Improv-ing Your Business

If you attended the Conference Kick-Off featuring improv from “They Improv” or hit up the session, “Leadership on the Fly – From Your Business to Any Boardroom” by Maura Neill and Paula Rocco Monthofer (or both), you might be considering whether improv has a place in your life.

What exactly can improv teach us and how can we use it in our business or at our boards? 

An improv note that reads "Bruce Springsteen"

They Improv was truly amazing to watch. The quick wit of the players in the fast-paced, always changing scenarios was impressive. The Leadership on the Fly class featured a Heads Up game, a three-headed expert (and double three-headed expert) exercise, and an annoying positive, “Yes, And …” game where two people go back and forth conversing, but starting each sentence with, you guessed it, “yes, and …”

Here’s what I picked up:

Learn to think on your feet.

Let me be clear: This does not mean you need to have an answer for every query. What it does mean is that you need to be able to respond quickly. If you don’t know an answer, let them know you want to “do a little more research” or “double-check with your broker” or any other ‘buying a little time’ excuse. Be sure when you buy that extra time, you get an answer as quickly as possible.

Don’t be afraid of the onomatopoeia card

Some of the cards we are dealt in work and life are easy. When Bruce Springsteen comes up in a Heads-Up game, everyone knows he’s “the boss”. One to three clues max on this one and you’re done. When you pull a tough card, say the word, “onomatopoeia”, and only one person on your team kind of knows what that means, embrace it! The tough stuff is what brings you closer as a team, helps you grow, and everyone learns something new.

Think about what you will leave behind

The three-headed expert exercise, in which three people talk as one person, forces us to think ahead and anticipate what the other person will say. In addition to thinking ahead, you should try to think behind. Did you set the next person up for greatness? Leaders inherit all of the good, bad, and ugly from the leader that came before. Salespeople are often the 2nd, 3rd or 4th agent who work with a consumer, and eventually take them to close. Handling what you’ve inherited from the person before can be an exercise in patience and grace. Sometimes, we have to continue their work, even if we are not 100% on board with the idea. Think about what you will leave behind for the next leader. 

Remain positive and open

Listening isn’t enough. Leaders and salespeople need to remain positive, even when it feels weird. The “yes, and…” exercise, where each person starts a sentence with the words, “yes, and …” keeps the conversation moving in a positive and open direction, like it or not. Being open doesn’t mean you agree with every idea, but it shows respect and consideration for the other person. 

Take these games and exercises home to your sales teams, office pals, boards, and others. Get association staff involved too! You’ll laugh a lot, learn more about each other, and grow as a team.