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70 Fun (Not Cheesy) Ice Breaker Games & Activities Your Employees Will Enjoy in 2022

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70 Fun (Not Cheesy) Ice Breaker Games & Activities Your Employees Will Enjoy in 2022

Asking “How is everyone?” at the beginning of every meeting isn’t always the best way to encourage team bonding. Sometimes, having a fun ice breaker can aid in that connection.

The best ice breakers have the power to strengthen coworker bonds, stimulate better brainstorming sessions, and create an atmosphere of inclusivity. To get the most value out of your team bonding moments, we’ve compiled a list of the best ice breaker activities and games for the workplace.

Next time you get together with your team, use one of these games instead of asking “How is everyone,” and you’re sure to hear some better, more insightful responses than “I’m good.”

Zoom Icebreakers

1. Paint a Picture, Build a Story

In this ice breaker, playoff your teammates’ artistry and create a scenario of their masterpieces. Gartic Phone gives you a short time frame to sketch photos based on other players’ prompts — and can result in some hilarious artwork.

The more nonsensical the prompt, the funnier the drawings become. You’ll also get brownie points if you save and share some of the funniest drawings and share them with the team on Slack afterward.

2. Guess That Drawing

Drawasaurus is one of my favorite online drawing games to play with colleagues. Players get to choose from three random prompts to quickly interpret and draw their vision. Other players can score more points for identifying the word the fastest and take turns going until the timer goes out.

3. Alphabet Brainstorm

Thinking off the top of your head is a lot harder said than done in Scattergories. The host of the game can choose from topics as broad as foods and countries or as weird as “Things Granny would say.”

Each round the game will highlight a random letter of the alphabet and let players come up with any noun or phrase that starts with said letter. The best part — players can dispute answers amongst each other to take the win. A perfect icebreaker for your overly competitive colleagues.

4. Show and Tell

A rather straightforward ice breaker, team members can share an object they love over Zoom. Whether it’s a prized-collectible or an item that sparks nostalgia, there’s plenty of stories waiting to be told.

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5. Bucket List

Outside of the workplace, your teammates are people with aspirations and goals you wouldn’t know about from the average coffee chat. Have team members share some bucket list items they want to achieve in the future.

Not only can these be inspirational, but they also open the floor for team members to encourage one another to pursue their dreams, too. It’s a particularly uplifting team-bonding activity that will bring your team even closer together.

6. Share the Love

While dispersed teams may not have the chance to share a handshake or hug, you can still share the love amongst each other in this icebreaker. Say something lovely with another team member, and it could be anything you want as long as it’s respectful and in good judgment.

For each person that receives a kind message, they will be the next one to share a message to a member of the group who hasn’t received one — ensuring everyone gets an equal amount of praise. Shout them out for their helpfulness in a project, for the energy they bring to the team, or for their lovely smile.

7. Arts and Crafts

Making something with your team can be a great opportunity to learn something new and keep decorative mementos in your space to remind you of your team. Have everyone follow the same instructions to make a craft like simple origami, a drawing, or painting by a designated instructor in the Zoom call or YouTube tutorial.

8. What Do We Have in Common?

This icebreaker is best suited for new hires who may feel more reserved as they virtually meet the team.

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Find common ground and get the conversation going with your team members. Have a manager or team leader start the conversation by sharing something they have an interest in, like popular TV, music, foods, or whatever they love to get everyone thinking. Popcorn it over to the most enthusiastic team member with that same interest and have them share a new one.

Typical icebreaker questions can get people to say a sentence or two about the subject, but if you’re passionate about it, you’ll see more personality come out from the most unexpected colleagues in the call.

9. Name That Tune

Music brings people together, and you’d be surprised to learn how many of your coworkers are raving about the top trending song on TikTok or Spotify.

Take turns whistling, tapping, or even playing an instrument (if you gave one) to the tune of a popular song and have your teammates guess the name. Figure out who’s a fan of the classics by clapping and stomping to the tune of “We Will Rock You” by Queen, or do whatever it takes to help your colleagues recognize your favorite tunes.

10. Themed Meetings

Hosting themed meetings is the best icebreaker for the holiday season. Share a laugh and snap photos of you and your colleagues dressed up as elves with Zoom backgrounds at the North Pole, or in your spookiest costumes for Halloween.

Make sure your theme is chosen in good judgment as some holidays have cultural ties, keep this icebreaker for more commercial holidays.

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12. Guess the Childhood Photo

In need of a wholesome icebreaker? In your next Zoom meeting, tell everyone to send the leader a cute (or hilarious) photo from their childhood and randomly throw them all into one slideshow.

When it’s complete, the leader will then share their screen and have the group guess which team member is in each photo. Try not to blush too hard when they get to yours.

13. Zoom Photo Ops

In this icebreaker, you’ll first want to ask everyone involved if they’re comfortable having their photos taken before the meeting begins (I know I’d like a heads up in case I was wearing an old band shirt instead of my usual business casual outfits.)

You can try to get everyone to make silly or scary faces, or even try to mimic the Brady Bunch title sequence. There are plenty of poses or facial expressions to capture, especially if you’ve got a kooky team to work with.

14. Hobby Webinar

During weekly video chats, you can designate one coworker to teach the team how to engage in a hobby they’re good at — something you don’t need to be in-person to do.

This could range from showing how to do quick origami, do a magic trick, or even giving a pointer or two on couponing from your coworker who always keeps an eye out for the latest deals.

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Ice Breakers for Meetings

15. One Word

The One Word ice breaker allows you to provide initial context into a meeting’s topic, and get everyone in the right mindset for discussion.

To play, you’ll want to divide meeting participants into smaller groups. Then, tell them to think for a minute or two, and then share with their group one word that describes X.

For instance, let’s say you’re leading a meeting on culture. Tell the groups to describe work culture, or your office culture in particular, in one word. Once they’ve shared with their groups, you can invite them to share their word with the entire room.

This game encourages everyone to think about a certain topic in smaller groups ahead of time, which could increase participation during the meeting.

16. Pop Quiz

To successfully loosen everyone up and get them in the right mindset for a meeting, you might consider putting a short Pop Quiz on the board.

If your goal is simply to encourage team bonding, your quiz can be more fun — like, “Match the lyrics with this 80’s song.” However, you might also use the Pop Quiz as an opportunity to introduce participants to the meeting’s theme.

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If you’re discussing company changes, for instance, maybe you’ll start by quizzing team members on company history facts (e.g. “What year was this company founded?”).

17. Birth Map

Place a map and a set of pins at the front of a large conference room before a big meeting. As people walk in, ask them to place a pin where they were born or raised.

As the map fills up with pins, people will learn about how diverse their teammates might be. Allow some time at the end of the meeting for your colleagues to walk up and look more closely at the map.

18. Movie Pitch

Perfect for larger groups and movie fanatics, this icebreaker is as crazy as you make it. Divide players into quads and give them 10 minutes to devise the plot of the next award-winning film. You can give them constraints by designating genres like horror, action, comedy, thriller, and more.

If your organization is meeting to brainstorm ideas for specific projects, go ahead and incorporate the topic into their movie pitch prompts to get the creative juices flowing.

19. Stretch Break

Maybe the week has been busy for you and your team, or it’s going on your fourth meeting of the day. If this is the case, have everyone take a breather and stretch before the next big meeting begins.

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Someone can either lead by example showcasing some arm and back stretches, or just let everyone freestyle. You’d be surprised how a little movement can wake up and help people get work done.

20. Rose, Thorn, Bud

In meetings, it can be hard to communicate or understand everyone’s perspective on a project unless everyone has the floor to say what’s on their mind. With the Rose, Thorn, Bud icebreaker, team members can quickly convey what’s on their mind by sharing three bits of information:

  • Rose: A recent positive happening like a personal highlight or win
  • Thorn: A challenge or roadblock they need support on
  • Bud: An idea for the future they’d like to share, or excitement for events in motion

21. Frivolous Debate

There’s nothing like some lighthearted banter to get everyone warmed up before a meeting.

For this icebreaker, everyone will debate a silly topic and have chime in with an equally silly answer and reasoning. Make a statement like, “Cats better than dogs,” and, “Summer is better than winter,” or let chaos ensue by declaring that pineapple belongs on pizza (because it does.)

Quick Ice Breakers

22. Would You Rather

A classic game played at summer camps everywhere, “Would You Rather” is an excellent, quick ice breaker for the workplace. Next time you’re settling into a meeting or team bonding outing, take turns going around the table and asking each person a “Would You Rather” question.

Here are a few “Would You Rather” questions to get you started:

  • Would you rather only have summer or winter for the rest of your life?
  • Would you rather go on a hike or see a movie?
  • Would you rather never use social media sites and apps again or never watch another movie or TV show?
  • Would you rather have a horrible short-term memory or a horrible long-term memory?

23. 18 & Under

18 & Under is an engaging and unique way to encourage team members to share fun or interesting stories with one another. Before a meeting, simply go around the room, and ask each person to share one accomplishment they had before they turned 18.

Undoubtedly you’ll get some of lesser importance, like “I bought a skateboard,” but you never know what hidden skills you might discover in your colleagues.

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24. Two Truths and a Lie

One of the more classic ice breakers in the list, Two Truths and a Lie can be used anywhere from family parties to company events. To play, you simply ask each person to brainstorm three “facts” about themselves — two of the facts will be true, and one will be a lie.

For instance, I might say, “I once auditioned for the TV show Zoom. I have three brothers. I ziplined in Switzerland once.” Coworkers can take turns guessing which is the lie. (FYI, I have two brothers, not three, so that’s the lie. Unfortunately, I auditioned for Zoom.)

Two Truths and a Lie is a fun and engaging game, and more importantly, it can help your team learn facts about one another, so they can begin forming deeper bonds.

25. The Handshake

One of the first ways you get to greet somebody in the workplace is with a handshake.

This ice breaker lets individuals ease up and have a little fun without a hassle. It’s simple — divide the group into pairs of two and have them make the most creative handshake they can in a couple of minutes.

If you have more time on your hands, have the pairs split up after showing off their super cool shake and make even more creative ones with new partners. It’s hard to play these games without sharing a laugh, something we all could use in the workday.

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26. Bad Joke Contest

This icebreaker won’t take your team time at all to complete if you give them a heads up to prepare. In the Bad Joke Contest, you’ll have everyone recite the corniest joke they can muster and have everyone vote on who was the most cringeworthy.

Beware, some coworkers have impressively bad dad jokes saved up for these moments, so the competition will be fierce.

Fun Ice Breaker Games

27. Tall Tales

This icebreaker game will have everyone thinking on their feet. In Tall Tales, each player will make up three sentences to add to a running story. The third sentence has to have a plot twist starting with, “Suddenly…” before rotating to the next.

Every player will have a chance to put their own spin on the budding story, and can even try to throw the next participant for a loop with a crazy situation.

28. Say Your Name Backwards

This game is pretty straightforward, or straight backward.

Every player will write their name on a slip of paper backward, fold it, and place it into a bowl. Once all the slips are collected, someone will draw one out of the bowl and read to the rest of the players what’s on the slip. Whoever can guess their coworker’s name correctly gains a point, and whoever has the most points at the end wins.

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29. Jenga

Jenga is considered a classic game for a reason, and because it’s easy to play and put away. Have your team take turns pulling woodblocks out of your Jenga tower and share a laugh when it all comes toppling down.

30. Frown King or Queen

Make it a competition to see which of your team members has the gnarliest frown, and bestow upon them the title of Frown King or Queen. Bonus points if you actually go out of your way to make a paper crown.

You’d be surprised how hard it is to maintain a frown when surrounded by your favorite colleagues, not to mention how funny they’ll look during the game.

31. The Envelope Please!

In this icebreaker game, have everyone write 10 facts about themselves on paper and place them each into their own envelopes. The envelopes are to be shuffled and chosen once at a time by the leader to read aloud to the rest of the group.

The rest of the players will then guess the identity of the envelope in hand — but they must be confident in their answer as each player only has one chance to guess per envelope.

32. Random Talent Show

A talent show is one thing, but a random talent show is another. Have your coworkers take turns showing their cool party (or office) tricks. And let’s face it, you’ve been trying to find the right opportunity to show someone you could lick your elbow for a while now.

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33. Celebrity Impressions

For this icebreaker game, the leader will tape a label to each player’s back with a celebrity or household name. Once that’s complete, every player will then ask each other yes or no questions about the traits, recent news, or talents of their celebrity label.

If a player can identify their own celebrity correctly, they can remove the label from their backs and continue mingling if they wish.

34. Quick Portrait Gallery

You don’t have to be Picasso to have take part in this icebreaker. The instructions are simple, every group member will be randomly assigned a different person to draw in a couple minutes. It’s a fun way to bond and share a giggle here and there over everyone’s work of art.

35. Sound Ball

Sound Ball is an imaginative icebreaker that gives everyone a chance to get moving and energized.

In this icebreaker, the leader holds an imaginary ball in their hand and “throws” it to other players, making whatever sound they think it would with that gesture. Whoever “catches” the ball next must repeat the sound made, then throw the ball to another person making their own unique sound. It sounds crazy, but it’s easy to get into the flow of it.

36. Beatboxing

This is probably one of the silliest icebreakers in this list, but it’s definitely worth trying for the fun of it all. Have one team member start making a noise you’d hear in a song like percussion and have others gradually add to the beat.

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Who knows, if the beat sounds good enough you all could consider making an acapella group.

Large Team Ice Breakers

37. Charades

Charades is a game fit for large teams, both in-person and remote.

In this icebreaker, players need to communicate with team members to identify a noun of a certain category. Have everyone divide into two teams, and have one player at a time pantomime (act out) the subject for their own respective teammates. Whichever team gets the most points, wins.

38. Red Light, Green Light

I bet anyone who watched Squid Games in 2021 is familiar with this game, and if you haven’t, the rules are simple (and the stakes are much, much lower.)

The players in this icebreaker game will line up on one side of a room and a designated leader will be instructed to say either, “Red Light,” or, “Green Light”. Players in line are to try and walk to the other side of the room when the leader says, “Green Light”, but once the leader says, “Red Light”, everyone must freeze or be kicked out of the game.

39. Guess Who

Similar to Charades, Guess Who is a great icebreaker where you can mimic famous people — or even your coworkers.

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Have someone write down well-known names on sheets of paper and then hand them off one at a time to a team member. They’ll have to act out the behaviors, facial expressions, or even the iconicI’m flying” scene from Titanic.

40. Icebreaker Bingo

Icebreaker Bingo is a great way to bond with large teams because it can include as many people as you want.

You can use a free icebreaker bingo generator and personalize each of the squares on a subject you’re all discussing for the day, or for anything everyone can feel included.

41. Hot Take

For this icebreaker, everyone can take turns in sharing their hot takes and either bond with their coworkers who agree or debate their naysayers.

Of course, you want the topics to be fun and lighthearted, so keep them to topics that aren’t controversial and opt for statements like, “Cheese isn’t all that great.” if you’re a madman.

42. “Most Likely To ___”

Remember those high school superlatives? This is like that but a little less embarrassing. Have coworkers read through a list of “Most likely To” titles and assign them to one another. During the game, everyone can chime in or give reasons as to why someone deserves the title, and the group consensus will be the final decision.

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It’s important to note that no two people will have more than one tile to ensure everyone is included.

43. Whisper Down the Lane

Whisper Down the Lane is an icebreaker game where team members form a larger circle and share a random message whispered into the ear of someone to their left. This game can get funny pretty quickly, as a whisper down the lane can get misinterpreted over and over again.

44. Simon Says

Simon Says is a game as old as time, but it never stops being fun. The leader of the group will instruct players to do an action beginning with the words, “Simon says…” like, “Simon says touch your knees,” or, “Simon says grab your elbow.” Whoever doesn’t do the actions proclaimed will be booted out of the game.

The real trick is for the leader to confuse players by giving fast Simon Says commands, then giving them a command without saying the keywords. This could work like, “Simon says touch your hips, Simon says hop on one foot, Simon says touch your nose — touch your ears!” Whoever does the action (like touching your ears) will be booted out of the game because it wasn’t a Simon says action.

45. Things in Common

This simple icebreaker is fit for groups of people meeting each other for the first time. All that has to be done is mingle with one another to find some things you have in common, and try to form groups based on those attributes. Bonus points if you can learn the names of those who you relate to, and brownie points if you can relay all their names when asked.

46. Team Jigsaw Puzzle Competition

For this game, you’ll need to prepare by purchasing two identical jigsaw puzzles. Divide your large group into teams of two and set a timer to see which group can work together to make the most progress on their respective puzzles.

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47. Clump

Have team members walk around and mingle amongst themselves in a large, open space. The leader of the icebreaker will then yell out a random number under 10. Every person mingling will then have to quickly form a group in the size of the number called.

Gradually people will be made to exit the mingling space or find a seat until the last person standing wins.

Ice Breaker Games for Small Groups

48. Fun Questions

Asking fun questions is an easy and effective ice breaker game. To play, simply go around the room and have each person provide an answer to a fun question. The questions are up to you, but if you’re stuck, here are a few ideas:

  • If you’re stranded on a desert island and have the option of bringing three items with you, what three items would they be?
  • If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
  • What was the first concert you ever went to?
  • If you could have any celebrity over for dinner, who would it be and why?

These questions serve two purposes — first, they allow your coworkers to get into a sillier, more creative mindset. Second, they encourage conversation on topics typically reserved for outside the office, which enables members of your team to get to know one another on a deeper level.

Meg Prater, Sr. Marketing Manager of the HubSpot blog, says “When I first started including ice-breaker questions in our weekly team stand-up meetings, the experience was … cringeworthy. It felt like exactly what it was: organized fun. But we kept at it. I listened to feedback and tried to incorporate it into better ice breakers.”

She continued, “For example, some folks on our team don’t watch a lot of T.V. and felt a little excluded when we’d fall down a rabbit hole of shows we were binging. Keeping the ice breakers inclusive keeps everyone engaged. Now, our ice-breakers can take 15+ minutes to get through and yield some of our biggest laughs and revelations of the week.”

49. Personality Quiz

This ice breaker can promote team bonding, and it’s one of the easier options on the list. Simply choose a brief personality quiz on your phone or computer (if you’re stuck, here’s a list), and pull it up on a projector or send the link to everyone.

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Once everyone has completed the personality assessment, have each colleague mention one thing they agree or disagree with from their results. This game allows your team members to gain a new perspective on their peers, and it’s also a fun and easy way to get an interesting conversation started.

50. Who is it?

Have everyone write a unique, strange, or unexpected fact about them on a piece of paper. Then, put the pieces of paper into a hat and mix them around. Pull from the hat and read each fact.

Allow the team to try and guess who wrote it. After they guess, ask the employee who wrote the fact to identify themselves and give any further context if necessary. This could be a great way to get to know surprising new things about your teammates.

51. Marshmallow Challenge

Tom Wujec, a business visualization expert, initially presented his Marshmallow Challenge at TED. To play, you simply divide your team into groups of four and give each group 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and a marshmallow. Whichever team can build the tallest structure, wins — the trick is, the marshmallow must be on top.

There are a few reasons this game works as both a great ice breaker and a team-building exercise. First, the most successful teams are the groups of people who don’t spend time competing for power.

The game forces your colleagues to work collaboratively when brainstorming potential solutions. Second, the Marshmallow Challenge encourages people to think quickly and offer alternative solutions when their initial idea fails.

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With the Marshmallow Challenge, you can strengthen your team’s brainstorming and problem-solving skills, and your team can also have some fun. A win, win.

52. Scavenger Hunt

At HubSpot, we conduct a scavenger hunt for new hires on the first day of their training. It’s fun and encourages collaboration, but additionally, it can help employees learn their way around the office.

Fortunately, you can conduct a scavenger hunt for your team even if they’ve worked at your office for years.

Simply split up your team into groups, and give each group a shortlist of items to find — if you work in a smaller space, maybe you can hide some funny items around the office ahead of time. You might even provide an incentive for the winning team, like a $50 Amazon gift card.

A scavenger hunt is also an exceptional opportunity for cross-department interaction. Consider reaching out to managers from other departments and creating groups of employees who don’t often get to work together.

53. No Smiling

This game is simple and meant to energize your team. Get your colleagues in a circle and ask one volunteer to sit or stand in the middle. Tell the volunteer that they can not laugh or smile, regardless of what happens. Then have each other colleagues take turns telling the volunteer a work-appropriate joke.

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The goal of the volunteer is to hear a joke from every colleague around the circle, while the goal of the other team members is to make the volunteer laugh.

This icebreaker can be helpful in new-employee or management training to lighten the pressure of starting a new job. It can also be helpful as a way of lightening the mood on teams that regularly deal with stressful projects or situations.

54. This is Better Than That

Aside from being a fun team activity, this might be a great energizer for sales employees or others that regularly pitch, market, and sell products.

Ask your team to find four to seven items around the office and bring them to one room. These items could be something they use daily, like a pen or a chair. However, you should encourage them to find items that are more odd or unique. This will make the game more challenging.

Line the items up and split the group into sub-teams. Task each team with picking an item they would use to survive if stranded on a desert island.

Tell team members that they cannot pick more than one and must assume it is the only item they will have on that island. Allow the teams time to deliberate and then ask them to present the item they chose and why.

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Virtual Icebreakers for Dispersed Teams

55. Choose Your Favorite

For this icebreaker, all you have to do is answer the question about your favorite things. You’ll ask your team to choose their favorite movie, song, T.V. show, etc. The question can change every week.

This icebreaker helps your team get to know each other even when they work remotely and can spark conversation on what everyone likes or dislikes.

56. Trivia Game

If you’re looking for a remote icebreaker that’s more of a game, and less discussion-based, you can host a trivia game.

Kahoot is a trivia platform you can use for free (hosts up to 10 people). To get started, all you’ll need to do is sign up for a free Kahoot account.

Then, you can choose a featured trivia game to play. To run this remotely, you’ll want to share your screen with your team. Everyone will need to have a separate device to use so they can enter the game and submit their answers.

57. Share an Embarrassing Photo

This is one of my favorite icebreakers because it’s a fun way to get to know your team. For this game, have everyone bring in an embarrassing photo and tell the story behind it.

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Have your team members share their screen or send a file to the team leader to share with everyone.

To make this more interesting, you can have people guess whose photo it is before your team member shares their story. Doing this icebreaker is a great way to build connections remotely.

58. One Word Pulse Check

For this icebreaker, have everyone on your team go around and share a word or phrase that represents how they feel that day.

Sr. Manager, Christina Perricone, says this is her favorite icebreaker.

“The person sharing gets to decide whether or not to elaborate, and everyone listens without response. The purpose of the exercise is to give people a chance to release and/or reveal emotional setbacks, obstacles, wins, highlights, or anything else that might be impacting how they show up to work that day. It provides a space for participants to bring their entire self to work and it gives the team context for how to support that team member that day,” Perricone adds.

59. Meet my Pet

Nothing fills a meeting with smiles like photos of colleagues’ furry friends. Take turns showing off the cutest pictures and videos of your pet.

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For those who don’t have any, they can either make a joke pet (the infamous pet rock) or share a dream pet they would have.

60. Let’s Make a Mixtape

This icebreaker works by asking your coworkers to choose one of their favorite songs from a certain genre. Once everyone has their song in mind, have someone compile either a Youtube or Spotify playlist of everyone’s choices, and share the link with everyone in the group afterward.

Not only is it fun at the moment, but then everyone has the chance to discover new artists and tunes they haven’t heard of before.

61. Emoji Mood Guesser

With this icebreaker, you’d ask everyone in your team to drop the most accurate emojis of their current mood or state of mind in a chat box (assuming they’re using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.) Everyone can guess what adjective someone is trying to convey, and can even share why if they want to.

Would You Rather Ice Breakers

62. Food Would You Rather Questions

You’d be surprised how passionate some of your coworkers can get over food. When asking “Would You Rather” questions, ask about various savory or sweet food staples and which they would prefer to eat forever.

Example: “Would you rather eat only cake forever or eat pasta forever?”

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63. Travel Would You Rather Questions

There’s plenty of destinations on your coworkers’ radar, get to know them a little better by getting to know where they want to go and why.

Example: “Would you rather travel to only island destinations or mountainous destinations?”

64. Talent Would You Rather Questions

Explore more uncommon talents and see which your coworkers would like to have in this type of questionnaire.

Example: “Would you rather your special talent be opera singing or in playing the banjo?”

65. Super Hero Would You Rather Questions

There are hundreds of superheroes from Marvel and DC, and chances are your coworkers are familiar with them, too. Ask which hero they would like to be and why based on their stories or abilities.

Example: “Would you rather be Ironman or Captain America?”

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66. Super Power Would You Rather Questions

On a similar note to heroes, find out what powers your coworkers would rather have and why. Bonus points if you ask them whether they’d label themselves as a hero or villain.

Example: “Would you rather have super speed or super strength?”

67. Sport Would You Rather Questions

Your coworkers may be involved in sports outside of work, and maybe they’re fans of different leagues and teams. Ask which sports they’d rather play and see which they’d prefer and why.

Example: “Would you rather play basketball for the rest of your life or football?”

68. Fashion Would You Rather Questions

Even if your coworkers aren’t tuned into NYFW, they’re sure to recognize some of the most popular clothing brands. Ask them which they’d prefer to dress in and why.

Example: “Would you rather wear only Louis Vuitton or Gucci?”

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69. TV Would You Rather Questions

With tons of streaming services to choose from, your coworkers are bound to have some favorite TV shows. Ask questions like which shows they’d rather watch, or be a part of.

Example: “Would you rather be a cast member in Euphoria or Ozark?”

70. Movie Would You Rather Questions

Movie fanatics across any team or department will enjoy questions about them. Ask coworkers which genres they’d rather watch, or which they’d want to be in.

Example: “Would you rather be cast in a comedy movie or action movie?”

Break the Ice and Get to Business

Icebreaker activities can seem cringeworthy but are actually a great way to build trust within your team. We hope you found some good ice breakers to incorporate in your future meetings with our list of favorites. And even if you work remotely, team bonding is an important part of running a productive, effective team.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in September 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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MARKETING

5 Psychological Tactics to Write Better Emails

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5 Psychological Tactics to Write Better Emails

Welcome to Creator Columns, where we bring expert HubSpot Creator voices to the Blogs that inspire and help you grow better.

I’ve tested 100s of psychological tactics on my email subscribers. In this blog, I reveal the five tactics that actually work.

You’ll learn about the email tactic that got one marketer a job at the White House.

You’ll learn how I doubled my 5 star reviews with one email, and why one strange email from Barack Obama broke all records for donations.

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5 Psychological Tactics to Write Better Emails

Imagine writing an email that’s so effective it lands you a job at the White House.

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Well, that’s what happened to Maya Shankar, a PhD cognitive neuroscientist. In 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs asked her to help increase signups in their veteran benefit scheme.

Maya had a plan. She was well aware of a cognitive bias that affects us all—the endowment effect. This bias suggests that people value items higher if they own them. So, she changed the subject line in the Veterans’ enrollment email.

Previously it read:

  • Veterans, you’re eligible for the benefit program. Sign up today.

She tweaked one word, changing it to:

  • Veterans, you’ve earned the benefits program. Sign up today.

This tiny tweak had a big impact. The amount of veterans enrolling in the program went up by 9%. And Maya landed a job working at the White House

Boost participation email graphic

Inspired by these psychological tweaks to emails, I started to run my own tests.

Alongside my podcast Nudge, I’ve run 100s of email tests on my 1,000s of newsletter subscribers.

Here are the five best tactics I’ve uncovered.

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1. Show readers what they’re missing.

Nobel prize winning behavioral scientists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky uncovered a principle called loss aversion.

Loss aversion means that losses feel more painful than equivalent gains. In real-world terms, losing $10 feels worse than how gaining $10 feels good. And I wondered if this simple nudge could help increase the number of my podcast listeners.

For my test, I tweaked the subject line of the email announcing an episode. The control read:

“Listen to this one”

In the loss aversion variant it read:

“Don’t miss this one”

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It is very subtle loss aversion. Rather than asking someone to listen, I’m saying they shouldn’t miss out. And it worked. It increased the open rate by 13.3% and the click rate by 12.5%. Plus, it was a small change that cost me nothing at all.

Growth mindset email analytics

2. People follow the crowd.

In general, humans like to follow the masses. When picking a dish, we’ll often opt for the most popular. When choosing a movie to watch, we tend to pick the box office hit. It’s a well-known psychological bias called social proof.

I’ve always wondered if it works for emails. So, I set up an A/B experiment with two subject lines. Both promoted my show, but one contained social proof.

The control read: New Nudge: Why Brands Should Flaunt Their Flaws

The social proof variant read: New Nudge: Why Brands Should Flaunt Their Flaws (100,000 Downloads)

I hoped that by highlighting the episode’s high number of downloads, I’d encourage more people to listen. Fortunately, it worked.

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The open rate went from 22% to 28% for the social proof version, and the click rate, (the number of people actually listening to the episode), doubled.

3. Praise loyal subscribers.

The consistency principle suggests that people are likely to stick to behaviours they’ve previously taken. A retired taxi driver won’t swap his car for a bike. A hairdresser won’t change to a cheap shampoo. We like to stay consistent with our past behaviors.

I decided to test this in an email.

For my test, I attempted to encourage my subscribers to leave a review for my podcast. I sent emails to 400 subscribers who had been following the show for a year.

The control read: “Could you leave a review for Nudge?”

The consistency variant read: “You’ve been following Nudge for 12 months, could you leave a review?”

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My hypothesis was simple. If I remind people that they’ve consistently supported the show they’ll be more likely to leave a review.

It worked.

The open rate on the consistency version of the email was 7% higher.

But more importantly, the click rate, (the number of people who actually left a review), was almost 2x higher for the consistency version. Merely telling people they’d been a fan for a while doubled my reviews.

4. Showcase scarcity.

We prefer scarce resources. Taylor Swift gigs sell out in seconds not just because she’s popular, but because her tickets are hard to come by.

Swifties aren’t the first to experience this. Back in 1975, three researchers proved how powerful scarcity is. For the study, the researchers occupied a cafe. On alternating weeks they’d make one small change in the cafe.

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On some weeks they’d ensure the cookie jar was full.

On other weeks they’d ensure the cookie jar only contained two cookies (never more or less).

In other words, sometimes the cookies looked abundantly available. Sometimes they looked like they were almost out.

This changed behaviour. Customers who saw the two cookie jar bought 43% more cookies than those who saw the full jar.

It sounds too good to be true, so I tested it for myself.

I sent an email to 260 subscribers offering free access to my Science of Marketing course for one day only.

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In the control, the subject line read: “Free access to the Science of Marketing course”

For the scarcity variant it read: “Only Today: Get free access to the Science of Marketing Course | Only one enrol per person.”

130 people received the first email, 130 received the second. And the result was almost as good as the cookie finding. The scarcity version had a 15.1% higher open rate.

Email A/B test results

5. Spark curiosity.

All of the email tips I’ve shared have only been tested on my relatively small audience. So, I thought I’d end with a tip that was tested on the masses.

Back in 2012, Barack Obama and his campaign team sent hundreds of emails to raise funds for his campaign.

Of the $690 million he raised, most came from direct email appeals. But there was one email, according to ABC news, that was far more effective than the rest. And it was an odd one.

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The email that drew in the most cash, had a strange subject line. It simply said “Hey.”

The actual email asked the reader to donate, sharing all the expected reasons, but the subject line was different.

It sparked curiosity, it got people wondering, is Obama saying Hey just to me?

Readers were curious and couldn’t help but open the email. According to ABC it was “the most effective pitch of all.”

Because more people opened, it raised more money than any other email. The bias Obama used here is the curiosity gap. We’re more likely to act on something when our curiosity is piqued.

Email example

Loss aversion, social proof, consistency, scarcity and curiosity—all these nudges have helped me improve my emails. And I reckon they’ll work for you.

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It’s not guaranteed of course. Many might fail. But running some simple a/b tests for your emails is cost free, so why not try it out?

This blog is part of Phill Agnew’s Marketing Cheat Sheet series where he reveals the scientifically proven tips to help you improve your marketing. To learn more, listen to his podcast Nudge, a proud member of the Hubspot Podcast Network.

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MARKETING

The power of program management in martech

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The power of program management in martech

As a supporter of the program perspective for initiatives, I recognize the value of managing related projects, products and activities as a unified entity. 

While one-off projects have their place, they often involve numerous moving parts and in my experience, using a project-based approach can lead to crucial elements being overlooked. This is particularly true when building a martech stack or developing content, for example, where a program-based approach can ensure that all aspects are considered and properly integrated. 

For many CMOs and marketing organizations, programs are becoming powerful tools for aligning diverse initiatives and driving strategic objectives. Let’s explore the essential role of programs in product management, project management and marketing operations, bridging technical details with business priorities. 

Programs in product management

Product management is a fascinating domain where programs operate as a strategic framework, coordinating related products or product lines to meet specific business objectives.

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Product managers are responsible for defining a product or product line’s strategy, roadmap and features. They work closely with program managers, who ensure alignment with market demands, customer needs and the company’s overall vision by managing offerings at a program level. 

Program managers optimize the product portfolio, make strategic decisions about resource allocation and ensure that each product contributes to the program’s goals. One key aspect of program management in product management is identifying synergies between products. 

Program managers can drive innovation and efficiency across the portfolio by leveraging shared technologies, customer insights, or market trends. This approach enables organizations to respond quickly to changing market conditions, seize emerging opportunities and maintain a competitive advantage. Product managers, in turn, use these insights to shape the direction of individual products.

Moreover, programs in product management facilitate cross-functional collaboration and knowledge sharing. Program managers foster a holistic understanding of customer needs and market dynamics by bringing together teams from various departments, such as engineering, marketing and sales.

Product managers also play a crucial role in this collaborative approach, ensuring that all stakeholders work towards common goals, ultimately leading to more successful product launches and enhanced customer satisfaction.

Dig deeper: Understanding different product roles in marketing technology acquisition

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Programs in project management

In project management, programs provide a structured approach for managing related projects as a unified entity, supporting broader strategic objectives. Project managers are responsible for planning, executing and closing individual projects within a program. They focus on specific deliverables, timelines and budgets. 

On the other hand, program managers oversee these projects’ coordination, dependencies and outcomes, ensuring they collectively deliver the desired benefits and align with the organization’s strategic goals.

A typical example of a program in project management is a martech stack optimization initiative. Such a program may involve integrating marketing technology tools and platforms, implementing customer data management systems and training employees on the updated technologies. Project managers would be responsible for the day-to-day management of each project. 

In contrast, the program manager ensures a cohesive approach, minimizes disruptions and realizes the full potential of the martech investments to improve marketing efficiency, personalization and ROI.

The benefits of program management in project management are numerous. Program managers help organizations prioritize initiatives that deliver the greatest value by aligning projects with strategic objectives. They also identify and mitigate risks that span multiple projects, ensuring that issues in one area don’t derail the entire program. Project managers, in turn, benefit from this oversight and guidance, as they can focus on successfully executing their projects.

Additionally, program management enables efficient resource allocation, as skills and expertise can be shared across projects, reducing duplication of effort and maximizing value. Project managers can leverage these resources and collaborate with other project teams to achieve their objectives more effectively.

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Dig deeper: Combining martech projects: 5 questions to ask

Programs in marketing operations

In marketing operations, programs play a vital role in integrating and managing various marketing activities to achieve overarching goals. Marketing programs encompass multiple initiatives, such as advertising, content marketing, social media and event planning. Organizations ensure consistent messaging, strategic alignment, and measurable results by managing these activities as a cohesive program.

In marketing operations, various roles, such as MOps managers, campaign managers, content managers, digital marketing managers and analytics managers, collaborate to develop and execute comprehensive marketing plans that support the organization’s business objectives. 

These professionals work closely with cross-functional teams, including creative, analytics and sales, to ensure that all marketing efforts are coordinated and optimized for maximum impact. This involves setting clear goals, defining key performance indicators (KPIs) and continuously monitoring and adjusting strategies based on data-driven insights.

One of the primary benefits of a programmatic approach in marketing operations is maintaining a consistent brand voice and message across all channels. By establishing guidelines and standards for content creation, visual design and customer interactions, marketing teams ensure that the brand’s identity remains cohesive and recognizable. This consistency builds customer trust, reinforces brand loyalty and drives business growth.

Programs in marketing operations enable organizations to take a holistic approach to customer engagement. By analyzing customer data and feedback across various touchpoints, marketing professionals can identify opportunities for improvement and develop targeted strategies to enhance the customer experience. This customer-centric approach leads to increased satisfaction, higher retention rates and more effective marketing investments.

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Dig deeper: Mastering the art of goal setting in marketing operations

Embracing the power of programs for long-term success

We’ve explored how programs enable marketing organizations to drive strategic success and create lasting impact by aligning diverse initiatives across product management, project management and marketing operations. 

  • Product management programs facilitate cross-functional collaboration and ensure alignment with market demands. 
  • In project management, they provide a structured approach for managing related projects and mitigating risks. 
  • In marketing operations, programs enable consistent messaging and a customer-centric approach to engagement.

Program managers play a vital role in maintaining strategic alignment, continuously assessing progress and adapting to changes in the business environment. Keeping programs aligned with long-term objectives maximizes ROI and drives sustainable growth.

Organizations that invest in developing strong program management capabilities will be better positioned to optimize resources, foster innovation and achieve their long-term goals.



As a CMO or marketing leader, it is important to recognize the strategic value of programs and champion their adoption across your organization. By aligning efforts across various domains, you can unlock the full potential of your initiatives and drive meaningful results. Try it, you’ll like it.

Fuel for your marketing strategy.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

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2 Ways to Take Back the Power in Your Business: Part 2

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2 Ways to Take Back the Power in Your Business: Part 2

2 Ways to Take Back the Power in Your Business

Before we dive into the second way to assume power in your business, let’s revisit Part 1. 

Who informs your marketing strategy? 

YOU, with your carefully curated strategy informed by data and deep knowledge of your brand and audience? Or any of the 3 Cs below? 

  • Competitors: Their advertising and digital presence and seemingly never-ending budgets consume the landscape.
  • Colleagues: Their tried-and-true proven tactics or lessons learned.
  • Customers: Their calls, requests, and ideas. 

Considering any of the above is not bad, in fact, it can be very wise! However, listening quickly becomes devastating if it lends to their running our business or marketing department. 

It’s time we move from defense to offense, sitting in the driver’s seat rather than allowing any of the 3 Cs to control. 

It is one thing to learn from and entirely another to be controlled by. 

In Part 1, we explored how knowing what we want is critical to regaining power.

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1) Knowing what you want protects the bottom line.

2) Knowing what you want protects you from the 3 Cs. 

3) Knowing what you want protects you from running on auto-pilot.

You can read Part 1 here; in the meantime, let’s dive in! 

How to Regain Control of Your Business: Knowing Who You Are

Vertical alignment is a favorite concept of mine, coined over the last two years throughout my personal journey of knowing self. 

Consider the diagram below.

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Vertical alignment is the state of internal being centered with who you are at your core. 

Horizontal alignment is the state of external doing engaged with the world around you.

In a state of vertical alignment, your business operates from its core center, predicated on its mission, values, and brand. It is authentic and confident and cuts through the noise because it is entirely unique from every competitor in the market. 

From this vertical alignment, your business is positioned for horizontal alignment to fulfill the integrity of its intended services, instituted processes, and promised results. 

A strong brand is not only differentiated in the market by its vertical alignment but delivers consistently and reliably in terms of its products, offerings, and services and also in terms of the customer experience by its horizontal alignment. 

Let’s examine what knowing who you are looks like in application, as well as some habits to implement with your team to strengthen vertical alignment. 

1) Knowing who You are Protects You from Horizontal Voices. 

The strength of “Who We Are” predicates the ability to maintain vertical alignment when something threatens your stability. When a colleague proposes a tactic that is not aligned with your values. When the customer comes calling with ideas that will knock you off course as bandwidth is limited or the budget is tight. 

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I was on a call with a gal from my Mastermind when I mentioned a retreat I am excited to launch in the coming months. 

I shared that I was considering its positioning, given its curriculum is rooted in emotional intelligence (EQ) to inform personal brand development. The retreat serves C-Suite, but as EQ is not a common conversation among this audience, I was considering the best positioning. 

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She advised, “Sell them solely on the business aspects, and then sneak attack with the EQ when they’re at the retreat!” 

At first blush, it sounds reasonable. After all, there’s a reason why the phrase, “Sell the people what they want, give them what they need,” is popular.

Horizontal advice and counsel can produce a wealth of knowledge. However, we must always approach the horizontal landscape – the external – powered by vertical alignment – centered internally with the core of who we are. 

Upon considering my values of who I am and the vision of what I want for this event, I realized the lack of transparency is not in alignment with my values nor setting the right expectations for the experience.

Sure, maybe I would get more sales; however, my bottom line — what I want — is not just sales. I want transformation on an emotional level. I want C-Suite execs to leave powered from a place of emotional intelligence to decrease decisions made out of alignment with who they are or executing tactics rooted in guilt, not vision. 

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Ultimately, one of my core values is authenticity, and I must make business decisions accordingly. 

2) Knowing who You are Protects You from Reactivity.

Operating from vertical alignment maintains focus on the bottom line and the strategy to achieve it. From this position, you are protected from reacting to the horizontal pressures of the 3 Cs: Competitors, Colleagues, and Customers. 

This does not mean you do not adjust tactics or learn. 

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However, your approach to adjustments is proactive direction, not reactive deviations. To do this, consider the following questions:

First: How does their (any one of the 3 Cs) tactic measure against my proven track record of success?

If your colleague promotes adding newsletters to your strategy, lean in and ask, “Why?” 

  • What are their outcomes? 
  • What metrics are they tracking for success? 
  • What is their bottom line against yours? 
  • How do newsletters fit into their strategy and stage(s) of the customer journey? 

Always consider your historical track record of success first and foremost. 

Have you tried newsletters in the past? Is their audience different from yours? Why are newsletters good for them when they did not prove profitable for you? 

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Operate with your head up and your eyes open. 

Maintain focus on your bottom line and ask questions. Revisit your data, and don’t just take their word for it. 

2. Am I allocating time in my schedule?

I had coffee with the former CEO of Jiffy Lube, who built the empire that it is today. 

He could not emphasize more how critical it is to allocate time for thinking. Just being — not doing — and thinking about your business or department. 

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Especially for senior leaders or business owners, but even still for junior staff. 

The time and space to be fosters creative thinking, new ideas, and energy. Some of my best campaigns are conjured on a walk or in the shower. 

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Kasim Aslam, founder of the world’s #1 Google Ads agency and a dear friend of mine, is a machine when it comes to hacks and habits. He encouraged me to take an audit of my calendar over the last 30 days to assess how I spend time. 

“Create three buckets,” he said. “Organize them by the following:

  • Tasks that Generate Revenue
  • Tasks that Cost Me Money
  • Tasks that Didn’t Earn Anything”

He and I chatted after I completed this exercise, and I added one to the list: Tasks that are Life-Giving. 

Friends — if we are running empty, exhausted, or emotionally depleted, our creative and strategic wherewithal will be significantly diminished. We are holistic creatures and, therefore, must nurture our mind, body, soul, and spirit to maintain optimum capacity for impact. 

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I shared this hack with a friend of mine. Not only did she identify meetings that were costing her money and thus needed to be eliminated, but she also identified that particular meetings could actually turn revenue-generating! She spent a good amount of time each month facilitating introductions; now, she is adding Strategic Partnerships to her suite of services. 


ACTION: Analyze your calendar’s last 30-60 days against the list above. 

Include what is life-giving! 

How are you spending your time? What is the data showing you? Are you on the path to achieving what you want and living in alignment with who you want to be?

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Share with your team or business partner for the purpose of accountability, and implement practical changes accordingly. 


Finally, remember: If you will not protect your time, no one else will. 

3) Knowing who You are Protects You from Lack. 

“What are you proud of?” someone asked me last year. 

“Nothing!” I reply too quickly. “I know I’m not living up to my potential or operating in the full capacity I could be.” 

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They looked at me in shock. “You need to read The Gap And The Gain.”

I silently rolled my eyes.

I already knew the premise of the book, or I thought I did. I mused: My vision is so big, and I have so much to accomplish. The thought of solely focusing on “my wins” sounded like an excuse to abdicate personal responsibility. 

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But I acquiesced. 

The premise of this book is to measure one’s self from where they started and the success from that place to where they are today — the gains — rather than from where they hope to get and the seemingly never-ending distance — the gap.

Ultimately, Dr. Benjamin Hardy and Dan Sullivan encourage changing perspectives to assign success, considering the starting point rather than the destination.

The book opens with the following story:

Dan Jensen was an Olympic speed skater, notably the fastest in the world. But in each game spanning a decade, Jansen could not catch a break. “Flukes” — even tragedy with the death of his sister in the early morning of the 1988 Olympics — continued to disrupt the prediction of him being favored as the winner. 

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The 1994 Olympics were the last of his career. He had one more shot.

Preceding his last Olympics in 1994, Jansen adjusted his mindset. He focused on every single person who invested in him, leading to this moment. He considered just how very lucky he was to even participate in the first place. He thought about his love for the sport itself, all of which led to an overwhelming realization of just how much he had gained throughout his life.

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He raced the 1994 Olympic games differently, as his mindset powering every stride was one of confidence and gratitude — predicated on the gains rather than the gap in his life. 

This race secured him his first and only gold medal and broke a world record, simultaneously proving one of the most emotional wins in Olympic history. 

Friends, knowing who we are on the personal and professional level, can protect us from those voices of shame or guilt that creep in. 


PERSONAL ACTION: Create two columns. On one side, create a list of where you were when you started your business or your position at your company. Include skills and networks and even feelings about where you were in life. On the other side, outline where you are today. 

Look at how far you’ve come. 

COMPANY ACTION: Implement a quarterly meeting to review the past three months. Where did you start? Where are you now? 

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Celebrate the gain!

Only from this place of gain mindset, can you create goals for the next quarter predicated on where you are today.


Ultimately, my hope for you is that you deliver exceptional and memorable experiences laced with empathy toward the customer (horizontally aligned) yet powered by the authenticity of the brand (vertically aligned). 

Aligning vertically maintains our focus on the bottom line and powers horizontal fulfillment. 

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Granted, there will be strategic times and seasons for adjustment; however, these changes are to be made on the heels of consulting who we are as a brand — not in reaction to the horizontal landscape of what is the latest and greatest in the industry. 

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In Conclusion…

Taking back control of your business and marketing strategies requires a conscious effort to resist external pressures and realign with what you want and who you are.

Final thoughts as we wrap up: 

First, identify the root issue(s).

Consider which of the 3 Cs holds the most power: be it competition, colleagues, or customers.

Second, align vertically.

Vertical alignment facilitates individuality in the market and ensures you — and I — stand out and shine while serving our customers well. 

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Third, keep the bottom line in view.

Implement a routine that keeps you and your team focused on what matters most, and then create the cascading strategy necessary to accomplish it. 

Fourth, maintain your mindsets.

Who You Are includes values for the internal culture. Guide your team in acknowledging the progress made along the way and embracing the gains to operate from a position of strength and confidence.

Fifth, maintain humility.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of humility and being open to what others are doing. However, horizontal alignment must come after vertical alignment. Otherwise, we will be at the mercy of the whims and fads of everyone around us. Humility allows us to be open to external inputs and vertically aligned at the same time.

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Buckle up, friends! It’s time to take back the wheel and drive our businesses forward. 

The power lies with you and me.


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