The last word

Trainer and writer John Charlton explains why he feels lukewarm towards

Picture the scene: deep in the bowels of Chequers, it’s another
inner-cabinet-plus-special-advisers training weekend.

"Right, " says the Prime Minister. "Instead of telling us
your first name and why you’re here, I want you to give us the name of your
favourite breed of dog and the judge you admire most. I’ll start the ball
rolling. Today team, I’m Poodle Hutton."

Utterly ridiculous? Maybe. But not so different from one or two ice-breakers
I’ve been subjected to. These include being asked to say what my name would be
if I combined a favourite pet’s moniker with my mother’s surname – a stunt
guaranteed to amuse the many and embarrass a few. Rover O’Neill may be fine for
porn, but not a serious training course. More of a nutcracker than an

Ice-breakers should be to trainers what warm-up acts are to comedians.
They’re there to break down barriers and focus minds on the main event.

The trick is to choose an ice-breaker which fits not just the composition of
the group in question but also the mood, the time-of-day, the subject at hand ,
the duration of the course and the trainer’s objectives.

They tend to be something that training managers leave to trainers. Don’t.
Delegates are likely to remember an inappropriate ice-breaker long after
they’ve forgotten about the course.

For health and safety reasons, energisers are best limited to throwing
sponge balls at the delegates to get them to move around and swap places.

Think long and hard before allowing an outdoor triathlon. My sole memory of
a management course many years ago is of a mature senior manager being
stretchered away after breaking an ankle during an ‘energising’ rounders game
on an uneven Kentish lawn. Moral: there’s no such thing as non-competitive
energisers for managers.

Which ice-breaker would you recommend? Send your favourite ice-breaker to
[email protected] If we
print your ideas, we’ll send you a bottle of champagne.


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