Inspire Improv & Coaching Inc

Transforming cultures through communication and connection.

Inspire Improv & Coaching

Filtering by Tag: professional development

Support Your Competition, Enhance Your Culture


I recently competed in my first tug of war competition. I was in the Adirondacks, for a bachelorette weekend, which also happened to be the Tupper Lake Woodsmen’s Days. We were outsiders and showed up completely unprepared (most of us were wearing sandals), but with all the gusto in the world, we registered to compete in the tug of war competition.

Immediately upon signing up, a woman from a competing team came up to us, giving us all the tips we could handle, strategy, what order to line up in and how our own extra team members could support us best. We’d be competing against the reigning champion for the past 10 years, Team Rope Burn, and she wanted to help us have the best chance possible to succeed. It was time, we were pumped up and also fully ready to fall face first in the dirt.

What happened next was incredible, not only did we have our “screamers” (those teammates whose job is to coach from the side), but this much more experienced team rallied around us as well. The energy of our own team putting in our all, plus the unexpected full support of our competition, cheering, coaching and well, screaming, was incredible. We didn’t win, but we did get third place and made some new friends!

So what does this have to do with culture? I’ve observed in many organizations, cultures where teams and departments not only work in silos, but see each other as competition and sometimes as go as far as describing them as the enemy, again, this is within the same company!

Is there a team or department within your organization that you see as competition? Or simply a department that does nothing for you? What if you took the same approach as this competitive team took with us? What can you do to cheer them on? Is there information that you have, that they could really use, but perhaps it’s being withheld because of a spoken or unspoken rivalry? What skills or insight does your team have that they could use? What would happen if you took the first steps to bridge that gap and really began to support one another?

Another twist, is to think about the newbie. The one who doesn’t have a clue as to what they’re supposed to be doing and doesn’t seem to deserve to be there. How did they even GET this job? Instead of watching them flounder or butting heads with them because they have a different approach, apply the same principles. Give them all the support wisdom you’ve got, right from the beginning. Don’t waste a minute, you have something truly valuable to give.

If you have trouble getting past the rivalry or perception that you’ve become so accustomed to, ask yourself, “What is the overarching goal that we’re both trying to work toward and how can we help each other out?” This takes the focus off of the friction between you and that person or team and puts it on something greater, that you can both get excited about.

In improv, we call this concept simply, “Make each other look good.” Imagine what you could accomplish if everyone in your organization followed this approach?

Let’s get a little dirty and make each other look good.

I Messed Up and I Want To Tell You About It

You failed! You completely fell on your face and learned from it, great! Now are you willing to share it with the world?

Everyone knows the importance of learning from failure, but how often do you share your own failure so that people outside of yourself, can also learn from your experience? BECAUSE Caitlin, it’s okay for ME to know I failed, but it is NOT okay for OTHER people to know.

I agree, because I am a human, to a point, but I think there's a better option. I'm going to step into my fear of "looking bad" and tell a story about how I messed up with a client, the very person who I need to see me as a flawless expert to survive in my business (or at least that’s what my “inner critic” or “ego”, who is FREAKING OUT right now, tells me), for the purpose of sharing a lesson I learned.

Here goes. I facilitated a workshop recently for a new client, so the success of this workshop would likely dictate how much they use me in the future. I started the day with the intention, “I’m here to serve.” However, once the afternoon rolled around and it was my turn to facilitate, they were running behind. What was supposed to be 90 minutes reserved for my training quickly shifted to a little over an hour. I had a lot to cover and this is where I got in trouble. A pesky voice in my head showed up and said, “This is a new client, you have to show them how much you know!” overpowering “I’m here to serve.”

The value that I bring to the table, is that I help people to listen to one another, through experiences, practice and discussion in order to create a better team atmosphere and culture (aka not me dominating the conversation with content). Unfortunately, the “Impress them with your knowledge!” voice took over and instead of cutting out content to make room for the important pieces, the discovery and discussion, I kept all the content, and cut the discussion time down.

Now, granted, it was probably not as pronounced as I see it in retrospect, I did receive positive feedback, but I know it could have gone differently. Instead of coming from a place of service, I came from a place of “Let me show you what I can do!” Have you ever experience that yourself? When your need to prove yourself in a superficial (or survival-based) way overtook your mission?

The “inner critic/ego” voice will always be there, the key is to notice it, but not let it guide your actions. It’s the same voice that is advising me to keep this story to myself, but I’m choosing to do something else.

We see people of influence sharing their failures, through Ted Talks, articles etc. and you have an opportunity to do the same! I encourage you share how you’ve messed up and what you learned, with those around you. 

Let's come from a place of service and share what we don't know!

Not What You Expected

Squeezing a workout in while raising a family and running a business is a challenge to say the least. I recently decided that for my own health and sanity, I needed to make it a priority again and was thrilled to find that a yoga studio had opened up just a mile from my house! I went to my first class, ready to be challenged, to sweat and get the most out of this one hour of “me time”. When we were still laying on the floor and breathing 15 minutes in, I became frustrated. All I could think about was how much “more” I could have done on my own in 15 minutes. Ugh, I should have just done a workout video at home, I should have gone somewhere else, when are we going to pick up the pace and get moving?!

These thoughts occupied my mind for a good 40 minutes until, finally, I realized that I could have used the quiet time to think, relax, meditate and honor my body by giving it a much needed stretch, had I simply let go of my previous expectations. In practice, yoga is much more about meditation than it is “working out”. I was expecting the class to be something that I wanted it to be.

Improvisation, as an art form, is based completely on the unexpected. Because two or more people are creating something from nothing, no one knows exactly what will happen. This means that the actors have an opportunity to create something together, that they never would have created on their own. This is where the infamous “Yes, and” of improvisation comes into play.

Saying “yes, and” means that, no matter what idea is put forth, the team agrees that they will say “yes” to it and build on that idea together. Even if one person had another idea that, in their mind, was “better”, they choose to let it go and jump on board to support their team member.

In my yoga class, I was doing exactly the opposite. I did not accept what the class was putting forth. It was not meeting my expectations, so I did what many of us do when faced with the unexpected. I resisted, I said “No” and in my mind I spent 40 minutes reasoning why this class was a waste of time. I bulldozed over its value with thoughts of what I would have considered a better class. I tried to make it what I expected it to be, instead of jumping on board for what could have been a transformational experience.

When we let go of expectations and simply take the next step with an open mind, we open ourselves up to infinitely more possibilities. By letting the frustration of expectations not being met take over your brain space, your own creativity is inevitably elbowed out as well.

I have another class scheduled tomorrow, I’m choosing to let go of my expectations and let the class be what it is. Whether I get my definition of a “workout” or some time to meditate, I’m ready to take it one step at a time and say, “Yes” to reaping the benefits.