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Three Shining Moments: Executives and Managers

Brief Description/Purpose

This exercise can be customized for a number of purposes, but the focus in this one is to encourage managers, supervisors and executives to use their own experience to gain a sense of what motivates their employees.


Small Groups and Large Groups

Age Appropriate

Adults, preferably in management or supervisory positions.

Ideal Group Size

15-20 people

Time For Exercise

20-30 minutes


Leadership, Management, Supervision

Detailed Instructions If Needed

  1. Have people divide up into four groups.
  2. Tell the newly formed groups that their assignment is to look back over their work careers and find three events, activities,accomplishments, collaborations, or moments of recognition by others that were shining or important to them. Provide two or three minutes for the participants to think about and jot down ideas before you ask them to share their shining moments with their small group (individual work is optional).
  3. Once participants have a chance to think about their shining moments, ask them to share them with their small group. My preference is that each person shares one at a time. They share their first; then, each person shares their second and then, their third. Tell the small group members to look for common themes and similarities in the stories.
  4. Tell the groups that each person will be asked to share one of their shining moments with the whole group upon completion of the small group exercise, if they are comfortable doing so. Alternatively, to save time, a spokesperson can present the five most important shining moments for the group.
  5. Debrief by asking the group how they reacted to the task - to the experience of telling their own stories and hearing the stories of other people.
  6. Continue to debrief the ice breaker by asking the large group if participants noticed themes in the stories. Ask if participants found commonalities in the stories shared in the small or large groups. One theme often mentioned is that the stories are all about receiving recognition. Many stories center around promotions, successful product launches, and moments of company recognition. Let your participants draw this conclusion; don’t tell them. It generally sparks a discussion about the importance of employee recognition. 


Try to steer the conversation in the debrief to the implications for managers, etc, on what motivates employees. 

Additional Debrief Questions

You have identified a few themes that run through your own work experience. What does this tell you about what employees need from YOU?

How can you translate what we've identified here into actions you can take to make your interactions with staff memorable and positive?