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Learn from a Leader: Leadership Lessons from Improv

There’s a concept in improv comedy called “Yes, and…” It’s used to introduce new topics or scenarios. The performers agree to the premise before expanding on it.

But there’s more to it than just saying “Yes, and…” The key to making the concept work is letting go of expectations in that moment. Performers shouldn’t use “Yes, and…” to shoehorn their preconceived idea into the skit because the outcome is never very good. In fact, Jonni Ressler, improv comedian and CEO of Eleven 11 Solutions, says often it leads to confusion.

Performers need to drop their expectations of what they thought would happen on stage and be open to what is happening in the moment. And here’s where we find a business and leadership correlation. 

Leaders can create confusion when they incorrectly apply the “Yes, and…” technique. For example, let’s say you call your team together for a brainstorming session. But you already know which direction you want to go. Using “yes, and…” to steer the ideas toward the one you’ve already chosen creates confusion. You said it was a brainstorming session, but it really isn’t and now your team is trying to figure out what’s really going on.

You can make a plan. You can have an idea of where you want to go. That’s part of being prepared but you might be surprised at how much further you’ll get when you are able to drop your expectation, shelve your ideas and work with the situation, people and scenarios that are playing out right in front of you.

Get more leadership insights from our Learn from a Leader featured guests on YouTube.

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