Cultivate emotional intelligence and reveal your authentic voice
by Rob DiNinni
Leaders are saying yes to improv comedy for experiential learning while laughing. Let’s unpack the fundamental soft skills of improv theatre that help leaders elevate their impact and presence.. Here are seven improv principles for leaders:
Say “yes…and because”.
“Yes…and…” is the tenet of improv comedy. This principle provides a platform to share and build on ideas while eliminating obstacles. “Yes” opens possibilities while “no” or “but” shuts down collaboration and impedes progress. Leave the butts in the chair! When you add the “why,” people buy-in. We, at StageCoach Improv, added “because” to the tenet, “Yes…and…because…”. The “why” is the lightning rod that powers relationships for leaders. Zap!
Be agile and adapt.
In improv theatre, you learn that change is part of the process of moving the story forward. Improv actors have to be agile and adapt on stage even when something isn’t working. Wait for it…the practice of improv can slow down the over-thinking mind and bring you into right-brain consciousness. By immersing yourself in the moment, you’ll think faster on-your-feet increasing your possibility to inhabit a flow-state or “be in the zone.” Leaders can flourish outside of their over-thinking mind and pivot to solve problems. Be present in your pivot.
Vulnerability enables empathy.
An improv actor’s emotional state is on display and vulnerability can produce a poignant scene for the audience. Vulnerability can provide an emotional entry point into the heart of the story and you, the character playing the lead role. Exceptional leaders are self-aware and recognize vulnerability as a sign of strength and courage. You feel me?
Curiosity inspires creativity.
Improv enables us to venture into uncertainty with an open mind to new ideas, possibilities, and ways to overcome challenges. Leaders need to observe, explore, and ask questions when navigating the unknown. When you’re open, aware, and inquisitive you’re capable of new discoveries. Discoveries lead to creativity. Creativity leads to innovation and problem-solving. Any questions?
Empower ensemble collaboration.
Empowering ensemble collaboration is vital to improv theatre and business. Strive to build teams with a variety of talents, personalities, and life experiences where everyone is valued and heard — the power of play and inclusion. This is not a spectator sport. Get in the game!
Reveal authentic storytelling.
Reveal authentic storytelling powered by your voice. Improv theatre is a storytelling practice in realtime. Stories need conflict and high stakes to elicit a visceral reaction. When you understand what you have to offer and you’re leading people, you’re encouraging them to play a key role in the story you’re creating together. Act out your story. You do you!
Listen intently to focus.
Check your ego, expectations, and assumptions at the door. Improv actors listen intently to focus on what is being said behind the words and the emotional cues with respect to the culture and environment they inhabit. Do you hear what I’m saying?
Leaders tune-in with all your senses to each and every interaction whether you’re in a conference room getting your carb on, on stage flexing your chops, or in line contemplating an ice-blended oat milk mocha latte.
Leaders who incorporate the soft skills of improv theatre into their emotional intelligence practice activate the power of play, sense of curiosity, and strength of vulnerability.
Seven Improv Principles for Leaders
1) Say, “yes…and…because”.
2) Be agile and adapt.
3) Vulnerability enables empathy.
4) Curiosity inspires creativity.
5) Empower ensemble collaboration.
6) Reveal authentic storytelling.
7) Listen intently to focus.
Rob DiNinni is principal and founder at StageCoach Improv, a Boston-based firm delivering dynamic and interactive improv for business, training, and entertainment nationwide.
Rob DiNinni is an actor, improviser, comedian, educator, writer, and coach with over 15 years of corporate experience as an esteemed business development, sales, and marketing professional in the IT industry. As a founding member of StageCoach Improv, he has performed and facilitated corporate improv training, leadership development, team building, sales is improv, conflict resolution, and interactive entertainment since 2004. He also works closely with executives, clinicians, and medical schools providing improv, leadership, and communication skills coaching as an actor and educator.
StageCoach Improv has customized a specific set of exercises and techniques employed by improvisational actors designed to enable sales professionals to confidently present ideas, create stories, evoke emotion, and build relationships.