Most people think of improv as “being funny”. It’s much more than that. There are many ways that improv can be woven into the business world, especially when it comes to communications. That’s what I discuss with Bill Prinzivalli in this episode.

Bill is an organizational consultant and a transformational coach who incorporates mindfulness practices and improvisational techniques to help leaders move beyond traditional success.

No matter how much a business leader knows their craft, they’re improvising every day. There’s always new situations, new twists and turns and unseen problems that pop up. When that happens, the leader has to come up with new solutions. Bill believes leaders should approach this situation from a perspective of mindfullness.

“Mindfulness” means they approach the situation considering what’s going on with them, and what’s going on in the environment around them. They need to be aware of their internal feelings, such as gut feelings, as opposed to external sources, such as their boss, are telling them to do. They then combine that with awareness of what’s going on with their teams and how their decisions will affect their teams before taking action.

Improv For the Business World

In the improvisational format several principles are required. While the “Yes, and…” rule is the most often spoken about, Bill believes in “deep listening”. On the improv stage the first person that comes out has an idea to share. When you join them on stage, you need to listen to them very carefully. You first need to listen to the words and then listen to the sentiment under the words. This includes tone of voice. A happy statement and a somber statement need to be responded to differently. The same is true for conversations in the business world. You need to listen before you speak.

This is the conscious communication cycle: You listen deeply to the other person, assess your feelings about what they just said, and then respond accordingly.