  It is important to move from a list of energizers to action items that participants can do personally or as a team or group.

--Return to Activities Listing--

XVI. Starter Quiz 

Author: Sara Carney.  Sara works with non profits to train both employees and volunteers.


Objective (s): To introduce a topic that the group will develop or discuss in some detail

How the author has used this exercise: When I am facilitating a broad topic, I will use a quiz format to get the participants thinking about various parts, terms, and facts that work to define the topic. 

Activity Description: Before the workshop I will write ten objective questions that focus on some important elements that are connected to the topic under exploration.  These should be straightforward questions that are intended to provoke topic awareness.  They should not be written to “stump” the participants.  Before I read the questions (or hand out the quiz) I am careful to explain to the group that no one will see their answers.  The quiz is intended to introduce the topic, not to embarrass anyone.  

I try to include a few humorous questions to keep the quiz light and non-threatening.  I also make sure that the questions are such that everyone will get at least half of them correct.  After all, the goal is to stimulate participation, not discouragement.

After I give the correct answers, I will bridge to an opening discussion or content presentation.

Options: Sometimes, depending on the group, the quiz can be pure trivia.  The purpose of a trivia quiz is to keep a thread of content alive, but at the same time build in some humor and lightness.  When it works a trivia quiz is a good workshop motivator.

Added thoughts or considerations:  Don’t overdo this exercise and when you use it keep it relatively short.  I always consider ten questions to be the maximum. 

--Return to Activities Listing--

XVII.  List Polling

Author: Sara Carney.  Sara works with non profits to train both employees and volunteers.


Objective (s): To help a group sort through a list of ideas.

How the author has used this exercise: Below are two frequently used techniques to help a group narrow a list of items or ideas.  I have also used them as a basis for helping a group reach consensus.

Activity Description: Below are two simple narrowing techniques:

A. Fist to Five: The facilitator restates each issue under discussion and the participants simultaneously hold up a number of fingers, fist to five, to show their opinion of it. A fist represents no vote; one finger represents a low opinion while five fingers represents that it is a great idea.

B. Prioritizing Poll: When a group has a list of items that they want to put in priority order, give each participant three votes that they can use to indicate their top three choices.  Total all votes and then circle the top vote getters.  This is a simple poll to see which items are favored by the group. 


Added thoughts or considerations:  Make a point to ask the group to respond to the polling, but don’t return to open discussion otherwise you could end up in a never-ending discussion loop.  

 --Return to Activities Listing--

 XVIII. Parking Garage

Author: Sara Carney.  Sara works with non profits to train both employees and volunteers.


Objective (s): To save good ideas that don’t fit the discussion at the moment

How the author has used this exercise: I find that it is easy for a discussion to get derailed by a non-relevant comment or question.  The facilitator has to be careful not to dismiss these ideas, but he or she has to keep the flow of the training on track.  The Parking Garage technique below is simple and frequently keeps everyone satisfied.

Activity Description: In almost any group session ideas will emerge that are good but not directly relevant to the discussion or topic at hand.  Rather than ignore them or get distracted by them, put them in a “parking garage.” This is simply a sheet of newsprint taped on the wall with the heading Parking Garage. Have the presenter write his or her question, topic, or idea on the Parking Garage so that it is not forgotten and can be woven into subsequent meetings.

Added thoughts or considerations:  When a non-relevant question or topic surfaces, say something to the effect “That is a wonderful idea that deserves our consideration, but it may divert us from our current goal.  We want to save your idea so during the next break would you please put it on the Parking Garage?”  

--Return to Activities Listing--