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50 Activities for Self Development

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 Part of our best-selling 50 Activities series!
 Comes complete with learning objectives, facilitator guidance, and reproducible materials. Activities cover:
  • Observation skills
  • Influencing others
  • Group problem solving
  • Reducing stress
  • Personal motivation
  • Responding to new challenges. Training Objectives:
  • Identify areas needing particular attention
  • Determine a complete personal development plan
  • Remove blockages to personal success
  • Develop effective Manager's.

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50 Chapters

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Activity 1: A Message to You


Activity 1 

A Message to You 


• To help managers and supervisors plan their personal development

• To help managers and supervisors develop skills in giving and receiving feedback

• To develop more-open and constructive relationships among colleagues

This activity will help you clarify how you can continue your personal development using the 11 roadblocks described in Chapter 2.


Approximately one hour is required to complete this activity. It is most helpful if done with two or more colleagues who know each other well.

Sufficient copies of Parts I, II, and III are needed to enable each manager or supervisor to complete them for all others.

1. Complete all three parts of A Message to You Worksheet for each of the other managers and supervisors.

2. Exchange the forms to that each person receives all those that relate to him or her. Read the forms quietly and then clarify the responses with your participants. An informal discussion may be held. Try to seek understanding and ask for examples of points made.


Activity 2: Am I a workaholic?


Activity 2 

Am I a workaholic? 


• To stimulate managers and supervisors to consider the extent to which their lives are dominated by their work

• To review whether or not any “workaholic” tendencies are constructive for the individual, his or her family, or the organization

This activity is particularly helpful in overcoming incompetence in selfmanagement, in clarifying personal values, and in enhancing personal development.


This activity can be completed in about one hour. The activity might seem trivial at first, but the results usually are very revealing.

You will need copies of both worksheets prior to beginning the activity.

1. Collecting Feedback: Select several people you know and tell them that you are reviewing your approach to work. Ask them to complete a Work

Habits Feedback Sheet about you and to return it by a specific date.

2. Self-Review: Complete the Work Habits Feedback Sheet about yourself.

3. Reviewing the Results: Collect the worksheets that other people completed for you. Compare the results with your own evaluation and compute the average score from all the worksheets.


Activity 3: A Problem-Solving Inventory


Activity 3 

A Problem‐Solving Inventory 


• To help managers and supervisors review their problem-solving skills

• To examine how the individual contributes to group problem-solving and objective setting

• To assess information handling, planning, and review skills

• To encourage managers and supervisors to develop personal action plans to improve their problem-solving skills

This activity is helpful for clarifying personal goals, improving problemsolving skills, developing managerial insight, and strengthening supervisory skills.


This inventory takes about 1½ hours to complete. It can be used by an individual working alone, but is much more useful when two or three managers and supervisors discuss their results together.

Complete the inventory. Then follow the instructions and summarize the results. Finally, review your results in discussion with others, using the following format:

1. Each person talks through the six sections of the inventory, explaining their responses.

2. The others give feedback and try to identify a pattern in the answers.


Activity 4: A Choice between the Wolf and the Sheepdog


50 Activities for Self‐Development 


The Story of the Wolf and the Sheepdog

Bill, an older manager, looked at his younger colleague and sighed. He said, “John I want to tell you a story. On a green field high up on a distant mountain, there was a flock of sheep. One day a wolf came along. He was sleek and powerful and had big sharp teeth. The wolf liked to show his strength. Seeing the sheep, he descended on them. He snapped at them and terrorized and ravaged them. The wolf was the most powerful animal in the field, and every creature knew it.

Finally, the wolf tired of his rampage and loped off in search of new excitement. A sheepdog came along and saw the frightened and damaged sheep. With typical sheepdog skills, he gathered the strays and encouraged the wounded to stand. Soon he had the flock organized and ready to be taken down the mountain to safety.

When I look at your approach to management, John, I see you wanting to be like the wolf. You are strong and competent, and you want to win. You want to demonstrate your dominance and see others cringe and limp wounded from the field. For you, business is a battlefield on which you can win your spurs and show your valor.


Activity 5: Roadblocks to Motivation


Activity 5 

Roadblocks to Motivation 


• To help managers and supervisors identify and understand the factors that inhibit the positive use of human energy in a given organization or unit

• To assist managers and supervisors to clarify an action plan for increasing motivation in their areas of responsibility

This activity helps to enhance managerial insight, increase supervisory skills, and develop training skills.


The Motivation Blockages Questionnaire can be completed by one person, or data can be collected from several people (particularly if they have different perspectives). A representative sample of 20 percent or more of the people in the work unit is more likely to produce reliable results.

1. Identify the unit or organization to be surveyed. Roadblocks will differ in different parts of the same organization, and at different levels. Carefully define the part of the organization to be surveyed and write a specific description of it at the top of the instrument. If the survey is to be completed by only one person, omit steps 3 and 4.


Activity 6: Cave Rescue


Activity 6 

Cave Rescue 


• To enable managers and supervisors to examine the impact of values on decision-making

• To develop skill in information analysis

• To enable managers and supervisors to practice consensus-seeking behavior

This activity is helpful in clarifying personal values, improving problemsolving skills, increasing influence, and developing team-building skills.


This is a group activity for four to eight persons. It takes approximately 1½ hours to complete. Participation should be voluntary.

1. It is helpful to have one member of the group observe the way in which the group operates, and then lead a review session when the activity is completed. The observer should be appointed before the session begins, and should read Activity 31: Process Review, prior to the session.

2. The observer should distribute a copy of the Cave Rescue Briefing Sheet, the Volunteers’ Personal Details Sheet, and the Ranking Sheet to each member. During the activity, the observer will keep time. Fifty minutes is allowed for completion of the task.


Activity 7: Circles of Influence


Activity 7 

Circles of Influence 


• To develop the capacity to take charge of situations and influence others more effectively

• To provide a useful problem-solving technique

This activity helps to continue personal development, improve problemsolving skills, and increase influence.


This activity is based on the theory that each person has different levels of influence over particular aspects of his or her private and working life. Prior to beginning the activity, participants should read the notes that follow.

Understanding Circles of Influence

The amount of control we have over different aspects of our lives varies. For example, our dietary habits can be changed entirely by a personal decision.

There are some tasks that can be tackled in whatever way we choose and we have total discretion over our methods and approach. All these items may be categorized as “Circle-A Activities.”

There are many other areas that are not under individual control, but are instead totally within the sphere of influence of a group or team. These items are categorized as “Circle-B Activities.”


Activity 8: Clarifying Personal Values


Clarifying Personal Values 


Part B: Clarifying Values

1. A personal value can be described by a statement that says what is important and significant to you as an individual. Describe three of your own values below by completing this sentence:

It is important to me that… a) b) c)

2. Values perform an important function for everyone. They provide a framework for deciding on a position, they provide a basis for action, and they help the individual to live with the results of his or her actions. Values, however, do need to be chosen and be consistent with one another. The following questions can help you to examine your own values.

• Are your values chosen without pressure from others?

• Are your values chosen from alternatives?

• Did consideration, both intellectual and emotional, precede the choice?

• Do you feel good about your values?

• Are you willing and proud to talk publicly about your value positions and views?

• Do you act on your values?

• Is each of your values consistent with your other beliefs?


Activity 9: Counseling Skills Audit


Activity 9 

Counseling Skills Audit 


• To study job-related counseling skills

• To identify the stages of a counseling interview

• To develop a systematic framework for assessing the quality of counseling

• To provide experience in behaving as a counselor or client

This activity is particularly helpful for those who need to improve their training skills, increase or strengthen their managerial insight or supervisory skills, or clarify their values.


This is a small-group activity involving three to seven participants. Learning and skill development come through conducting a role play and discussing the experience. Approximately 1½ to 2 hours are required to complete the activity.

The materials needed include a flipchart, blank paper, pens, and copies of the role-play briefing sheet and an observer form for each participant.

Videotape equipment is optional.

Step 1: Allocation of Roles (20 minutes)

Two people are elected to conduct the role play. One plays the role of C.

Patterson, a manager, and the other plays the role of J. Ruggins, a counselor.


Activity 10: Critical Blockages Survey


Critical Blockages Survey 


Critical Blockages Survey

Instructions for Completing the Survey:

Below you will find 110 statements that may or may not be true for you. Make a copy of the survey questions on pages 79 – 84. Look at each statement and if you feel that it is true for you, mark the appropriate box on the response sheet.

If you have doubts concerning a question, think about it and respond with whatever seems close to the truth. Be as honest as possible with yourself in answering.

When you have completed the survey, read the brief explanation of roadblocks or blockages at the end. Also consult Chapter 2, Developing Managerial

Competence. Then discuss the outcome of your survey with your boss, colleagues, or friends as a prelude to developing a personal action plan to build on your strengths and to eliminate your blockages.

1. I am dissatisfied with the state of my physical health.

2. I am unsure where I stand on many issues of principle.

3. I sometimes feel that important decisions must be made about my life, and yet I avoid making them.


Activity 11: Directing Others


Directing Others 


Directing Others Worksheet

1. Consider each item carefully, and fill in columns 1, 2, and 3 on the form below.

Method of






When do you

What are the

What are the

use this





1. Vague


“You ought to be turning out more production.”

2. Reason

“If we miss the dispatch date, the other orders may be lost.”

3. Threats

“If you do not work more quickly, I will report you to the manager.”

4. Pleas

“Please finish the job or I’ll hear about it.”

5. Bribes

“I’ll see that you have an easy day tomorrow if you complete the job this evening.”

6. Requests

“Would you please increase the production rate to

12 per hour?”

7. Clear


“The output has to increase to 12 per hour in order to meet our target.”

2. When you have completed columns 1 through 3, review your general approach and score each item. You have 21 points to allocate, and the distribution should reflect your personal style. Allocate the most points to the approach you use more frequently, and the fewest points to the approach you use least.


Activity 12: Duality 1—Time Duality


Activity 12 

Duality 1—Time Duality 


• To suggest practical ways by which time can be used more productively

• To increase managers’ and supervisors’ creativity and assertiveness by helping them gain more control over their own behavior

This activity aids in self-management, helps in clarifying personal goals and increasing creativity, and furthers personal development.


Often we can accomplish more by using one block of time for more than one purpose. Dualizing is the conscious act of planning to do this. There are two kinds of duality: time duality, and opportunity duality. This activity is concerned with time duality. (Activity 13 introduces opportunity duality. The two may be combined.)

If you practice time duality, it will become a natural part of your working life and you can then consider whether you wish to extend it to your private life.

Time duality encourages us to plan to use time more effectively, but not to feel guilty about inactivity or relaxation. It is important to remember that we need relaxation and a balanced range of activity. Duality is particularly helpful when people have blocks of time during which they are underproductive and yet need to be there. Such underutilization can lead to boredom and stress. The extra achievement obtained from time duality can eliminate the boredom and reduce the stress.


Activity 13: Duality 2—Opportunity Duality


Activity 13 

Duality 2—Opportunity Duality 


• To suggest practical ways by which managers and supervisors can use daily opportunities to better advantage

• To increase managers’ and supervisors’ creativity and assertiveness by helping them gain more control over their own behavior

This activity aids in self-management, helps in clarifying personal goals and increasing creativity, and advances self-development.


Opportunity dualizing is consciously using one or more experiences to contribute to more than one objective or output. Although similar in concept to time duality, opportunity duality concentrates on the use of experiences to generate different outputs, rather than using the same time to accomplish different tasks.

Opportunity duality requires that we have in mind a number of different objectives or outputs as we go through the experiences, activities, and tasks of the day, and make the most of the information and ideas.

Examples are:

• Using family experiences to learn about work problems


Activity 14: Eggs Can Fly


Activity 14 

Eggs Can Fly 


• To enable a group of managers or supervisors to observe and test their assumptions about group decision making and risk taking, and use technical skills in a competitive situation

This activity helps to improve problem-solving and team-building skills and increase creativity.


Approximately 1½ hours (including review) is needed to complete this activity. Two or more groups of 4 to 7 members each may participate. Each group is issued a kit containing two fresh eggs, two sheets of paper approximately

16" x 16" in size, a small roll of cellophane tape, two balloons, a piece of string approximately 6 feet in length, and a pair of scissors.

At least two groups are required. Each group needs a private area or room in which to prepare. The group members should not be given the review sheet before completing the task part of the activity. The groups are to be briefed as follows:

In 30 minutes, you will be asked to send a representative from your group to the top floor (or roof) of this building (specify location). Your team’s representative will throw an egg toward the ground. The egg should fall freely and land intact and unbroken. During its descent, the egg may not make contact with anything or anyone. You may not change the composition of the egg in any way, but you may use the materials provided (and only those materials) to enhance the chances of success. Your team may make two attempts to achieve its objective, but you may not retrieve any of the material used in the first attempt for use in the second attempt.


Activity 15: Exploring Feelings


Activity 15 

Exploring Feelings 


• To help managers and supervisors explore various feelings and to expand their range of self-expression

• This activity is particularly helpful in enhancing personal development and in increasing creativity


This activity is based on extensive observation of managers and supervisors who direct and control the behavior of others. Seven distinct methods for directing others are identified and summarized on the worksheet. Work systematically through each step, completing the columns as suggested.

Make a copy of each of the Exploring Feelings Sheets. Each group member selects one piece of paper. On each sheet, there is a list of six feelings.

Participants take turns dramatizing the six feelings on their sheet, taking approximately half a minute for each portrayal and allowing half a minute between each. As a variation, the other group members can give criticism and coach one another toward better performance.

Following the role plays, the exercise is discussed as suggested on the


Activity 16: Exploring the Values of Others


Activity 16 

Exploring the Values of Others 


• To develop skills in presenting personal beliefs and views

• To improve listening skills

• To enable managers and supervisors to clarify their individual positions and opinions

Today, as never before, managers need to respond to changing values, demands, and environments. Our ability to understand and accept things increases as we experience them and grapple with them. This activity helps participants to clarify their personal values, to improve their influence, to increase their creativity, and to enhance their personal development.


1. Any number of groups of four members each may take part in the activity.

A room is required that is large enough for all participants to move around in and in which the groups can meet simultaneously.

2. One person is appointed as coordinator. This person writes a statement that is pertinent to the group but controversial, and that the participants can be expected to support or reject in varying degrees. (The coordinator may choose a statement from the list of controversial statements that accompanies this activity, or may compose an original statement.)


Activity 17: Force-Field Analysis


Activity 17 

Force‐Field Analysis 


• To provide a technique for analyzing and solving complex problems

This activity helps to improve problem-solving and training skills, and increase creativity and influence.


This activity is carried out individually, but the results can be discussed with others.

Force-Field Analysis is a tool for studying a situation that you want to change. The method was first described by Kurt Lewin, and is based on the premise that a situation can generally be described as a balance between two types of forces. This is represented by the following diagram:

Restraining Forces

Resisting Change

Driving Forces

Prompting Change


Activity adapted from M. Woodcock and D. Francis, “To Change or Not To Change,” in Unblocking Your 

Organization (San Diego, CA: University Associates, 1979). 


Kurt Lewin, “Frontiers in Group Dynamics: I. Concept, Method, and Reality in Social Sciences: Social 

Equilibria and Social Change,” in Human Relations (1947, 1(1), pp. 5 – 41). 


Activity 18: Getting Appraisal Right


Activity 18 

Getting Appraisal Right 


• To improve skills in reviewing the performance of others

• To improve the climate between managers and their subordinates

Many organizations have badly designed appraisal systems and many welldefined systems do not meet their declared goals because of inappropriate actions by the participants. This activity, which takes the form of a “critical path” checklist, is designed to increase the appraisal interview’s chances of success by helping managers to face the right appraisal issues at the right time.

This activity is particularly helpful in developing supervisory skills and in increasing managerial insight.


1. Study the Appraisal Process Checklist. It is not intended to be a rigid framework and may need to be amended to meet the needs of your particular situation.

2. Having made the appropriate amendments, review your own performance and make notes in the “action” boxes.

3. Complete the Developing My Appraisal Skills Sheet.

4. Use the Appraisal Process Checklist and the list of key points for guidance when participating in an actual appraisal process.


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