Engagement Exercises to try #3 – Listen, Check, Summarise

Engagement Exercises to try #3 – Listen, Check, Summarise

Exercises to try #3 – Listen, Check, Summarise

Building on the ABC exercise that we gave you last week. We proudly present ‘Listen, Check, Summarise’. If anyone would like to suggest a sexier name for this, please send your suggestions to George: georgina@purplemonster.co.uk

This is another thoughtful, considered exercise which works well with people who are responsible for managing others. But also, great for teams to try together, again developing trusting relationships and empathy amongst colleagues.

We make it a little complicated, just for fun really!

The aim of the game

The aim is to develop greater listening skills and be able to communicate what you’ve heard accurately.

How often do we mis-read emails, text messages or misunderstand someone’s tone?


The set up

It will take about 5 mins to set up, and a maximum of 10 minutes to run.
Ask the group to split themselves into smaller groups of 4.

Each team member names themselves, A, B, C and D.

Ask A to face B, and C to face D. It should look like they are facing each other as if on a train in a seat of four. 2 couples facing each other.


How to run the exercise

Ask everyone to think of a customer interaction that has gone wrong…’think of a time when you had a bad experience as a customer and tell your partner.’

Round 1

It’s up to you, but let’s say you give everyone 2 minutes each to tell the person opposite their story.

So, once you’ve heard your partners story. You need to ‘check’ you’ve heard it correctly. Ask your partner if you’ve got the main points correct. Then once confirmed, ‘summarise’ your partners story back to them.

Now swap over. Repeat the listen, check, summarise as per the second part of the diagram on Round 1.

Round 2

Turn to the person at the side of you and share the story you just heard. NB, this is not your own story, but the one your partner just shared with you.

See part 1 on the diagram. So, A tells C and B tells D. Listen, check and summarise.
Then swap over, part 2 so C tells A, and D tells B.

Finally, Round 3

This is the best bit! You now ask the teams to work diagonally across each other, by all means ask people to swap chairs if they need to!

So, A tells D the story they just heard in Round 2 (which will be their own story 😊)
B tells C. Listen check summarise.

Then C tells B and D tells A. Listen check summarise.

There may be laughter and excited chatter when running this exercise. Others will take it incredibly seriously. After all, you are responsible for someone else’s words.

Top Tip…

There are 4 stories, each team member will hear 2 different stories and finally their own story played back to them.


  • Ask the group about the exercise. How hard was it to concentrate on listening to begin with?
  • Did that change when you were telling someone else’s story.
  • Were you distracted trying to listen or correct details in what you were hearing elsewhere?
  • How did the story change? Were there details left out?
  • Were there things embellished?
  • What does this say about the nature of communication?
  • Ask people for their insights and get them to share with the big group!

You could run this exercise with a small team at the start of a meeting, or you could use the mechanism with perhaps a different question at a much bigger event to get the room to buzz with the fun of sharing stories.

Download a pdf workshop sheet of our Listen, Check Summarise exercise.

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Engagement Exercises to try #2 – ABC

Engagement Exercises to try #2 – ABC

Exercises to try #2 – ABC Exercise 

Following our promise to share some exercises for you to try with your teams, here is another to help you develop your own facilitator skills and more widely bring your teams together to create what we believe will be stronger, more open, honest working relationships.

Last week we gave you ‘GROUPS’ (best name ever!) 

This week we present The ABC exercise. Attitude, Behaviour, Choice.

We think this has an even catchier title than last week!

This exercise is reflective and it requires participants to listen and observe. It should still be fun though as we will unearth some stereotypical responses – which are always fun to look at

Of course, like so many of our exercises it’s in the unpacking afterwards where the really good lessons are learnt.



1. The set up

This exercise takes around 15 minutes.

You will need a board, flip chart with paper or a screen and projector at one end of the room.

The group divide into pairs, one person faces front so they can see the board, the other faces the back of the room so they cannot see the board.


2. Let’s Play

The facilitator writes or shows an attitude on the board/flip chart from our suggested list (you can also find this in the download- these are ones we have used in the past, but do feel free to add your own!)

Rushed, impatient, tired, stressed, over familiar, surly, distracted, hangry (?!), apathetic, enthusiastic, committed, pushy, bubbly, warm, kind, direct.

Then ask the person who can see the word to embody that attitude while talking to their partner about their journey into work.

The person with their back to the front of the room guesses what the attitude is. We suggest that at this point, the facilitator asks around what people thought the attitude was- this can often garner some interesting responses, but is important to hear what attitude was perceived by others versus what the individuals thought they were delivering.

How many different words did people use to describe the attitude? What did people notice about tone of voice? Body language, eye contact? How did it feel to be spoken to in that way? How did it feel to act that way? Aren’t we good at spotting the signs? – the bad news is we’re really good at spotting them in everyone including you.

    • We go again, this time with a different attitude displayed, then swap over in the pairs so the other person gets a couple of goes.


3. The Learning

How does this ATTITUDE affect our BEHAVIOUR? What are the results of letting your attitude dictate your behaviour? What can we do alter this? What CHOICES must we make?

How many people in the room have brought the wrong/not the best attitude with them to work? What causes this?

This is a great exercise for teams. It has an element of fun and can help build trust. It’s a good reflective exercise for people individually.

So, to close this exercise we recommend the facilitator asks everyone to take a few personal minutes to think or write down what different choices they might make in the future about their attitude. How they would like to show up? What they will do to commit to that attitude and behaviour?

What this exercise highlights is that the attitude we think and feel we may be exhibiting, sometimes may not be perceived that way by others around us. This can have a negative impact on the environment or the energy of a project, or typical working day. Having this opportunity to ‘play out’ and unpack your own attitudes, behaviours and choices helps to develop your own self-awareness.

We know better than anyone at Purple Monster that we are all still humans, and sometimes, life just happens- there will always be things that will impact on your attitude- not many of us park these things at the office door. But, for fear of stating the obvious, the more aware you are of how your attitude might be perceived by others, the more prepared you are to make a choice on how you change your attitude and behaviours. Remember, it is as easy as ABC.

Download a pdf workshop sheet of our ABC exercise.

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Engagement Exercises to try #1 – Groups

Engagement Exercises to try #1 – Groups

Exercises to try #1 – Groups

We really enjoy running our exercises with our clients. They bring energy, intrigue and hopefully an element of change.
Over the coming weeks we will be sharing some of our exercises for you to try out at home! (Sorry…you don’t have to try them at home, just try them at work 😊)

You can download a step by step guide to this first exercise here. We’re hoping that they will help you and your team free up your thinking, create some rapport, cement some relationships and who knows, help to build a better working environment.

This exercise encourages you to learn a little bit more about each other in a nice gentle, non-offensive, non-pressurised way.

We call this light-hearted exercise ‘GROUPS’. Most of us love a group in one way or another…either a boy band, a rock group, a tennis club! Even if you consider yourself a loner, you will at some point have been part of a group. (Ok, we know we’re not great at naming our exercises but it does what it says on the tin!)

You can run this exercise with any number of people, it’ll take around 15 minutes to set up and play.



1. Aim of exercise

We’ve mentioned before in our former posts that the whole ‘tell me something about you that nobody else knows’ is an odd question. As Danielle says, ‘if I haven’t told anyone, the chances are I really don’t want them to know’.

So, here is a nice warm exercise that will help you to simply learn things about each other without the fear and shame part thrown in. By the way, even if you think you know your team well, this is still a good exercise. And it works for mixed teams of experience whether new or well established.

2. How to set up the exercise


Everyone should be standing and the facilitator will need to be able to move around from one group to another for each ‘round’ you do.


3. Running the exercise

The leader starts by saying ‘I’m going to give you several categories to choose from and you go and stand in the group/category relevant to you’. ‘When you get there just tell one or two others the story behind why you chose this group’. Ask them to work out the groupings themselves but if the group needs direction, tell them where you want the different groups to stand in the room. But mainly it’s more fun if you just ask the question and say ‘Go!’

Suggested groups:

  • Years worked in company/organisation (less than 1, up to 5, 10, 20 more than 20)
  • Broken bones, stitches, both, neither
  • Certificate, medal, trophy
  • Brothers, sisters, both, neither
  • Homes you’ve lived in (0-4, 4-8, 8-12, 12+)

After each set of groups have formed and people have had the chance to speak to each other the leader can go around pulling out stories from each group. Asking people to share or nominate someone with a good story to share.

Each time, the facilitator should go and ask an individual for a few more details from each group. Encourage people to tell stories, not just a series of facts. For example:


  • Broken bones: where were you? how old were you?
  • Medals, Trophies, Certificates: Who heard a great story?
  • Siblings: Where are you placed – e.g. Youngest etc. Hey yonugests, tell the oldests what it’s like…..
  • Years of service – Do you remember your first day? Who was nice to you then?What are the biggest changes you’ve seen?
  • Homes – Did you choose each move? How did it feel? Did you move far?


Some of our favourite examples here of great storytelling are:

The woman who had a medal as a national netball champion and hadn’t told her colleagues.

The man that had been with the same company for 43 years

The man on his rollerskates who ran over his own fingers after being pulled by his brother on his bike, water skiing style (ok that was actually Robin but it’s true)

This exercise provides a good opportunity for the group to get to know each other, share stories, physically move about and get energized. It is also useful as a way of getting everyone speaking and feeling the session is collaborative and that their voice is valued.

And you know what, it’s just a lovely way to start a session.

Download a pdf workshop sheet of our GROUPS exercise.

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To Conclude…How to have better conversations

To Conclude…How to have better conversations

Our final thoughts on ‘Having better conversations’. 

If anyone has been following our mini-series on communication, well first of all, thanks and well done. This is part 5, which is basically a reminder of the first 4 parts and then …well…some concluding thoughts. A close. A finish. An ending of sorts. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

It’s fair to say that in 100% of organizations that we have worked with, there is always an identified need to ‘improve communication’. Sometimes it’s a survey finding, sometimes it’s anecdotal evidence from staff that they are ‘the last to know’ or managers trying to guess what people are thinking and talking about. We have NEVER, in almost 25 years of work, come across a company that thinks it’s got their communication totally right. It isn’t about size either, as we know, having had our fair share of communication challenges in our very small team of monsters.

We don’t believe there is an easy solution to the problem of poor communication, but what we do believe is that by placing a focus on it, improvements can be made. In our mini-series (which has not been shown on Netflix) we suggested four areas for applying practise to improve matters.

1.Focus on Being Human


Recognize that there is an art to having conversations and encourage them. They are the fundamental building blocks of relationships. We have offered you our Thumb Folk cards as simple conversation starters and if you haven’t already received your pack then request a set here.
The cards are just a simple way to start meeting conversations, but you have to set time aside for them to happen. So many meetings and interactions start with the transactional, rather than the relational.
Recognize that there is an art to having conversations and encourage them. They are the fundamental building blocks of relationships. We have offered you our Thumb Folk cards as simple conversation starters and if you haven’t already received your pack then click on the link immediately and do so.

2. Build Trust


Trust – it’s so foundational to communication, that if it breaks down, so does the project, the team or even the whole organization. There’s an industry of therapists and counsellors working on trust in relationships, but there should be the same in business, not just marriages. It can be very costly, both emotionally and materially, when trust is broken.

We have recommended our favourite tool, the Trust Equation, but there are many more to explore. We also love the metaphor of the savings account, where each trusted or trusting transaction places a small deposit on the partner balance sheet. If you build up a trusting relationship, then the account is in credit, is healthy and can even withstand an unexpected withdrawal if things don’t go to plan. Put your trust in others and see it repaid with their trust in you.


3. Consider how to approach the conversation


It’s critical to read the signs and indicators of what people are thinking and feeling, before during and after conversations. We spoke a little in part three about body language and also the concept of allyship.

Being sensitive to other’s thoughts and feelings is a key component to successful communication and especially anticipating and preparing difficult conversations. If you can gauge the mood and set the right tone, you really are half-way there. In our experience it’s also worth remembering that the idea of difficult conversations is always worse than the reality.

You can also practice them, with a friend or colleague perhaps, but try not to rehearse them only in your mind – your imagination is a powerful tool and will rarely paint an accurate picture. Don’t put off the difficult conversation either, it will only loom larger on the horizon.

4. Following up


If you really do open the floodgates of communication, what do you do with the torrent? How do you manage the flow of ideas and suggestions?

We shared the success of the simple ‘You said, we did’ model. We also discussed the option of ‘Champions’ groups and the capture and playback of employee voices. The rule of thumb here (see what I did there Ed.) is follow up on it.

Never set expectations that you can’t reach, but if you have promised to take peoples’ ideas and share them more widely, then you better had. In a way, this is the measure of communication success and the benchmark. You’ve placed emphasis on communication, you’ve placed trust in the teams; you’ve employed empathy and understanding and done a great job of listening and now there are multiple communication channels which are trusted by everyone to provide up to date information and opinion. Brilliant.



Actually, there is no 5. It’s the other 4 and then some, but doesn’t get an article on its own. Instead, you get a closing argument. Here it is.

In a recent visit, that she has written about more than once, Danielle experienced the kind of culture where communication is valued. She said that she knew it was going to be a warm, friendly, open sort of company, where people would go out of their way to communicate. At what point did she know this? In the car park. I think it’s fair to assume that most car parks would have visitors’ bays, but the ones at Moneypenny HQ in Wrexham have them accompanied with a heart. They’re not afraid of telling their customers that they love them, and their communication skills exude authenticity, not robotic or learnt responses. They chat, they ask questions, are interested and curious about your answers and happy to tell you anything and everything about their story.

This hasn’t happened by accident, but very much by design and if you’d like to know more about their organization, look here.

Incidentally, when we visited the website yesterday to copy the link, we had a quick chat with one of the customer service representatives who thanked us for sharing their company website. Of course they did.

More than anything, to encourage quality communication to flourish, you need to make it ok to communicate. Conversations need to be encouraged and time found for them. There should be no penalties for asking obvious or difficult questions of leadership. The very opposite, they must be welcomed with open arms, open doors and an open invitation. That means that ample time and space must be found for them and leaders need to lead by example.

To be a widely respected and effective communicator takes a lot of practice. To be in an organization that is acknowledged to be great at communication, requires not just individual practise, but also a relentless dedication to creating the right conditions for communication to flourish. If you’re in one of those – please let us know, as we’d love to have a chat.

Unleash your conversation superpower!

You said…we did!

You said…we did!

Having powerful conversations; Demonstrating you’ve listened

So if you’ve been following our mini-series (and who doesn’t these days?) on Communication, you’ll know we’ve reached episode 4 out of 5. In the first three, we’ve helped you do all the right things. You’ve built strong connections and relationships; you’ve created an environment where people feel comfortable raising ideas and challenges and you’ve been positive and inclusive in your approach. Communication is rich and frequent, and ideas are free flowing, so what can possibly go wrong?

Well …. now you have TOO MANY ideas and opinions and you are going to have to say no to some. Some contradict each other, some have unrealistic budgets and some, well, some have obviously been offered up to test the boundaries of what is really possible.

However, this is crunch time. In an environment of better conversations you have to be able to listen to the conversations that are being had but then also respond in a way which even if the answer is no, the recipient still feels that their input is valued even if the specific recommendation isn’t to be actioned.

You have to demonstrate that the process of getting people to open up, talk to each other more and put themselves out there has been worthwhile.

The classic method of doing this is ‘You said…We did’. If many frameworks and feedback methodologies seem complicated, you have to love the language of ‘You said – We did’. There’s little opportunity for misinterpretation. However, whilst it is a seemingly simple methodology, as anyone who has run an employee survey will tell you, putting this into action is complicated and time consuming. Without it however, it is almost as bad, if not even worse than not asking for input in the first place.

This is very common and is called ‘You said ….we pretty much ignored you’. Less catchy and culturally dissatisfying.

Unleash your conversation superpower!

If you are wondering what techniques you can use in order to feedback effectively then here are a selection of tools and approaches we have used in the past.

1. Individual Replies

Probably the most powerful but also the biggest commitment. When engagement is very low or even negative then this is the way to go. It demonstrates your commitment to listening and responding. We did this once after a set of change workshops which resulted in over 1,000 comments. Every single one was answered individually with information on whether the suggestion was being adopted and if not, why not.
Although a mammoth team effort, the appreciation from employees was astounding and this single activity probably accelerated adoption of this particular change by months.

2. Employee Engagement Champions

If you have a new strategy or change programme to manage, then another way to promote quality conversations and add value is by building networks of employees committed to the change. In order to make this work it is important that the people forming these networks are given all the tools they need to do it well. This generally falls into two parts; Knowledge and skills.

In order to feel confident about talking to people then they have to know not just what is going on but also why. So the first part is to get the story straight and make sure it is simple to share. Share as much knowledge as you can around the strategy, the roll-out plans or anything else which is relevant for high quality conversations with wide groups of employees. Similarly they need equipping with particular skills – listening, empathy, coaching, basically building good relationships and being prepared to cope with more challenging conversations.

Investment in these networks can dramatically enhance the quality of conversations people have and therefore how invested they are but they do need support and need to be constantly updated by the programme. Change could fail more quickly if the champions are neglected.

3. Employee Voice Playback

Stories are a very powerful way of sharing the output of multiple conversations and there is no better communication tool than a story well shaped and well told.

Capturing verbatim what people have said and crafting that into audio or video is one way. By using real employee examples and playing them back in an engaging way, the case for change is most credible. This is not ‘management’ invention, but true-to-life stories from within the business. We have seen this done particularly well when audio is used rather than ‘talking heads’ videos. Firstly, by using voiceover artists you can ensure anonymity and audio only leaves space for the imagination of the listener to bring the stories to life in their head.

The key though is making sure that the overall sentiment is reflected in the stories that are chosen. If feedback is balanced, then take care to include a good mix of the positive and negative. Conversely, if the sentiment is predominantly negative don’t be tempted to whitewash the results and reflect the reality, even when senior management would prefer you not to! The test is that if employees listened to that playback, would they feel it is an accurate reflection of the environment they work in.

There are of course, many more ways of reflecting conversations and we have focused here on the mechanisms we have seen used particularly well. In general, the more creative the playback, the more impact they tend to have. You will be better served by visual impact and fun thematic media than you will by a group email. Whatever method you use, the intent has to be honourable and the methodology transparent. As we discussed previously, the Trust Equation determines that Self-Orientation is a destroyer of trust and paying lip service to listening to conversations is self-orientation at play. We would encourage you to listen to what people are saying with an open mind and be willing to adapt and change in response to that feedback. This may mean saying no to an idea, but if it is said with integrity and comes with an explanation, then that is more acceptable in the long run than any attempt to fudge what was said.

Finally, if you are facing the mammoth task of coordinating and sharing feedback from workshops and are wondering if it might be better not to, just remember that instead of the satisfaction of ‘You Said…We Did’ you will most likely get ‘we said …you didn’t …we’re not trusting you ever again’!

Interested in building a culture of trust?

Finding the right words for Powerful Conversations

Finding the right words for Powerful Conversations

Having powerful conversations; Finding the right words

Having high quality conversations in the workplace allow people to develop ideas more readily, collaborate better to achieve higher performance and build relationships that go past the transactional.

We have explored two concepts so far in how to foster higher quality conversations in the workplace (human connection and building an environment of trust) and this is a third; Using the right words.

Years ago when Purple Monster was only a very young monsterlet (what’s a baby monster called?) we were fortunate enough to meet Peter Searles – a great raconteur and actor who had us enthralled when watching him point out what people were doing physically with their gestures, posture and body language during a role play that two actors were performing.

It set us off down the road of investigating Professor Mehrabian’s famous (and as we shall see, often misquoted) 1967 study around likeability. You know the one – where 55% of an individual’s communication is influenced by the Body Language they use, 38% is in the tone and 7% is in the words. Well just to eliminate any misunderstanding here is what the Professor actually said 40 years after his initial experiments:

“Total Liking = 7% Verbal Liking + 38% Vocal Liking + 55% Facial Liking.

Please note that this and other equations regarding relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages were derived from experiments dealing with communications of feelings and attitudes (i.e., like–dislike). Unless a communicator is talking about their feelings or attitudes, these equations are not applicable”.

Mehrabian, Albert (2009). 

“Silent Messages” – A Wealth of Information About Nonverbal Communication (Body Language)”.

In other words, you can’t apply this to everything around communication just because it’s a neat statistic. Maybe what you say, and how you say it, is important after all. Of course it is. It always was. Don’t believe everything you read, or hear, or say.
So if how and what you say is important then we have to be thoughtful and intentional with our choice of words. We also have to be conscious of how we choose to say something and indeed when and where we say it.

Later in this series around conversations we will be discovering the importance of having ‘difficult conversations’ but here, on the topic of the importance of the words we use, and how we use them we would like to consider the concept of ‘calling in’.
Very recently we were fortunate enough to play a key part in the design and delivery of two global seminars around being a good ally. We discussed Allyship and also what it means to be a support for someone every day.
Not for the first time we were fortunate to be working with someone who knows and lives Inclusion and Diversity with every fibre of her being and she introduced us to this concept of ‘calling in’.

Let’s imagine a scenario for a second. This might be tricky for some of you as we are deliberately overexaggerating this scenario for dramatic effect. Go with it.

Imagine a massive movie studio was updating all of its much loved animated classics and ‘upgrading‘ them to live action. Imagine that they cast an actor who was of a different ethnicity to that which was in the original cartoon. With us so far?

One day, in your office, someone casually makes a comment about what a big storm in a teacup this all is and how ‘it’s a bloody PC minefield out there’. You hear what they are saying and are extremely irritated, upset and angry at the stance that they are taking. What do you do now? The person is a colleague with similar qualifications and experience as you, they are well liked and respected in their work and it is in a public place.

The temptation might be to immediately jump into action and call out what you consider to be an unacceptable viewpoint and some people might agree with you. But it’s how you challenge the behaviour that is interesting and this is where ‘calling in’ comes in.

To quote Relationship coach, Mel Mariposa, “Call-ins are agreements between people who work together to consciously help each other expand their perspectives”. Now that’s a great concept isn’t it? Expanding our perspectives. Well we think so. So what’s the difference between calling someone out on something and calling it in. 


Calling in is ‘Can I have a quick word with you about something’

Let’s be honest here. Nobody likes to be told off in front of other people do they? It makes people defensive and that’s not the place to start ‘expanding our perspectives’. Mel Mariposa, the author of the blog, Polysingleish and co-founder of The Consent Crew has these thoughts on how to ‘call in’ and what to look out for when you do.


Which brings us right back to the beginning – you can’t just rely on body language and tone to get your message out. You have to use words. The words you use will help to determine the power that the conversation has. By calling someone out, in this example the response is likely to be emotion fueled and the point you were trying to make, lost. By using words which are thoughtful, objective and respectful then it is much more likely to result in a reflective response and potentially a change in future actions.

The words you choose and how you say them does make an awful lot of difference to how people hear and interpret what you say. Professor Mehrabian would agree. And, according to the Bee Gees, ‘words are all I have’. And who’s going to argue with them?

(Other songs with ‘Words’ in the title are available. Do please feel free to share your own favourite with robin@purplemonster.co.uk )

Unleash your conversation superpower!

Our conversation card activity is a simple way to get people talking openly and freely without the cringe worthy ice-breaker.