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.
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.
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.