Thursday, February 18, 2016

Finding improv and learning how to use it to enhance my leadership capabilities: Part 1

When you hear the word improv, also referred to as improvisation, leadership probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.Instead you probably think of the show, “Who’s Line is it Anyway,” or the famous improv group “Second City”. Maybe you’re familiar with famous artists like Bill Murray, Steve Carroll, Wayne Brady, or Tina Fey, who all got their start in improv.

You don’t just have to be a comedian, actor or entertainer to reap the benefits from improv. These days we’re all challenged to bring our ‘A’ game to work. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a stage in front of a few hundred people or leading a team of seven, there’s a need for all of us to be innovative and creative! In my role as a communications consultant I write a lot. It’s not just sharing information, I’m telling stories. In managing an online community at Aetna I’m focused on understanding our audience’s leadership and professional development needs and providing content that resonates with them while also helping them be better and more effective leaders. Keeping topics interesting and fresh for audiences can be a daunting process, especially when creative ideas dry up and writer’s block sets in. I’m always looking for inspiration and it’s not in the places I expect to find it.

Last year, I attended Content Marketing World conference, an event focused on helping communications and marketing professionals be better storytellers. I sat in on a session entitled, “Improv Rules for Creating Award Winning Content.”  Tim Washer, senior marketing manager for Cisco and a former comedian and executive producer for “The Stephen Colbert Show” and “Saturday Night Live” was the presenter. His session shared four key
principles of improv that people can use to be funnier and more creative with their corporate material. They include:

  • Listening – As simple as this seems, it is probably one of the most difficult skills to master. Listening will free you from having to think of what you are going to say a head of time.
  • Relationship – The scene is always about the relationship, not things or what you are doing. Make the scene focus on the relationship.
  • Point of View, Opinion & Intention – Enter a scene with a point of view, opinion or intention… let these drive your character and response.
  • Make Active Choices – Do something, don’t be a talking head. Do something but don’t make the scene about that something.
His humorous presentation engaged the audience and gave examples of how you can be funny (even in the corporate world). Believe it or not, even executives like a good laugh. During the Q&A session attendees wanted concrete ways they could learn to be funny. His advice? Take an improv class! I decided to look into a class and after a few tweets and Twitter mentions from Tim, I signed up for an intro to improv class with Sea Tea Improv, located in downtown Hartford, Connecticut.

In my next post, I’ll share what I learned from my four-week "Intro to Improv" course with Sea Tea Improv.

Have you taken an improv, public speaking or acting class to help you be more creative?


ChaChanna said...

I used to go to an Improv class in Stamford but they have since stopped doing them. It is so much fun, and I actually want to start it again so I can become a better speaker. It is true the executives want to laugh too. Business doesn't have to be so boring and stale. I look forward to hearing about your experience.

Aaliyah Miller said...

Thanks Chachanna.