Earlier this year, I had the chance to facilitate a retreat for the leadership team of a well-known company. Essentially, the top 50 associates of the organization were invited for a day-long offsite to focus on professional development. In advance of the experience, several of the anticipated attendees made a request – they wanted to get to know each other better.
Interestingly, the range of tenure among these associates was anywhere from three weeks to more than 48 years (not a type-o…)! Though most had at least heard of one another, only some had actually worked directly together, and even fewer – especially because of COVID – had had an opportunity to run into one another at the water cooler lately. The professional respect for their fellow associates was there, to be sure, but what they lacked were personal connections.
My answer to this request: Ask questions!
When it comes to relationship building, question asking is often my go-to tactic. It just works! Everybody loves to talk about themselves… not necessarily in a selfish way, but in a way that says, “I want you to know me!”
So, that’s what we did.
Over the course of about 45 minutes, each associate had the chance to interact with about 10 colleagues. Their titles, departments, ages, genders, hometowns, interests, tenures, and so much more varied – but their engagement was consistent. They each had the chance to answer their choices of several questions:
- What are people usually surprised to find out about you?
- What is the strangest food you have ever eaten?
- What is the most beautiful sound in the world?
- What is something that amazes you?
- What new tool or app do you think needs to be invented?
- What is one thing you would like to accomplish in your lifetime?
- What is the strangest thing you believed as a child?
- What is one of your favorite places in the world?
- What is something funny that has happened to you?
- What has been one of your favorite moments in life?
- What is an interesting skill you have?
- What is something you miss from your past?
- What is the most adventurous thing you have ever done?
- What is one thing you expect from friendship? From a colleague?
- What is an idea you strongly believe in?
You can do this activity with your own team, friends, family… you can come up with your own questions… they can be funny, silly, serious, deep, provocative, whatever. The important thing is to get to know one another, with an open mind, without judgment, and have a lot of fun in the process.
So… what IS the strangest food you have ever eaten?