Icebreaker: 3 Gratitudes

Christine Kane calls gratitude “the ultimate bringer of more. It is the ultimate releaser of drama.” This article from Pepperdine University links expressing gratitude to increased cardiovascular and immune function as well as increased optimism and success. Martin Seligman’s research suggests that a daily practice of gratitudes is as effective at combating depression as cognitive therapy and anti-depressants combined.

So, why not use it for a team that’s running on fumes and could use some encouragement? Why not use it to sustain your high-performing team? It’s easy, uplifting and fun to replace whining, complaining and gossiping with appreciation, gratitude and counting your blessings.

This attitude of gratitude icebreaker comes in two flavors: face-to-face and virtual.


Face-to-face:At the start of your meeting (team, project, staff, annual planning – any meeting) ask everyone to list 3 things they’re grateful for in the last 24 hours. Then go around the room having each person read their list. That’s it. The real pay-off is in doing it every time you meet, making it your practice.

Virtual: Send a group email to your team every morning, listing three things you’re grateful for in the last 24 hours. Ask each of them to do the same and watch the positive momentum build.

I’ve been doing the virtual version for the last month with members of my business group, the BUGs. It’s made a huge difference: I’m not interested in finding things to complain about anymore. Instead, I find I’m focused on making each experience something I can be grateful for which is so much more fun! The practice has made me much more creative – more of a problem solver – and much more peaceful. I’m more optimistic too. Try it with your team and let me know how it goes.


  1. Gabriella Ruiz says

    This is a great exercise and I will definitely being using this with my team. All too often when we are checking in people tend to focus on the negatives that are happening (I am guilty too) like: “I’m so tired”, “I’m so stressed out”, or “I just need a vacation from everything”. When your only choice is to state a few positive things every time, you will be better able to reframe situations, and remember to be thankful for the little things. Great suggestions, thank you.

  2. I had a boss that required his team to do this every week. At first it was three things we were grateful for and then it expanded to more intrusive and personal questions. Our responses were sent to the entire team. I tried speaking to my boss about it, but he didn’t budge and forced to answer each week.

    • Missy, that sounds just awful. I’m so sorry that happened to you. Being compelled to share personal information at work is just plain wrong and more than a little creepy. The experience you describe is why so many people end up using shallow stock answers for icebreakers, defeating their purpose.

      Two things to correct for this tendency in a coercive boss – and for the coercive boss in every one of us:

      1. Keep the gratitudes tightly related to the work of the team, for instance, what are you most grateful for in phase one or in the way you worked together as a team.

      2. Always, always, always, ALWAYS give people the opportunity to say “pass.”

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