So much has been written on leadership and the qualities of a good leader. While you may find some differences across articles, the basic message is the same — share your sense of purpose; be transparent about your vision and goals; show empathy; empower your team; be flexible; communicate relentlessly; be adaptable; be decisive; and so on.
The suggestions are all well-grounded and researched. However, they don’t say much about how to develop those skills. They don’t offer a menu of leadership 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.
As Jamie Thompson of MTa Learning says, senior execs often want to jump into a very complex leadership activity before they’ve become skilled at building teams. “Think about how you sequence your games and create a journey for learning.”
As such, before selecting 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. With that insight, you can layer your more specific goals, such as…
While leaders face increasingly complex situations, the task of developing strong leaders is also tougher because of the imposition of remote and hybrid work environments. Trainers, like leaders, must quickly shift from in-person only experiences to blended and virtual learning.
Moreover, managers and leaders might require more intellectually and cognitevely demanding activities that reflect the complexity of their work environment. Consider these needs as you weight the leadership games, activities, tools and resources described below.
Relationship building takes time. Whether teams are remote or in-person, allocate some “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. 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.
Human beings rely on proximity and facial expressions to communicate non-verbally and show empathy. When we’re physically separated, the challenge can be more difficult. Still, many who create experiential games, developed online version during the pandemic. These continue to grow and proliferate as remote work remains the norm for many organizations.
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.
Create an online experience of using illustrated images to develop metaphors to explain complex thoughts, ideas, or feelings.
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!