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 an internal ATD facilitator. She is a down-to-earth educator and people development coach with a passion for delivering effective communication solutions with a spirited energy. As a business consultant and educator for the past 10 years, 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.

She has experience designing and delivering customized management and self-development programs, including personal coaching on strategy and communication. She has delivered training on key business management principles for small business owners through Bumble and Bumble University in New York, deemed the “Harvard of Hair” by the Harvard Business Review, to classrooms ranging from 20 to 150 attendees.

Carrie has delivered on topics ranging from energetic accountability, leadership, and great feedback to cross-generational communication, resolving conflict, and presentation 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, Carrie is knowledgeable about both the development and delivery of outcome-based learning programs.

She has a master's degree in poetry from George Mason University and serves on the board of the American Poetry Museum in Washington, D.C. Carrie is passionate about using her love of language and the arts to work with individuals on establishing deeper connections with their daily work.

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I love this idea. I have asked participants to do something similar but used a small trash can. I promise to keep their doubts safe in that can while we go through our content but do allow them to retrieve them if they would like to at the end of class.
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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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