Several years ago, the Organizational Development team where I worked was preparing for our annual leadership retreat. The Director, Lynda, came to me and said, “We want to use Improv at the retreat.”
The word “Improv” is short for Improvisational Theatre. It’s where two or three people start with an idea and keep adding new things as they go along.
After hearing her idea, I gave her a blank stare—the one that says, “What?” Or maybe it was the “Are you crazy?” look.
She didn’t flinch, though, and she gave me an explanation of why and how it would help. I said, “Yes,” and it turned out to be one of the most powerful exercises I’ve experienced at a retreat.
In Improv Theatre, there are two words you are taught to use regularly: “yes” and “and.” It starts when your improv partner begins a conversation with you that has nothing to do with reality. Regardless of how crazy their opening statement might be, you respond by saying, “Yes.”
Your “yes” means you have accepted what the other person has said to you. Whatever they said is now real, and you need to respond to this new reality. You continue your response with the word “and,” followed by whatever you add to the conversation.
The exercise that day at our retreat involved small groups of leaders. When one starts, the next person was required to say, “Yes—and,” and then come up with a response. Leaders who liked developing new ideas loved the game.
However, it was challenging for many of our leaders who responded to new ideas with a quick “No.” They were used to saying, “That’s crazy,” or “It’ll never work.”
I’ll admit that I have often resembled that leader myself. However, I’ve been lucky enough over the years to have staff members who pushed back—as hard as that might have been—to turn my “No” into a “Yes.”
Leaders (hint-hint), are you open to your team pushing back when you say, “No?”
I recently had the opportunity to meet author Travis Thomas and hear him speak. I can unequivocally recommend his book here: 3 Words for Getting Unstuck: Live Yes, And!
In the book, he describes the word “yes” as an acceptance of reality. He’s on-target here. If you start your response to what happens in your life with “yes,” with acceptance, it changes how you think. It helps you move forward and gain positive momentum.
Too often, we think our “yes” means we like and agree with the situation that presents itself. We try to ignore reality by denying it with a “no.”
For example, even if you loved a previous leader, your new leader is your leader, whether you like that person or not. If you lost your job, accept that job as being in the past. If your organization was acquired by a new owner, you could talk about the “old days” all you want, but it won’t change your new reality.
It’s interesting in life how we’re quick to say “Yes” to a perceived good, but we get stuck when we think something isn’t going to be beneficial to us.
In scripture, Job responded excellently to his wife when he said, “‘You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’ In all this, Job did not sin in what he said” (Job 2:10).
Even if it’s not something you think is good, remember nothing happens on this earth without God letting it happen. He’s in control.
Start by saying “yes” to your current reality. Then get ready to respond.