Yes And — The Power of Language

Yes And is a technique that is taught in improvisational acting and in communications courses.

In improv, an actor begins supplying some bit of information that helps to create the scene. They may say to another actor “Looks like we’re in for a bad storm.” This is called an offer and the other actor’s job is to accept the offer and support their scene partner. They might say “Yes and I hope that the road doesn’t flood.” The opposite of accepting the offer is blocking, for example, contradicting the offer, which stops the flow of the scene.

Here are a couple of videos that demonstrate this technique:

The Improv Yes-And Rule

The Yes-And Technique

Yes And as a communication technique is meant to raise awareness of when we are dismissive of the ideas of other people. For example, Chris says “We could hire a virtual assistant to handle all the routine work that is using up all of our time.” Lee says “Yes but we’d have to spend time training a VA in how we want things done.”

The “but” in that reply can feel like a rejection of the original idea. Can’t you just hear Chris say “You’re always so negative. How are  we ever going to get out from under if we don’t do anything?”

If Lee said “Yes and we’d have to spend time training a VA in how we want things done.” The conversation might continue in a similar vein. “Yes and we could start the VA in stages to break up the time drain.” Or even “Yes and we’d want to think of a way to minimize the disruption.”

Use the “Yes And” method to acknowledge and accept another’s suggestion and build on it.

The Pause That Refreshes

When Maddie and I have workshop participants take our Collaborability assessment, we frequently ask them which collaboration aspect surprised them. The most frequent answer is Pausing to allow time for reflection.

Pausing is most important when you have an instant and negative reaction to a collaborator’s suggestion.

When I notice that I have a strong negative response toward an idea, it’s a sign to me to slow down and check out what’s really going on. More often than not, I find that my reaction has more to do with me than with the idea itself.

The pause allows you to develop awareness about your own areas of resistance or automatic response.  Once you’ve paused, you can ask yourself “How could this work?” or “How is that idea connected”? If you take the time to consider the merits or opportunities of an idea, it may lead to a solution that will work well.


Positivity and Collaboration

In Barbara Frederickson’s book, Positivity, she talks about her wonderful collaboration with Marcial Losada. Building on Frederickson’s broaden-and-build theory, Losada’s mathematical model determined exact ratio of positive to negative emotions, 3-to-1, that distinguishes those who flourish from those who don’t.

Losada had an ordinary looking boardroom with walls made of one-way mirrors, video cameras, and special computers which they provided to intact business teams. Research assistants coded every single statement made by every single team member during the business meetings they observed. They tracked whether the statements were 1) positive or negative, 2) self-focused or other-focused, and 3) based on asking questions (inquiry) or defending a point of view (advocacy).

Of 60 teams that were studied, 25% met the criteria of high-performing. They achieved high scores on profitability, customer satisfaction ratings and evaluations by superiors, peers and subordinates. 30% scored low on all three business indicators and were floundering. The rest, the majority, had a mixed profile, doing well in some ways and poorly in others.

photo by tbone_sandwich

Losada also quantified a new variability called Connectivity – how much each team member influenced the behavior of the others, how attuned they were to each other.

There were huge positivity ratio differences between the different types of teams: high-performing were at about 6 to 1, mixed-performance at 2 to 1 and low performance were well below 1 to 1. High-performing teams also had higher connectivity and were equal in the balance of inquiry vs. advocacy and outward vs. inward focus. Low-performing teams were low on connectivity and showed almost no outward focus.

So how can you use this data to improve your collaborations? Comment with your ideas and check back to read some practical steps for fostering positivity and collaboration in your teams.

Get Things Done: 4 Ways to Collaborate for Accountability-Part 4

Get-It-Done Days

The last three posts explored some ways to collaborate with people to get things done. But what if you’re not ready for an ongoing commitment? And what about those pesky things that have been hanging over your head for a long time? For me, these are usually things like taxes, cleaning up and organizing physical space.

Create a Get-It-Done day. Thomas Leonard, one of the pioneers of the coaching profession, used to hold days periodically where people would check in by phone on the hour, state their goal for the next hour and then call back to report progress and set a new one-hour goal.

I’ve done this with small groups of friends to great success. It really helps you to notice when you get distracted and to focus back on your current goal. And it allows you to chunk a huge task into one-hour steps so it doesn’t seem overwhelming.

Try some of these methods and create a community of support and structure –especially if you work from home and miss the camaraderie and support of an office-mates. Collaborate and get it done!

Get Things Done: 4 Ways to Collaborate for Accountability-Part 3

In addition to accountability partners for procrastination-prone activities a mastermind group provides a different kind of support.

Master Mind Groups

Master Mind groups are made up of about three to eight people who set a schedule to meet in person or by phone and come prepared to discuss needs and goals. Like coaching, this commitment forces you to set aside some time to work on those important but not urgent projects.

Each person reports on their individual goals, progress and sticking points. Sometimes a common goal will emerge which may lead the group to bring in a speaker or other form of information and learning.

Members brainstorm for each other. Best of all, they act as mirrors, helping each individual to acknowledge their progress and strengths as well as pointing out unproductive patterns.

I’ve found that these groups are very engaging and productive. Some of my masterminds have continued for years, some for just a few months. Even when the group has run its course, the members usually become long-time friends.

Who would you choose for a master mind group? Collaborate and get it done!

Tune in tomorrow for the last in this series for beating procrastination!

Get Things Done: 4 Ways to Collaborate for Accountability-Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about overcoming procrastination by collaborating with others on a joint project. You can also banish procrastination by collaborating on individual goals.

Accountability Partners

Last year, my friend Karen was in her own office writing her book for non-profit executives while I worked on my writing about collaboration. We’d start our sessions with a five-minute phone call to connect to our purpose and state our goal: “Today I’m writing this book because I want to help non-profit leaders be as effective as possible so they can accomplish their important work. I’ll be working on chapter 4.” We check back five minutes before the end of the session to report on our progress.

A few weeks ago I had a “work-date” with Natalie to stay focused on developing new material on our respective speaking topics.

Vickie has an accountability partner for making sales calls. They work for different companies selling different products but that doesn’t matter. They check in, state their goals and check back to report progress. Vickie also finds that biscotti rewards are motivating.

Marshall Goldsmith, author of What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, talks about his accountability partner for healthy habits. They check in daily to report on fitness and healthy eating goals. Those short calls help Marshall to make the effort to find a gym and exercise even when he is traveling.

What do you need support with? Collaborate and get it done!

Tune in tomorrow for a third method to beat procrastination!

Get Things Done: 4 Ways to Collaborate for Accountability-Part 1

Do you ever procrastinate on things that you really want to accomplish? I see that everyone has raised their hand, including me.

Procrastination flow chart by scubaham

For the next few days,  I’ll explore four ways that you can use collaboration to chase away procrastination.

Project Collaborators

One of my clients wanted to create a safety and rescue class and knew that he could do it on his own — someday. He asked a colleague to work with him. Together they created a class that was better than either of them would have created on their own, got it done more quickly, and had more fun!

It’s sad but true that most of us honor our commitments to others more than we do our commitments to ourselves. There is something about not wanting to let others down that is a powerful motivator. Plus, it’s just more fun to feel that you are not alone and that someone else is working with you. Just last night I co-facilitated a fun workshop which came together easily and better by working with my colleague Ben Wood-Isenberg.

Working together on a joint project can help it get done well before the deadline because you have to schedule the time in your respective calendars. This is what we usually think about when we talk about collaboration and it’s not the only way. Check back tomorrow for a second method.