A Day in the Life at UNMC

My 2.5 hour icebreaker

A couple times a year, the Public Relations department gathers for a “retreat” to evaluate how we’re doing, map out our big ideas for the year, and strategize our communication efforts. Before we get down to the nitty gritty, we typically do a team-building exercise or an icebreaker. For example, in the past we’ve done Minute To Win It games.

and more recently, Mindbender Mansion at the Durham Museum.

The teams are usually arranged so that those who don’t work together as often have a chance to get to know each other better. It’s a fun, effective way create camaraderie amongst our department, which is really one big team.

“Bolting” to London

Last fall, our PR director, the lovely Bill O’Neill, asked me, along with another colleague (who will remain nameless to protect the innocent) to come up with an idea for an icebreaker. Well, we did. OK, I did. And being the non-detail oriented person that I am, I didn’t exactly account for the time it would take. I do have strengths. However, allotting for ample time is not one of them.  Not something I’m proud of by any means, but it’s the cold, hard truth that my husband will bore you with if you just ask.

Anyway, my idea. You’ve heard of bridal showers and baby showers, but what about compliment showers? (Get it? Showered with compliments…) The plan was for each person in our department to come up one-by-one and stand under the compliment umbrella while each of their colleagues said something nice –but non-work related– about them.

The first person up was Lisa Metzger Grotrian. We each went around the room, throwing her compliments like curveballs. As more people went, the compliments turned into stories, favorite memories and sometimes 2 or 3 of each. We laughed and we cried (OK, the crying was mainly me). Everyone said it felt awkward to stand up there, but I think it felt pretty good, too. When it came to be my turn, I walked up underneath the umbrella. Yep, it felt pretty awkward. But then people called me funny. (Take that, husband.) And said they loved the way I write (which is always the way to a neurotic, insecure writer’s heart). Not surprisingly, no one complimented me on my penchant for time. And then my friend, UNMC Today Editor Chuck Brown, told me I was like a sister to him. I’ll never forget that.

I looked at the clock. We were way over the budgeted 15 minutes of time. I looked at Bill. I could tell he wanted to cover the material he’d prepared, but didn’t want to stop what was happening amongst our team . Thankfully, he allowed the newly dubbed “icemelter” to continue.

Two and a half hours after it started, my icebreaker was over. We never got to the nitty gritty that day.

Tom O’Connor said it was one of the best things we’ve ever done as a department. Tom is also the original spin doctor, so he may have said that the next day when someone brought in bagels, I don’t know.

But I do know that team building is important. I’m proud to work somewhere that recognizes that fact. I’d love to know what other departments have done for team building/icebreaker activities? Any other office criers out there? Can anyone break my Guinness World Record for the longest icebreaker ever?

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