In some of the work I do, I facilitate workplace seminars on how to create great team and organizational cultures. In fact, I’m scheduled to be teaching a degree course at Schulich Business School on Business Communications and Team Dynamics later this year. One of the simple communication ideas that goes a long way towards building a team culture that enables and encourages its members finds its origins in improv—“Yes, and…”
In the improv world, one actor throws an idea to another. The second actor has to receive the idea and build on it. The moment the second actor denies the first’s idea – even if that denial gets a big laugh – the scene is dead. The strategy is for the second actor to accept the idea and build on it in a way that could take it in another direction, or introduce a new thought, or otherwise enhance the realm of possibilities. In other words, “yes, and…”
It’s so easy to find objections to an idea that someone else has. We seem to have a knack for quickly uncovering deficiencies and weaknesses. In fact, many people build themselves up by knocking others down even if their (nominal) intentions are beneficent. In doing so, those people may, in fact, be correct. They may derive personal benefit from being that person who is fastest with the “yes, but…” But the “scene” – the team dynamic – is dead.
As you might expect, I liken this to dance experiences. Successful and enjoyable partner dancing is all about creating “yes, and…” opportunities. These are situations where your partner either leads or responds to a lead in a particular way that is not what the other person expects. The (usually more experienced) dancer can respond in a way that is “yes, but…” They can correct (almost always a no-no dance-stopper), they can display their disapproval (ditto), or they can treat the other person with condescension as the newbie they are. All of these kill the scene.
Alternatively, the more experienced dancer can create a “yes, and…” situation. They can acknowledge what their partner has done and create a way to enhance it, to allow it to flow back into what appears to be a seamless dance. As they likely are familiar with a wide variety of variations on foundational moves, their repertoire enables them to bring considerable versatility to the particular dance. “Yes, and…” creates rather than kills, enables rather than prevents, and encourages rather than criticizes. When you go out to your next social, look for “yes, and…” opportunities as we…
See you on the dance floor.