Posts Tagged ‘team work’

How to YES AND at Work

How to YES AND at Work

Approaching a dialogue with a YESAND mindset requires two things from you, to YES and to AND.

  First the YESYESing 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.

The Three Improv Concepts that will Transform Your Company Culture and Save You Money

The Three Improv Concepts that will Transform Your Company Culture and Save You Money

I recently came across a shocking statistic in an article written by Niall McCarthy, Data Journalist for Forbes Magazine. The city of Seattle is ranked the tenth city in the entire nation for most hours per week worked by the average employee. According to Naill’s research, the average worker puts 47.23 hours per week in at the office/workplace. On top of that, according to Rachel Dicker in an article in the USNews, Seattle is ranked number 6 in the nation for most traffic congested cities in the nation.. and I’m thinking to myself, “that’s a lot of time spent going to, at, and coming home from the office!” Knowing what commute gridlock does to my sense of peace, (and I work from home), I had to wonder what mental state those people who commute to an office and back home every day are bringing to their teams at work, and their families at home. And what if their workplace is one of chaos, negativity or conflict? Well, that brings things to a whole new level altogether!   Since I am in the business of helping business reap the financial, morale and social benefits of employing an engaged, fulfilled and communicating workforce, I had to wonder: what is the effect of the crazy number of hours we’re putting in, and the stress that is commonly associated with being a part of a workforce? The complete answer to this question is three things: 1. Complex, 2. Unhelpful and 3. A very substantial financial loss to organizations from a lack of employee morale and productivity.   Maybe we can’t wave the magic wand and magically fix our traffic problems or disappear 5-10 hours off of our average workweek, but there are steps that companies and their employees can take to move the needle in a positive direction, towards creating your engaged, fulfilled and communicating workforce. Here are three of them, and they come from the world of theater Improvisation (Yes, Improv!)
  1. 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?

  2. 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.

  3. 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.    

Fostering Teamwork with Zip-Boing-SCHABLAMMY!!

Zip-Boing-Schablamy focusing exercise

Zip-Boing-Schablamy focusing exercise

January 20th is swiftly approaching.. I can’t think of a better way to spend a presidential administration change than to focus on your friends, teammates or co-workers.  ZIP-BOING-SCHBLAMY! is an attention focusing, teamwork centric game that is as ridiculous and fun as it sounds. If you can get your whole team in one room for 15-minutes this Friday, I recommend giving this game a try. If nothing else, you’ll have had 15 minutes of fun, smiles and laughter, and end up with a sharp, focused team!

This exercise is especially helpful for teams that are having a challenge loosening up with each other. Another great thing about Zip-Boing-Schblamy is that it completely stands on it’s own as an exercise. You don’t need a warm-up, give much of a preface, or anything. Just a team who is willing to give it a try. Giving your team permission to play a little, especially before a serious office meeting or client engagement can dramatically alter their mood and performance for the better.

ZIP-BOING-SCHBLAMY!: (a teamwork exercise by Improv Alive)
All in a circle. 1 person starts by pointing to their neighbor and saying “ZIP”, this continues until someone makes an ‘X’ with their forearms and says “BOING”, thus changing the direction of the action around the circle. Finally, one can send the focus across the circle by clap-pointing to anybody other than their direct neighbor and saying “SHABLAMY!”

The Ultimate Team Focusing Business Improvisation Game: (Here’s to more effective meetings in 2017!) - Slap & Clap Exercise – Slap & Clap Exercise

The new year is on our doorstep. Is one of your new year’s resolutions to lead more efficient, effective team meetings? SLAP & CLAP is an extremely versatile and fun corporate team focusing improv exercise that promises to prime your team for an energized and positive kickstart to any meeting. Taking it’s inspiration from PASS THE FOCUS (see our last blog entry), SLAP & CLAP adds an additional level of complexity into the mix, requiring a higher focus and concentration by each player. SLAP & CLAP is all about maintaining a CONSTANT, DISTRIBUTED FOCUS on each player while the game is in play. It is a terrific add-on to PASS THE FOCUS, to continue developing an ice-breaking, team bonding company culture. The greatest thing about this improvisation game is its ability to occupy your employees senses so fully, there is no option for anything but positive, joyus engagement, (which is what this season is all about, right?)

This exercise is especially helpful for teams that tend to get bogged down in negative dialogue in meetings. We suggest preceding SLAP & CLAP with PASS THE FOCUS, allowing your team to first become acquainted with the simpler version before attempting this slightly more involved version.

Engaging your team in or out of the corporate office in a quick 5-10 minute session of SLAP & CLAP, especially before an important meeting, or collaborative event can dramatically boost the energy and positivity of the overall experience. This game works equally well for Vice Presidents, HR Managers, Business Development Specialists, Consultants, and support professionals alike! Enjoy and Happy Holidays & New Year from Improv Alive.

SLAP AND CLAP: All players stand in a circle. 1 player starts by either slapping his RIGHT thigh (sending focus to the right), slapping his LEFT thigh (sending focus to the left), OR establishing eye contact and clapping once in unison with anyone in the circle (other than immediate neighbor on either side). Then that person either SLAPS or CLAPS, thus sending the focus on to another, etc.. The idea is to establish a rhythm and always keep your focus broad so you are open and ready to establish a connection with anybody in the circle to slap or clap in rhythm.

The Greatest Team-Building Improv Game for your Company Holiday Party EVER:

Company Team Building, Communication, Improv Alive exercise

Company Team Building, Communication, Improv Alive exercise

Despite a most unfortunate name, this is possibly the greatest teamwork-fostering, ice-breaking, group-energizing warm-up improv game ever created. We at Improv Alive like this game so much, we try to incorporate it, in one form or another, into almost every business improvisation workshop we lead. Pass the Clap is all about shifting your focus from internal (introspective), to external (extrospective), out to the other members of the team. It is a terrific ice-breaker and bonding exercise, but the real power of this exercise is in its ability to cause each player to forget about how embarrassed he or she is to be doing improv in front of his company co-workers, and focus fully on what everybody else is doing, and how he can keep the exercise going!

This exercise is especially helpful for teams that are challenged communicating with each other. We strongly advise engaging your team in or out of the office in a quick 5-10 minute session of Pass the Clap before an important meeting, or collaborative event in order to start things off with an extra boost of energy and team focus. This game works equally well for CEO’s, managers, sales professionals, customer service reps, developers and librarians alike! Enjoy and Happy Holidays from Improv Alive.

  PASS THE CLAP (aka: PASS THE FOCUS): All participants in a circle. Doug establishes eye contact with anyone in the circle and he leads that person in a single unison CLAP. Then that person makes eye contact with another random person in the circle and leads that person in a single unison clap, and so on.. the ‘Clap’ (or Focus) gets passed randomly around the circle. The idea is to establish a rhythm and always keep your body ready, your energy high and your focus broad,  so you are open and ready to establish eye contact and clap on rhythm. For an additional challenge, try it while moving randomly around the space.

Get your team THINKING like a team with ‘THE NAME GAME’

Your workforce is under pressure. Each employee is doing the job of two, and the responsibility feels like stress. You’re starting to notice a drop in morale, which goes hand in hand with a drop in workforce efficiency.  Getting your leaders and teams to engage in improv at work is one of the best ways to turn stress to joy and boost morale.  Here’s another terrific, easy-to-play game that breaks the ice, encourages a team-centric focus, and is more fun than a photobombing seal: The Name Game is a simple, fun and effective game to be played by 6-30 people.  Here’s THREE versions of it to try out:

The Name Game I, II & III: 

Breaking the ice, Focus & Concentration (6+ people)

I. Everyone in a circle. Doug says his own name and points to Alice, Alice says her name and points at Brian.. until everybody’s name has been said several times.

II. Doug points at Alice and says her name, etc.. (if the wrong name is said, the pointed tells their name and we move on).

III. Begins by starting a rhythm (group snapping their fingers). Doug says his own name and Alice’s name, Alice says her name and Brian’s name.., hence passing the focus around the group in rhythm.

An improvisation game to help break the ice at work:

Getting your teams at work to engage in theatrical improvisation is one of the best ways to break the ice when you’re introducing one group to another, or striving for more of a sense of teamsmenship within a group. Sometimes, the mere mention of the words “We’re gonna do Improv!” can strike fear in the hearts of many. It’s important to start the event with a game that is light, fun, and quickly defuses the angst. NAME & GESTURE is a simple, fun and effective game that I learned at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade in New York City.  Here’s how it works:

Name & Gesture: 

Everyone forms a large circle. The first (brave) person says their name and does an associated bodily gesture to accompany their name. For example, the 1st player (let’s say Scott) says “Scott”, and slaps his thigh. Then EVERYBODY in the circle repeats “SCOTT!” and slaps their own thigh.  Then, the player to the right of Scott, (let’s say, Ellen) says “SCOTT!” and slaps her thigh, and then says “ELLEN!”, and spins around in a circle.  1-by-1, all the way around the circle, each plays says the previous names & gestures of  all the previous players, ending with their own name & gesture.  This goes all the way around the circle. Finally one brave soul must do the names & gestures of the ENTIRE circle.