The forced choice activity can be facilitated during training and working meetings to better understand the viewpoints of your group about a particular topic. I learned this engagement from Mark Smith*, CEO of Leadership Resource Institute and author of The Distinctive Leader, when we co-facilitated his Distinctive Leadership course.
Mark and I used the activity to drive home the importance of candor during a session. Because the questions focused on how willing the participants were to be candid while giving and receiving feedback, it emphasized the expectation of the participants to challenge ideas, be authentic and coach each other. The result was a group of leaders willing to play full-on from the very beginning of the day. It was a powerful way to set the tone and start the session.
You can modify the questions to make them relevant and useful for your workshop or meeting.
1. Ask a forced choice question with 3-4 answers. (See examples below.)
2. Tell them if they agree with “Answer A” to stand in the front right corner of the room. If they agree with “Answer B” to stand in the left front corner of the room. If they agree with “Answer C” to stand in the left back corner of the room, etc.
- Walk to each corner as you describe that answer so they see where to go.
- Some participants will want to stand between two choices, but remind them that this is a “forced choice” and they should stand squarely in one place.
3. Give them 30 seconds to move to the corner that coincides with their answer.
4. Ask the people in each corner to pair off with one (and only one other person) in their area and to tell their partner why they chose that corner. Tell them to listen closely because you will be asking them what they heard during the debrief, not what they said. Give them about 2 minutes to talk to their partners.
- If needed you may have a few triads but try to keep them all in pairs.
- If there is only one person in any given position, ask them to partner with someone in another group and each will describe why they chose their respective position.
5. To debrief, go around to each corner and ask for 1 or 2 people to share what they heard from their partner. As they do, remain objective and open to their reasons. There is no right or wrong answer and there should be no shame or judgement no matter where they stand.
6. Repeat the process using a second question (if desired).
The questions we used in the leadership course:
A. How willing are you to be candid in giving feedback and open to receiving feedback?
- I am completely willing to be candid with everyone at all times. I am completely open to receive any feedback from anyone at any time.
- I don’t know everyone yet and I believe it is important to select the right time and place to give feedback. I am completely willing to be candid some of the time with some of the people. I am completely open to receiving feedback from some of the people, some of the time.
- Speaking candidly and giving feedback to people in this environment is too risky. We have not established trust. I am not willing to be completely candid nor to give receive feedback.
B. How do you feel about being in this course?
- This is the absolute BEST way I could use my time right now. I wouldn’t be anywhere else.
- This is nice to have, I’m happy to be here but also have other things that I’d like to be working on.
- I would rather be somewhere else.
*Mark S. Smith uses his many talents as a professional facilitator, executive coach, change agent, and organizational development consultant to work with leaders to position their organizations for long-term success. Mark’s book Distinctive Leadership can be purchased at: bit.ly/52lessons
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