Tag Archives: Debbie Exner

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.

Debbie

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.

Debbie

Empowered Collaboration – Part 1

When a person says something “changed my life” it gets my attention. I was at a professional meeting and the woman speaking was talking about something called mPWR10

mPWR10  is a 10-minute-per-day tool created by Nancy Donahue and Michelle Chung that teaches six habits distilled from the research on positive and peak performance psychology. After testing the product and finding it very valuable, we were very curious about how they collaborated on its creation. We set up a phone interview to explore what the keys were to their collaboration. Over the next three blog posts, we will report on the 10 practices Nancy and Michelle cited as keys to their collaboration.

  1. Keep track of the passion that brought you together

At the beginning of their collaboration, both women were employees of another firm. When that firm experienced manufacturing difficulties and eventually collapsed, it would have been easy to seek employment elsewhere. Start-up cash-flow challenges could have led them to drop their collaboration, but Nancy and Michelle calmed their uneasiness by hunkering down and focusing on the reason for their collaboration – a passion for supporting people’s success. They launched mPWR10.

  1. Know your value proposition

Michelle and Nancy are both expert synthesizers of information. Their capacity to glean the most important threads from the science of positive and peak performance psychology allowed them to create a simplified, accessible and practical set of habits. From the reactions of others, they learned that this talent was critical to the value they could create.  A client told them that with mPWR10, “I can throw away all the other books I have.”

3.  Seek input freely and widely

“Our goal was to collaborate with everyone since we knew we didn’t have all of the answers”, said Michelle. They drew in other smart people such as Joe Dowling, a peak-performance psychologist, and sought feedback from 500-600 mPWR10 users. The 6 habits evolved because so many people have used it and shared their experience and suggestions.

Read the next post to learn 3 more collaboration practices.

Debbie

Enhance positivity through meetings

Many of my business clients report that an average day is spent going from meeting to meeting.  Some would say that half of their life is spent attending, conducting,  preparing or following up from meetings.   It would therefore seem sensible to assume that if you want to build more positivity in your  workplace, a good place to focus would be in the way meetings are conducted.

In our last blog post, we reported research that linked positivity in a team with the incidence of positive statements made, the degree that the statements are about others and the amount of questions that are exchanged among group members. Here are some tips that may help you put this into action during the meetings you lead.

Meetings can enhance positivity.

1.  Open each meeting asking for recent accomplishments.  “What has happened that you feel good about and want others on the team to know?” In my experience this type of question elicits the telling of stories that help to build a group’s sense of success.

2.  Have a standing agenda item – “Way to go!”.  Ask for people to share personal compliments for others who have demonstrated collaboration or some other high-priority behavior.  In a local medical-surgical nursing unit, this tip is being used to increase the level of coordinated care provided to patients. Compliments help to remind us of our strengths and create stronger relationships with others.

3.  Periodically, use a portion of a meeting for everyone to have 5-10 minutes to check in with every other member.  These “Check Ins” can be structured to cover a specific set of questions aimed at increasing connectivity and positive regard:  What is going well in our relationship? What strengths have I noticed you exhibiting?  What can we create that will enhance our effectiveness?

In future posts we will be offering tips about how to increase inquiry in your teams.  What can you share to get us started?

Maddie Hunter

Collaborating with a muse

For the last 10 days I have become friends with a new muse.  In her Muse-Swap blog, Quinn McDonald offered me the opportunity to trade my regular muse in for a new one.  I actually didn’t even know that I had a muse but after thinking about how intensely I have been working,  I decided I in fact have been selectively listening to one of my muses, the slave-driver.  My slave-driver voice has made me too serious and obsessed with work.  Once I really thought about it I decided I needed a break from my own intensity.  Quinn offered me the perfect swap – a muse who giggles!

Laughing Goat from ingridtaylar at Flickr Creative Commons

Giggles and I have had a ball together.  She encouraged me to impulsively plan a 6-day get-away, driving up the coast of Maine with my sweetheart. We’re heading out next week.  When my teen aged son and I were handed a worksheet in a personal development workshop we were attending ( I know…sounds like a relapse into seriousness, but oh well…can’t be perfect over night!), I uncharacteristically howled out loud when seeing one of the listed tips for good communication as “Have a goat in mind!”.  The typo was inadvertent I’m sure, but my son and I are determined to think about goats now as our code for lightening up when we are struggling to connect!

Don't be low on coolant! Photo by tsja!

I could further tell you how Giggles turned my car leaking coolant on the Saw Mill River Parkway into a funny reminder that I have to drink more water.  She also encouraged me to take my shoes off in a furniture showroom and stretch out with my sweetheart to see how comfortable a couch was we were considering as a purchase.  Giggles certainly made me daring as well as light-hearted!

Although today marks the end of the Muse Swap, I am not turning my new friend back.  I think our collaboration is long overdue and I intend to keep listening to her encouragement to stretch beyond my overly attentive work ethic to have some fun.  As is true for many good collaborators, Giggles reminds me that sometimes we have to partner with others who are really different than our natural selves in order to find the answers we seek.   I may not be done being serious-minded, but I sure am going to listen for Giggles more often.  Thanks to Quinn and my muse-swap buddy for this fun time!

4 tips for becoming happier

peyri from Flickr's Creative Commons

I’ve been noticing how happy many of the members of my cancer support group seem.  Yes, we have fears about our diagnosis, strange side-effects from the treatments we elect and frustrations at our experiences with the many medical professionals we lean on for our care.  However, when we get together smiles abound and laughs flow freely. How does this happen?

1.  Reach out to others. We share our cancer experience. There are positive sensations  that come from social interactions.  When I step into our support group meeting room, I feel an instant lift of my spirits.  Many of us believe that these positive connections help to extend our lives.  Even outside of my cancer experience, I find  spending time with a friend or colleague to often turn a frustrated mood into a more relaxed one.   Connecting with others definitely raises my happiness quotient.

2.  Chose to act happy – Acting happy is likely to make you feel happy according to an article in   Psychology Today. I know this from coaching clients who are working on trying a new behavior.  Acting confident before you completely believe it can often result in your not only appearing confident but experiencing yourself in a new way too.  The more one acts in the new way, the more the behavior becomes the new normal. Many of my fellow cancer survivors have just decided to live their days being happy.

3.  Share what you  know. Offering what you have learned really make a difference to others.  As we share the ins and outs of our medical journeys,  we feel great to be in a group that cares and will listen to anything we offer.  The magic happens when the thing one person shares about their experience becomes the missing link of information or inspiration for someone else.

Alieness GiselaGiardino

4.  Be grateful.  Many who have been given a serious health diagnosis report that the experience gives almost instant clarity about what is truly important in life. The little things of life take on big meaning.  Gratefulness for each breath, each day and each moment of enjoyment is more easily expressed.  We say, “Life is precious” and really mean it.  Many of  us become savorers of life.  Life becomes juicy in new ways.  I am filled with a sense of contentment when I focus on the people, places and things for which I am thankful.  Being grateful makes me so happy.

What enables you to be happy?