Help! My team is not strong enough. Using Applied Improvisation to build stronger teams.

We learn very early in life that the strongest survive.  We know that building a house of straw or sticks isn’t the smartest plan. The solid choice is brick, carefully placed one by one and bound together by a strong adhesive.  It might take longer and the work is tedious, but the end result will stand strong and weather the storms (or a hungry wolf).

Building a team is a lot like building a home. Companies often miss the importance of a solid foundation and put very little thought into the materials they are using. Whether you are starting to build or rebuilding an organization, it has to be done smart and it has to be done with all the right pieces. Even if the foundation is solid, you will not succeed if all the other components are weak.

Applied improvisation is becoming a widely accepted practice in creating cultures that thrive and team dynamics that can stand the test of today’s complex and turbulent business climate. These same companies are also beating out their competitors when it comes to employee engagement, retention, productivity and increased profitability. Here are 5 fundamental principles of improvisation that if applied to building a team will insure long-term stability and success.

1- Leaders must be over-all great communicators. Today’s leaders must be self-aware, empower their people, encourage creativity, listen to their employees, celebrate everyone’s ideas, allow for risks and bounce back from mistakes.  Improvisation puts all of these qualities to practice making for outstanding communicators and leaders.

2-Avoid Naysayers and promote a Yes culture-We’re never going to get anywhere with negative people who disagree and counter all ideas with their own agendas. Improv teaches you to agree and find something positive in all that someone may offer.  Ego and competition are the straw and sticks of a team, weak and counterproductive.

3-Support and Trust- When team members are holding each other up and trusting each other, there is a strong bond keeping it all together. Improvisation teaches people that things will fall apart without trust and support.  If you know people are looking out for you, and you feel safe, nothing can threaten your strength as a team.

4-Promote collaboration- In Improv we like to use the analogy of building something together one brick at a time. We all bring a brick and add them one at a time together building off of the other’s idea. With this kind of mindset, idea sharing can happen and great discoveries are made.

5-Allow for failure- All successful organizations recognize that mistakes will happen, and the unexpected is inevitable. It’s all about how quickly you recover and get back to business that matters.  Improvisation is full of little failures and unexpected happenings.  An improviser learns to feature their mistakes and find beauty in them. Don’t dwell on them, but move past them. Your team may suffer some damages, but it’s a quick repair and we’re back to the safety of our brick house.

If you don’t want to get blown away, think about how you want to build your organization.  From the foundation to all of its parts, be smart and use the right pieces, and there isn't a wolf big or bad enough to overpower your team.

Kristy West is the Founder of The Brink Improv, Facilitator and Performer 

@thebrinkimpro