Building Great Teams One Image at a Time

What do pinterest, tumbler and facebook have in common with VisualsSpeak?

Images.  Visuals.  Pictures.

Over the last year, we’ve seen the popularity of visuals rise.  From Pinterest to infographics, images are everywhere.

The reason is simple.  Images are highly effective.

That’s what makes VisualsSpeak tools so powerful.

The ability to “paint a thousand words” in one image is one reason the human brain loves pictures.

One picture can convey years of meaning and memory.  When used in team-building efforts, images can be a powerful team-building tool.

Why Image Decks are So Powerful

Of course the primary reason the VisualsSpeak image decks are so powerful is that they are made up of images.  But, the decks aren’t just piles of images, the images themselves have been tested and vetted to make sure they get results.

In a team-building setting, images can cross all sorts of interpersonal communication boundaries between members of a group as well as shine light on all of the variations among group members.  But the images can also shed light on the similarities among a diversified group of team members.  Unveiling these often unnoticed similarities can create a more powerful group dynamic, creating a much healthier and more productive team.

Don’t Just Take Our Word For It

Here’s Lori Silverman’s story:

Lori Silverman is a builder. As a key leader of Portland State University’s Professional Development Center, Lori helps the university build new degree and certificate programs. And that means bringing teams, boards, and committees together. A lot.

So when it was time to put a new advisory panel together and set up a first meeting? Well, we’ll just let Lori tell you herself, in her own words:

“It was my first meeting with my advisory panel and on it’s way to a humdrum bother of a meeting for everyone until I decided to use VisualsSpeak. My biggest anxiety was giving up a full 90 minutes of a two hour meeting just to introduce

“In just 90 minutes I have the richest understanding of my new advisory panel’s ability to contribute, special attributes, natural leadership and group tendencies, willingness levels, commitment level, level of understanding of the program and most interesting to me – they have a genuine curiosity about each other – and a desire to work together in the future. Sometimes I have worked for months to glean that kind of knowledge on a team – and almost never got it.

“I have to admit that biting the bullet and committing 90 minutes of their first meeting to playing with images was risky – I didn’t know them well, and I felt like and they made me feel like I was asking a lot of them just to be there – but WOW. One of them had told me in advance that he would not be able to stay for the entire meeting – so when the meeting finished and I asked why he stayed – he said that he guessed it was a barometer for his interest in the meeting!

“I couldn’t have done that with my old agendas’ ‘Statement of Purpose, New Business, Yawn, yawn.’ Thanks to the team building tool, I think we have eliminated so much of the hidden agenda, anxiety, waste of time kinds of feelings on behalf of the group.”

You can learn more about the Team-Building tools here >>  Building Great Teams

Stop whining and see alternatives

Everyday we hear stories about how stressed our customers organizations are. Continuous change, resource limitations, and uncertainty are the themes that are constant companions.

What is whining all about?

One concern is that if you let people talk, all they will do is whine.  There are other ways to look at it.  Whining happens when people don’t know what else to do. They can’t make sense of what is going on around them. It’s usually because they don’t understand. {Ok, there are perpetual habitual whiners, but they aren’t who we are talking about here.}

What is really going on?

When people are whining, they are telling you a stuck story. They are seeing from their unique viewpoint, and having trouble seeing alternatives. Using visuals can access a different part of the brain, and allow people to see other ways of thinking about a situation.

There are always multiple ways of looking at things. It is this normal human fact– seeing from our own perspective– that creates stress in groups. It’s also our greatest opportunity for creating our best collective work.

How does this work?

Here’s an example of how our customer, Jean Bonifas did it.

I used four Visual Icebreaker sets in a team building workshop for a health insurance management team.  The CEO requested that everyone share their photos choices to answer “Who are you?” and “What do you bring to the team” with the entire group (15).  This exchange deepened the recognition of  each team member’s value rather than just the folks within their individual small groups.  This group is very stressed by burgeoning growth, new responsibilities and constantly shifting policies.  The process of selecting a photo reconnected them as individuals working to build an effective and successful organization rather than just putting out fires.

Selecting an image that resonated with the team had people operating from the metaphoric right side of the brain.  Then as each person verbalized what it was about that image that expressed who they are, they shared more than words.  Their sharing with others on the team went beyond verbal content (left brain) and seemed to expand the team’s understanding of each person within an intuitive context (right brain).  Very powerful!

Visual Icebreaker: Today's Hope for the Meeting

Purpose:

This icebreaker gets people to talk about what they want out of the session, and to add their concerns
 to the process. They can also weigh everyone’s views and hopefully accommodate these other opinions.

Choose a prompt.

This may seem like a quick and obvious step, but actually, it is by far the most important. A well-formed and well-chosen prompt will reveal insights; a poorly-selected one will fizzle. Suggestions:

  • Choose an image that reflects something you hope is present in the meeting today.
  • Choose an image that reflects something you hope is present in the group today.

Share the prompt with participants

State the prompt and give participants 30 seconds to select an image. Although this often feels (to both facilitator and participants) like a short time, that duration is critical. Participants will select images more viscerally and instinctively, which (perhaps counter-intuitively) sparks a greater connection to the image chosen.

Share the story of the image

Participants share about their response with the larger group.

Debrief.

There are a set of known, time-tested debriefing questions that work effectively with the Core Icebreaker process. Those are listed below. Feel free to embellish this list with other effective questions appropriate to your meeting, training, or facilitation.
• What was the process like for you?
• What did you notice?
• Was there anything interesting or surprising?
• Do you have any new insights?
• Did you notice any patterns or trends?
• Does anyone want to add anything else?


Included in our Visual Icebreaker Kit, the facilitator guide contains dozens of icebreakers covering a variety of outcomes — from building trust to conducting a mini-assessment.

Of course, these activities are designed to be used with the icebreaker images, but could be used reasonably well with the images in the Developing Great Leaders or Building Great Teams toolsets as well.

Visual Icebreaker: Teaming Up

Purpose:

This exercise gets people engaged in a conversation about effective teams and not-so-effective ones. It will give you information on what your participants want to better team. It is designed to be done in small groups of 3-5 people.

Choose a prompt.

This may seem like a quick and obvious step, but actually, it is by far the most important. A well-formed and well-chosen prompt will reveal insights; a poorly-selected one will fizzle. Suggestions:

  • Find five images that mean something about teamwork.
  • Find five images that mean something about this group.
  • Find five images that mean something about effective teams.

Share the prompt with participants

State the prompt and give the group 1 minute to select their images. Although this often feels (to both facilitator and participants) like a short time, that duration is critical. Participants will select images more viscerally and instinctively, which (perhaps counter-intuitively) sparks a greater connection to the image chosen.

Share the story of the images

Emphasize that you are asking people to drill down into their statements about teams or the group. Get them to list specifics. Have each group share about their responses with the larger group.

Other things that may raise interesting discussion points:

  • How the group negotiates the selection of images
  • How the small groups choose to report back.
  • What happens if two small groups want to use the same picture.

Debrief.

There are a set of known, time-tested debriefing questions that work effectively with the Core Icebreaker process. Those are listed below. Feel free to embellish this list with other effective questions appropriate to your meeting, training, or facilitation.

  • What was the process like for you?
  • What did you notice?
  • Was there anything interesting or surprising?
  • Do you have any new insights?
  • Did you notice any patterns or trends?
  • Does anyone want to add anything else?

Included in our Visual Icebreaker Kit, the facilitator guide contains dozens of icebreakers covering a variety of outcomes — from building trust to conducting a mini-assessment.

Of course, these activities are designed to be used with the icebreaker images, but could be used reasonably well with the images in the Developing Great Leaders or Building Great Teams toolsets as well.

Visual Wrap-up: Today's Take

wrap up activity for meetingPurpose

This exercise gives participants a chance to talk about their perceptions and feelings about the meeting/process.

Choose a prompt.

This may seem like a quick and obvious step, but actually, it is by far the most important. A well-formed and well-chosen prompt will reveal insights; a poorly-selected one will fizzle. Suggestions:

  • Pick a photo that catches your eye related to today’s topic.
  •  Pick a photo that relates a feeling you have about today’s meeting.

Share the prompt with participants

State the prompt and give participants 30 seconds to select an image. Although this often feels (to both facilitator and participants) like a short time, that duration is critical. Participants will select images more viscerally and instinctively, which (perhaps counter-intuitively) sparks a greater connection to the image chosen.

Share the story of the image

Participants share about their response with the larger group.

Debrief.

There are a set of known, time-tested debriefing questions that work effectively with the Core Icebreaker process. Those are listed below. Feel free to embellish this list with other effective questions appropriate to your meeting, training, or facilitation.
• What was the process like for you?
• What did you notice?
• Was there anything interesting or surprising?
• Do you have any new insights?
• Did you notice any patterns or trends?
• Does anyone want to add anything else?


Included in our Visual Icebreaker Kit, the facilitator guide contains dozens of icebreakers covering a variety of outcomes — from building trust to conducting a mini-assessment.

Of course, these activities are designed to be used with the icebreaker images, but could be used reasonably well with the images in the Developing Great Leaders or Building Great Teams toolsets as well.

Visual Icebreaker: Can I trust you?

Purpose:

This icebreaker provides an opportunity to start the process of finding out what trust means to the group.

Choose a prompt.

This may seem like a quick and obvious step, but actually, it is by far the most important. A well-formed and well-chosen prompt will reveal insights; a poorly-selected one will fizzle. Suggestions:

  • What is trust?
  • What does trust look like?

Share the prompt with participants

State the prompt and give participants 30 seconds to select an image. Although this often feels (to both facilitator and participants) like a short time, that duration is critical. Participants will select images more viscerally and instinctively, which (perhaps counter-intuitively) sparks a greater connection to the image chosen.

Share the story of the image

Participants share about their response with the larger group.

Debrief.

There are a set of known, time-tested debriefing questions that work effectively with the Core Icebreaker process. Those are listed below. Feel free to embellish this list with other effective questions appropriate to your meeting, training, or facilitation.
• What was the process like for you?
• What did you notice?
• Was there anything interesting or surprising?
• Do you have any new insights?
• Did you notice any patterns or trends?
• Does anyone want to add anything else?


Included in our Visual Icebreaker Kit, the facilitator guide contains dozens of icebreakers covering a variety of outcomes — from building trust to conducting a mini-assessment.

Of course, these activities are designed to be used with the icebreaker images, but could be used reasonably well with the images in the Developing Great Leaders or Building Great Teams toolsets as well.

Mini-Assessment Icebreaker: Gooooooooalllllllll!

Goal!Included in our Visual Icebreaker Kit, the facilitator guide contains dozens of icebreakers covering a variety of outcomes — from building trust to conducting a mini-assessment.

Of course, these activities are designed to be used with the icebreaker images, but could be used reasonably well with the images in the Developing Great Leaders or Building Great Teams toolsets as well. Here’s a sample icebreaker that helps to conduct a mini-assessment:

Purpose: This Core Icebreaker gives some indications of what people’s goals are. What are they lacking or needing to accomplish these goals? VisualsSpeak Core Icebreaker processes are described in much more detail in the Visual Icebreaker Kit Facilitation Guide.

Process:

  • Put images in a place accessible to all participants.
  • State the prompt.
  • Give participants 30 seconds to select an image.
  • Participants share about their response with the group.
  • Debrief.

Prompt: Choose an image that represents something you hope to accomplish here today.

Variant: Choose an image that represents something you home to accomplish as part of the group.

Debrief:

  • What was the process like for you?
  • What did you notice?
  • Was there anything interesting or surprising?
  • Do you have any new insights?
  • Did you notice any patterns or trends?
  • Does anyone want to add anything else?

Sparking Engagement Icebreaker: What's On The Docket?

Included in our Visual Icebreaker Kit, the facilitator guide contains dozens of icebreakers covering a variety of outcomes — from building trust to conducting a mini-assessment.

Of course, these activities are designed to be used with the icebreaker images, but could be used reasonably well with the images in the Developing Great Leaders or Building Great Teams toolsets as well. Here’s a sample icebreaker that helps to spark engagement:

Purpose: This Core Icebreaker gets people immediately focused on the topic, and gets insights on your group’s perceptions of the meeting, which may or may not be in alignment with what you planned. VisualsSpeak Core Icebreaker processes are described in much more detail in the Visual Icebreaker Kit Facilitation Guide.

Process at a Glance:

  • Put images in a place accessible to all participants.
  • State the prompt.
  • Give participants 30 seconds to select an image.
  • Participants share about their response with the group.
  • Debrief.

Prompt: Choose an image that represents something related to today’s topic.

Variant: Choose an image that represents something related to today’s topic of (specify the topic).

Debrief:

  • What did you notice?
  • What was the process like for you?
  • Was there anything interesting or surprising?
  • Do you have any new insights?
  • Did you notice any patterns or trends?
  • Does anyone want to add anything else?

Making Introductions Icebreaker: Don't You Know Who I Am?

Included in our Visual Icebreaker Kit, the facilitator guide contains dozens of icebreakers covering a variety of outcomes — from building trust to conducting a mini-assessment.

Of course, these activities are designed to be used with the icebreaker images, but could be used reasonably well with the images in the Developing Great Leaders or Building Great Teams toolsets as well. Here’s a sample icebreaker that helps a group with initial introductions:

Purpose: This Core Icebreaker allows each participant to share a little about themselves and what they can contribute to the team. VisualsSpeak Core Icebreaker processes are described in much more detail in the Visual Icebreaker Kit Facilitation Guide.

Process at a Glance:

  • Put images in a place accessible to all participants.
  • State the prompt.
  • Give participants 30 seconds to select an image.
  • Participants share about their response with the group.
  • Debrief.

Prompt:Who are you and what do you bring to the team?

Variants:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you bring to the team?
  • Share something about yourself with the group.

Debrief:

  • What did you notice?
  • What was the process like for you?
  • Was there anything interesting or surprising?
  • Do you have any new insights?
  • Did you notice any patterns or trends?
  • Does anyone want to add anything else?

Getting Alignment Icebreaker: Telling Stories Together

Selecting Images for a VisualsSpeak ActivityIncluded in our Visual Icebreaker Kit, the facilitator guide contains dozens of icebreakers covering a variety of outcomes — from building trust to conducting a mini-assessment.

Of course, these activities are designed to be used with the icebreaker images, but could be used reasonably well with the images in the Developing Great Leaders or Building Great Teams toolsets as well. Here’s a sample icebreaker that helps to get a group aligned together and ready to tackle the topic at hand:

Purpose: This exercise begins to explore how individual ideas contribute to the larger group story.

Materials:

  • A set of images

Process:

  • Have participants select an image that is related to the topic.
  • Put participants into small groups of three to six people.
  • Ask participants to share individual impressions, then put the individual images into some kind of sequence that tells a story.
  • Ask each group to share their story with the larger group.

Prompt: Pick a photo that catches your eye in relationship to (specified topic of session).

Variants:

  • What is an important part of the story of (topic of session)?
  • What is the story of today’s topic?

Tips:

  • People will most likely not be able to find the pictures they want to describe an idea in their head. This is good; it provides an opportunity for thinking differently and creatively.
  • If you want participants to really open up, encourage them to come up with a wacky or far-out story. If you want a more focused discussion, provide that guideline to the story.

Building Trust Icebreaker: What Do I Value?

ValueIncluded in our Visual Icebreaker Kit, the facilitator guide contains dozens of icebreakers covering a variety of outcomes — from building trust to conducting a mini-assessment.

Of course, these activities are designed to be used with the icebreaker images, but could be used reasonably well with the images in the Developing Great Leaders or Building Great Teams toolsets as well. Here’s a sample icebreaker that helps to build trust:

Purpose: People value a variety of characteristics in others. Having an idea of what those things are for others in the group can build a foundation of trust. VisualsSpeak Core Icebreaker processes are described in much more detail in the Visual Icebreaker Kit Facilitation Guide.

Process at a Glance:

  • Put images in a place accessible to all participants.
  • State the prompt.
  • Give participants 30 seconds to select an image.
  • Participants share about their response with the group.
  • Debrief.

Prompt: What represents a quality you appreciate in others?

Variant: What do you value in a group?

Debrief:

  • What did you notice?
  • What was the process like for you?
  • Was there anything interesting or surprising?
  • Do you have any new insights?
  • Did you notice any patterns or trends?
  • Does anyone want to add anything else?

Mini-Assessment Icebreaker: What Do You Need?

Included in our Visual Icebreaker Kit, the facilitator guide contains dozens of icebreakers covering a variety of outcomes — from building trust to conducting a mini-assessment.

Of course, these activities are designed to be used with the icebreaker images, but could be used reasonably well with the images in the Developing Great Leaders or Building Great Teams toolsets as well. Here’s a sample icebreaker that helps to conduct a mini-assessment:

Purpose: This Core Icebreaker gives some indications of what people’s needs are. What are they lacking or needing to do their jobs or to get ahead? VisualsSpeak Core Icebreaker processes are described in much more detail in the Visual Icebreaker Kit Facilitation Guide.

Process:

  • Put images in a place accessible to all participants.
  • State the prompt.
  • Give participants 30 seconds to select an image.
  • Participants share about their response with the group.
  • Debrief.

Prompt: What is something you hope to learn today?

Variant: What is something you hope is covered today?

Debrief:

  • What was the process like for you?
  • What did you notice?
  • Was there anything interesting or surprising?
  • Do you have any new insights?
  • Did you notice any patterns or trends?
  • Does anyone want to add anything else?

Sparking Engagement Icebreaker: What's the Relationship Here?

WebsIncluded in our Visual Icebreaker Kit, the facilitator guide contains dozens of icebreakers covering a variety of outcomes — from building trust to conducting a mini-assessment.

Of course, these activities are designed to be used with the icebreaker images, but could be used reasonably well with the images in the Developing Great Leaders or Building Great Teams toolsets as well. Here’s a sample icebreaker that helps to spark engagement:

Purpose: This exercise gets participants thinking creatively about the topic and how their prior knowledge might relate to it.

Process:

  • Randomly distribute photos, giving each person more than one.
  • Ask participants to discuss in pairs or triads.
  • Ask participants to share highlights with the whole group.
  • Debrief.

Prompt: How do the photos you received relate to the topic, or some part of the session topic?

Variant: What aspects of the photos have little or no relation to the topic?

Debrief:

  • What most surprised you about the connections that others made?
  • Of the past knowledge or experience that others in your group brought, which was most helpful?
  • Did you notice any patterns or trends?

Making Introductions Icebreaker: Make a Wish!

Included in our Visual Icebreaker Kit, the facilitator guide contains dozens of icebreakers covering a variety of outcomes — from building trust to conducting a mini-assessment.

Of course, these activities are designed to be used with the icebreaker images, but could be used reasonably well with the images in the Developing Great Leaders or Building Great Teams toolsets as well. Here’s a sample icebreaker that helps a group with initial introductions:

Purpose: This Core Icebreaker gives the speaker an opportunity to reveal something personal about themselves in a safe, unforced way. VisualsSpeak Core Icebreaker processes are described in much more detail in the Visual Icebreaker Kit Facilitation Guide.

Process at a Glance:

  • Put images in a place accessible to all participants.
  • State the prompt.
  • Give participants 30 seconds to select an image.
  • Participants share about their response with the group.
  • Debrief.

Prompt:What is a wish or desire you have for yourself?

Variant: What is a wish or desire you have for the group?

Debrief:

  • What did you notice?
  • What was the process like for you?
  • Was there anything interesting or surprising?
  • Do you have any new insights?
  • Did you notice any patterns or trends?
  • Does anyone want to add anything else?

Getting Alignment Icebreaker: Oh, the Fun We'll Have!

What Fun We'll Have!Included in our Visual Icebreaker Kit, the facilitator guide contains dozens of icebreakers covering a variety of outcomes — from building trust to conducting a mini-assessment.

Of course, these activities are designed to be used with the icebreaker images, but could be used reasonably well with the images in the Developing Great Leaders or Building Great Teams toolsets as well. Here’s a sample icebreaker that helps to get a group aligned:

Purpose: This Core Icebreaker gives people a chance to align around a future vision for the group through a mini-visioning process where their imaginations come into play. VisualsSpeak Core Icebreaker processes are described in much more detail in the Visual Icebreaker Kit Facilitation Guide.

Process at a Glance:

  • Put images in a place accessible to all participants.
  • State the prompt.
  • Give participants 30 seconds to select an image.
  • Participants share about their response with the group.
  • Debrief.

Prompt: Choose an image that reflects something about what the group could be.

Variant: Choose an image that reflects something about what the group’s vision could be.

Debrief:

  • What did you notice?
  • What was the process like for you?
  • Was there anything interesting or surprising?
  • Do you have any new insights?
  • Did you notice any patterns or trends?
  • Does anyone want to add anything else?

Building Trust Icebreaker: Different Strokes

Included in our Visual Icebreaker Kit, the facilitator guide contains dozens of icebreakers covering a variety of outcomes — from building trust to conducting a mini-assessment.

Of course, these activities are designed to be used with the icebreaker images, but could be used reasonably well with the images in the Developing Great Leaders or Building Great Teams toolsets as well. Here’s a sample icebreaker that helps to build trust within the group:

Purpose: Building trust is about embracing different perspectives. This exercise gives you the ability to illustrate this concept concretely.

Materials:

  • Set of images
  • One envelope per participant
  • One paperclip per participant
  • Four small pieces of paper per participant
  • One pen per participant

Process:

  • Clip one image to one envelope (repeat so you have one envelope with one image for each participant).
  • Distribute an envelope with a clipped image to each participant.
  • Participants quickly write one or two sentences in response to the question and put their response in the envelope.
  • Participants immediately pass the image on to the next person, who does the same without reading the previous comments.
  • Pass the images several more times.
  • Pass them one last time and ask each participant to open an envelope, read the responses, and put them into some kind of categories.
  • Participants then report their impressions to the whole group.

Prompt: What does this image mean to you?

Debrief:

  • Why were there so many different interpretations?
  • Why does this matter?

Tips:

  • If you have a big group, split them up into smaller groups (5-8).
  • Ask people not to talk while others are writing.
  • Everybody does not have to write about each image to make this activity effective.