May 2018
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TD Magazine

Throw It Out

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The situation

When facilitating training programs or meetings with senior leaders, it's important—just as with other audiences—to break the ice and get everyone ready to participate. At the same time, you shouldn't approach these individuals with activities that they won't take seriously.

The trick

If your icebreakers make the training event seem fun and silly before everyone is comfortable, executives may see the whole thing as a waste of time, affecting the energy of your program. Senior leaders expect efficiency and purpose, so you should let these expectations drive how you design introductory activities for them.


One exercise that works well is Throw It Out, which can be especially useful when you want learners to let go of the doubts they may bring into the room. It encourages them to open their minds, which makes it great for dealing with change management. Here's how it works:

  1. At the start of your program, after walking through your agenda for the time together, ask participants to take a sticky note off the table and write down any hesitations they have about the training program or why the change that the training program addresses won't work. This is for their eyes only.
  2. Open the door to the classroom, then have participants wad up their notes and throw them outside the door.
  3. Close the door and ask that your learners leave what they wrote outside—at least until the end of the day. Tell them that it's OK to go outside and pick up their notes after class, but until then they must focus on what positive things can come out of the time spent inside.

Pro tip

You can easily modify Throw It Out to work during a session when participants need to come to a resolution, too. Simply change what you ask participants to write down. In a resolution-driven meeting, for example, you might ask participants to throw out the obstacles that will prevent them from accomplishing the meeting's goals.

About the Author

Carrie Addington is the senior manager of learning experience and facilitator development at ATD and facilitates a variety of ATD Education programs. She is a talent development leader, facilitator, and people development coach with more than 12 years of experience in facilitating large-scale training and developing outcome-based learning experiences that aim to inform, involve, inspire, and impact. Carrie is passionate about using her love of language and the arts to work with individuals on establishing deeper connections with their daily work. Carrie has worked with a wide variety of business segments, including retail, beauty, education, and nonprofits, and has worked with C-level executives, directors, managers, and high potentials.

Carrie has delivered on topics ranging from energetic accountability, leadership, and great feedback to cross-generational communication, resolving conflict, and facilitation skills. She is a part of the coaching network with the prominent, global executive leadership and management company, the Mind Gym, and is a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach. As a certified ATD Master Trainer and ATD Master Instructional Designer, Carrie is knowledgeable about both the development and delivery of outcome-based learning programs.

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That's a great idea! I'm going to test it out next week.
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What a thoughtful exercise - thank you, Carrie Addington, for sharing your best practices with us!
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