As an executive coach, teacher and trainer who uses improvisation to help people grow and develop, one of my favorite things is to develop my skills by learning from master teachers. Last weekend I had the good fortune to attend a workshop called, “Problems, Problems” with David Razowsky, former Artistic Director of Second City in Los Angeles who is often referred to as an Improv Guru.
Watching someone as passionate as David was inspiring. I feel a kinship with David’s ability and determination to give each student the opportunity to grow by placing loving demands in a safe and trusting environment. He worked with each student to help us develop tools to go beyond our “improv problems”. His attention was both on the individuals and on creating an environment that the group would need to take a step into the unknown and grow.
We often find ourselves in environments that are not supportive of the type of risks we have to take in order to go beyond ourselves, to go beyond our usual ways of performing – whether our stage is a theatrical stage or a professional stage. We are all environment-builders. Each one of us can take responsibility for creating the environments we find ourselves in so that people can be heard, can take risks and can grow and develop.
Razowsky encourages his students to be present, mindful and in the moment. Being in a group of people who are together in this way changes the environment. (Think yoga class!) It creates trust.
In a business setting we can create more supportive environments by making minute-to-minute decisions about what we are going to say to peers, to people we manage, to our managers and in meetings. Strong leaders are passionately engaged in creating the very best environment for everyone to succeed. Constantly asking ourselves and others, “How will this help build the environment?” is an important element of environment-building. The environment might mean a corporate culture, or how a team works together, a meeting or conversation between two people in the hallway.
In a meeting or one-on-one you might decide to change what or how you are going to contribute to the conversation. Ask yourself if what you want to say will support the group (two people being the smallest group).
In an improvisational scene the improviser often thinks of something clever to say; a skilled improviser will ask her/his self, “Will responding in this way support my partner? Will it support the scene? Will it support the relationship we are creating?” These are important questions for all of us to be asking when we are building environments for growth.