African jazz musician playing the saxophone

7 Ways Improvisation Will Enhance Your Leadership

Nearly 10 years ago a pivotal book by author Daniel Pink ([easyazon_link asin=”1594481717″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”achievstrate-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]A Whole New Mind[/easyazon_link]) suggested that forces in the world economy would shift society from left-brain thinking to right-brain thinking as the dominant thought pattern. In retrospect, that is precisely where we’ve landed today. Think about the relevance of storytelling, our desire for product design, a resurgent demand for all things handcrafted, or how individuals are searching for greater meaning in their lives. It’s all foreshadowed in this book. Summed up nicely in two great sentences: “Meaning is the new money. The MFA is the new MBA.”

No longer are the arts being undervalued – quite the opposite – they are being  sought out and leveraged.  The merging of art forms (right-brain) with business thinking (left-brain) is driving some unique development propositions.

Case in point – the merging of leadership competencies with Applied Improvisation (AI)*. The art of improv capitalizes on the creative process to help “reframe” how leaders interpret – and therefore leverage – their personal style.

No longer are the arts being undervalued, quite the opposite. They are being sought out and leveraged.

The benefits of improv are far ranging, with the following merely a small sampling of how business leaders are embracing this platform of right-brain thinking.

Improv helps you to:

1. Find Your Unique Voice

It’s the perfect place to practice being who you’re not, so you can figure out who you are. You have permission to try on a plethora of personas in a safe setting. I guarantee you will gravitate toward who you are, or who you’re meant to be. Maybe your gift is sarcasm, or you radiate pure happiness – find out where you add value and do more of that.

2. Create Executive Presence

Being confident and comfortable on the business stage takes deliberate practice. Executive presence is as much about finding your voice as it is about how you use it.   It’s about how you engage with others, how you invoke emotion, how you show authenticity.

3. Share Compelling Stories

Storytelling is a nuanced art. It’s the packaged content of voice and executive presence. And it is quite possibly the center of the human experience. That is why organizations all over the world look to storytelling as the most promising tool for sustaining organizational culture.

“Meaning is the new money. The MFA is the new MBA.” @StaceyLMason

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4. Increase Divergent Problem Solving Skills

As the scene develops, and you have no idea what you will do next, you become much better at divergent problem solving (when there are multiple right answers). Often times in business we get stuck looking for the one answer, when in fact there are several best answers.

5. Drive Creativity and Innovation

Innovation does best in environments where ideas simply flow. There are moments of absolute brilliance that you stumble upon while you’re busy making theater out of thin air.  Embrace serendipity. 

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6. Understand Exposure to Risk

You basically have a free pass to mess up and nobody will care; it just doesn’t matter. The pressure is removed if we don’t feel we can fail. Error is endlessly diversified.

7. Maintain a Sense of Humor

The world is fast paced, business is complex, and life is serious. It can be overwhelming. Maintaining a sense of humor tends to put all things in perspective.

It is often said that leadership is part science and part art. It’s never really just about “what” you do, because it’s influenced greatly by “how” you do it. Style really does matter. Intentional effort applied to competencies (science) will undoubtedly serve a leader well. The differentiation, though, is how the leader chooses to demonstrate his or her mastered skills (art).

I believe the improv platform skillfully merges art with business and creates an avenue for us to challenge how we think about things – and that begins a whole new dimension of thinking.

*AI is the use of principles, tools, practices, skills and mindsets of improvisational theater in non-theatrical settings…that may result in personal development, team development, creativity and innovation, and/or meaningful change.
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Stacey uses insight, perspective, and humor to move people toward greater self-awareness and thought leadership. Improve Thru Improv® is her trademarked platform that merges business acumen with improvisational techniques to “play with how you think!”. Raving fans of her work refer to her as “thought provoking, intensely self-aware, a wanna-be extrovert, and freakin’ hilarious!”. Before creating Mason On Leadership, a leadership consultancy focusing mainly of behavioral assessments and executive coaching, she spent a lifetime with Walmart Stores, Inc. She writes about thought leadership as a columnist for B2B publications, and as a published writer, has contributed client stories for a business and leadership book titled “The Birkman Method: Your Personality at Work” by Sharon Birkman-Fink and Stephanie Capparell. She co-founded the Sock Monkey Improv troupe, and has trained with various actor-teams including Roving Imp out of Kansas City and Second City in Chicago.

  • Julia Pimsleur

    A great example of this merging of art
    forms (right-brain) with business thinking (left-brain) are Amy
    Jain and Daniella Yacobovsky, the founders of BaubleBar, which sells costume
    jewelry online. They found a creative solution to pitching to rooms of men on Sand Hill
    Road in Silicon Valley. They knew that most VCs would not have much if any
    experience with online shopping for jewelry, so they sent a box of products
    ahead of time to the (mostly female) receptionists of the VCs they were pitching
    to and then called up ahead of time and spoke with them at length about the
    products. When they showed up, the receptionists were often wearing the jewelry,
    and in a few cases the VCs asked them to come in the room and share what they
    liked about their necklace or bracelet. They wound up raising $10M from a
    variety of investors, including J. Christopher Burch, co-founder of the Tory
    Burch empire.

  • There’s a more human way to do business.

    In the Social Age, it’s how we engage with customers, collaborators and strategic partners that matters; it’s how we create workplace optimism that sets us apart; it’s how we recruit, retain (and repel) employees that becomes our differentiator. This isn’t a “people first, profits second” movement, but a “profits as a direct result of putting people first” movement.

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