A Gift Of Thanks For You

Since 1879, Canada has been enjoying Thanksgiving to celebrate the harvest and other blessings of the past year.  It is a time of year when we get together with family and friends to indulge in a big feast.  In my case, it is the traditional turkey dinner with all the fixings - including Mom's orange jellied salad.  It is a fave of my husband and niece, so they always leave with the jellied salad leftovers!

Several years ago, I started a Thanksgiving tradition with my family as a way of highlighting our gratitude and strengthening our connection with one another.   This tradition has become something we look forward to at Thanksgiving (almost as much as the jellied salad).  In fact, our young nieces make sure we don’t forget to do it!

So, what does my Thanksgiving tradition and jellied salad have to do with leadership?  Well, recently, I was asked by two clients for icebreaker ideas for their team building events.  So, I thought I would share our family Thanksgiving tradition with you as an icebreaker for your team or family. It serves as a way to build greater trust between members.

You see, best-selling author and consultant, Patrick Lencioni, has demonstrated that "Trust lies at the heart of a functioning, cohesive team.  Without it, teamwork is all but impossible."  

In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Lencioni states that "The most important action that a leader must take to encourage the building of trust on a team is to demonstrate vulnerability first."  Anytime we are being vulnerable, we are taking a risk.  So yes, this icebreaker will require you to take a bit of a risk with your team or family, much like I did when I first introduced it.  But, unless you take that risk, and sow the seeds for building stronger connections among your team, you won't reap the rewards of the harvest.

Here are the instructions for conducting the ice-breaker:

  • Complete the activity in two rounds in a small group setting such as a meeting room or dinner table.
  • Each person gets two opportunities to share what they are thankful for from this past year.
  • Request that one "share" is to be serious, and the other "share" is to be funny.
  • Each person selects whether they do a serious or funny share first. This results in a random smattering of funny and serious for each round.
  • Select who will begin. If you are the team leader, I suggest you start and set the tone for the quality of "shares".
  • Take turns, and work your way around the table.  Each person shares once, then you conduct a second round.
  • If the person selected a serious “Thanks” in the first round, then they need to come up with a funny “Thanks” in the second round and vice versa.
  • When all is said and done, you end up sharing a special part of yourself with one another, and this can lead to building stronger connections, greater understanding, and trust.

Our family usually ends up laughing, crying, and further discussing some of the events that happened during the course of the year.  It truly has been a wonderful way of adding gratitude, hope and fun to our Thanksgiving Day.

Give it a try and let me know how it works out for you.  All the best to you and your family this Thanksgiving!

Lisa Holden Rovers, MSc, CPHR, PCC, is the Founder of Workplace Matters. Since 2005, Lisa has been coaching entrepreneurs and executives to grow as leaders and spark team cultures that thrive. She’s an award-winning human resources professional and a certified leadership and team coach who is passionate about helping people step into what is possible.  

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