It started just like any meeting between a supervisor and their charge. The meeting ended like an exercise during a “How to Brainstorm” workshop. Let’s take a look at the transcript:
Supervisor: Thank you for the coffee Jim. What updates do you have about the event planned for the end of the month?
Protégé: My pleasure Stacy. We’ve currently booked a room, created a budget, and decided on KFC as the food vendor.
Supervisor: That’s a great start! I hate KFC, but I ceded control to you on that choice. I trust that it will work itself out. I’ll eat potatoes. What about an agenda?
Protégé: I wanted to talk to you about that. We’ve got an outline, but the agenda is something we thought would be best to include you in the planning with since we’re hosting 150 Mimes at this conference. I had one idea to hire a face painter to touch up their makeup.
Supervisor: Yes, and I think we should find other items that would appeal to mimes like the makeup touch-ups. You can never be too black and white as a mime. Is Neil Patrick Harris available that date? Everyone loves Neil Patrick Harris!
Protégé: Yes, and (Opens lab top, Googling furiously) he is available within our price range! Should I book him?
Supervisor: Yes, and should we look at a mime clothes vendor?
Protégé: Yes, and I remember working with a client that was looking to expand into new markets. Maybe they’ll design something special for this event!
Supervisor: Jim, you’re so smart! This is why I have as part of this team. Make it all happen!
You may have noticed a few things about that transcript. The first is that, yes, mimes do enjoy KFC. The second thing is that four sentences started with the phrase “Yes, and”. This is the title of the book I wanted to share – a book that I carry around with me in my book bag to be a reminder of its tenants. Yes, And was written by Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton. These two gentlemen are executives within The Second City organization. The Second City is an organization that teaches people how to master improv comedy. I can hear you groaning. This isn’t the run-of-the-mill improv group that your friend has been trying to drag you downtown to see and you believe to be terrible. The Second City is where Stephen Colbert, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Keegan Michael-Kay, and a bunch of other comedy icons cut their teeth.
Yes, And isn’t about how to be funny. Yes, And is about how to be a great leader in way I’ve never seen in another leadership book. The authors take pride that the best tenants of improv are essential for great leaders. Tenant number one: Always saying “Yes, and” to an idea. Not “Yes, and” lets burn money. More like “Yes, and” let’s burn money on something in the budget that if we hit a certain threshold of sales will raise morale and recognize hard work. Learn how to reframe, rework, and tinker. The authors state that saying nothing is worse for a creative flow than pinpointing why something doesn’t work. It’s much more productive to work towards something if your ensemble is positive and acknowledges the contributions put forth by everyone. Keep momentum moving forward and keep bringing a single brick to slowly build a colorfully decorated wall together.
I believe every leader should take the time to consider some of the ideas put forth by this book. It might be tough to incorporate all elements they ask for if you don’t work in a flattly structured office, but there are certainly bits and pieces to choose from for all leaders. Looking for new ice breakers? This book has them! Looking for ways to explain diversity to white students? This book has it! Want a quick overview on how to build a better culture in your office! It’s in there!
Let’s Yes, And together as leaders. Jim, Stacy, and I will see you on the stage.
Tyler Kalahar is a Program Coordinator in the Center for Community Action and Research at Pace University where he works on political initiatives on campus, programs community service events, and supports social justice programming. Tyler is also a rewards club member at Alamo Drafthouse, meditates every morning, and is currently watching BoJack Horseman on Netflix.