Ep. 90 – Laura Stoll: Using Improv to Develop Internal Talent & Manage Change

Laura Stoll is the Talent Development Consultant at Ernst & Young, and she has a fascinating perspective on how you can develop top talent within your organization that is influenced by her background in improv.

Laura studied at Second City, iO, and ComedySportz Chicago. She even has the distinction of being the only student ever thrown out of previous guest (and current husband) Jay Sukow’s classroom!

At EY, Laura strategizes, designs, and consults on large-scale programs designed to improve the value of the internal talent organization, which includes over 8,000 people. Their big focus right now is on the Career Journey.

In every organization, people tend to resist change, especially the kind of large-scale change that Laura aims to create. So change management becomes critical, and that’s where the fundamentals of improv can really come into play.

Improv isn’t about making things up––it’s about planning like mad, and then being prepared to throw your script away to meet the needs of the person you are talking to or working with. Learning improvisational skills inspires a more adaptable mindset, and you can’t approach change without that.

Possibly the most exciting thing about Laura’s work at EY is that other people see the value of these skills, and the top leaders in the organization are getting excited about improv. There’s simply no way to effectively inspire a change in culture without buy-in from the top, so this is a huge step for a huge organization.

And taking that step isn’t optional any more, for any organization. Global markets and whole industries are shifting rapidly – the organizations and individuals who resist change will be left behind.

“If you’re not actively moving to shift your skill set so that you can be more in the moment, react, and respond – and ultimately be a trusted business advisor – you’re going to be left behind because that’s just the way things are evolving.”

If you want to take your first step today, just practice awareness: When you feel yourself putting up a wall, saying no, or reacting negatively, pause and ask yourself, “How could it work?” It’s basic, but that little tweak will start you on the path to change.

Download this Episode MP3.



Getting Creative

Silhouette People Meeting Team Creative Process ConceptWhen asked what you do for a living, what do you answer? Accountant or business manager or maybe partner in a CPA firm? That may be what your business card says, but in reality what you should say is “I am a problem solver”. That’s the value you bring to clients: you make their businesses run more smoothly by resolving problems that create obstacles to success.

The best problem solvers are also very creative. They look beyond the obvious job duties and investigate opportunities. Rather than complete the tasks assigned by clients (or bosses), creative problem solvers look deeper into the project. They identify potential liabilities, brainstorm potential solutions, do their research and discuss the options with their client.

Now you may say that you just aren’t creative, that it’s right brain versus left brain, that it’s something you are born with or you aren’t. Not true. Creativity can and should be nurtured and developed in every person. Even accountants!

Most business leaders are driven by the bottom line. Investing in developing creativity in your staff has to yield dividends, and it does. Here are the facts*.

•  Companies that embrace creativity outperform those that don’t 1.5 to 1
•  58% of those who foster creativity increased annual revenue by 10% or more. Only 20% of less creative companies had similar growth.
•  82% of companies believe there is a strong connection between creativity and business results.
•  60% of companies who foster creativity in their team have received award and recognition as a “best place to work.”
•  Despite the facts, 61% of senior managers do not describe their companies as creative!

So what does it take to bring out the creativity in your team? Start with yourself.
•  As the leader of your team, are you open and receptive to new ideas?
•  Is brainstorming a part of the process – actively soliciting ideas that challenge the norm.
•  Is your team encouraged to try something new, to avoid SALY (Same As Last Year).
•  Are you a “Yes, but…” leader or a “Yes, and…” leader?

If you answered no to any of these points, you may be the problem. The solution: get professional help. Let’s talk – you can be a creative, problem solver.


* Results from a Forrester Consulting Survey

Embrace Your Inner Superhero!

It’s true…every CPA has Superhero potential. One of my most popular keynotes and presentation, Embrace Your Inner Superhero, presents helps break down barriers and provides tips and tools for pushing yourself to a placed that allows you to perform great feats!

Here’s a portion of my presentation…Enjoy!


Georgia Society of CPAs

Leadership From A Slightly Different Perspective

Leaders create growth their companies and in others through their vision, passion and integrity. If you are serious about becoming a more effective leader, but ready for a slightly different perspective, this fun and unique class is just what you are looking for.

This course will discuss how to incorporate the principles of improvisational comedy into your own personal leadership style. Explore how leadership is enhanced by the power of networking, the diversity of the generations, and communication between departments. Leverage your creativity, inspiration, public speaking and presentational skills to bring more value to your company and your career.