Friday, June 29, 2018

High Performance Leaders Improvise

It sounds like name dropping here, so forgive me, but I once studied improv with Paul Sills. Paul is the son of Viola Spolin, who wrote the best book ever on improv - "Improvisation for the Theatre." My time spent taking Paul's class in a little space next to Second City in Chicago changed my life for the better in hundreds of ways.

I became a much better actor. I took more risks. I stopped over-reacting. The work became a team effort instead of a test of egos. It was like magic.

As it turns out, improvisation is not just good for actors - it's great for everyone. We all must improvise sometimes. Problems may have process-based solutions much of the time, but sometimes the solution is just not easy to find. People may follow our leadership gladly much of the time but sometimes they need something different, something that's hard to define. As high performance leaders, we must improvise.

It's not just making things up. It's not going for the punchline or trying to be clever. Paul would sometimes say "stop playwriting" meaning -- stop trying to force the creativity. It must instead flow, and that comes from being real. High performance leaders are real. They show integrity. Just as a talented improv actor does NOT pretend to be someone else* a high performance leader does not "fake it until they make it." You are who you are, in harmony with your team, in alignment with your mission.

That's not just powerful, it's fun.

The basic rules of improv do apply to leadership:

- say yes / and, instead of either / or
- support your team instead of invalidating them
- there are no mistakes, only opportunities

Depending on what you read, there are dozens of other possible improv rules. Those three will take you far - in acting, and in leadership.

High performance leaders improvise. Here are a few ways you might want to improvise as a leader:

- discovering how to best motivate your team members
- creating new solutions to problems
- connecting on a human level to create deeper conversations
- making presentations that spark interest and influence people

How can you add improvisation to your leadership style this week?

doug smith

* True, to some degree acting is pretending to be someone else. To complete BECOME someone else is dangerous for the art and dangerous for the artist. We still hold onto who we are, just as a leader holds onto who she is. It's beyond pretending, though. It is feeling, showing, and sharing real reactions to situations, not faking them.

P.S. For a deeper dive:
Alan Alda wrote a useful and highly entertaining book on using improv skills to communicate more effectively. "If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?" (My Adventures in the Art and Sciend of Relating and Communicating) shows how to take the basics of improv and dramatically improve your ability to communicate and (most importantly) connect with other people. High performance leaders will benefit from reading and applying this book.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Keep Learning

When we reach our limit, it means we have an opportunity. We can stay where we are, which eventually leads to sliding backwards, or we can find a way to learn.

We can do better than our best by learning.

Learning is how we grow.

Learning is how we improve.

Learning is how we do better than our previous best.

What have you learned today?

-- doug smith

Monday, June 18, 2018

Your Goals Need People

No matter how great a goal is that we've set, we still need the right people and the right actions to achieve that goal. Writing a splendid goal looks good on paper. Action is where the action is.

The right goals need the right goals working them. If that's your goal, then you are one of those people.

Our goals are as effective as the people involved. Engage the right people, and the rest is easy.

-- doug smith

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Clarify Your Goals

How could someone have goals that aren't what they say they are?

Lots of ways, such as:

- their boss assigned the goals but the team member doesn't commit
- they are confused about what results they really want
- they don't realize how under-whelming the goal is and feel uninspired
- the goals have expired and it's really time to set new ones

Lots of reasons.

We need to check in on our goals frequently. We even need to change them sometimes. Goals are important -- isn't it worth getting them right?

When our goals are not what we say they are we aren't likely to get what we want.

-- doug smith

Bring the two-day workshop "Supervising for Success" to your location

Give your front line supervisors two days of training that will pay off in improved performance, engagement, and motivation for years to come.


  1. Developing leadership capacity, strength, and flexibility
  2. Ten keys to leadership success
  3. Achieving your supervisory goals
  4. Communicating for results
  5. Building your team
  6. Motivating yourself and others
  7. Manage your time without driving yourself crazy
  8. Coaching to improve performance
  9. Facilitating highly productive meetings
  10. Solving team problems collaboratively

Supervisors are challenged in every direction. They usually don't get the training they need and end up with more problems and headaches than they'd ever imagined possible. It doesn't have to be that way.

The key tasks of a supervisor can be learned. Our time tested and field tested training methods get your supervisors to explore, discover, and practice the key skills that will make a positive difference in their performance, their teams, and their lives.

How to bring this workshop to your location:

We're located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and if you are, too you'll find this workshop surprisingly affordable for your organization. All you need is a conference or training room and five or more participants. 

For more information, contact us here:

Supervising for Success - Leadership Training in Bucks County, PA

Saturday, June 2, 2018