Leading a company or any group is hard during “normal” times. The challenge is exponentially more difficult now, as we face the pandemic, political polarization, social unrest, and economic crisis. Every magazine I’ve read recently offers tips for leaders — share your sense of purpose; be transparent about goals; show empathy; be flexible; communicate relentlessly. The suggestions are good, but they don’t tell you how to develop those skills. They don’t offer a menu Leadershipof experiences and exercises — leadership activities — that draw out learning moments. If you’re looking to implement those tips and translate them into actionable skills, the exercises and tools below will help managers become the more effective leaders they hope to be.
Before you select a game, activity, or experience, do a quick assessment to know where you are now and where you hope to grow. You may explore basic leadership skills through a Leadership Skills Assessment like HRDQs. Then, on top of that, you can layer your more specific goals, such as being able to…
While leaders face increasingly complex situations, the task of developing strong leaders is also tougher because of the imposition of remote work. Trainers must quickly shift from classroom and blended learning to predominantly virtual learning. These leadership games, activities, tools and resources should help:
Relationship building takes time. Whether you’re working remotely or keeping distant within the office, allocate some virtual “water cooler time,” that is time to simply chat. Having a few good prompts on hand helps. Thumballs, UNZiP-IT! Decks and UNZiP-IT! Remote PPTs all have the same great prompts to get your group talking. The wide variety of topics lets you choose appropriate prompts, whether your group is just getting acquainted (Common Ground, Shaped by Our Past, or Favorites), knows each other well but wants to build stronger bonds (Getting to Know You or What Makes You YOU?), or hopes to dig into deeper topics like Get Happy at Work, Diversity, Stress Management, Team Dynamics, etc.
Soft-skills training (leadership, communication, listening, time management, empathy, trust) has traditionally taken the form of face-to-face or blended learning. While everyone is feeling unsettled, these skills are more important than ever. Beyond explanations and presentations, skill development typically requires conversation, role-playing, trial and error, and simulations that give participants a shared–and safe–experience to discuss, analyze, and extract learning. The following tools can be used in person or online.
To develop and train smaller groups of people, organizations will need many more trainers. Or, they will also need to teach managers and colleagues to train and coach one another.
Use one of these powerful metaphors to facilitate rich conversations about current and preferred situations.
In this game, players must assemble an assortment of shapes to make 4 uniform shapes.
Use this popular 30-minute Murder Mystery game to improve communication skills, team building, problem-solving, leadership, and more. Send one or more of the 27 clues to each participant and challenge them to find the murderer, victim, time & place of the murder, and motive in 15 minutes — without writing anything down and using only verbal communication. If you have a large group, do make use online breakout rooms. After each team plays, they can select a spokesperson to share their team’s experience with the rest of the group.
A challenging mathematical puzzle Is made even more complex, by using made-up words in the fictitious, ancient city of Atlantis, where a solid, rectangular obelisk -called a zin – was built in honor of the goddess Tina. The structure took less than two weeks to complete and the group’s task is to determine the day of the week on which the obelisk was completed. For virtual play, email a few clues to each player and try to sort it out over the phone–maybe with a shared online whiteboard! After all clear phone communication is more important now than ever! Normally, teams consist of 5-8 players. If you have a larger group of people you can use online breakout rooms. After each team plays, they can select a spokesperson to share their team’s experience with the rest of the group.
Virtual Teams of ideally 6 – 14 members gather and share knowledge to identify 2 colored abstract shapes that are missing from a complete set. If you have a larger group of people you can use online breakout rooms. After each team plays, they can select a spokesperson to share their team’s experience with the rest of the group. The communication processes involved are much more complex and take participants through increasingly sophisticated patterns of active listening until the task is achieved. Individuals draw on their experience and descriptive skills to explain to each other abstract shapes that they can see on their screens, but cannot share with the others. They use feedback and clarification skills to ensure that their understanding is accurate.
While we know that social safe distancing protocols save lives, we must also appreciate that human beings rely on proximity and facial expressions to communicate non-verbally and show empathy. To experience the impact of these new communication “norms” have your leaders and managers ask one another to share a short story of their past — a major turning point in their life; a time they went to the hospital; a hard choice you had to make; a stressful experience you lived through [Shaped by Our Past question prompts for more question prompts]. This exercise can’t really be conducted in real time, so you might need to ask your group to record their feelings about sharing their stories in these different situations:
DEBRIEF: In your debrief, discuss the challenges of each of these more restrictive communication devices. Ask:
What made each medium difficult?
How might we accommodate these limitations to achieve greater understanding?
Leadership Games come in many formats. Whenever you take time out of your leaders’ busy days, be sure you have a clear purpose. On top of that, make the time worthwhile, but carving out a few additional minutes to debrief. Of course, if we’ve missed any of YOUR favorite Leadership Games, let us know!
NOTE: Click here for more ACTIVE LISTENING EXERCISES.