Do you want to warm-up your employees for a morning’s team building or personality workshop event? Then be sure to include some fun-and-inclusive ice breakers. Done properly, they are a terrific way to get people interested in the activity and relax before getting to the nitty-gritty of personality theory. They are also helpful for getting people to come to the party dressed as themselves and demonstrate the value of the Briggs and Myers framework to people who may be skeptical about it.
The following icebreakers are designed to reveal something about personality type in real and accessible ways. You can refer back to the activities later in the workshop so participants can examine their behavior in retrospect and see how it fitted.
1. Picture This!
Pair up the participants. Ask one person to draw a basic picture, keeping the image secret from her partner. Then, have the artist describe the basic shapes of the picture – the other person has to draw it and see how close they get to the original picture. Have participants move around the room and repeat the exercise with as many drawing partners as time allows. Ask the artists to observe how they describe the picture. What words do they use (big picture overview or nitty-gritty details)? Is communication easier with some people than with others? Did they have to change the way they described the picture to get the message across?
2. The Artist Game
Here’s another art-inspired exercise that draws out a person’s thinking and communication style. Give everyone a piece of paper and a pencil. In five minutes, they must draw a picture that represents who they are without using any words or numbers. The host collects the drawings and shows them to the workshop; participants must guess who drew each picture. After this, have the artist introduce himself and explain how the work symbolizes him. What words does he choose? How does he communicate with the group?
3. Story Time Game
The host starts a story by saying a sentence. It then goes in a circle, with each participant repeating the sentence that has just been said and then adding a new sentence onto the story. This exercise is good at exposing the differences in the Sensing and Intuitive thinking style. Sensors typically will continue the story in a linear fashion whereas Intuitives will play around with ideas, adding their own interpretations as to how each of the characters might think, act and feel. How do Sensors react if the story wanders off piste?
4. Kangaroo Court Game
Choose this ice-breaker if the purpose of the workshop is to improve team effectiveness. Participants should know each other and ideally, there should have been an incident that irritated members of the group. Referring to the incident, announce that you are holding a kangaroo court to try the guilty parties. Name the defendants. Select a judge, a prosecuting attorney and a lawyer for the defense. Swear in the jury. Write up formal charges and hold your trial in whatever way your participants choose.
As you observe, make a note of each participant’s approach to law and order. Do they see the ‘crime’ in black-and-white terms or is their approach more nuanced? Do they prefer punishment over forgiveness? What type of argument sways their opinion?
5. “I Agree” Poster
Make a poster containing several statements, assumptions or cliches about a topic relevant to your business. For example, you might riff on the topic of “successful leaders” who…
- Are tough and commanding
- Must know it all
- Nurture and develop others
- Are specialists in their field
- Are born, not made
- Are empathetic
- Must have a strong vision
- Are creative and innovative
- Require a formal title and position in the company
- Are ethical and values-driven.
Ask participants to vote on the statements they agree with. You can use the results to lead a discussion on the personality components of leadership, or refer to the results later in the workshop when discussing what each personality type requires from an effective manager.
6. The Dominant Hand
Give each participant a pen and paper and ask them to sign their name. Now, ask them to repeat the exercise using their non-dominant hand. Ask the participants, which hand felt more normal and natural? Is it possible to sign your name effectively using your non-dominant hand? What would happen if you were forced to write with this hand all the time? This simple exercise shows the power of preference and is a nice way of introducing personality theory.
7. The M&M House
This perennial workshop favorite is useful for illustrating the differences between the Perceiving and Judging types; it also works well as an icebreaker. Assuming you’ve assessed everyone’s type before the workshop (this is recommended), separate participants into three groups: one comprised of Judgers, one comprised of Perceivers, and a mixed group. Give each group 10-15 minutes to construct a two-dimensional house out of M&Ms.
When the time is up, have everyone discuss how the activity went. Did the group finish? If so, it’s likely a “J” group. Is the home color-coordinated? Also likely a “J” group. Are any of the homes particularly unusual? This group was probably comprised of “Ps.” This activity shows how differently we approach tasks. Did the mixed group leverage their differences to create a better result?
8. Planning a Party
Match up two participants, an Introvert and an Extravert, and ask them to plan a party for themselves (you can use small E and I groups for larger numbers of participants). The participants typically will approach this task in opposing ways. The Introvert will want a small, intimate and close-knit party. The Extravert will expect lots of action, excitement and entertainment. Introversion/extraversion is generally considered to be the easiest dichotomy to understand, so this is a great ice-breaker exercise for really drilling home the differences in type.
What these icebreakers have in common
Ice breaker exercises are a great way to showcase the differences between the 16 personality types. As participants engage in the exercises, walk around the room, make notes, and perhaps take some photographs. Notice that:
- Extraverts will talk about the exercise aloud while taking part, often dominating the conversation.
- Introverts may take a step back for some think time (or to cringe at the prospect of participating in an icebreaker exercise!)
- EF types will use the ice breaker as an excuse to get to know every person in the room.
- NTs might well become competitive.
- Judgers will want to complete the activity, even when you ask them to stop.
- ENP types might ignore the rules; or they will not listen properly when you give the instructions!
In conjunction with test results, these tidbits of observation are invaluable to support the points you are making in your workshop presentation. They can really bring personality to life!