Saying "Yes and…"

I absolutely love Tina Fey.  30 Rock is one of the shows that after one episode on Netflix I find myself having watched 5 in a row and giggling the entire time.  I relate to her character Liz Lemon who is in a position of high authority and responsibility, but insecure in her decision making, just like we all are. 

Tina Fey’s book “Bossy Pants” is a great read and if you ever happen to have the opportunity to listen to the audio book, I recommend it.  As funny as it is, it’s even funnier when she tells it. 

One part of her book that really stands out is her experience while working for an improv group.  She goes over the “rules” of improv.  They are: 

Rule #1 — Agree. The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES.When you’re improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created. So if we’re improvising and I say, “Freeze, I have a gun,” and you say, “That’s not a gun. It’s your finger. You’re pointing your finger at me,” our improvised scene has ground to a halt.But if I say, “Freeze, I have a gun!” and you say, “The gun I gave you for Christmas! You bastard!” then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is in fact a Christmas gun. 

Rule #2 — Not Only Say Yes… Say Yes And. The second rule of improvisation is not only to say yes, but YES, AND. You are supposed to agree and then add something of your own.If I start a scene with “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you just say, “Yeah…” we’re kind of at a standstill.But if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “What did you expect? We’re in hell.” Or if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “Yes, this can’t be good for the wax figures.” Or if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “I told you we shouldn’t have crawled into this dog’s mouth,” now we’re getting somewhere. 

Rule #3 — Make Statements. This is a positive way of saying “Don’t ask questions all the time.” If we’re in a scene and I say, “Who are you? Where are we? What are we doing here? What’s in that box?” I’m putting pressure on you to come up with all the answersWe’ve all worked with that person. That person is a drag. It’s usually the same person around the office who says things like “There’s no calories in it if you eat it standing up!” and “I felt menaced when Terry raised her voice. 

Rule #4 — There Are No Mistakes… Only Opportunities. If I start a scene as what I think is very clearly a cop riding a bicycle, but you think I am a hamster in a hamster wheel, guess what?Now I’m a hamster in a hamster wheel. I’m not going to stop everything to explain that it was really supposed to be a bike. Who knows? Maybe I’ll end up being a police hamster who’s been put on “hamster wheel” duty because I’m “too much of a loose cannon” in the field.In improv there are no mistakes, only beautiful happy accidents. And many of the world’s greatest discoveries have been by accident. I mean, look at the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, or Botox.

I love these rules and think that Tina’s advice can be expanded upon our work life.  I’ve been in many work places that say “No.”  And not just “No, we’re not spending that money…” or “No, we don’t want to go to a paperless system…” But instead in a company culture that says “No.”

“No, we don’t want to be innovative.”
“No, employee engagement isn’t important to us.”

How can we say yes?  And even further say “Yes and…”?

As employers we need to be open to new ideas and trends.  We need to educate ourselves as to what works well for others and how it can be adapted to our own culture.  We need to challenge the norm, and even more so, challenge ourselves to change.  You will never know what that new opportunity will be unless we take a leap of faith.  Employers, this means putting good people in place at your office and letting them work.  Allow them to be your idea people, let them convince you.  But open to change. And when mistakes happen, or plans fall through, recognize that those are opportunities, learning lessons for both your employees and the company.

Employees – This goes for you to.  Are you contributing?  Are you saying “Yes and…” Or are you adverse to new policies, new ideas, new methods?  Allow yourself to become part of the solution and not the roadblock to it.  Instead of questioning constantly and griping about things, gain a better understanding and help to be part of it.  Ask how you can help, what you can do to enrich the progress.

How are you saying “Yes and…”?

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