The Free Icebreaker Template [for Remote Team Strength]
Most traditional workplace icebreakers are awkward and, honestly, a little useless. The standard fluffy icebreaker questions like "Do you have any siblings?" won't help you understand how to work with someone. Ditto for icebreaker games like icebreaker bingo or scavenger hunts. So how do you get to know the people you'll be working with remotely? Read on for our top 9 icebreaker questions to ask.
Avoid workplace miscommunications and irritations by plainly asking questions that will help you and your team understand how to work better together. These questions also help you learn how to support one another, professionally and personally.
Here's our Ninety remote icebreaker template to get to know each person on your team better — both personally and professionally.
9 Icebreaker Questions Leaders Should Ask Team Members [and Why They're Important]
Get right to the heart of what makes people tick in the workplace with these nine in-depth workplace icebreaker questions:
1. What are you passionate about in your personal life?
"I have a lot of interests, but some of the things that I'm most passionate about are:
- Spending time with my daughters, Emily (4) and Ella (1).
- Volunteering through Big Brothers Big Sisters.
- Cooking. I've been trying a new recipe with my family every Sunday.
- Running and getting out in nature. I'm currently training for a half marathon!"
Why It Works:
People can talk about the things that are deeply important to them and skip the small talk. Traditional ice breaker questions often ask something like "What are your hobbies?" but that's not nearly as engaging as asking someone what they're passionate about.
You can gain a much deeper understanding of someone by learning what they care about the most in their personal lives. You can learn about their family, their values, their sense of curiosity and humor, and, yes, their hobbies.
2. What are you passionate about in your professional life?
"I think that having fun is one of the best ways to create good writing, especially in marketing. I value creativity, collaboration, and let's-try-it-and-see attitudes. I prefer the accessible, 'plain English' approach in writing and professional communication. And finally, I'm Team Oxford Comma!"
Why It Works:
Everyone has strong opinions about their chosen profession! The answers to this question explain what fuels a person's professional fire, which can help you keep feeding that fire.
This question can even give you some ideas about what future projects and opportunities this person might be interested in taking on. It'll also give you an understanding of what they're not interested in or what might bore them. Overall, this question can help you increase and maintain employee engagement.
3. When are you the proudest of yourself in the workplace?
"I love feeling like I've genuinely helped someone. Working with and talking to clients is the most meaningful part of my job, so I'm most proud when a client tells me that I've helped solve their problem."
Why It Works:
The answer to this question often tells you what makes each person "tick," both personally and professionally. For example, some team members feel happiest when they're helping others, and some feel a sense of accomplishment when they learn something new.
Everyone wants to feel proud of their professional accomplishments. If an employee doesn't feel that on at least a semi-regular basis, they're not going to want to continue working at that organization.
You can encourage engagement and growth by providing team members with opportunities that let them do what they're best at (and what they enjoy the most). Their responses can also help you find appropriate goals and stretch opportunities for each team member.
4. What kind of leader do you thrive working with?
"I appreciate leaders who:
- Can trust that they've hired the right team
- Listen to feedback as often as they give it
- Are flexible and laid-back
- Are excited about what they do
- Can communicate their big-picture ideas
- Are specific in expressing what they'd like to see from the people they're leading."
Why It Works:
This question is an incredible opportunity for leaders and managers to understand how team members like to be managed and their preferred communication styles. For example, the answers to this question can help you know which employees prefer a more specific direction and which employees want to work more independently.
Directly asking what leadership style they prefer will allow you to be that leader for them!
5. What are your 'triggers' in the workplace?
- "People who assume to know what someone is feeling.
- When people aren't specific in communicating their needs/desires/goals/expectations.
- Unnecessary bureaucracy/extra steps.
Why It Works:
This question is one of the best ways to prevent miscommunications, misalignment, and accidental frustrations before they occur. Everyone has their own set of professional "triggers," or things that just get on their nerves. Understanding those professional pet peeves will give team members and leaders the knowledge they need to respect those personal boundaries.
If a team member says they hate wasting time on unproductive meetings, you can suggest that the organization try a platform like Ninety. Or, if a person says that they dislike micromanagement, this is a polite clue to give them a little more space.
6. What is your ideal schedule?
"I have two young children, so early mornings are hectic for me. I typically hit my stride around 9 a.m., so I'm at my most productive from late morning until mid-afternoon. I'm unavailable for a couple of hours while I pick my kids up from daycare and get them settled at home, and then I'm back online until about 5:30 p.m."
Why It Works:
Particularly in today's work-from-anywhere world, we've all come to understand that people's personal and professional lives deserve balance. Nobody can (or should) be accessible or at their peak performance 24/7.
This question gives you a sense of each person's peak productivity hours, whether they're an early morning person or someone whose brain doesn't really get moving until about noon. It also allows you to respect their personal needs and boundaries, which is especially important for working parents.
You can use your team's answers to create realistic, flexible, and reasonable expectations for their work hours, schedules, and best practices for communication.
7. What are your professional goals?
- "Becoming a leader that younger artists look up to.
- Being a leader who mentors and cultivates a great working environment.
- Being the driving force, creatively, behind a growing brand that people know and love."
Why It Works:
Providing your team with growth opportunities is essential for your company's culture and the continued success of individual team members. Every leader wants to support and encourage their team members' growth. Asking each person directly where they want to go within the company will help you hit those goals.
8. How can leadership get you there?
"Leaders can help me get there by teaching me best practices, showing me how they do what they do."
Why It Works:
Again, this gives you the precise answer about how you can best support and encourage each team member. It'll give you ideas for upcoming opportunities and research projects, and it'll also give you a clue as to certain projects an employee would not be interested in.
9. Are there any tools, platforms, or resources that could help you do your best work?
"I'd like to get the whole company running on Ninety to improve our meetings and get everyone on the same system. I also need an upgraded subscription to Grammarly and access to InDesign."
Why It Works:
This question allows employees to ask for any tools they might be missing. As a leader, you know that you need to give your employees the tools they need to do their jobs. But most of the time, employees feel uncomfortable asking the company to pay for these important assets.
Acknowledge their requests, and try to accommodate them as much as your budget allows. Your whole organization could benefit from some of these tools. For example, getting your entire company on the Ninety platform can help to unify and connect your remote and hybrid teams.
Learn more about Ninety and how its cloud-based platform can get your team focus, align, and thrive. Start with a free 30-day trial now.
How Do You Use a Remote Icebreaker Template?
A few quick tips for getting the most out of your workplace icebreaker template:
1. Keep the results in a shared folder.
Use the link (included below) to download the template and then share it with your team members for them to complete.
Once each team member has completed the icebreaker template and answered the questions, save their answers in a shared folder somewhere so that everyone on the team can access the results. It should look something like this:
Why make it publically accessible to the team? Because this exercise doesn't just benefit managers! Reading each other's responses will provide each team member with everyone's "user's manual" — a quick guide to being a good teammate to each person. It'll also give everyone some much-needed insight into each others' personal and professional lives.
2. Add to or customize the questions as needed.
Maybe you're looking for honest feedback and insight into a particular issue. For example, you could try this icebreaker exercise with a team that's worked together for a while. In that case, you could add questions like "What's your favorite memory of your coworkers?" or "When have you felt the most supported at this company?"
Customizing the icebreaker template questions can give you additional insight into your team and help you understand what's working and what's not. Getting this detailed level of feedback can help decrease employee turnover, improve relationships, and increase feelings of satisfaction and contentment in the workplace.
3. Remember that everyone will answer it in their own way, and that's perfect.
Some people will write a sentence, and others will offer several paragraphs. Some may answer in bullet format, and others will write paragraphs. Anything goes, as long as their answers are clear, honest, and specific.
If a team member is struggling with the exercise, providing an example answer may jumpstart their thought process. Otherwise, just remind everyone that this is a "no wrong answers" type of exercise.
4. Use the template in its written form; don't ask the questions verbally.
Ordinarily, it would make sense to do face-to-face icebreaker exercises. But using this icebreaker template in its written form is helpful for a few reasons:
- It encourages honesty and transparency.
- It gives people time to really think about their answers.
- It allows everyone to read each other's responses on their own time.
- It provides the opportunity to revisit each other's responses when needed.
You should absolutely set aside time for face-to-face conversations, even if it's through a virtual meeting software like Zoom. However, this exercise works best as a written Q and A.
5. Be sure to follow up!
Once everyone has completed the template questions and the responses are gathered into an easily accessible folder, remind everyone to set aside some time to read through each other's "user's manuals." Then, follow up to casually discuss the results.
You could set up a follow-up Zoom meeting where everyone shares something new they learned about each team member. O, you could encourage everyone to ask one follow-up question based on a teammate's answer they were curious about. For example: "Erin, I didn't know you played field hockey! How did you get into that?" Or "David, what can I do to better support you when you're feeling triggered by a lack of communication?"
Verbally following up on the collected answers lets everyone know they've been heard. The resulting conversations can encourage everyone to continue getting to know each other independently.
Downloadable Version of the Icebreaker Template (PDF)
Need an easy, downloadable icebreaker template with our 9 favorite questions?
You can download Ninety's free icebreaker questions here:
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