Monday, January 21, 2008

Improv and Teamwork

My brother is an actor living in Brooklyn, NY. He often participates in plays and improv theatrical sessions. We were talking yesterday about how intricate the teamwork principle is when he is performing with an improv group. After a few minutes of discussion, I realized there were some very valuable lessons to be considered I picked up a pen.

Lesson One: It’s not about you. Although you are on the team, it’s never really about you. It’s about making everyone else look good. When you do your part and your intention is to be there for the other team members, then everyone is a star. It’s not your job to get the limelight, to get the last word or deliver the funniest line. It’s your job to make everyone else look good. When you focus on yourself, you do so at the expense of the team.

Lesson Two: Go with the flow. In improv, you never know what the other person will do, so it’s easy to get thrown off guard. When you are caught off guard, the natural response is to resist instead of looking for agreement. When you are used to being in control it’s difficult to let go. If you are in a position of power you are used to planning and facilitating but you forget what it’s like to participate. It’s easy to ask others to step up but when you go with the flow you become a participant instead of the controller.

Lesson Three: Trust is paramount. In order to have a great team you must trust that your team members are there for you. They will rescue you when you stumble, they will catch you when you fall. After all, they also believe in the philosophy that it’s not about them, but it is about making you look good. What goes around comes around. The end result is a great customer experience and in improv the audience is the customer.

Lesson Four: Growth takes courage. In order to learn something new we have to be willing to leave our comfort zone momentarily and that takes the courage to risk. When you believe that everyone on your team has your best interests at heart, and that you will not be judged your capacity for courage is maximized. You can only risk when you have trust, when you have learned to go with the flow, you let go of judgment, and when you’ve been on the giving and receiving end of the philosophy that “it isn’t about you."

Its striking how similar these messages are for so many of the companies and organizations I speak to regularly. The truth is...these themes are applicable in every aspect of our lives, both professionally and privately.

Thanks bro!