Improvising Helps Your Organization When Going Through Leadership Changes

Change happens and most of the time you can’t control the repercussions that it has on your team. Leadership changes can be both good and ugly so you need the right mindset to make your work life go on without a hitch. With improv comedy, change can happen at the drop of a hat so we as performers must be prepared to follow a new direction and sometimes without ever looking back.

Below are some key points from the improv world for both team members and leaders on how to happily survive a change in leadership.

For the Team: Don’t Resist Change

Be flexible.

One minute you have a leader, the next you have a new leader with different points-of-view and directives. In improv, this happens regularly but we’re trained to adapt in seconds to what is presented to us.  In the workplace, it may be more difficult because there is some weight with each pivot. By maintaining a flexible working style, it lessens the blow from one change to the next.

Forget the script.

From personal experience, know when it’s time to throw out the script and go with the flow. I’ve been in organizations where there have been layoffs which has left certain roles ambiguous and in other organizations where there was constant restructuring of teams, process, and responsibilities. Often some parts of your professional setting will be in flux for an undetermined amount of time. The more you dwell on that, the less you’ll be able to spend time innovating. Take the lead from your leader but don’t sit in the back seat. You’re a driver too. In improv scenes, we can’t get upset if a scene takes a completely different turn. We’re trained to follow the idea that’s present in the moment and not dwell on something that “didn’t go our way.”

For the Leader: Be Aware of Your Actions

Be forward with your style.

It’s not weird to have a sit-down with your team and talk about your working style, as well as theirs. Being up-front with expectations on both sides helps mitigate petty problems that pop-up that have nothing to do with the work at hand. Be consistent and make sure you’re resonating with those around you. Don’t be afraid to adapt your style to the culture you’ve entered.  There are a number of improv personas that play a bit differently. There may be the individual that expresses themselves physically with a player that’s more talkative. Regardless of the style, by following Yes, And and accepting and giving gifts to your partner, it’ll work.

Be careful with your choice of language.

Sometimes it may seem best to “be forward” and shut down ideas you feel just aren’t feasible. Spend some time playing around with exploration, and at least acknowledgement, of your team’s gifts.  A world of “Yes, and” is so much easier than a world of “No, but.” Don’t be seen as the leader that is “your way or the highway.” It crushes collaboration and minimizes the value of your team.

So, whether you’re on a team or leading a new team, don’t be afraid of the change that surrounds you. Embrace it. Remember that everyone works at their own speed and have their own agenda.

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