My Ideal Employee: A Base Exercise For Managers

Brief Description/Purpose

I use this exercise to help managers and leaders identify what THEY need to be doing to help create and maintain their ideal employees.

Specifically, I also use this to push managers to examine whether their performance management systems meet their needs to create those ideal employees. The answer is almost always no.

So, this is a base exercise, from which you can jump off to all kinds of topics about leadership, management and managing performance


Group activity - whole group, brainstorming

Age Appropriate


Ideal Group Size

10 to 100 people

Time For Exercise

20 minutes, but depends on where you want this exercise to take the group. Can be much longer


Management, leadership, performance

Detailed Instructions If Needed

This exercise is deceptively simple, but exceedingly powerful.

Step 1: Identifying

Ask the group to throw out (brainstorm) what they want from their employees -- i.e. the ideal employee.

Record these on a flipchart in front of the room.

Once you have a list of ideas, you might priorize them with the group and identify the five most important.

Step 2: What Do Employees NEED From You To Be Ideal?

Ask attendees to take on the perspective/shoes of their employees, and answer the question:

What do my employees need from me or from their environments in order to be "my ideal employees"?

Record these on a different flipchart.

Step 3: What Can I Change Tomorrow?

The final question:

What can I change tomorrow to help employees become "ideal"?

This exercise can be used as a closure exercise and part of action planning for attendees, or it can be used to focus managers on the relationships of their success and the success and needs of their employees.

In other activities in this section, we'll provide more details on specific applications of this base activity.