My bold personal move this fall was to enroll in a beginner’s improv class. I love it! The core principles of good improv have much in common with good coaching, good meetings and good management conversations. The life blood of improv is the ability of one person to fully hear and embrace what their partner(s) says – without dismissing the message or the intentions and emotions that are behind it.
An improv skit dies if one performer does not build on what their partner puts out there. The performers don’t seem competent, and the audience checks out. Unfortunately, it may not be as obvious when a workplace conversation has unraveled, and if we do see it, we do not understand the causes. A meeting may stay cordial, voices will continue to interject, but the quality and quantity of actual collective progress is diminished. We hear a lot of “yes, but….” as everyone operates in their own lane, fueled primarily by their own preexisting assumptions and ideas rather than by peer contributions. If we don’t build on each other’s current thinking, with the “yes, and…” philosophy of improv, then collaboration erodes and decisions do not align.
I challenge you to explicitly validate colleagues more often, even if you agree with only part of their viewpoint. If you can say, “Yes, and…” instead of “Yes, but…” you will actually stay in meaningful conversations longer, until more is learned, more is accomplished and more is agreed upon.