Tips for Trainers – Three Things that Push Participants Outside Their Comfort Zones

Facilitator Tip: Three Things that Push Participants Outside Their Comfort Zones

Pretend you are in one of my teambuilding programs and we are about to start a new activity. As I’m giving the instructions, I make this statement: “OK everyone, in this next game everyone needs 5 playing cards and hold them face down in a small pile. Once you have your cards you are going to go and find a partner. On the count of three you are both going to turn over your first card. Whoever can add up the two numbers on the cards the fastest will advance to the next round….” Did any of you just shutter? Do quick math games give you anxiety?

How about this: “As a final debrief of our day, I’m going to give each person a blank puzzle piece. I’d like you to draw or illustrate a Piece of Learning you got out of the day that you want to remember back in the real world. After you are finished, I’d like you to share your drawing with the rest of the group.”

And last but not least, what if I said, “I hope you warmed up your vocal chords this morning on the way in because in this next activity we are going to sing our names to one another as we introduce ourselves.” Ack! Did you just turn your head away from your screen in horror?

In all my years of facilitating, I have come to find that there are three things that consistently push participants outside their comfort zones: Math, Art and Singing, which is why I try to include them in every training I do. For some participants, you will tap into their comfort zones in one of these three areas. For others, they will struggle and probably dislike you a little bit for asking them to do these things. I have found that as human beings, we make a decision very early on in our lives whether we are good at one of these three things. Think back to grade school, do you remember when you realized you were not good at Math? Art? Singing? You probably decided then that you weren’t good at this and have carried it with you into your adult life.

Each time I do an activity with one of these three elements, I always poll the group and ask them to raise their hand if I just pushed them outside their comfort zone. I also ask for a show of hands to see who was a little bit excited that they might have an edge because that characteristic is a strength of theirs. Doing this acknowledges the fact that I just asked them to do something that might have pushed them out of their comfort zone. This can help them understand the purpose of the task, and that I am being intentional sequencing this into the program and not just asking them to do something juvenile or silly. Communicating this to the participants helps give the program and its design credibility and pushes past the ‘dumb teambuilding games’ stigma that sometimes plagues our industry. Using Math, Art and Singing also allows your participants the opportunity to step into their Stretch Zone and they may learn something about themselves in the process.   This, of course, is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start!

What are some other tactics you use to push people outside their comfort zones?

Have fun out there,
Michelle Cummings
Owner/Trainer/Big Wheel
Training Wheels