First the YES: YESing someone in a conversation requires you to make it a point, for the duration of the conversation, to consciously, completely focus on what the other person is communicating to you and nothing else. In order to YES someone, you must set aside your agenda (your desire to affect an outcome that achieves your goal or desire), and really, truly, genuinely listen to them. In the act ofYESing someone, you are fully focused on them, considering everything they are saying, and disengaging the mental process of judging the value of what’s being said, or determining if you agree or disagree. You are simply listening without judgement or agenda. You’ve done this effectively when the person you’re speaking with experiences the sense that they have been heard and that you have considered what they have said. That’s the ‘YES’ part.
Now the AND part: ANDing is adding to the conversation in a way that will not be received by the other person as your being antagonistic, negative, attacking, or a dismissive of what they are saying. When ANDing someone, you are only adding to or building on the conversation with responses that are constructive and that support the other persons’ feeling that you are listening to them and that you authentically value they’re contribution to the conversation. You’ve done this effectively when the person you’re speaking with experiences that you get the importance of what they are saying, and you are enrolled with them in improving or resolving the problem.
YES-ANDing may often look like agreement, but it certainly doesn’t have to. In a conversation, it is not just being a Yes Man, agreeing with everything everyone says; it’s an exercise, an activity in which you commit to 1. Listen to and2. Build on someone else through conversation with them. The hardest part of practicing the YES-AND mindset in real life is getting past our desire to be right, or to get what we want from the conversation. ‘Letting someone else win’ is usually not a comfortable thing to do, however, the value of deliberately engaging in the YES-AND mindset with someone is that you will have the opportunity to observe and experience what effect this ‘unnatural’ approach has on the conversation, and on the relationship as people begin to trust the new dynamic and enjoy conversations with you. The effect, very often, is an increased capacity to listen (by all parties in the conversation), and an increased sense of respect and willingness to further open up and engage in dialogue.
For more on Yes And from a number of another respected authorities on the subject, check out this article on the IRC Improv Wiki.
- Redefine FAILURE: Business Leaders, how do your managers who report to you, and the individual contributors who report to them react to their own personal failures and the failures of those who report to them? What is your relationship to failure? Human beings (being what they are) tend to close off, go internal, try to hide failures, labeling them ‘negative’ instead of opening up, becoming vulnerable, sharing the failure. You business leaders are smart so rather than telling you the rest, let me ask you; what’s the result of your, and your managers, default reaction to failure? If everybody’s reaction was one of opening up, becoming vulnerable and transparent for all to see and learn, what difference would that make?
- Approach Your Interactions with Others with a ‘YES AND’ Mindset: ‘Yes And’ is about acceptance and addition. Consider for your next team meeting, devoting the entire meeting to employing a ‘Yes And’ mindset with everybody in that meeting, for the duration of that meeting. This is not to say be a “Yes person”, going along with every suggestion that everybody says. A ‘Yes And’ mindset is ACCEPTANCE = Regardless of if you subscribe to or agree with what’s being said, find a way to respond in any way other than one that is a shut-down of the other person. For example, you may know that adding an additional wing to the office is simply not possible in the 2018 budget, but rather than saying “That is not possible. We don’t have the budget for it.”, consider expressing agreement that things are cramped here in the office, AND offer your sincere desire (and perhaps a timeline) to work closely with them to come up with some good short-term solutions that will address and remedy this very valid problem. This is the ‘Yes And’ mindset, and it works because it shows the person your interacting with that you are actually listening to them, and that you honor them as evidenced by the fact that you see their concern as valid and you’re willing to take action on it, or even just continue the conversation on it.
- Make the Other Person Look Good: Do you know why great stage improvisers seem so witty, brilliant, quick and entertaining? Here’s a clue: It’s not because they are particularly witty, brilliant, quick or funny as individuals. It’s because they are those adjectives as a TEAM. How are they that way as a team? They are that way because each and every individual on that improv team is doing everything for the others on their team. The individuals in a great improv troupe don’t seek the limelight, they don’t try to deliver the perfect one-liner, they only devote their full attention, their expression, their talent to one thing, making the other person look good. That’s the beginning and the end of it. Try this on for yourself for one day. I challenge you to devote one full day, from the buzz of the alarm clock to the clicking off of your bedside lamp, to making someone else look good, be the success, get the credit. Try it and write me and let me know what happened. I DARE YOU! 🙂
Of course, another amazing way to move the needle for your organization is to consider a conflict management workshop or workshop series with Improv Alive! We blend conceptual and experiential learning and deliver a powerful, immersive experience that gives your employees the tools they need to deal with difficult personalities and hard conversations in an effective and empowering way with tangible and measurable results in employee satisfaction and workforce productivity. Check out our cool video on Conflict Management.
There’s a concept that was born in the world of improv-acting called the ‘Improvisational Mindset’. When applied to the business of salary negotiation, it’s a simple way to make this unavoidable conversation one that serves to drive progress rather than conflict. An Improvisational Mindset helps you, when interacting with others, to find a positive starting point and build on it, rather than take your position and support/defend it. You want a negotiation on salary to be a collaborative conversation, and not a competitive one.
Here’s an example of common landmine that can come up during the hiring process, and how an Improvisational Mindset can make the interviewing and negotiating process more effective.
Many, many times, hirers are quick to adopt the mindset that a candidate shouldn’t get more than a (X)% increase in pay from their last job. This position is common amongst hirers, partly because they often feel that it’s “negotiating”, and can end up saving them money if the candidate accepts. However, is that actually a fact? Does acting within this mindset really bring additional value to the hiring company?
When you consider the financial investment involved in hiring and onboarding a new employee and the risk you are taking that this person you just hired might be anything other than smart, decent, productive and loyal, and you weigh that against the potential gain of hiring an employee who, on day one, is happy to be here and grateful to his new company for paying him what the market considers a fair wage; is it really worth it for you to engage from a mindset that has you positioning for a better deal at your potential employee’s expense, as your first serious interaction with her?
Let’s do the numbers to find out: Take a piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the middle, dividing the page in half. On the left-hand side, figure how much money you safe or lose at the end of 1 year when you hire a candidate at $10K below fair market value and that candidate generates as much as the weakest link on you team is generating for your company at the end of one year. Now, on the other side of the page, figure how much money you gain or lose when you hire a candidate at fair market value and that candidate generates as much as the strongest link on your team is generating for your company after one year. Now, look at these two numbers.. Which one is better for your bottom line?
An Improvisational Mindset in this case might have you considering where the candidate is coming from. For example, that candidate may very well be leaving a company that was vastly underpaying him or her, and their whole reason for considering joining your company is to be paid what the market is bearing for someone of her caliber and experience.
So, if long-term loyalty is what you want from your employees, you may see this shift in thought as your investment in a positive, respectful beginning of a relationship (Improvisational Mindset), rather than the chance to keep an extra several thousand bucks in payroll (Me VS. You).
It takes a shift in point-of-view, and some courage to adopt an Improvisational Mindset, but it’s effective, and contagious! Plus, you may find the challenge to be one that spurs growth both as a professional and as a person living on the earth.
As many children do with their parents, Jack Tucker would peer into the night sky with his father and study the heavens. His father teaching him about the constellations and the boundless wonder that exists beyond the clouds. The thing is, this sense of wonder never left Jack, and as his friends and classmates were choosing their paths, Jack kept his head in the stars. Today, he is the manager of Master Scheduling with commercial space exploration company, SpaceX. As the keeper of the clock, his decisions effect the careers, and lives of important people in his company and throughout the entire industry. With these kind of stakes riding on his decisions and actions, you’d think the risk of an improvisational mindset and approach to his work would be entirely out of the question, but it’s absolutely not. Check out our latest Improvisationally Speaking Podcast Episode and learn how Jack Tucker uses improv to help make the most effective & efficient private space exploration company also one of the most safe.
Listen to Travis sharing his life story and the power of Improvisationally thinking in life and business here.
Improvisationally Speaking: Episode 7 with special guest Mark Chenovick, Executive Director of the SecondStory Repertory Theater in Redmond, WA
Improvisationally Speaking: Episode 7 with special guest Mark Chenovick, Executive Director of the SecondStory Repertory Theater in Redmond, WA.
In this episode, Mark Chenovick opens up about the rewards of a positive, passionate (and improvisational) approach to leading the SecondStory Rep Theater from the doorstep of bankruptcy to an artistic renaissance.
Listen to Mark’s story of how improvisational thinking helped him turn it around here.
Improvisationally Speaking: Episode 6 with special guest Co-founder of BillFixers LLC, Ben Kurland
In this episode, Ben Kurland, co-founder of BillFixers LLC, shares his experience in building his business from an idea, and utilizing improvisational skills to solve problems. His unique company negotiates on behalf of consumers to lower their bills without all the hassle of fighting large companies.
Hear Ben’s story here.
Improvisationally Speaking: Episode 5 with special guest Roses In Concrete founder, Dr. Jeff Duncan-AndradeImprovisationally Speaking: Episode 5 with special guest Roses In Concrete founder, Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade
Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade, founder of Roses In Concrete, a community school that serves black and Hispanic, inner-city youth in Oakland CA, giving them an educational opportunity that rivals it’s wealthy suburban private school counterparts. With classes in dance, music performance and arrangement, and athletics, in addition to the core curriculum. Jeff is a national keynote speaker and his council is requested by education departments across the country who are trying to build a more just, equitable education system for all.
Seattle City Councilmember, Mike O’Brien has a tough but rewarding job. As a council member, it is his job to serve his constituency and to do what he knows in right. But sometimes doing both of these at the same time is impossible. How does he communicate effectively and effect the kind of change he is charged to bring to the city of Seattle while being under the microscope of the public eye? This discussion reveals some of Mike O’Brien’s methods, and they are surprisingly based on the principles of improvisation.