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Laugh…and Fix the Dysfunction of Your Team

by | Nov 19, 2015

No matter how unimpeachable your forecasts are, or how much buzz or interest there is in your product or service, or how focused and directed – on paper – your overall business operations are, all are at significant risk if the business or organizational culture you’re trying to operate, or operate in, is dysfunctional.

What’s a dysfunctional corporate culture? Externally, it’s one in which product quality suffers or customer service isn’t either prioritized, or is nonexistent in the first place. If your assumption is that external corporate culture is mostly shaped by the culture that exists internally – yes!!. If your assumption is that a significant drop in sales or a rise in customer complaints on social media or other platforms isn’t an indictment of strategy but of an internal culture gone awry – YES!

Internally, a dysfunctional corporate culture can take many shapes: Perhaps the actions of the organization’s leaders either don’t reflect or have shifted away from the values that informed the mission of the organization, attitudes which often trickle down to your front line employees. But in most cases a dysfunctional corporate culture stems from internal clashes among business units — from “siege” mentalities, silo-ed subcultures within the organization, or egos running amok and unchecked. And they usually result in things like this:

Negative attitudes or criticism of organizational initiatives

  • Diverging or contradicting agendas
  • A lack of teamwork or collegiality
  • “Some Ideas Are More Important Than Others”
  • “No one listens to me…”

These dynamics, which often seem entrenched, can also seem difficult if not impossible to overcome.

Yet they can be.

What if you had teams that not only listened to each other, but collaborated, checking their egos at the door in the process? What if you had teams that not only liked each other, but laughed together? And what if I told you that you could get them to do that by teaching them …wait for it…improvisational comedy?

Why improv? Improvisers are taught to innovate in the moment, on the fly, and as quickly as possible. Improvisers understand that “reality” and “truth” are in a constant state of flux, and that we’ll only be successful by our willingness to recognize and adapt. To accept contexts, collaborate within them, and wring comedy out of them, all in real time, all while collaborating without a script, without an agenda, without an ego.

But improv is not only fun and rather easy to learn, the principles of improv can be simultaneously applied to a number of everyday business challenges, challenges such as:

Egos run amok

  • Creative juices running dry
  • A lack of energy and fun at the workplace
  • An organization that’s enervated and “spinning its wheels”

Improv provides solutions to these challenges by:

  • Teaching “in the moment” and “transparent” behavior in front of audiences
  • Promoting egoless teamwork, collaboration and leadership
  • Promoting a greater sense of trust among colleagues
  • Providing improved communication and presentation skills
  • Teaching “in-the-moment” thinking
  • Building your creative muscles…

Improvisational comedy trainings get your teams out from behind their desks and on their feet, putting them squarely in the present, listening to each other, engaged, laughing and having fun together, and, finally, seeing each other — and themselves — through a renewed lens. Organizations re-emerge energized, engaged, and transformed. Focused and more closely united around organizational goals. In short: a team, a culture that’s ready to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

So rather than sit back and watch helplessly as your organization’s culture consumes its strategy, why not actively watch it instead get consumed by laughter, laughter that breaks down barriers toward actual communication and collaboration, and, in the end, transforms your culture.

Shawn Westfall has brought improv as a strategy for fostering creativity, leadership, team-building, change-management, business strategy, and organizational development on-site and off-site to various private, public and non-governmental organizations.

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