Thursday, February 25, 2016

Finding improv and learning how to use it to enhance my leadership capabilities: Part 2

I wasn’t sure what to expect at my first improv class. I wondered about the people who would be there. Twelve people were in the room, more than I expected. Their ages ranged from 16 to late forties and their careers were diverse. There was a stand-up comedian and actor and that made sense for improv; But I didn’t anticipate a social worker, retired military, librarian, or educator in the class! Despite our varying backgrounds and being a mix of introverts and extroverts, we were all there for the similar reasons. Some were looking to be more creative in their work, others wanted to improve their public speaking or being comfortable with speaking in front of others and a few wanted to use improv to be more responsive and collaborative with others.

The class was very active. We started and ended every class with a physical group ice-breaker that focused on a communication or active listening skill. In improv, you learn the importance of thinking fast on your feet and reacting to your partner(s) in a scene. If you’re not listening and paying attention to your partner, the scene falls flat. In a work environment this translates into miscommunication that hinders the development of relationships with others. Throughout the four weeks the acronym CROW was reinforced in our classes. It stands for:

Character – Who are you in the scene and have you established that character for the audience?
Relation – What are the relationships between the people in the scene and does the audience understand them?
Objective – What’s the purpose of the scene? Does the audience understand the character’s objectives?
Where/When – Where does the whole scene take place? In the present, in the past, or in the future?

What’s nifty about CROW is that the focus areas highlighted with each word are transferable to your professional relationships and help to develop your leadership style. You can apply CROW at work by asking these questions?

Character – How well do the employees you work with or lead know your character? Have you made your objectives clear? Are you making sure people understand you?
Relation – How are you developing relationships with your team and coworkers? Do you greet people in the morning?  Do you try to understand them more than just for their work?
Objective – What’s the purpose or goal? Do people understand their roles and responsibilities? Are you actively listening to your team and your peers?
Where/When – Where are we at with project tasks? What problems do we anticipate?  What’s the project timeline?

At the end of the four classes I felt more creative and noticed I paid better attention to the body language of my classmates in scenes. I also applied this experience to the workplace by asking my colleagues clarifying questions when they share ideas and paying attention to their body language in addition to what they are saying. Taking an improv class was a fun and valuable experience, where I’ve shared some of what I learned with colleagues. At an offsite team meeting I used one of the ice breaker activities with our team.

And while you may not have the time to sign-up for an improv class, it's something you should consider in the future. You'll learn and have fun while doing it.

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