On Monday, I went LIVE on facebook where I talked about the improv saying, “everything is a gift”. If you missed it, check out the replay below.
Here's the recap:
I’ve been reflecting lately on an important improv saying: “everything is a gift.”
Notice the expression does NOT say, “there are gifts.”
EVERYTHING, friends. Everything is a gift.
Even explosions of tension and confrontation are gifts, despite the fact that we often refer to those moments as “the straw that broke the camel’s back”... or something unmentionable hitting the fan. ;)
We use these expressions to talk about a breaking point before a confrontation. But if we truly believe everything is a gift, let's help ourselves with some better imagery for that experience. I'd like to offer this:
the last strike on a piñata.
When that final strike causes the piñata to break, little gifts fall for everyone to enjoy. Good things come from productive confrontations, even if there is tension and stress leading up to it!
This metaphor also leads to the observation that once the piñata breaks, the kids don't all leave with the same thing! There are many different opportunities that fall out of a confrontation piñata - you might not get the same one as someone else, but BOTH are gifts.
It's noteworthy that the exact same gift can feel like a treasure or a weapon depending on whether or not we found it or someone else is trying to give it to us. When we do the work ourselves and find the gift in the middle of our difficult situation - it feels like a treasure. But the same "treasure" can feel horrible to hear from someone else depending on the situation.
Sometimes the confrontation piñata gives us the opportunity to learn something very specific about ourselves, or identify a way in which our own attitudes, believes and behaviors must change. Those gifts are especially hard to receive from someone else.
This is why making a habit of self reflection is so important. The best note is a note you can give yourself, as we say in improv. If we're not doing the work - if we're struggling through a tense, frustrating or unpleasant situation, it's inevitable that someone will try to help you find the gift. Most colleagues won't let someone stay feeling mad and visibly wilting for too long without addressing it.
Explore this idea with me. What if people don't offer adages or optimistic notes it to be mean, condescending or cliché? What if they simply don't want you to be the kid at the party who's distracted by the sadness of the piñata breaking and doesn't notice all the good stuff that just came out of it? What if it's more painful to watch you not find a gift than to risk the conversation of offering it to you?
Just sit with it, even if it doesn't resonate right now! Everyone's work situation is different, but regardless of your specific office dynamic, doing the work of finding our own gifts in a hard situation helps us cultivate more peace and beauty in our lives.
When the piñata breaks, we get a choice.
It's my hope that you hold space for your feelings about the piñata, and then move on to the candy! Be on the lookout for your gifts today, friends. They are all around you.
The Art of Confrontation™
If you haven't heard, &Beyond is launching our first-ever online course, the Art of Confrontation™, which is designed to promote a more peaceful, collaborative, and communicative office environment using insight and skills from Improv! For more information and enrollment, clickhere! Register by October 1st to receive a $50 discount.
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Your scene partner can't surprise you if you don't give them the chance!
That's one of the many things we talked about in yesterday's webinar. Maybe this is a reminder you need today!
It's easy to fall into the habits and routines of a narrative that is unproductive - especially with our co-workers with whom we have limited interaction.
Let today be the day you hit the refresh button! Give someone who bothers you the chance to show you that those annoying things they do are just little pieces of a larger whole.
"Your scene parter is a creative genius." That is one of my all time favorite improv sayings. Give the scene partners in your life the opportunity to show you their brilliance! It's there, even if you don't always see it. We **all** need grace for the journey.
Happy improvising today, friends!
"Bloom where you're planted."
It's a delightful expression! ...but I totally know what it feels like to be planted in an environment that is less than ideal for blossoming. Maybe you do too?
It's tempting when we're in a turbulent season of life to think the best thing we can do is just stay quiet, mind our own business and not "make it worse."
But the truth is quite the contrary! Learning to navigate confrontation is KEY to thriving in a tough situation, and ultimately helping bring more peace and calm to others as well. There's one thing in particular most people do when confrontation is ahead - and that one thing is at the epicenter of why their confrontations don't pan out how they want them to.
Confrontation can be the thing that propels you forward personally AND professionally. It touches every essential area of thriving amidst turbulence: communication, collaboration, self advocacy and boundary setting!
For more on this, join us on 9/4 at 12:15pm for a FREE 30-minute webinar that will teach you what this one important shift is, and how to get started changing your experience with confrontation. Register here.
Honoring your scene partner as a creative genius is a fundamental part of improv - it's also a fundamental part of building healthy relationships personally and professionally. Good communication, productive confrontation and natural collaboration live and die on whether or not you're honoring your scene partner! But it does beg the question... what happens when my scene partner is a JERK?!
Listen - I totally get it! I've been there too, as have many (if not all) of my clients. Here are some things that can help when you're in a situation like this:
And one final point -- sometimes the best way to honor a creative genius is not to collaborate with them. There are times when the best way to serve everyone's highest good is to part ways. This is not quitting or giving up - it's trusting that there's another creative genius out there who can build with this person, and it's creating space for that to happen.
If you'd like to hear more about handling confrontation in a way that sets you up for growing as a professional and advancing your career, I am offering a FREE 30-minute webinar on September 4th! More info and registration here.
If you want the dreamwork from your teamwork, shifting the way you think about and handle confrontation is a GREAT place to get started. Yesterday, I led a workshop at Rivers Club in downtown Pittsburgh (gorgeous space, by the way!). We talked about how YOU can get started transforming your team - regardless of your role - into a powerhouse of collaboration and innovation using strategies found in improv.
Here's a nugget from that workshop: confrontation is the single most important thing you can do to preserve the Spirit of Play.
Conflict arises naturally when teams are growing and/or changing. It's not necessarily anyone's "fault," and it doesn't have to be a bad thing! I encourage all of my clients to commit to thinking of confrontation as a GIFT rather than a negative thing.
Here's some advice to help confrontation be the jumping off place that helps create an ecosystem for your team to do bigger and better innovating:
Step 1: Go into every confrontation with a sincere mindset that says "I am valid. You are valid. We are equally valid." Do not confront until you truly view the other person as an equal: sometimes that means you need to breathe through feelings of self-righteousness and condescension, and other times it means you need to breathe through feelings of unworthiness or imposter syndrome. Either way: do that work before confront.
Step 2: Go in with curiosity. Listen with curiosity and with your full attention. Listen like you believe this person is a creative genius and that brilliance is undoubtedly about to come out of their mouth. Don't listen to plan a rebuttal, or to simply wait for your turn to talk.
Step 3: Maintain a careful and purposeful balance between times when you are listening, and times when you are adding information. When it's your turn to add your information, do it with equal parts: honesty, clarity and kindness. If your offering of information is not in alignment between these three things, it will not be receivable. Communication is receiver oriented, so if you want the optimal outcome from this conversation, you have to make sure the other person is able to understand and work with what you're saying.
This is a good jumping off point! This is a high level over view. I have a full workshop that can be delivered as a 90-minute or 1/2 day experience for teams that are looking for a deeper dive into this content. If that sounds meaningful, let's talk! You can schedule time with me by clicking the button below!
I’ve had the pleasure of talking with several intrepreneur leaders lately. These are innovators who are charged with leading creative teams within large companies – in this case, corporations with global reach and brand recognition. There are serious pros to being an intrepreneur! Reliable pay checks, competitive benefits packages, and the lack of folks asking you to come in on a Saturday and paint your own office (<-- this is a real thing from my past in the start up scene! Ha!).
But there are draw backs too. Intrepreneurs often feel the strain of being creative within a culture that is defined by a higher up who doesn’t fully understand the needs of a creative department. Once a critical mass has expectations from a brand, it’s harder to adjust course. It takes a lot of buy in from a lot of people to ear mark available funds for creative solutions that are less familiar to decision makers.
If this sounds familiar, try this on for size: improv is essentially comedic innovation that happens in front of a live audience. Implementing these 3 improv-inspired rules will prop up the spirit of innovation in your department despite some of the well-intended measures that may be holding your team back.
1. This team listens with curiosity. Introduce ways for your team to explore each other’s ideas rather than shooting them down if it’s not immediately clear how an idea is practical. Sometimes well-meaning people shoot down the very ideas that could propel the whole team forward, because they’re trying to be practical. But we don’t get amazing results with ho hum ideas, so it’s VERY important that teams who want to innovate learn to explore first and rationalize second. Choosing curiosity over judgement is a core improv skill, because it’s the only way new ideas can thrive quickly.
2. No Martyr Policy. When we do more than our share, we inadvertently tell our teammates that we don’t trust them… and we slowly get resentful and burned out. Everyone loses. Charna Halpern says in her book Truth in Comedy, “A good improviser knows when he’s not needed on stage.” When we commit not to be martyrs, we give each other opportunities to shine.
3. Stay present in the current moment. Innovation happens right now, in this moment. Innovation is a process, not a destination. In order to innovate, we have to be listening RIGHT NOW, moment by moment. Right now is where the solvable problems are being voiced. Right now is where the sprits of creativity are asking to be engaged to do something that’s never been done before. If you’re too busy trying to prove you’re the smartest person in the room, or worrying about something that’s not in the here and now, you’ll miss the boat!
When these behaviors become ingrained in a culture, collaboration starts to happen naturally, and can produce results that exceed what any one person could have done alone. This is the Yes And effect, and it gives teams boundless potential. The best part is that these changes happen on an individual level – they don’t require huge structural change.
Happy innovating, intrepreneurs!
PS:You don’t have to do this alone. Improv has made a big difference for lots of intrepreneurs, and it can make a difference for your team too. Let’s talk!
People often ask me what to do about party poopers. "What should I do if **I** am bought in to the Yes, And Workplace Mentality, but someone else isn't... and that someone is subtly sabotaging my best efforts to create a more collaborative environment?"
Here's the advice I most recently gave:
Listen with Curiosity. The good news is that this is entirely up to you. You don't need anyone's approval or cooperation in order to do this. If you listen like this person may still have something to teach you, despite their wet-rag demeanor, you are opening the door to new possibilities. Listening with curiosity is a core improv skill - it's essential for successful scene work. You cannot collaborate with someone you are judging. You cannot attract their best creativity, or get a glimpse at their best side if you don't believe it exists. If you treat this person like a creative genius, or at least like someone who's ideas are worthwhile, you are creating space for magic.
Here's what I tell every client and participant I interact with: we cannot sense everything that is true. The difficult people at work are more just the bad parts of themselves. Finding ways to access their good parts takes effort, but it's worth doing if we want to experience the kind of growth that only comes from high-level collaboration.
If you want a deeply engaged and motivated team, there's not any substitution for creating a highly collaborative environment. There's nothing else that can generate the commitment, creativity and RESULTS you can expect from people who are in an organically collaborative space. It's totally possible, and it starts with YOU.
So if you want to be the change in your office, I challenge you to commit to listening with curiosity this week. Make this commitment and think about it every morning before you head into the office:
This is how you give people - even people you don't like - the opportunity to surprise you. This is how you invite people to be more engaged, and raise the bar a bit. If you make this a habit, good things will happen.
Improvising the Office is now &Beyond! We rolled out all new branding at the Pittsburgh Business Show this week! We have a new look, several new programs and the same passion for bringing people together to create environments that are safe for bold ideas!
It was awesome to connect with so many really passionate HR professionals about using improv as a tool for facilitating "Powerful and Impressive Teamwork."
We offered 30 minute improv workshop samples where they could see first-hand how non-improvisers connect with this content deliver method. It's SO MUCH FUN, and creates truly meaningful opportunities for groups to connect with each other and create really awesome stuff together. If you're in HR, let's connect!
I had the pleasure of talking with a serial entrepreneur friend of mine recently. He has had a couple of successful exits, and is dreaming up his next project. During our meeting, he asked me if it’s okay to hire developers who may not share the spiritual mission-focus of his next big project.
My answer was an emphatic NO.
I understand completely why many founders are tempted to do this. Hiring for talent regardless of vision-alignment is a natural trap to fall into. It happens because the vision of the company is abstract and intangible, and whether or not someone can build an app is very concrete.
There’s an idea out there that only certain people at the company- usually the C-Level leaders- need to be visionary, and others just need to be told what to do.
That is, after all, what most companies do. But guess what – most companies don’t achieve stratospheric, mind-blowing success! In fact, many companies don't come anywhere near stratospheric, mind blowing success... instead they fall into permanent mediocrity with disengaged employees who are either actively sabotaging the company or are monotonously passing their time before the next opportunity comes along (…or until retirement!)
Here’s what I want to share with every client, founder, entrepreneur or business owner I come into contact with: the WHY of your company is a POWERFUL TOOL that can propel it forward if you are clear on what it is, and commit to it whole heartedly. Not only can the WHY attract clients and customers, it can also energize and motivate the people on your team to bring forward their best ideas, to push a little harder and question/disrupt broken and outdated systems that are holding you back.
But it doesn’t happen with 40% commitment.
Leadership has to do more than pay lip service to the bigger picture in order to give the WHY power to propel the company forward. If folks who are talented but unconvinced of the vision are allowed to stay, what ensues is what I call “subtle sabotage.” They may not mean to, but team members who aren’t bought into the vision will introduce doubt, which will decrease energy and introduce unnecessary friction and resentment. Slowly more and more employees will disengage and before you know it: even the leadership is losing sight of the vision.
This is a sad, sad thing! It doesn’t have to be this way.
Culture shift is completely possible, but it takes a commitment to get clear on WHY your company is on this Earth, and then a commitment to hire/fire accordingly. Firing someone is no small thing – it is painful for the company, the team and the person getting fired. It’s a last resort without a doubt, but if a teammate cannot align behind the bigger picture, there’s no other choice if your company has meaningful growth aspirations.
So if my friend took nothing else from our conversation, my hope is that he will start his next venture with total clarity on the bigger picture, and that each team member he hires - regardless of job title - will be totally aligned behind that vision.
Looking to shift the culture in your office? There's no reason to do it alone - you don't have to! Let's talk! If I'm not the one who can help, I'll gladly connect you with someone who can.
Here are three important tips for successful composting:
I’m tempted to end the post here, and leave you guessing… but I’ll elaborate.
Earlier this week I had the honor of speaking on a panel at the Spark Conference with the likes of Rich Lunak of Innovation Works and John Dick of Civic Science. The talk was about how theaters can behave more like tech startups.
While giving my background at the beginning of the discussion, I said something that, upon further consideration, I realized is not true. In referencing my first entrepreneurial endeavor, Share Closet, I told attendees “It’s in the Pittsburgh startup graveyard.”
(Images below are from Startup Weekend 2013 - Share Closet took 1st place.)
I said it that way to offer a playful nod to the fact that startup culture leaves a lot of room for appreciating failure.
But Share Closet isn’t in a grave yard. It’s not dead and buried somewhere on a hillside. The skills, lessons and relationships developed through that experience are the rich soil in which my current business - and life - are firmly rooted and thriving.
Share Closet went into the compost bin.
The longer I’ve sat with this metaphor, the more significant and meaningful it’s become to me.
A grave yard houses memories. A compost bin houses an active process of taking something who’s moment has passed, and making it extremely useful in a new capacity. What’s in the compost bin is more than a memory… it is fuel for something new!
I’ve heard the expression “fail fast, fail often” more times than I can count. The experience of failure is nearly ubiquitous for seasoned entrepreneurs. If you’re never failing, you’re not innovating… and if you’re not innovating, you’re on the fast track to becoming irrelevant!
Despite our theoretical comfort with failure, I think it’s important for entrepreneurs to make sure they do more than commemorate, celebrate and find camaraderie in their past ventures or failed projects.
COMPOST THAT SHIT!
Improv is all about building on what already exists, rolling with what may seem like a mistake on the surface and recycling information given early on in the show to create delightfully placed callbacks. My experience as an improviser helped view the experience of Share Closet's rise and fall through a lens of curiosity and exploration rather than simply feeling proud of myself for trying, or appreciating the happy memories (of which there are SO many, and I am eternally grateful).
In case you're not an improviser, let’s revisit the tips above and apply them to the metaphorical process of composting failure!
When you’re composting failure, your attitude and mindset shifts around that experience. Mining those past experiences for nutrient-rich fuel (rather than just commemorating what was good/accepting that it happens to everyone) is the best way to accelerate to success.
PS: Improv is a very helpful and fun framework for practicing metaphorical compost in real life. When companies compost well, they get better results of collaboration, better cross-departmental communication and a deeper level of engagement with employees. Creating a culture that composts well is hard work, but it's totally possible. And YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO IT ALONE! Contact me for help - I'd love to talk with you.