When I first began researching meetings at great companies, I was surprised by how many high-performing teams used an icebreaker during their weekly meetings long after they’d all gotten to know one another. I knew icebreaker questions were useful for workshops and networking events. But, at first, I didn’t understand why these teams kept running icebreakers long after it looked like that ice was thoroughly broken.
Now I know that great teams use icebreakers because the first five minutes of the meeting matter most. When we prepare an icebreaker for a networking event, we call it a conversation starter, and that’s what icebreakers do for teams. The meeting leader asks a simple question that everyone answers, getting everyone actively participating in the conversation right away.
A good icebreaker is an efficient way to accomplish three goals. First, it helps the group transition into the meeting. Once people begin answering the question, that’s the signal for everyone else to put away their phones and tune in. Second, it gets everyone’s voice heard. Everyone in the meeting should be there to actively participate, and that expectation gets set with this first question. Third, a good icebreaker frames the conversation that follows. Questions can be serious, fun, meaningful, or frivolous, all qualities that can be used to enhance the conversations that follow.
The 28 questions below come from teams all over the world that use a single-question icebreaker to set a positive mood and get everyone engaged in the first five minutes of a meeting.
Basic (Safe) Questions
These questions give everyone an opportunity to clear their mind of other concerns so they can focus on the meeting. Clearing is not about solving problems; it’s just to get those preoccupations out so they can be put aside.
Questions About Working Together
These questions create insights into each person’s working style and their perspective regarding the task at hand.
Questions for Getting to Know One Another Better
These questions create insights into each person’s background, preferences, culture, and dreams, making it easier to connect as fellow humans.
Whichever question you choose, you’ll soon know more about the people on your team–both from the answers they give and because they’ll speak up more in meetings. Then you’ll all be able to better appreciate how fortunate you all are to be working together.
Article originally published on Inc.