Icebreaker Questions to Get Your Dev Team Really Talking

Alex Vernik
Engineering Ops Specialist
Posted on
Feb 18, 2021
Updated on
Jan 3, 2022
Table of Content

As much as time is money nowadays (and energy!) and you want to be spending every minute of your day and sprint retrospectives productively, it’s always a good idea to ease your team in. 

That’s because solid communication skills are a core part of a productive team...and that begins only when your team feels comfortable sharing with one another. 

Now, you don't have to be a modern-day Michael Scott to know that there are some things that will make your team uncomfortable at best, and dead inside at worst... 

So to make your retros easier on everyone involved (you included!), here's what you need to know about icebreakers. 

How to Use Icebreakers to Build Your Team’s Communication Skills

There are icebreakers, and there are ice breakers; the goal of the god ones is to actually promote a growing sense of team understanding and cohesion. 

and, it's way easier than you thought it could be! Here are 4 quick and easy rules to make your icebreakers work for you (and your team): 

  1. Self-expression: it might take awhile for your team to warm up, but once they do, allowing them to express themselves will go a very long way indeed. 
  2. Go first: lead by example, and answer the question first (even if it's a tough one, or you're not leading the meeting!). Remember, this is the first step towards having a productive, trusting, and ultimately blameless retro
  3. Keep it short and sweet: you don't want to spend hours on icebreakers, so keep them short and sweet and timely - you could always extend the icebreaker session to an after-work activity. 
  4. Enjoy it: having fun together builds culture!

Icebreakers for the whole team

When it comes to self-expression, you need to make sure that the question doesn't set the bar too high or too low, and that there’s no wrong answer., 

Stick to open questions (as in, no direct yes or no answers), and avoid anything too factual (these can make people feel inadequate if they don't know the answer). Open questions will also help you learn more about your colleague’s lives and thought processes! 

Remember though, that you need to make sure everyone feels included and if things get a little too personal, you run the risk of making people uncomfortable (or building a non-trusting, blame-heavy environment) – so always try to start with less personal questions. 

Some good examples of these are - 

  • Tell us about an interesting hobby of yours. 
  • Do you have a secret skill no one knows about? What is it? 
  • Who’s your favorite singer/song? 

Answer Icebreakers First 

It's not just what you ask, but how you ask. 

Answering first will help to make everyone feel a little more comfortable with one another, as well as avoid any awkwardness about breaking the silence (or ice). 

It's a great way to make yourself vulnerable, as well as leading by example. Whether you're the one running the retrospective, or just taking part, you want to start as you mean to go on. 

Remember to keep things personal, without involving anyone else without their permission (even if they're relevant to the story). 

Keep Things Simple

Icebreakers can be pretty complicated (two truths and a lie? That’s the way too much information, and way too long and complicated to get into). 

You want to avoid forcing anyone to reveal too much information about themselves, or have to think too hard – this should be an easing of tensions, not a stress-inducer! 

Your icebreaker session should last up to 10 minutes. If there’s a larger group in the session or some very talkative people you could still have open-ended icebreakers with one-word answers, such as: 

  • What's your spirit animal? 
  • What did you eat for breakfast? 
  • What's your favorite color? 
  • What’s your dream destination, either local or abroad? 

Have a Solid Icebreaker Session for an Awesome Retro Session

Keeping your icebreakers fun, positive, and trust-building makes for better team communication. And that’s absolutely essential when you're running a sprint retrospective

You need a strong team to be able to easily open up and communicate with one another, for the good, and those less-than-good times.

But, even during those ‘less than’ (disastrous sprint, anyone?) - there's an easy, painless and completely free way to keep everyone seamlessly engaged, happy and proactive. 

Let's GoRetro: completely Free sprint retrospective tool for unlimited team members and boards.

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