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!
Public speaking is an art. As someone who provides multiple speeches every year, I have a chance to see many of other speakers.
Inevitably, I see the same thing. Like this article in Forbes, the same mistakes are made over and over. You can see the coaching that someone has been told, and the little things that a speech coach did to quell the speaker's normal responses: they walk in a straight line from one side of the stage to another, they try to have flashy graphics, and they start with a joke of some sort (which often does not work as well as planned.)
From my work as a professional Actor - we train to engage an audience. We practice bringing a personal connection, carrying the rhythm and tone, changing the speed to make emphasis.These are all part of the tools of our trade. And it takes years to master - one ToastMaster class is not going to make you a dynamic speaker overnight.
As with all practices, it takes perseverance, training and practice. And it shows when someone has spent the time, and invested in their presentation. It makes us, as listeners, feel respected.
So next time you have a big speech coming up - consider it this way: You are a world famous actor, and these are your lines. You might win an Oscar/ Tony for this role, so you want to prepare for every possible scenario, and stay on message. And most important, you want to be willing to improvise based on unforeseen changes in the situation and make it all seem like it was planned.
So be prepared for your next presentation. Take an acting class.
An article in Forbes magazine asked 'What is the #1 problem every leader has and isn't aware of?' Author Mike Myatt poses that it is problem solving - plain and simple.
When most leaders are asked to self evaluate their problem solving skills, they judge themselves as great fixers. The question is, what do they measure themselves against? In Kraig Kramers CEO Toolkit, he lays out simple tools to help leaders measure their organization. 12 over 12 moving monthly averages and other tools help to measure progress, so that you spend more time looking for why something happened rather than what to do to fix the issue. As everyone says, you can't fix what you don't measure.
Ask yourself: What skills do you employ? They can be simple tools like Kramers, or they can be more esoteric tools. I have even taught recent workshops using Benjamin Franklin's Moral and Prudential Algebra. Anything that helps you to look at both sides, start to consider options and weigh potential actions against each other is all you need. And there are a wealth of resources for leaders if they choose to employ them. It really comes down to what works for the individual.
So begin to identify your toolkit for problem solving.
In a recent report from USC, researchers discovered how being funny changes your brain.
They showed a cartoon from the New Yorker, and asked participants to create one funny caption, and one un-funny caption. Meanwhile, they performed MRI scans on them to record their brain activity.
“What we found is that the more experienced someone is at doing comedy, the more activation we saw in the temporal lobe,” said USC doctoral student Ori Amir, who led the study with Irving Biederman, professor of psychology and computer science. The temporal lobe receives sensory information and is the region of the brain key to comprehending speech and visual cognition. It’s also where abstract information, semantic information and remote associations meaningfully converge.
In contrast, the amateur comedians and non-comedians relied on their prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for executive functions like planning complex cognitive behavior and decision-making.
“The professional improv comedians let their free associations give them solutions,” Biederman said.
Many business leaders ask me what they can do to create more independent thinkers and problem solvers in their organizations. Now the answer is clear: Send them to an Improv Class! The more experience they get, the more they will rely on making new connections between items and creating innovative solutions.
For information about having an improv class for your organization, contact Andrew for details.
According to a recent article in Psychological Science, most people consider themselves great drivers;
"... across all experiments participants believed that they were exceptional drivers—but only according to their own definitions of good driving.
Even when participants were provided with clear definitions for good driving behavior from the National Safety Council, they rated their own individualized definitions as better. The discrepancy between self-ratings and the ratings of others only disappeared when participants were explicitly told to use the expert guidelines as the basis for rating driving behavior."
Since there is no 'standard' for what could be considered being a good driver, most individuals have created their own measurement tool. They decided that the way they drive (fast and texting, or slow and cautious) are the correct ways to drive.
The same can be said of leadership. Since there is no single definition of being a 'good leader', individuals have created their own measurement. For many years, Microsoft believed that the 'stack ranking' was the best way to manage people, even though it caused people to work against each other rather than collaborate. Which leader decided that idea was the best?
We all suffer from a form of confirmation bias, and being aware of our biases can help to bring an objective view to our work. One of the things we discuss in my workshops is focusing on what is different, rather than what is the same. By focusing at the anomalies, we can start to see what is happening in that moment, rather than what we have assumed. Those assumptions can lead us down the wrong path into believing what we are doing is the right action for our team.
So ask yourself: What kind of leader are you? Can you objectively look at what you are doing and re-evaluate your actions? Do you routinely self-examine your practices to stay up to date and current with your ever-changing team?
By beginning to bring awareness to your own assumptions about your abilities, you can then start to make an active change to continually improve on what you are capable of.
Don’t just assume you are a good leader. Be one.
About five weeks ago my wife and I rescued an eight-year old dog named Brodie.
He was transported up to Seattle from a high kill shelter in California, and had been in and out of shelters, foster care and trial stays with families for the last six months. When we met him, we knew we were in love. He has one crinkled ear, some extensive scarring on his head and other ear, is fairly deaf and as lovable as possible. Clearly he has had a tough life (or at least we imagine he has) and we are happy to provide him a forever home.
Since our other dog passed away over four years ago, we have been adjusting to having a dog again. Early morning wake up's for walks (6am?!?! Really?!?!?!) and changing schedules for feeding times have all been a welcome addition to our world.
I am reminded again of the lessons of leadership and shared responsibility from having a pet. When we walk in the morning (yes, at 6am, like clockwork) we practice walking next to each other, heeling when we need to, and not pulling my arm out of it's socket when a squirrel runs by. Sometimes he gets to choose the neighborhood route, which tends to put a little more pep in his step as he makes the decisions and I follow him. We travel the journey together, each day practicing the shared responsibility of the task at hand, even though we are both aware that I hold the end of the leash and am responsible for his care and well being. It is a give and take - and he provides for us the comfort and love that helps us to grow and be productive in our world, and we provide a home and care.
At work I have noticed more of my inclination to share the responsibility of the walk, rather than set out the route and demand we stay on it. As we feel which way will work for all of us, we then chart a direction knowing the goal and that we each can control and give input on how we get there. Even in those moments where we are having trouble lsitening (or deaf - like Brodie) we can still feel how the direction needs to change.
So be aware for yourself; What are the aspects of your journey where you can share the responsibility? How can you let others lead, so that they can have more pep in their step? What can you do to foster someone who needs fostering, and help them to share the responsibility of leadership?
And see how that changes your work for the better.
Just ask Brodie.
Click here to contact Andrew for more information on workshops and classes for Leadership Development,
There is one thing that separates good actors from struggling actors: How well do you listen?
In my work I get to interact with actors at all levels. A struggling actor knows their lines, and is pre-planning how they will react when they hear their scene partner say something. They are scripting (even if the play is improvised) how the story will come out, and how they will listen. There is a need to control what happens, and what the audience sees, rather than actually listening and being affected by what someone is giving you. In fact, you can actually see them trying to listen, as if listening is something to show people you are doing it. You can visually see them planning how they will respond, rather than listening and reacting.
The same is true for managers. I have worked with many managers who have a "listening face" which they use to "show" people they are listening. When asked to share what they just heard, their retention and understanding of what was said to them is appallingly low. And just like with actors, employees can see when you are not listening to them. They can see when you're merely waiting for their mouth to move so you can speak. They can see when you have disengaged because you have already solved the problem you think they have (even if you are not sure what the problem actually is, or if there even is one!) They can see when you are not present.
This skill is hard to learn, and there are a variety of methods to help you be aware of how you listen and how you can improve. After a few of my exercises, I have had participants say "This was the first time I really was able to hear what someone said..." Imagine if all your staff felt that way, like they have been heard and appreciated.
Honing this skill can affect your bottom line in multiple ways: increased engagement, improved customer satisfaction, innovative directions, happier and appreciative staff and family, etc. It's a simple skill that we often overlook in the wider scope of our work.
Find out how to increase your listening potential - email Andrew today.
Show and Tell: Leave it in Kindergarten
Show, don't tell. This concept is something you learn in theater. Show, don't tell. In other words, I don't want to hear your explanations, your reasons, or your justifications. What I want to see is you doing something.
As an audience member, I am not engaged by listening to you talk about an old lady doing tricks on roller skates. However, I would be intrigued to see the old lady on stage doing tricks on roller skates! That’s what I want.
Too often with Improv, people will talk about what they are doing: “I am going to get you a glass of water now…” “I am walking my dog now...” “I am stapling papers…” How many times have you heard someone at your office say "I am stapling papers now!" (and if you have, I would LOVE to know more content about that…)
As we do things normally in our world, we don’t talk about it. We just do it. We brush our teeth without exclaiming "I am brushing my teeth!” We drive a car without constantly saying, "I am driving now, I am still driving, look at me drive!”
The same is true for business. I sit in meetings often and hear people talk about what they plan to do. And a lot of the time, people feel like if they talked about it, then they actually DID something. But the truth is, TALK is NOT action.
So when you are confronted with people who describe what they will do, ask them "When? When will you do it?"
Don’t tell me you will do it. Show me you have done it. That is forward motion, rather than idle chatter.
I was recently in Langley out on Whitby Island in Washington. A beautiful area, and they had all of the Whale spotting that have happened in the last week. Multiple grey whales have been spotted along with a few orcas as well. While strolling through the Whale Visitor Center, they had a display on the brains of whales, and that whales and humans share in one trait for out brains structure: the presence of Spindle Cells. In fact, it appears that Whales have a concentration of spindle cells three times larger than humans do. In their display, they equated that feature to the understanding of music and emotional connection.
A little more research uncovered that Spindle Neurons are considered the 'air traffic controllers' for emotions. When a person hits a situation of extreme emotion (anger, mistakes, self judgement, danger) then the ancient parts of the brain fire up. They can flood the brain with feelings of fight or flight, and the spindle neurons take the information quickly out to the newer portions of the brain that deal with rational thinking and higher decision making processes. They help to understand self awareness and emotional connection.
In theater, we are trained to understand how a character in a play feels. We study what motivates their decisions to do something, and what tactics they take to achieve their objective. Even though the action a character does might not be anything remotely close to what we as a person would consider, we find ways to understand the motivations, desires and thought process of that character.
By continually practicing this craft, we build up that skill to help understand why someone does what they do. We may not agree with their actions, but we can see why the character is lead to make them. This process allows us to recognize the emotional stakes of others, and to see their point of view.
So if you are ever confused why and employee of yours does that they do, put yourself in their situation: What are their motives? What are the tactics they take to try to achieve their goals? What could be their objective? By understanding and building up our understanding of how someone else thinks, we can help to build our own emotional intelligence. We can develop our Emotional Intelligence.
And maybe someday, we'll figure out what whales are thinking.