YesButtonYes, and first some background.  Several years ago, as part of a leadership seminar, I had the pleasure of participating in an improv training session.  There can be no doubt that improv is an art, AND there is a science behind it too.  It is this science component – or rules of improv - that helps guide successful improv actors.  What does improv have to do with leadership?  More than you might think!  At its foundation, improv teaches the ability to respond to your surroundings and react to the unexpected.  These skills are important for everyone in business and especially for leaders because the most effective leaders are always adapting to changing conditions.

One of the concepts we practiced during this seminar was the "Yes, and" principle.  The “Yes, and” principal requires listening very carefully to what someone else says, accepting what they say, and then building upon it and creating more of the story. Here’s how it works:

Character #1 will begin by establishing setting and plot.   In this case, the environment and their occupation:

Character #1: What a hot and miserable day to be a ranch hand!

Following the “Yes, And” method, Character #2 will accept the premise and add onto the situation.   The back and forth will continue to follow this formula of stating “Yes, and…” building upon the storyline.

Character #2: Yep and the boss said we don’t get no water until this fence is mended.

Character #1: Yes and ain’t he the meanest cuss we’ve ever worked for?

Character #2: Yep and it’s made me think about leaving behind this cowboy life and headin’ off for San Francisco.

I found this practice fun to watch and participate in because so many “character # 2’s” would have difficulty starting their sentences with “Yes, and.”  Quite often we heard business leaders say, “Yes, BUT…” (what I refer to as an “eraser word” – because when you say “but” you’ve just erased everything you said beforehand) or “No, I think…” It really is amazing how difficult it is to focus on accepting what another person has said AND then build upon it.  All this to say, the word AND is the key.  “Yes” merely agrees with the other person, the AND adds to the story and maintains momentum.  AND, if you want that story to be about better performance and happier customers – you too can follow the AND principal.

As you can tell, I like AND.  And is awesome.  In fact, I have another AND that I hold near and dear and it’s about a customer service rule of thumb I’ve used for years.  In this case, AND is an acronym that stands for:

A – Anticipate.  Care enough to anticipate my needs and the experience I’m going to have. The process of anticipation means that at some level my perception matters to you.  AND it goes beyond that.  Do your homework, use your data and talk to me about my real needs (not just about what you’re trying to sell me).

N – Nurture.  Don’t treat me like a transaction. Unless you are the DMV or a law enforcement agency, I really do want a customer relationship with you! Understand that my life extends beyond the connection we have and the more you know about me the more likely you’ll be to maintain a relationship with me.  Pro tip: When designing our interactions, please consider all of my needs, not just the stuff related to what you’re trying to sell me. (See the pattern?)

D – Dwysywd.  That’s right, Dwysywd.  It’s pronounced Dwe-se-widee.  Ever heard of it?  It stands for Do What You Will Say You Will Do.  The foundation to awesome customer service and the reason I’ll buy from you again and again, is that I trust you.  I trust you are going to deliver exactly what I expect – and what you have told me I will receive.  Do what you say you will do – serves nicely as the basis to building trust with your customers, your team members, and everyone else in your life.

Build your team’s improvisation skills by teaching them the “Yes, AND” principal - Anticipating, Nurturing, and DWYSYWD – and watch your performance scores improv(e).  Until next time remember, take care of the customer, take care of each other, and take care of yourself.

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