STEPHEN BUBB, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo). Send your questions to:

I am just about to do an "awayday

with my staff team. How do I kick it off? I have heard about icebreakers - tell me more

I am a strong believer in the value of taking staff out of the office for a day of team building and strategy development. If you can afford it, it is good to have a night and a day away. In my own organisation we do this on a six-monthly basis.

Sometimes the atmosphere might feel a bit constrained and formal, so it's always useful to start off a session with an icebreaker. Sometimes it's tempting to go straight into the chief executive's address, but a bit of fun to begin with never does any harm.

One example is to ask everyone to pair off with someone they don't normally work with and set them the task of chatting about their outside interests, hobbies and activities. The aim will be to discover in your partner something interesting and unusual that you and others wouldn't guess at.

Then the pairs go back and report to the whole team on what they've found out.

There is a wide set of variations on this. You might ask people to consider that if they were transported back in time, which historical figure they would most like to have been and why. Another good exercise is to ask each member to draw a picture of the organisation and then explain it to the group.

Each individual could be set a task. For example, people might be asked to think about one interesting fact about themselves or something they have achieved that wouldn't be known or guessed at. A variant on this might be to ask people to talk about three achievements or activities that they have been engaged in, that is not generally known, put it on the wall and then people have to guess the author.

These are all verbal exercises. There are plenty of things you can do as physical activities and a number of management books give examples of such icebreakers.

One favoured on The Work Foundation's leadership course is for each team to take two planks and put them together. The plank represents a bridge across a raging torrent and the team has to rearrange themselves on the plank by height, birthday or age or a combination of these, without touching the ground (river). You can even ask the team to do this without talking.

A little bit of physical exercise never does any harm. Though personally I don't go quite as far as the canoeing through rapids that some private-sector courses go in for.

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