What makes a company or corporation great? What is it that makes them truly stand out among their competitors?
Excellent, innovative, and effective communication. This kind of communication invites Productivity, Adaptability, Stronger Relationships, Successful Negotiations, and it brings an end to tired, useless jargon that derails, distracts, and limits every situation.
What is needed is an innovative approach that creates excellent, open, and effective communication, both internally and externally, during the organization’s day-to-day inner workings.
And that innovative approach is found in the principles of Improvisation. Yes, that’s right, Improv. Improv is much, much more than comedy. It is a unique and powerful approach that promotes a simpler, more positive, and effective way to communicate, collaborate, and cooperate as a team – whether with your internal people or external constituents.
At its foundation, Improv is leadership in hyperdrive.
IMPROV INVITES PRODUCTIVITY
The foundation for effective leadership is active listening. When leaders listen to their employees and engage them using the skills learned from improv, growth happens.
Improvisation promotes cooperation, and with greater collaboration, productivity goes up. The principles of improv fundamentally create productive interactions because they force people to truly listen to one another. Many companies are discovering the powerful effect this has on the way teams work together. It also has a profound impact on the way clients feel. It shifts the atmosphere of the entire corporation into feeling more energized and in sync.
IMPROV INVITES ADAPTABILITY
In today’s dynamic market, companies need to be adaptable, and learning improv is great for business. The next generation wants to have fun. It has struck the right nerve amongst the younger generations who have taken improvisation classes in business schools and watched the popular show Whose Line is it Anyways. They are driving the face of corporate solutions by sparking creative thinking and ending the corporate jargon that has left innovation stale.
“Yes, and…” is the glue that holds it all together. It is the essential skill used when two people stand on stage to improvise and ADAPT. It is all about adaptability. They are not allowed to tell each other no.
Replacing the words ‘No’ and ‘yes but” with the improv phrase “yes, and…” will invite active listening, valuable input, and teach how to adapt in the moment for the greatest results! That phrase communicates so much. It is supportive and respectful. It focuses on the conversation rather than shutting it down. It shows you are listening to the other person and trust what they have to offer. “Yes, and…” ties all the fundamental principles of effective communication and adaptation into a practical and productive two-word tool that will cause companies to stand up and standout.
IMPROV BUILDS STRONGER RELATIONSHIPS
Have you ever watched preschoolers play with blocks? They take turns stacking them on top of each other until the blocks get too high, and they topple over – or they like to watch it fall and knock it over on purpose. But the point is that both of them have an agenda. They each want to pick up a block and put it on the tower, and each one probably has an idea about what the tower will look like, but they keep building until they can’t build anymore.
A successful relationship is birthed in the same way – one block at a time – first collaborating, then sharing, and building on each new ‘block’ with a shared vision in mind. That is how you connect with other people.
We are more likely to succeed in our relationships when both parties can envision a common goal. Improvisation teaches us to set aside our agendas and ego and take whatever the other person gives you and go with it. There’s that glue again, “Yes, and…” Successful people all intuitively do this in building strong relationships – they don’t realize they are doing it and using improvisation to make it happen.
IMPROV CREATES SUCCESSFUL NEGOTIATIONS
To succeed in negotiations, we need to drop our agendas long enough to listen—and with respect for all involved truly. It is valid for formal negotiations around a conference table and is the way to success in the daily negotiations of life and career —during a chat with the boss or with one’s spouse, or with a child. This is the kind of straight talk we can cultivate that truly will make the most significant difference.
Six Principles of Improvisation
These six skills will ensure every negotiation has the potential to end with a positive solution:
1. Take your ego off the table.
2. Respect the other party.
3. Be in the moment (focus).
4. Listen to the other party’s needs and wants.
5. Adapt to the situation.
6. Yes, and…
These steps genuinely help in removing emotions from the table. Anthony K. Tjan wrote in a Harvard Business Review blog, “Time and emotion — these are the two things most often wasted during a negotiation. ”And he is very right.”
We tend to react emotionally and negatively to any points of negotiation that oppose our agenda. And that wastes time. When our negotiation goals are so firmly anchored that we cannot budge, it becomes hard to see any common goal as a solution. Instead, emotions kick in, and egos inflate—and we cease to listen. All we hear is our voice in our head, trying to find a way back to what we want.
- Tom Yorton was once in the corporate ranks before becoming CEO of Second City Communications, the business solutions division of the world-renowned improv comedy company, The Second City. He had this to say in a recent Business Innovation Factory article, “But my experience – and in fact, my scars – are from bumping up against the same organizational hurdles that improv is so effective at helping companies get over – challenges that include connecting with customers, engaging employees around change, moving into new markets, innovating new products and services, working without a script.”
It is something brought to the table that was unexpected. It halts forward momentum. It is something that doesn’t neatly fit inside the box of your agenda.
- Daena Giardella teaches an improvisational leadership class at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. She spends an entire lesson on teaching how to avoid using the most common block, the “yes, but.” In an NPR article, she points out, “Even though you say, ‘Yes,’ the but says, Yeah, but that’s not valid because here is the better point.”
Negotiations can quickly come to a grinding halt when “yes, but” comes to the table. It is when emotions get heated and time gets wasted.
Time to remember the 6 principles of improvisation!
END USELESS JARGON
We all have some of our favorite “buzz words” we like to use, and some we can’t stand. They are great at creating imagery, but is it the kind of imagery that allows everyone to be on the same page? Think about a few of these common corporate buzz words used in many meetings and emails during the day-to-day. Do they create a clear path, or is there just a buzz in the room? Here are some common buzzwords and what I think of when I hear them:
- Benchmarking: my photo on a bus stop bench
Back of the Envelope: we need more legal pads
- Go the Extra Mile: a sweaty dude
- Best Practices: a Hallmark card
None of these buzz words mean anything anymore. Too many of them in the conversation, and the listeners, if they are even that anymore, tune out. They are empty words and provide very little clear direction and no focus that employees can rally behind. With no clear path, stress increases, and productivity goes down. It becomes everyone doing what they think ‘best practices’ means.
What if we replaced the jargon with more direct and more precise speech? A company that states the customer service policy as “we strive to provide top-notch service to all of our customers” can be replaced with “we listen to the customers and meet their expectations.”
“Yes, and… let’s hold a quarterly brainstorming session with all the employees to think of ways we can show the customers we are listening.”
IMPROV IS LEADERSHIP IN HYPERDRIVE
Improvisation promotes innovative thinking by taking the conversation and pushing it forward into the future. That is what a good leader does. Ed Herbstman, a co-founder of the Magnet Theater, a New York-based theater conducting corporate training, has even helped teach courses for companies like Google. He said, “When you’re the person saying yes to other people, they start to bring you their best ideas. When you’re meeting things habitually with ‘yes, and,’ with an energy of agreement, you transform the way people perceive you.”
When more people are willing to speak up with their ideas because they know they will be heard, employees take a more vested role in the job they have. Their performance goes up. People get excited about seeing their vision, no longer just the “head honcho’s” vision, begin to take shape. It sets companies up on the stage while others are left looking for a chair in the audience.
Excellent, innovative, and effective communication that makes a company great and genuinely stands out among its competitors requires excellent, creative, and effective communication.
It invites Productivity, Adaptability, Stronger Relationships, Successful Negotiations, and it brings an end to tired, useless jargon that derails, distracts, and limits every situation.
And can all be found in the innovative approach of Improvisation.
If you would like to discuss having me facilitate an Improv is Leadership in Hyperdrive workshop to your organization, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and in the subject line put “Improv is Leadership in Hyperdrive.”