Tag Archives: communication

Creating a Yes, and… Atmosphere

Bringing improv techniques to the workplace.

Mention improv in almost any business setting and people think of “Whose Line Is It Anyway,” “Saturday Night Live” and pretty much any Judd Apatow film. The idea of getting up to perform in front of a group of peers can be terrifying. The idea that improvisational acting is only about being funny is a common misconception.

Improvisational acting is a great skill for many to incorporate into their repertoire. The basic constructs of improv allows one to think quickly on their feet, listen intently to the person with whom they are speaking, and support another’s idea or suggestion, even if it may be different from your own. Mastering all of these tasks is not easy, but with practice, people find skills that come in handy in the office and in life.

Chicago is known for its improvisational actors from Bill Murray to Melissa McCarthy to Seth Meyers, among many others who got their chops at Chicago’s famous training centers. (If you are wondering who else is on the list, check out Time Out Chicago’s February 2015 article by Brent DiCrescenzo). Improv has some basic principles that you can incorporate into your everyday interactions at the office. Following are three principles that you can test out for yourself.

Principle #1: Always be Positive
An improv scene comes to a screeching halt if you use the word “no.” Therefore, the first rule of improv is the “Yes, and” technique. Working with a partner, one person makes a statement such as “It looks like we are all going to get big bonuses this year!” The other person’s comment begins with “Yes, and,” continuing with a phrase such as, “I can’t wait to put a down payment on that yacht that caught my eye.” The conversation continues in this fashion, with each partner building on the ideas of the other. Improv actor Tina Fey explains the” Yes, and” method during an interview at Google.

The Yes, and… technique creates a positive environment and can have favorable effects on business as well. University of Michigan professor, Kim Cameron and his coauthors published a research article in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science finding many good outcomes come from a positive workplace. According to the article, these outcomes include:
• Caring for, being interested in, and maintaining responsibility for colleagues as friends.
• Providing support for one another, including offering kindness and compassion when others are struggling.
• Avoiding blame and forgiving mistakes.
• Inspiring one another at work.
• Emphasizing the meaningfulness of the work.
• Treating one another with respect, gratitude, trust & integrity.

This key improv skill can help you build your team and move your organization forward. As you try it for yourself, you may find that affirming others brings out the best in your staff.

Improv Shenanigans – Taking Chances!


Principle #2: Take Action Without Fear of Making a Mistake
Another key element to improv is when you are on stage, show, don’t tell. Choose what type of action you are going to use and stick to it, really commit. The more specific you are, the easier it is for your teammates to work with you to respond and build off your movements. You cannot fail in improv…you take an action and go with it. Every action is considered an opportunity.

It’s the same in business. Sometimes we fear making a decision because we think we might fail. In the end, we take no action at all. One of our favorite quotes is by Robert H Schuller, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” Improv gives you the permission to make decisions without fear of failure because you learn to look at “mistakes” as opportunities. Perhaps you should ask yourself, “Which is worse…making a mistake or missing an opportunity?” Action moves things forward. So take action without fear, both on and off the stage.

Team building with Improv!

Principle #3: Teamwork
Improv requires at least two people interacting with each other to move a scene forward. An important part of this is listening intently to one another and not overshadowing your partner. In addition to listening, rely on body language and other signs that enhance your communication. In doing so, you commit to creating a team environment on stage.

With teamwork in mind, one of your main goals is to make your partners look good. By acting in this way, everyone is free to create without the burden of competition or defensiveness. Successful improv emphasizes the relationship and interaction between people. When people feel supported, they take chances. Taking chances as a team creates great opportunities and fresh ideas.

Business is often an act of improvisation. Implementing some of the basic improvisational guidelines into your day to day interaction can help you and your team create a positive and supportive environment where the opportunities are boundless.

To learn more about the key elements of improv in a safe and supportive environment, try CEI’s Improv Workshop: Imagine the Possibilities, we would be glad to help you set up your workshop.

Contact us!
Corporate Event Interactive
312-540-1000

Dos and Don’ts of Communication in the Workplace

Good communication is a key ingredient for a successful company. Employees experience an increase in morale, productivity and commitment if they are able to communicate effectively with one another. Here are some do and don’t tips to improve communication in your workplace.

Do Know Your Style
People have a variety of communication styles and it is easy to misunderstand a co-worker if you are not on the same page. Some folks base their communication on facts and figures while others go with their gut. Knowing what style you are, and also knowing the styles of the people working with you, can help you communicate more effectively. For fun, try Mark Murphy’s assessment to learn more about your communication style.

Do Affirm Your Preferred Method
It’s good to reflect on how you like to communicate with others– do you prefer face-to-face meetings, emails, phone calls? It is equally important to understand how your co-worker best communicates and find common ground. Once you have determined your preferred style of working together, then you can move forward and hammer out next steps.

Do Define the Objective
If you are getting together to shoot the breeze, then have fun chatting… preferably over a pint of something on draft at the local pub. But if you are meeting in order to get something accomplished for the company, start by defining the objective. This basic step is often overlooked. Be clear about your end goal and agree on the steps that will get you to that end. Decide on who will be responsible for which steps in the process and how to measure whether or not the step is achieved. These clear goals and strategies will set up your future conversations for success as well.

Don’t Ask the Wrong Questions
For example, don’t ask leading questions. Leading questions presume that you know the answer. A leading question might be, “Do you think we should host the next meeting at the hotel down the street?” This presumes you know what the answer will be. Perhaps you can say instead, “Where do you think it would be best to host the next meeting?”
In general, ask short, open ended questions that allow your colleague to give their own thoughtful answers. They might have a great idea that you hadn’t even considered!

Focus on Good Communication


Do Actively Listen
Listen to your co-worker to understand what they are saying, don’t listen in order to reply. If you are concentrating on what you will say next, then it is much harder to truly listen to your colleague. You actually might miss what they said! To help you concentrate, remove distractions at the start of your conversation. This could mean turning your phone over, closing your laptop or simply putting your back to your computer screen.

Don’t Show the Wrong Body Language
Your body language can give you away if you are not really listening to your co-worker. Shift your body in such a way to demonstrate that you are engaged in the conversation. You can do this by leaning forward, uncrossing your arms, and looking them in the eye. Without saying a word, you can show your colleague that you understand what they are saying by nodding.
Think of someone in your life who is a good listener. What do they do when you are talking together? The next time you are engaged in conversation with them, make a mental note of their behavior and then try to mimic their actions.

Practice Makes Better
Good communication takes practice. Start by trying one of the above strategies for a few weeks until you feel like you have mastered the concept. Once you feel confident, move on to the next idea. Hopefully you will find your conversations and meetings are more productive and create a positive environment.

If you are looking for a creative way to practice communication with your teammates, consider trying one of our workshops such as Improv Workshop: Imagine the Possibilities or Team Development Challenge. Other benefits to these programs include increasing group effectiveness and strengthening leadership skills. Our Team Building programs also exercise communication skills, stimulate camaraderie and relieve stress. Whatever type of program suits your group; we are here to help you.

Contact us!
Corporate Event Interactive
312-540-1000