In this latest Change Monster, we review 3 improv techniques you can use as you bring employees back to a physical office.

“Yes, and”

“Yes, and” is a central idea in improv. It means acknowledging the current reality and then building upon it. When it comes to designing the new hybrid work model, David Rock compels us to a new reality: Employees want more autonomy over where and when they can work. We’ll need to embrace this new reality and define the best solution that factors in client needs and location/place in terms of when and how we come together to work in physical and virtual space. As we listen to employees, we can’t default to expedient “yes, but” communications. This is when we try to sound supportive as employees offer suggestions or comments but then quickly shift into a “but” — explaining why a suggestion isn’t feasible, offering our own ideas, or reassuring employees that their concerns are unfounded. Instead, deeply listen to the nuanced needs of employees and lean in to, “yes, and” offering a supportive suggestion or asking more probing questions to make ideas more concrete.


There are No Mistakes

Re-imagining where and when work can be accomplished requires shedding old assumptions and beliefs about workplaces and what constitutes a workday. Creating the new hybrid model means we don’t have a tried-and-true answer to pull from. Improv is fun and laughs are created when we do the unusual. As you create your model, try the unusual. Stay open. Intentionally take the good habits we’ve formed over the past 15 months and figure out how physical location plays into the ways your teams are working.  Hold these decisions lightly to be able to adjust if the new approaches don’t work as expected. A “no mistakes” attitude helps everyone think creatively, feel confident, and move forward. In treating mistakes as opportunities, we encourage our team members to take smart risks and be honest, and we inspire confidence over fear. Laugh at mistakes and learn from them. When you do, be amazed at new outcomes and the new ways individuals and teams can thrive.


Your Job is to Make Everyone Else Look Good

As a leader, you don’t need to have the new right answer for the hybrid model. Your job is to bring out the best in your talent, especially as we shift to the next new normal. The solution should focus on the well-being of employees, including social and mental health benefits of working together, as well as balancing needs for non-commuting hours and taking care of family. Your talent has had a year of working in new locations, on new technology platforms, and at new times, all while juggling a new way of life including real life and death concerns. Building upon this experience to create a positive “next step” requires listening, brainstorming, and bringing forth a human-centered solution, that aligns with your business goals and objectives. You’ve been doing this on some level for the past year…continue it. As a leader, as you put new and perhaps unconventional practices into place that help everyone else perform well, you will project a sense of confidence, vision, and yes, even some vulnerabilities. In the end, these characteristics will aid in continuing to build trust and generate a virtuous performance cycle.

Our next new normal will require that we improvise and learn. Remember that sometimes the best decision isn’t the most obvious one. With improv, we can try new things in a safe and supportive environment, encouraging everyone to make new choices, break old habits, and be resilient to deal with whatever happens.


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