I’ve used this question to find out that colleagues had paper routes that taught them to get moving early in the morning. Other coworkers made sandwiches at Subway and gained a lifelong appreciation for anyone working in a service job. Other people mentioned pool lifeguarding and the solemn sense of responsibility that comes with making sure kids don’t drown. Apparently the statistics say we’re all going to have 15 jobs or more in our lifetimes. It’s worth remembering how each of those jobs has shaped us. Continue reading What was one of your first jobs that had a lasting impact on your work ethic?
Hi my name is Carlo and I’m addicted to checking email on my phone. Sometimes I’ll do it without even realizing it and then think, “Dude, you did this literally 4 minutes ago…” I have a friend who’s addicted to Q-tipping her ears after every shower even though she knows it’s not healthy. If my wife doesn’t exercise in the morning she feels horrible and lethargic all day long. I literally call it “crack” when I’m talking to her. I’ll ask: “Did you get your crack earlier today?” What are you addicted to? What can your teammates not go without? Continue reading What are you addicted to?
This is a short and playful question but it actually can tell you a lot about your teammates. Part of the effect comes from asking it just with those four words. This leaves a lot up to interpretation. Are people responding with the meal they most like to eat? To cook? The meal they’re in the mood for right now? The meal they’d choose if they could only eat that meal for the rest of their lives? No wrong answers. Let people answer as they will. This lightens the mood and springboards you right into your meeting. Continue reading Breakfast, lunch, or dinner?
And what were you doing? This is a really good meeting-starter, especially if there’s a bit of an age-range in the room. That Y2K new year’s eve is far back enough now that some of your teammates will have been at home with kids, others will have been out partying, and others will have been children at home themselves. And everyone remembers Y2K! So this is an easy one to answer! Continue reading Where were you on December 31, 1999?
Answering this question brings up warm-fuzzy feelings about grandparents, it reveals cultural/ethnic details, it often leads to funny family stories, and it doesn’t take long to answer. Another PERFECT meeting starter question! Ask your team next time! Continue reading What do/did you call your grandparents?
Fantastic question. More often than not, we find ourselves wearing the “consumer” hat and being defined by our consumer habits. So it’s a special thing this day and age to produce something in the world, whether it’s an app side-hustle, a home D.I.Y. project, or a pie from scratch. What a person has created lately tells a lot about them. This question is quick but still revealing (in a good way). Give it a shot to kick off your next team meeting. Continue reading What’s something that you’ve made that you’re the most proud of?
This is a great meeting-starter question because it’s lighthearted, quick, and it virtually guarantees that you’ll learn something new about your team. When you ask this, you find out that someone’s donated to Locks of Love, that someone very unexpected used to rock a mohawk, that someone has cut his own hair since age 6… I’ve seen this one work really well. Probably because it’s the just the right mix of fast, fun, and a little bit vulnerable. Continue reading What kind of hairstyle(s) did you rock growing up?
No matter how long you’ve worked with a team, this question has a way of bringing to the surface something new about your colleagues. I’ve seen this work wonderfully across all kinds of settings, meetings, and organizations. It doesn’t take long to go around the table and answer but all of a sudden the energy in the room will change and you’ll hear things like, “No way – I lived in Akron for 2 years growing up!” or “I didn’t know you had family in Germany.” Plus, people love grandmas! You can hardly start a meeting on a more positive note! Continue reading Where was your maternal grandmother born?
I love this question. It’s great to kick off a meeting, but it’s also one of the best non-hokey icebreakers that I’ve seen used in group settings. It only takes each person about a minute to go through all the keys, keychains, and doodads they’ve got but you learn a lot about what people use on a daily basis, where they’ve traveled, and who’s in their lives. Plus EVERYONE’S got keys! No more human knots or trust falls or whatever. You’re welcome! Continue reading Can you explain to us everything that is on your keychain right now?
When you reflect on this question you remember vacations, or family holiday feasts, or a great date night, or a home-cooked meal that you’re really proud of. And of course you remember the food itself. Jerk chicken with that red sauce all over the rice. Mom’s caramel stickybuns on Christmas morning. Homemade pizza that you just knocked out of the park. With this question you get all the most important relationships in life, delicious food, you put everyone in a good mood, and it doesn’t have to take more than 30 seconds to answer. For a meeting starter, dang! That’s a quadruple threat.
Continue reading What was the best meal you’ve had so far this year?
Where would we be without great teachers? It’s not just the math, literature, or science. It’s what they’ve taught us about confidence, pushing ourselves, compassion, and a hundred other things. Great teachers teach us the things that change our lives forever (which is exactly why this question is so good to kick off a meeting and learn more about the people on your team). Continue reading Who was the best teacher you ever had in school (at any level)?
To me, “best” doesn’t mean it was the most expensive gift or that you had to camp outside a store for 3 days to buy it. Maybe you didn’t have to buy it at all. A great gift is great because it’s something you chose very specifically. It was the perfect thing (or action) for that exact person at exactly the right time and he/she just LOVED it. In that sense, what’s the “best” gift you’ve ever given? Continue reading What is the best gift you’ve ever given someone?
This is a good one for team building because you see a different side of your colleagues than what they normally bring to work. And answering this question requires just a smidge of vulnerability, which is a great thing for everyone to practice. Growing up I had a stuffed rabbit named “Huggy.” I still have him. Brought him when I moved across the country even. I’m 31. Feel a little funny telling you that but… you know, whatever. See, now you know that about me! Continue reading Did you have a stuffed animal or favorite toy growing up? Do you still have it?
I LOVE this question. But let’s get something straight first. Flying is not an everyday super power. Neither is mind control or time travel. Those are too crazy. But when my friend says that he would always want to know what time it was without having to look at a watch or clock, that’s an everyday superpower. Or when a member of my coworking space says that she would want to be able to feel awesome after just 1 hour of sleep every night, that’s everyday. Faster than a speeding bullet? Nope, off limits. Always know where there’s an open parking spot? Now we’re talking! Continue reading If you could have an “everyday super power” what would you choose?
It’s always buy-buy-buy! Ads are constantly trying to make us feel bad about the things we haven’t upgraded in *gasp* 2 years. But how about the possessions that stand the test of time or have been handed down the family tree? We should celebrate these more often. We should brag about them more often. Continue reading Which of your possessions have you owned the longest? (It could have been purchased or given to you.)
This is a fun one. You start talking about interesting life moments when advice usually comes and you learn about the mentors in people’s lives (grandparents, parents, coaches…) as well as the “mentors” (crazy uncles, misguided friends, awful magazine articles…) Continue reading What is the most memorable advice you’ve ever received (good or bad)?
This is a perfect way to start a team meeting or weekly check in. You learn about the music your colleagues first liked. You get people talking. And if there’s a wide age range in the room, you get the added chuckle of LP vs. 8-track vs. CD. Continue reading What was the first piece of music you ever bought and what format did it come in?