Ask the participants to select three employees. Tell the participants that they are going to undertake a thought experiment. Ask each participant to think of three employees. Encourage the participants to make sure that these employees are as different as possible from each other in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, and educational background. Tell the participants that these people could be real employees or imaginary characters.
Ask the participants to identify positive behaviours and characteristics of managers. Instruct the participants to work individually and assume the role of one of the three employees they selected. Ask them to make a list of responses to this question:
In the perception of this employee, what behaviours and characteristics of managers will make him or her feel positive?
Ask the participants to repeat the same thinking assignment in the roles of the other two selected employees. Announce a 3-minute time limit for this activity.
Ask the participants to identify negative behaviours and characteristics of managers. Explain that you are going to repeat the activity—but work in the opposite direction. As before, instruct the participants to assume the role of one of the three employees. Ask them to make a list of responses to this question:
In the perception of this employee, what behaviours and characteristics of managers will make him or her feel negative?
Ask the participants to repeat the same thinking task with the roles of the other two employees. Announce a 3-minute time limit for this activity.
Distribute playing cards. Give a random playing card to each participant. Make sure to distribute equal numbers of black and red cards. (If you have an odd number of participants, you will end up with one more person who has either a red or a black card.)
Pair up with a partner. Ask the participants to pair up with someone who has a card of the different colour. If one participant is left over, ask him or her to pair up with you.
Discuss positive and negative management factors with the partner. Ask the participants to share the positive behaviours and characteristics they had identified in the first thought experiment. Ask them to also discuss the negative factors. Announce a 3-minute time limit for this activity.
Form a team. Blow a whistle at the end of 3 minutes. Ask the participants to say “Goodbye” to their partners and to form a team of three to five people who have playing cards of the same colour (red or black).
Prepare a checklist. Distribute a sheet of flip-chart paper and a felt-tipped marker to each team. Instruct the team members to share their ideas and to prepare a list of do's and don't-s for a manager to improve the employees' perception. Announce a 5-minute time limit for this activity.
Review lists from other teams. Blow the whistle at the end of 5 minutes. Ask the teams to attach their posters on the wall with pieces of masking tape. Invite the participants to review the posters from the other teams to discover common items and unique ones. Announce a 3-minute time limit.
Discuss the items from the posters. At the end of 3 minutes, blow the whistle and assemble the participants for a debriefing discussion. Conduct this discussion by asking questions similar to these:
- Which suggestions appeared in the most posters?
- Which suggestions were unique to a single poster?
- Which suggestions do managers most frequently neglect?
- Which suggestions would significantly improve the employees' image of the managers?
Tips for running this activity online
- Pick an online whiteboard tool that allows you to use a large, zoomable canvas where all participants can contribute.
- Use a video conferencing tool where you can assign the participants into breakout rooms (eg. Zoom).
- When briefing the exercise and assigning pairs and groups to work together, keep all participants in the main video conference room and explain best practices.
- After this step is completed, turn on breakout rooms so each group can work on their tasks.
- Instead of using a deck of cards to assign pairs and teams, have each participant create a post-it note with their name on at the beginning of the session. When it’s time to work in pairs, randomly assign black and red dots to each of the participant’s post-it notes.
- After breakout tasks are completed, have participants return to the main room where you can debrief the exercise.
- When facilitating group discussion, we recommend participants use non-verbal means to indicate they’d like to speak. You can use tools like Zoom’s nonverbal feedback options, a reaction emoji, or just have people put their hands up.The facilitator can then invite that person to speak.
Source: Thiagi Group