Be a “yes, and…” leader

The first and most important rule of improv is that you need to remove “no” from your lexicon during scenes. Why? Nothing can screech a performance to a halt faster than your fellow actor providing you with some information, and you choosing to ignore it, or contradict it. That is why improv performers who are just starting out are taught to respond to dialogue on stage with “yes, and…”

It’s a simple and effective rule. But, unless you’re trying to get into the cast of The Second City in Chicago, it’s probably not a rule you’ve thought a whole lot about in your day to day life.

Yet, we all know there are few things more distracting, and demoralizing than a naysayer. Nobody wants to be around a person who kills momentum, energy, progress by ignoring or contradicting the team. So, why not put improv’s golden rule to use in your office?

We’ve all worked with — or for — people who seemed to enjoy derailing conversations. You know the type who asks to see all the data and ideas, and seems to take pleasure in shooting things down left and right, without ever providing an alternative or another step forward other than “try again.”

You are the boss. You are the leader. You are the person everyone in the company is looking to for a vision.

I’m certainly not suggesting you become a person who says “yes” to everything presented or introduced by your team. But, improv’s golden rule isn’t so much about yes vs. no as it is about understanding that everything you say and do needs to move things forward.

Are you being a blocker by shutting down other people’s thoughts and ideas without any effort to propel the conversation forward? Are you always implying you would’ve done it different, or better, without providing insights into what that might look like? Or, maybe you’re just absentee, failing to generate process by letting your employee’s ideas and work die on the vine?

I’ve often joked that I learned more from my background in theatre than I ever have in a business book when it comes to running a company. Maybe introducing a little “yes, and…” magic into your office will have you saying the same.

And, if not? Just make sure you continue doing everything you can to move “the scene” forward…

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