There are many ways to build and nurture a happy team. It’s important to be consistent with the positive culture you create every day, to encourage and reward great performance, and promote a healthy work-life balance. 

Every once in awhile though, a team benefits from a special tune-up. Enter: Team-Building. It may be the phrase that launched a thousand employee eye-rolls, but done right, it can help encourage a supportive, positive workplace.

Where to start? Consider a Team-Building event that utilizes the Tenets of Comedy Improvisation. Improv comedy schools such as The Second City, The Groundlings, and The Upright Citizens Brigade have been teaching students how to work together to build characters and scenes on the spot for years. Over the last decade, companies have taken note of improv’s almost magical ability to bond teams, and help them work together more effectively, and joyfully.  

We asked improv team building trainer, and stand-up comedian, Jennifer Schemke, to tell us some of the reasons improvisation is such an effective tool for building a happy team, not just on-stage, but in the workplace:

What is improv?

Improv is the art of communicating under pressure. Whether that’s the pressure to create something funny on the spot in front of an audience, or the pressure associated with assuaging an unhappy customer or meeting a high stakes project deadline. Pressure and stress cause us to stop listening. Improv teaches us how to keep listening, and to effectively communicate, under pressure. That’s what makes a great team.

Why is improv a useful skill for Team-Building?

Being on the same team means more than clocking in M-F within the same 4 walls. Being on the same team means rooting for one another and inspiring each other to be their best. Teams listen to one another, sense one another, support one another. When your employees are happy and supportive of one another, your customer experience is greatly enhanced, which means better reviews, more customer loyalty, and usually more sales.

Who Is improv good for?

Anyone who deals with another human being at any point in their day.  It teaches the most important skill needed for communication.  Listening.

Is it all just laughing? Is there benefit to that?

Much of the wisdom of the art form is disguised as pure silliness! Bob Newhart, well into his 80’s and still performing, was asked the secret to his youthfulness.  You know what he said?  Laughing.  It’s so important to laugh with one another. Laughter is crucial to our health and survival. 

What would you say are the basic improv rules, particularly as they relate to employee Team-Building?

Listening, and Eye Contact…

There is no better way to make someone feel heard than eye contact. It says, “I’m going to address what you said, before moving on to my own agenda.”

Yes And…. 

It is not an exaggeration to say that this is an Improv Commandment.  YES AND means that you take whatever it is that your partner has said and you add on to it.  YES=I heard what you just said. AND=This is what I have to add to that. 

Let Go of Preconceived Notions.  

Revel in the joy of building something together.  Allow your ideas to mesh with other ideas to build something brick by brick.  You wouldn’t lay a whole house on top of another….You build it one idea at a time. 

Appreciate The Meaning of Tone.  

Statistically, most people don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses, and usually because of tone. In a study, it was revealed that we gather meaning, 55% Visually, 38% by Tone, and only 7% by the actual words used.  How we say something is as important as what we’re saying.

FOCUS.  

It sounds so simple, but taking just a few moments as a team to focus before any task or presentation can make all the difference.

COMMIT!!! Have The Courage To Be Passionate.

It feels counterintuitive, but you will appear a gazillion times cooler, even when you’re doing something that makes you feel dorky, if you do it at 100%.  Think about rock stars.  Mick Jagger never does anything at 50% and we worship Mick Jagger.  Oh yes we do. 

For more information about Jennifer’s highly effective, wonderfully reviewed Improv Team-Building Workshops, contact her at jenniferschemke@gmail.com