Here is a guest post I wrote for the aptly-named site, Work Awesome. I hope you enjoy it!
Last fall, after putting off going to my first Toastmaster’s meeting for the umpteenth time, I decided to enroll in an improv comedy class. I had been watching Whose Line is it Anyway? and thought to myself, “Why can’t I think off the cuff and engage in witty banter like those guys on the show?” So, on the first day of class, I girded up my loins and forced myself to actually attend.
I knew I wouldn’t become the next Will Ferrell or Tina Fey, but I figured it would help me to round out my public speaking skills. What I didn’t anticipate, however, was that it would provide so many valuable lessons that could be applied to a professional environment.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that anyone who wants to become more effective in the workplace could benefit from taking a whirl at improv.
Here are the top six lessons from improv that can help advance your career.
1. Observe and Listen
This is one of the foundational rules of improv. In essence, to be able to react effectively to your scene partners, you have to be completely attentive to their words and actions.
So, as opposed to thinking about what you are going to say next or wondering what interesting tidbit your vibrating smartphone is tempting you to read, your task is to give the other person your full attention.
The benefits of this approach in interactions with colleagues are pretty obvious. By taking this lesson into the workplace and being intentional about staying present with your co-workers, they will feel more understood and valued.
In turn, this will encourage them to return the favor by being more attentive to you. Further, by staying present you will be able to gather more information, including concrete data like specific facts and more subtle information like nonverbal reactions and group dynamics.
Read the rest of the post here:
My last two posts have been about relationships, and this is my last post in the series I did for MindBodyGreen. If you’ve been following the my last few articles, you now know how to communicate effectively and have some relationship resolutions that can improve the quality of your interactions.
Still, we all make mistakes. We might do something we shouldn’t have or, perhaps we accidentally develop foot-in-mouth disease and wish we could take back our words. So, how do you own up for your wrongdoings and get your relationship back on track? How do you say you’re sorry so that the other person knows how much you mean it? Apologizing can feel uncomfortable, but it is necessary to maintain our relationships. This post will help you out by giving you some tips that can make your apologies run more smoothly. And, while I wrote it with personal relationships in mind, all of the information applies to business relationships as well.
Now you’ve done it. Despite your best intentions, you dropped the ball in some way. You feel remiss, and want to apologize for the action or inaction you’ve taken (or not taken) to disappoint.
Maybe you were too optimistic about what you could accomplish, and you missed an important deadline. Or, you blurted out something hurtful to a loved one. Or maybe you betrayed a close friend.
So how do you best own up to your mistake and make sure the other person knows how sorry you are? How do you apologize with strength, with integrity, while also showing vulnerability and compassion?
Take a deep breath and get ready. Here are some tried and true tips to make amends …
As you know, I truly believe that a holistic approach to life and work is most important. If your personal life is going well, that supports your success at work. However, if you are having relationship challenges, that can spillover into your work life, and make it more difficult to perform at your peak.
With that in mind, I recently wrote an article on MindBodyGreen with a very practical tip that will help you to strengthen your relationship. And, while I wrote it with romantic relationships in mind, the truth is, it will bolster your work relationships as well. I hope you enjoy it!
When most of my clients want to improve their communication skills at home or at work, they focus on how to better handle conflict. They want to have more empathy, to avoid being critical, or to make sure they don’t shut down when hearing uncomfortable information from loved ones or coworkers. They want to “fight fair,” to get all the issues out on the table without getting defensive, and to listen attentively in the process.
And let’s face it: all of these behaviors are truly important for navigating our interactions with others. After all, when two people, with two distinct life histories, engage with one another, differences in opinion arise. Handling these difficulties well could be the difference between a successful resolution and a knock down, dragged-out fight.
However, while arguments and conflict tend to get a lot of airplay because of how dramatic and emotionally-laden they can be, research suggests that you are making a mistake if you don’t also pay attention to how you respond to your partner’s good news.
In fact, psychologist Dr. Shelly Gable argues that how we respond to each other in good times can serve as a barometer of the health of the relationship, and that it can better predict the quality of the relationship than our reactions to bad news.
So, how should you respond to your partner’s good news? Gable suggests there are four possible ways to react. See if you see yourself in any of the responses to the scenario below…
While many might think it is a pretty basic skill, I have found that listening is a common developmental opportunity amongst the executives with whom I work. Think of it – a lot of high achievers are results-oriented drivers, and with that often comes high urgency, impatience, and sometimes a certain degree of stubbornness. Thus, developing better listening skills is an important way for many individuals to become more effective both on-and-off the job.
Last month, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Ann Brown of The Network Journal, on some practical strategies for being a more effective listener. Read on for some tips:
Being a good listener is vital in business. Listening is an important skill in business because it is an essential communication tool. People are so busy thinking about what they will say next, that they fail to listen effectively. Those who can listen well can develop better relationships and eliminate misunderstandings and miscommunication,” explains Frederick J. Goodall, publisher of Mocha Dad and Mocha Man Style.
But for some being a good listener doesn´t come naturally. It is a skill that has to be learned and practiced.
First, determine if you are a poor listener. “Do people tell you you don’t listen? Even if the feedback is from your significant other, and you are prone to dismiss it, at least consider the possibility that this quality may manifest itself at work as well,” says Patricia Thompson, author of “The Consummate Leader: a Holistic Guide to Inspiring Growth in Others…and in Yourself” and president of Silver Lining Psychology.
You’ve finally done it. After years spent working long hours, perfecting your craft, and proving your worth on big projects, you’ve earned the title of your dreams. You are now officially Mr. or Ms. Bigwig. You bask in the glow of your momentous achievement, thinking of all the wonderful things you are going to accomplish, now that you are responsible for a team of people who will help you to shake things up for the company and bring acclaim to your area. You sit in your new office, feet on the desk, fantasizing about the ways that you will impact corporate America.
A few months pass. The brass nameplate you purchased for your desk is losing a bit of its luster. You reflect on how leading people isn’t quite all that it seemed cracked up to be. You have found that they require more hand-holding than you would have anticipated. And, then there is the issue of getting them excited about things. For example, your last meeting that you were convinced would rally the troops and inspire them to soar to new heights was met with a lukewarm response. “What is wrong with these people?” you wonder, lamenting about how you inherited a team of unmotivated and ungrateful sloths. So, you pore over books of management techniques and consider how to artfully craft your next message in a way that will finally get them to listen to you so you can accomplish the aggressive goals set by your boss. All the while, you overlook the sad truth that I’m about to discreetly reveal to you…
“It’s not them…it’s you.”
Yes, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but your leadership style is playing a key role in the results you’re getting (or not getting). But I’m here to help. Read on for five of the potential reasons for your unenviable predicament.
1. You have a blind spot the size of a trucker
You know that annoying quality your significant other and friends keep telling you about that you keep dismissing? It’s actually true. And, it doesn’t just affect you at home, it also rears its ugly head in the workplace. I hate to break it to you, but it comes up even more frequently now that you are constantly under all the stress associated with your new highfaluting job. Your strategy of thinking that if you just ignore it, it will go away, simply isn’t working.
Takeaway: It’s time to get serious about understanding yourself – your strengths, your weaknesses, and everything in-between, and doing something about it. If you don’t, it could derail you. Seriously.
2. You want to look like you know everything
Now that you are a leader, you think you are expected to have all the answers. So, instead of putting yourself in situations in which you can continue to stretch yourself and learn, you are concerned with looking good. You try to avoid being vulnerable by avoiding experiences that could make you look less than fully competent, and you might even stretch the truth a little to make yourself look better. However, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Instead of truly becoming a knowledgeable and high-powered leader, you to stay stagnant and underachieve relative to your potential, because you aren’t getting the valuable opportunities that will help you to develop. Plus, the people who report to you have learned that taking risks isn’t valued, and so they shy away from innovation or sharing unique ideas.
Takeaway: Want opportunities to learn and grow? Humility and a willingness to be vulnerable go a long way!
3. You are about as authentic as a designer knock-off
You have a sense of what leaders are “supposed” to be like, and so that is the person you aim to be. That engaging sense of humor you possess? You squelch it so you can appear more “presidential.” Your opinion about how the newest company initiative is likely going to go over like a lead balloon amongst people of your demographic? You keep it to yourself, for fear that others might not like what you have to say. Your people see that you aren’t advocating for them, and so, they don’t feel a need to go out on a limb for you. Instead of earning your seat at the table, you have become an empty suit taking up space, nodding your head as the “Yes-man” you think you should be. This causes others to see you as agreeable, perhaps, but definitely not as someone who adds value.
Takeaway: If you truly want to be a leader, you must embrace your authenticity. Authentic leaders set the tone for their people to bring their unique perspectives to the table and increase their odds of being valued for their own contributions.
4. You’re an island
“Work is work,” you say to yourself, “I’m not here to make friends.” You view relationship-building as schmoozing, and pride yourself on never sinking to such superficial lows. Because you think your competence should speak for itself, you focus intensely on charging through your to-do list, without placing any attention on the interpersonal side of things. You have overlooked the fact that people are more prone to be influenced by people they actually like. And, since you haven’t made personal connections, you find you’re having a hard time getting people to consider your perspectives. You lead your people the same way – you don’t have time to waste on “touchy-feely” crap when you are all paid to drive the business forward. Your people hate the culture you have set, because instead of feeling like well-rounded people with hopes, dreams, emotions, and needs for personal connection, they feel more like factory workers pressured to increase the rate at which they are manufacturing widgets.
Takeaway: Work gets done through people. Building relationships will build a sense of camaraderie and teamwork that complements getting tasks done.
5. You’re a miserable person
The initial surge of joy you experienced over your promotion has reverted back to your more typical neutral to crabby response. You have devoted so much time to your work that you are neglecting your hobbies and interests that bring you happiness. You overlook the fact that people tend to produce better results when they are experiencing positive emotions. And, because you don’t realize that leaders’ moods are particularly contagious, you are unaware that your attitude is frequently the source of the sourpuss faces with which you are often greeted in the office, and the associated suboptimal performance.
Takeaway: Research shows that positive emotions are conducive to more effectiveness in work in a variety of areas. Taking the time to foster positivity in the workplace will make your area more successful.