As an improviser, I stepped on stage not knowing what I was going to say, or what was going to happen. I had no set, no script and no costume.
I got used to dealing with the uncertainty of not knowing what would happen.
As we start 2021, I think it’s important for us to accept that we don’t always have control over what will happen. 2020 definitely threw us a few curveballs! We learned to pivot - we found new ways to communicate and new ways of creating work.
We never know what will happen next. Let's embrace not knowing, and being comfortable with the uncertainty. (And if you do know what is going to happen, then email me. I’d love to know what your crystal ball tells you!)
I recently spoke to an individual who is in charge of a company, and he mentioned to me an award they give out called the ‘First Penguin Award.’
The idea is - if you are a penguin on the edge of the iceberg, with all the other penguins standing with you, who is the first one to jump into the water and swim to land? What risks are lurking under the surface? Will they all just freeze waiting on the iceberg? No one wants to go first… because maybe the first penguin will get eaten. And if they do get eaten then the others know not to jump in. So all the penguins just stand on the iceberg looking at each other.
Until one brave penguin steps up. They are the ‘first penguin’ to jump into the unknown. And they make it to land safely! The other penguins decide to follow! And everyone moves forward. Or, maybe they don't make it safely. And the other penguins now know they will get eaten if they jump in. Either way, someone had to take the first step...
The leader I spoke to encourages his employees to be the ‘first penguin’. To jump. To try something scary. He especially rewards them if they fail. And he publicly acknowledges them for being brave enough to jump off the iceberg.
By making failure something that is celebrated, his company culture encourages taking risks and trying innovative new ideas.
How can you encourage taking risks in your organization?
One way is to make it fun to fail. Employees can be more confident to experiment and try new things, knowing it is more important to try than to worry about failing. Give out your own 'first penguin' award. The winner gets to keep a stuffed penguin on their desk for a month.
That is how you succeed and create an innovative / growth mindset for your company.
To learn more about Innovation and Growth Mindset workshops, Contact Andrew for more info.
A key lesson I learned in Improv was “make your scene partner look good.“
Sometimes that’s a hard lesson to learn, or to understand fully. Many organizations I have worked for had a Superman philosophy: "Without me, this whole place would collapse!" That idea doesn't allow space to make the rest of your team shine - instead it charges ahead with a 'take no prisoners' attitude.
Understanding that it is generally not about you is an opportunity for growth. In a sustainable team culture, everyone focuses on:
These items are bigger than the individual. As a team member, you are a part of the larger machine. You have a role to play. You need to bring everything you can to the table, and accept and build on the things that other people bring to the table. Together you can build something bigger than any one individual can create on their own. You can build brilliance.
Isn’t that the lesson you want your entire company to embrace?
Email Andrew or more information on workshops and presentations.
Thanks to Bruce Scheer - I have a podcast episode on iTunes right now!
Are you harnessing the power of Improv in your selling conversations? What??? In this episode of The Sales Conversation Podcast Andrew McMasters and I talk about the power of Improv in improving buyer and seller interactions. Specifically, Andrew highlights how to be a better listener, how to accept what the customer is offering, and then how to build upon their offerings. He then talks about how to bring your full self to a selling conversation. Key Takeaways: 🤜 Listen: Listen before you solve! Listen for connection. Listen to build relationships. Listen for understanding. Listen for context. Let the other person know they’ve been heard! 🤜 Yes, and...: The second someone hears “but,” they negate everything said before it. Using the word “and” can help keep the energy of the conversation moving forward. 🤜 Everything is an Offer: Whatever someone offers you, even an objection, is an offering. How do you accept it and work with it? Check out the episode "How to harness the power of improv in your selling conversations with Andrew McMasters” at 🎙The Sales Conversation Podcast
Check out the episode "How to harness the power of improv in your selling conversations with Andrew McMasters at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-sales-conversation-podcast/id1435033739
There was a recent scientific study on happiness: small amounts of money were given to people to spend on themselves, or to give to others. Researchers then tested the participants to discover the amount of happiness received from giving to others.
The study was published in Nature Communications.
Researchers from the University of Zurich in Switzerland told 50 people they’d be receiving about $100 over a few weeks. Half of the people were asked to commit to spending that money on themselves, and half were asked to spend it on someone they knew.
The researchers wanted to see whether simply pledging to being generous was enough to make people happier. Before handing out any money, they brought everyone into the lab and asked them to think about a friend they’d like to give a gift to or how much they would spend on themselves. They then performed functional MRI scans to measure activity in three regions of the brain associated with social behavior, generosity, happiness and decision-making.
Their choices—and their brain activity—seemed to depend on how they had pledged to spend the money earlier. Those who had agreed to spend money on other people tended to make more generous decisions throughout the experiment, compared to those who had agreed to spend the money on themselves.
Those people who chose to give the money to others also had more interaction between the parts of the brain associated with altruism and happiness, and they reported higher levels of happiness after the experiment was over.
The researchers concluded that “actually helping others and being generous to them increases happiness…”
One of the main rules I teach in Improv is that it is not about an internal focus. The lesson is: if I am making my partner look good, and I am focusing on serving them, then I am doing my job. And I know they are doing the same thing for me. When I am on stage and I say something that makes the audience laugh, I know it is not about me being brilliant. My fellow actors set me up so I could say that specific line which made the audience respond. It’s not about me, it’s about the group. This takes of the focus off of ‘what do I say next?’ and places it more on ‘how do I serve the other people on stage?’
Think about your office. When was the last time you saw someone make the choice to set someone else up for success, and not be concerned about getting the credit for themselves? When has your team focused on serving each other, and the mission of the company, rather than personal achievement?
It’s a fact: thinking outside of yourself / focusing on others can make your team more productive, happier and more effective. By adopting a group focus rather than an individual focus, and using ‘yes and’ as a rule, you can create a better work environment for your staff, and a better world for your clients.
For more information on workshops - email Andrew today!
When I do workshops all over the country, I am always encountering the same question: “My kid wants to go into theater… what do I do?!?!?!”
The look of fear and concern from the parent is evident.
I usually have to unpack the discussion to find out what exactly is their concern about a degree in the arts?
Always, the answer is: “They will never make enough money to survive….”
This has led me to talk openly about what I have learned from my training in theater. I learned:
In short, I learned sales, fiscal responsibility, leadership, management and presentation skills.
Theater training is leadership training. Taking the talents of others and directing them into a cohesive project, which is inclusive of all of their abilities, is a skill that only a true leader can accomplish. Listening, responding, and motivating others to work towards a goal larger than their own individual part is the essence of leadership. Creating theater is the essence of leadership.
So, when a concerned parent asks me that question, I always say “Let them.” The truth is, your child will learn more about themselves (authenticity) and more about others (emotional intelligence) then they will in any MBA program. They will learn how to tell a story, motivate a team, and use whatever resources they have to make a vision come true.
Theater is the skill we all need and use everyday. And if you don’t have it, find an actor to teach you.
Find out what theater training can do for your team - email Andrew today!
In over twenty years of teaching, I have met many individuals who have taken a progression of classes (levels 100, 200, 300, 400 and 500) with the plan of becoming an ‘expert.’ They complete all the classes, and then feel as if they are finished. They reached the last class, and are now 'experts.'
The idea is planted in our heads by most higher education. I go to school, I learn things, I take a test, I get a degree and I am an expert.
Tests are binary. There is a right, and a wrong. You get graded. Some people pass, some fail.
This is the mindset of a ‘test taker.’
In acting, it doesn’t work that way. When you are an accomplished actor and getting hired everywhere, you STILL have to practice and stay active. It is a skill you NEVER WIN. You constantly work on, and you get better, and you keep learning. If you consider yourself finished learning, you stop being an actor.
Why is that? I believe it is because the arts are eternal; you can see the same Shakespeare play over and over, and hear something new each time. It can suddenly be relevant to where you are now, as opposed to where you were five years ago. It can help illuminate you current world. Just like a balance sheet is a snapshot in time for a business, the arts can be a snapshot in time for your life.
So ask yourself;
One thing I coach my clients is rather than focusing on what is the same, focus on what is different. By focussing on the new, we can explore find the creative experience in each situation.
Click here to email Andrew for information on coaching, workshops and presentations for your group.
The iPhone was known as a disruptive force in the phone industry. I hear the term ‘disruptor’ being used a lot these days; how a new product will be the disruptor of whatever industry, and will be ‘shaking up‘ everything.
The question becomes: how do you figure out what can be a disrupter? If you are planning to improve on something, an idea or a product (like a phone) you have to break the pre-conceived notions of what you believe is possible. You have to think of what is desired, or what is outside the realm of possibility to create something new.
This is a hard task, considering we all have our own confirmation bias. We all have a frame of reference that our brains operate within. We can only step outside of that if we begin questioning that frame of reference and looking for things that do not fit into that frame. Only by doing that can we discover real changes.
And most importantly – you have to WANT to change. You have to want to recreate the new story to see the possibilities. For a long time, Kodak thought they were in the film business. As a result they missed out on the beginnings of the digital photo revolution, and other innovations. The frame that Kodak couldn’t change was understanding that their business wasn’t in film, it was in creating memories. The film business had worked for them in the past, so it was easier to stay with that frame, rather than looking to see what could be the next disrupter.
How do you do this? How do you constantly question the frame of reference you have, and see if it still serves your business? One way is through the ruthless and radical acceptance of reality. Things will always change, and we have to accept that and be prepared for new ideas. This is where the tool of using ‘yes, and’ (accepting the current status, and seeing what is possible in the future) is key. It is that skill of building on the reality we have, and using that to create innovation.
Yes, and. The ultimate disruptor.
To learn more about 'yes and ' training and find out how it can transform your organization, contact us!
Whenever I meet with a client about incorporating Improv into their training programs, I hear the same refrain: "So, do I have to stand up and say something funny?"
I've even had clients who thought that the workshop would entail wearing funny wigs or hats, and everyone being forced to do 'skits.'
I understand why people are asking me that question - clients have told me they have had Improv workshops where the instructor made them make animal sounds and toss imaginary balls at each other.
All of these descriptions make me CRINGE. As a professional actor, I have been forced to do many exercises like this before. As a leadership facilitator, I would NEVER make my clients do something like this. Exercises like that are embarrassing, and do not achieve measurable results (unless I am measuring what I never want to do again).
To help clarify a few things, I have compiled a few Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) to clear the air:
Q: Is an ImprovMindset workshop embarrassing?
A: NO! We spend at least 30 minutes creating a safe space to allow everyone to feel comfortable with being on their feet and working this manner. We adjust as needed to the group's energy to ensure that everyone can participate fully and equally.
Q: Will I have to stand up in front of people and make jokes?
A: NO! The core tenet of Improv is about making the others around you look good. The goal is to make your scene partner look good. We call this an external focus. Participants can relax knowing that the everyone has each other's backs. It is not about being the spotlight, it is about serving others.
Q: Will it be relevant to my work?
A: YES! Each of the lessons cover everyday tools to help you and your team be more productive, efficient and clear with your communication. It also helps your team be agile, and adapt to new ideas and innovate. An ImprovMindset is a shift in thinking that allows teams to move forward, fail fast and learn, and drive new ideas to completion.
If you have any questions you want answered about Improv for Business, just drop me a note! I'll be glad to schedule a call.
On a recent trip to Kaua'i, I had a chance to learn a lot about the water, survival and some great life lessons. (My last post had one of those - about assessment and evaluation.)
One great life lesson I learned was about water safety and how to react in a difficult and life threatening situation; how to survive being caught in a rip tide.
The first instinct we all have, when we are caught in a powerful force of nature that is dragging us away from shore and safety is to swim against it. We are in a battle to ensure our own survival - against an OVERPOWERING force of nature.
What I was told is that if you get caught in the rip tide, don’t swim against it! You want to swim parallel to it, until you reach the edge and can then you can get out. (See the picture above for clarification.)
The biggest mistake people do then when they get free of the rip tide, they start to head back to shore. The rip tide is still there, and if you go directly back you'll get caught in it again and dragged out to sea AGAIN. What you want to do is swim parallel to the shore for a while, then head back. This will allow you to get clear of the strong currents at the beginning of the rip tide that can pull you in again.
As I thought about that - I had to ask:
What issues do we all get caught in, and how do they lead us out to sea?
What do we do to get out of them?
Are we frantically swinging against a tide to try to save ourselves, or are we calmly accessing the danger and discovering tactics to overcome adversity?
And, does our plan work? Should we have swam parallel to the shore longer before we go back into the fray?
1. Identify the rip tide. What is it that is dragging you out to sea? Can you swim against it?
2. Use the shore. Identify your guiding principals, and use them to navigate your way out.
3. Access the danger. Spend time identifying how strong the force is that pulled you in. Then after getting distance, head back to the safety of the beach.
Be safe out there.