There is a saying in the improv world: everyone is a supporting actor.
Improv is, by its very nature, a co-creative process. Because there is no script or predefined outcome, improvisers must look for ways to support the ideas and actions of others. When you are on stage, there is no time to argue about whose ideas are the best or to convince others to go along with your plans. The only choice is to stay in the moment and support one another every step of the way.
From “I” and “You” to “We”
One of the most valuable aspects of training in improvisation is that it helps individuals and teams move from a mentality of “I” and “you” toward a mentality of “us” and “we.” This is the mindset of teamwork, support and co-creation. We are all in this together, and when I help you, I also help myself.
In contrast, ineffective teams are characterized by people who are more committed to self-preservation, ego, ownership of ideas, and pushing their own agendas.
Because business is naturally competitive, there is a tendency to try and “one-up” one another to obtain or maintain some perceived advantage. This might occur between companies, departments or teams within a company, or among individuals. Such one-upsmanship can be very destructive. It fragments an organization, saps precious mental energy, and lowers the morale of everyone involved.
In improv, when someone compromises the integrity of the scene for a joke or a self-promoting laugh, they let everyone else down. While they may earn a few seconds of nervous laughter from the audience, they ultimately undermine the trust of the team as a whole. When business people engage in similar behaviors by dominating meetings, shooting down the ideas of others or pursuing their own agenda at the expense of the group, the consequences are the same. Selfish behaviors are always a losing proposition in the long run.
Conversely, successful teams and respected leaders are those who honor and support the contributions of others and who give and take equally. They focus on what they can contribute to the group as a whole, not on their own personal gain. It’s the “brothers in arms” effect that inspires soldiers. Have each other’s backs, work as a team and leave nobody behind. In doing so, you will avoid the roadblocks created by selfishness and will foster a sense of connection and mutual respect that will allow your entire team to flourish. When it is all said and done, you just might end up looking great too.
“Make Yourself Look Good by Making Others Look Good” in Social Media
- The foundation of Social Media is sharing, so share! Retweet! Like! Reblog! Pin! These acts are votes of confidence on social media, small displays of respect and appreciation for the work of others. Share other people’s content liberally and add your own insightful thoughts or commentary to provide value to both the content’s author and to your followers. You might become known as a curator of valuable content in the process.
- Both in person and online, be generous with the credit you give to others for their accomplishments. When someone does something well in the office, go out of your way to acknowledge that and thank them for it. When you enjoy using other people’s products or services, write them a testimonial without being asked for it. Let other people know that you appreciate their contributions to open source software or to community forums.
- Some people or companies won’t share information unless they are the ones that created it. On social media, this is a mistake. Your followers and other people in your network don’t necessarily care if you wrote the content or if you simply curated it; either way they will see you as a source of valuable information. Don’t let the ego desire to look smart or be in control hold you back from participating. Share any content, even that created by your competitors, if it holds value for your audience.