It’s Tuesday! (Improv in Business)

Make you partner look SUPER

Make you partner look SUPER

I want to continue looking at the huge changes going on in how business gets done, and why the biggest business authors out there today are urging you to the use improv principles in your business.

So let’s start with…

Principle #1: Make your partner look good
Business Reframe:
Your customers and associates are real people, not statistics or cogs – treat them as living, breathing, feeling individuals.
Who’s talking about it:
Gary Vaynerchuk, Guy Kawasaki, Keith Ferrazi and Chris Brogan (to name a few)

Quote from a big-wig who gets it:
“Listen to your users, absolutely!  Giving a shit about your users is way better….You need to care about everything”
Gary Vaynerchuk – New York Times Bestselling Author of “Crush It” and “The Thank You Economy”

When improvising a scene, you have to listen closely to your scene partners, you have to understand what they’re saying (and help them clarify it when you don’t), and you have to make what they say important. If you’re not listening, don’t understand what they said or make their insignificant, the scene wont build and won’t be interesting.

Sometimes you run into a player who’s just on stage to show off.  They’re generally very talented people – they might be especially witty, or do a great impression of some celebrity, or whatever. But they get so caught up in showing off how good they are that they miss what their partners are doing.  As a result the scene won’t build, won’t have any stakes, and won’t be enjoyable to watch.

But there’s another result…

That player won’t be fun to play with. Soon other players will stop playing with that person – it’s not fun to be a backdrop while someone else to show-boats.

This is true in business too.

Your partners are the people you do business with – clients, co-workers, vendors, board of directors, etc.

Make THEM look good and feel important.  Listen carefully to what they say, and participate in that conversation.

Maybe you’re negotiating with a vendor when they start talking about an upcoming vacation.  Take a few minutes to listen – that few minutes will pay dividends down the road.  Share something you’re looking forward to.

Maybe you’re making a sale, and your customer brings up a last minute concern.  Don’t gloss over it, or brush it aside.  Tell them “I can see why that would be an important concern, and here’s how we make sure it isn’t a problem”.  Acknowledge that you heard and understand them.  Explain specifically why your product or service addresses their unique concern.  If you can’t do that on the spot, promise to get an answer (or get someone else in your organization that has one) and get back them as soon as possible. DON’T try to close the deal until you’ve addressed their concern.  That extra effort could be the difference between a long term customer and a lost buyer who tells everyone they know about your encounter.

In the office, simple things like not checking your smart phone for email during meetings, personally wishing a coworker a happy birthday, ask about their kids by name – little things like this that make your co-workers look good and feel important.  Point out accomplishments, and be generous giving credit where credit is due.  Take credit when you get praised too, but acknowledge the others who made it possible – almost nothing in contemporary business is a solo effort.

Make you partners look good and feel important and clients will want to keep coming back. Co-workers will think of you first when new projects or higher-responsibility positions come up – and your workplace will be a much more enjoyable place.

But put people in the background of your spotlight, and pretty soon they won’t want to play with you.

Improv Exercise: It’s Tuesday!
The purpose of this is to react to someone with something beyond other than reserved cool, and make what they said important (often called “over-accepting”).

With a Practice Partner:
Have one person says something simple, maybe dull, or super obvious, like “It’s Tuesday”.  The other person reacts like whatever was said is very important. Go back and forth to see how it feels to have someone react to you like that.

Person 1: “It’s Tuesday”
Person 2: “Oh my God – that means today is the day you become President of the United States – we need to get you dressed!”

In the Real World:
Over-accept and react to what people say. A client mentions they’re running a 10k this weekend – tell them you think it’s great (and REALLY think it’s great) then ask them how long they’ve been training.  A co-worker mentions they just completed one step in a big project – congratulate and tell them you admire their determination and resilience.

Bonus Points:
Act before they speak – see a photo on their desk, list their birthday in your calendar, write down the date of their kids’ graduation.  Over-accept and react before they have to say anything.