What’s the drill – October 2: What job do you need done?

FutureThink and The Energy Project are two brilliant consulting and training companies that are on my mind this week. Their value is clear, their brand is unique, and the ROI? Obvious… at least to me.

What they offer fills a need, and not just a want. It’s not just a “oh, that sounds nice”.  Every company wants to be more innovative and to harness the energy of their employees for a more productive and focused workforce.

It begs the question – how do you market your services – whether you are a job candidate, or a consultancy looking to increase your client base. How do you clearly and effectively communicate what you have to offer?

Author and distinguished Harvard Professor Clayton M. Christensen urges us to ask this question:

What job do you need done? 

For example, I need a way to quickly establish trust in a new group. Or, I need my team to develop their presentation skills.

If they don’t know that you can get the job done, why would they hire you? Make it simple –  take away the guesswork, and connect the dots for them.

No one is buying “Improv” – they are buying the result, the outcome.  We can’t assume that everyone needs Improvisation – but they do need teams that communicate more efficiently, and collaborate more effectively.

Turns out, everyone needs that.

So. Start with this: what job do you need done?

What’s the drill – July 5: Three questions to help you know your audience

What’s in it for them?

Are you asking this question enough…and is this the first thing you lead with at the start of a program or a pitch?

To successfully market and reach your participants, and those who decide whether or not to give the go-ahead to your program, we have to not only say, but show what’s in it for them… all the while using their language to get the message across.

What does success look like for them?

How you market a program to an engineer will be different from a sales executive.  It can be a different language altogether. There will be biases and assumptions and expectations you can’t always control.  To help break through, seek out what success looks like for them, while being as specific as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

What is their objective?

Everyone has an objective. Is it just compliance – or something deeper? Let’s hope for the latter. Here, Seth Godin provides helpful reminders on learning the worldviews of your participants. Are they batman types or superman types?

It’s nearly impossible to sell an idea or a concept to everyone at the same time. Adjust your story and approach to fit your audience, speak their language and always focus on what’s in it for them.

But, says Godin… “Instead of trying to delight everyone in Gotham City, it pays to find people who already resonate with the story you want to tell”. Yes, AND to that!

How to make learning relevant and personal in the emerging workplace

I have a confession that might shock you.  This toolkit that I have here, well, it’s not all online and virtual.

In fact, here’s a picture of my real toolkit….er, toolkits.

It’s filled with articles, book chapters, my curriculum, notes, ideas. Truthfully, it sits in my house taking up space, until I need it. But I feel comfortable knowing it’s there because I created it.

It was a way for me to take a more active, reflective and personal role in my learning journey.  True it’s a lot of information, but to compile it I had to sift through and find what resonated, applied – what mattered to me.

Shouldn’t that be what all learning is about?

In this age of information overload – learning at work needs to be more relevant, personal and applicable than ever – otherwise how can we retain it all?

I often come across professional development opportunities where participants leave with a pre-made binder filled with articles chosen for them, answers filled out, and way too many case studies.

Companies seeking compliance may sleep better knowing the “tools” have been handed off.

But we can do more than just check learning off a list.

We can make learning relevant, personal, and applicable.

Make it easy to digest, give learners the opportunity to control their learning – even ask them to compile their own toolkits.

Information that sticks with you is information you seek out and have a general interest in.

Build the toolkit, feel safe knowing it’s always there to come back to, and give learners the opportunity for autonomy and mastery in order to help them be more engaged.



TOOL: Delight and engage your audience with reincorporation

Improvisation as a communication tool can be broken down into two steps:

Listen, then react.


Without being able to plan ahead in the conversation or the scene, Improvisers are skilled at being present and in the moment, fine-tuning their listening skills to yield honest reactions that keep moving the story and conversation forward.

Skilled Improvisers are also excellent at re-incorporation, or “the call-back” as it’s coined in the comedy world.


Reincorporating a piece of information, a line of dialogue or a small moment from earlier in the scene or story usually results in a big laugh. Reincorporation is a favorite of Improv audiences because they are amazed we remembered such details, and what is familiar usually get a laugh.

Without superb listening and awareness skills, reincorporation wouldn’t be possible.

But, reincorporation can delight more than just Improv audiences. 

Its applications stretch from presentation skills to interviews, praise, and building connections with everyday conversations.

Reincorporation really just means we’ve been listening, and it always feels nice to know you’ve been listened to. It shows that you care, and you are paying attention – imagine the delight and surprise when a small piece of information is reincorporated in an improvised story, perhaps an hour after it was first introduced. Reincorporating an idea, or an employee concern, or praise of a job well done can have the same effect.

Specificity plays a role here too. The more detailed the reincorporation, the bigger the reaction and delight you are creating.

As a presentation tool, reincorporation helps with retention, learning, and information summary. Repeating key points or key themes  in a presentation is a strategic tool.

Listen, then react… with an emphasis on the listening.

To master the softer side of leadership, acquire this tool:

You have just been promoted to a leadership role. Quick – where can you turn to brush up on leadership skills when there is a new leadership book, article, or blog post everywhere you look? What to do when there are myriads of choices when it comes to leadership training, coaching, or development?

How can one learn to become a “better” leader when the definition itself can feel so broad?

This article from Fast Company calls leadership, “the eight wonder of the world…better seen and felt than defined and said”.

So then, what one tool must a leader have in his or her toolbox to succeed at what Fast Company calls, “The Softer Side of True Leadership?”…


Yes some people naturally have more self-awareness than others, but luckily this is a muscle that can be strengthened with practice and patience through training that reinforces leadership as being about “we”, and no longer just “me”.

Here are some tips to consider:

  1.  Do more listening than speaking – make sure others feel heard
  2. Understand leaders are constantly being watched – your actions, speech and tone is being mirrored by those who support and report to you.
  3. Become an expert at body language. Pay attention to non-verbal communication and body language cues.  It’s more powerful than many of us realize.
  4. Ask questions – stay connected and curious to what’s happening on the office floor.
  5. Become more present and in the moment by increasing focus and mindfulness.

One way that Applied Improvisation training increases our self-awareness is by reminding us  “everything is an offer”. On stage, everything we do or say is an “offer” that is accepted and used in the scene by our partners.

Therefore, learning how our words, actions, and tone affects a scene and our partner makes us much more aware of not only our choices on stage but the choices of others.

I encourage you to connect and share this post with one colleague to continue the conversation….

How to design training with introverts in mind

Designing training programs and initiatives to help bring out the best in your employees and help them collaborate and communicate better is hardly a one-size-fits all approach. Just ask Susan Cain. 

Not only must we consider the different ways we all learn, but it’s equally, if not more important to design training that allows both introverts and extroverts to succeed.

Roughly 40% of us (including myself) are introverts, meaning our energy comes from solitude, as opposed to other people. At work and at home, introverts need quiet time and solitude to arrange our thoughts and process information.

Often times, brainstorming sessions or meetings favor extroverts – it is often a scenario where being the best or loudest talker is more important than having the best idea.

So how can we design training programs, Improv classes, and brainstorming sessions that truly allow room for all of us to succeed and where we all feel welcome?

Most importantly, how should we design classes that allow introverts to feel more comfortable expressing their ideas? In a room full of extroverts, it can be difficult to feel heard. Here are some suggestions:

1. Add in some alone time

  • Timeouts fuel introverts thinking, creativity and decision-making. In order for introverts to do their best work, this must be acknowledged. Extroverts can benefit from some solitude as well, to develop insights and learn to rely more on their own thoughts and ideas.
  • alone time also allows introverts to process information
2. Adjust full-group discussions 
  • Debriefs are such a crucial part of Applied Improv and many professional development classes. For introverts, adjust some full-group debrief to small groups or one-on-one’s where more authentic discussions can be had
  • Encourage participants to write down thoughts as opposed to sharing them out loud – self-reflection is still taking place
  • Encourage in-depth questioning of games and activities to allow more time to process each segment and its lessons

3. Celebrate our differences, remember our similarities

  • Acknowledging the differences between extroverts and introverts is important. The more we can get to know our colleagues and our different working styles, the better we can communicate and collaborate
  • Learn “how to make your partner look good”, develop empathy and connection
  • Always circle-back to your overall purpose and mission as a team. Truly make an effort to allow both introverts and extroverts to shine. Pushing people out of their comfort zone is important, but having a home-base to return to and re-charge will make the journey easier for many.

Your brain on training – what your initiatives need to consider

David Rock… well, he rocks. His neurological research reminds us to ask this important question – in designing organizational transformation initiatives, are we taking into account the way our brains work?

Here are two must-have tips:

1. It’s all about insights

Knowledge is gained through insight, not necessarily transmission and passive knowledge transfer.  Our training initiatives need to encourage more time for self-reflection, de-briefing, and the ability to make connections.

We tend to form new connections when we are happier, which can be encouraged by helping people focus on solutions instead of problems.

The more we want people to change, the more we need to recognize, encourage and deepen their insights. These insights should be generated from within.

We are capable of forming more insights if interactions and initiatives at work trigger our reward stimuli as opposed to threat stimuli in the brain.

2. Social Triggers – S.C.A.R.F.

The brain predisposes us to resist some forms of leadership, training, and interactions, and to accept others based upon whether our brain views them as a threat or a reward.  In fact, much of the motivation regarding our behavior is driven by this system of rewards and threats.

When we feel threatened we tend to adopt an avoid response. When we notice a reward, we tend to have an approach response.

Threats can reduce cognitive performance and decrease our effectiveness. However, the approach response generated by rewards is synonymous with engagement and positive emotions. A growing body of research shows this state increases dopamine which activates the learning centers in the brain, allowing us to perceive more options when trying to solve problems.

David Rock states, there are FIVE important social triggers at play in our brains during every interaction:






What are some practical and trainable tools companies and managers can use to minimize threat, and maximize reward through these social triggers? 

Status – Build self-awareness of status  (behavioral shifts towards either dominance or submission). Use specific, genuine praise. Start Positive to minimize threat of status differential.

Certainty – Provide clear expectations, break down training or change initiatives into steps.

Autonomy – Provide clarity of purpose, increased control over events.

Relatedness –  Increase trust, connection and empathy at work.  After all, relatedness is imperative for collaboration.  Create and initiate safe social interactions.

Fairness –  increase transparency, honesty, and level of communication and involvement around business issues.

In designing training initiatives, we need to consider more than just the different ways adults learn. How can we adjust the way we approach, market, and deliver training programs with an eye  towards increasing insights and rewards,  and decreasing threats? It can be done, especially with Applied Improvisation and the self-awareness skill-building we take part in.  For me, realizing the neurological implications when our certainty is threatened provides an interesting framework for teaching others how to be comfortable in the unknown.