Feedback – As Improvisers, As Workspace Colleagues

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(inside the Flat Iron Arts Building elevator)

Much of improv continues to resonate for my behavior design endeavors, particularly toward applied improv and developing an improv mindset in the workspace. Workspace interactions are not too different from the relationship-based interactions between two improvisors performing a scene.

About this post. This post is about a recent improv-based blog post at Improv Nonsense (by Will Hines). A question was posed essentially seeking a response about how one provides feedback to a fellow improviser. This is relevant and directly applicable to the traditional workspace.

One of my behavior design endeavors has been serving as a coach/catalyst agent for a colleague who is implementing 360 Degree Profilor (more info at PDI over here) development suggestions. And similar to a perspective I shared over here about servant leadership and emotional intelligence, I often wonder how the 360 experience also can not be as forthright and authentic (but I digress for a bit).

Improv Nonsense – On Feedback

WHines_ImprovNonsense_NotesWill Hines (on Twitter, web), a Los Angeles-based improviser, recently responded to a question about giving feedback* – suggesting general principles for providing feedback to fellow improv team members.

As part of his response, he shared –

“I wish I had this figured out enough to give a for-sure bulleted list. I don’t. But you know what, I’m gonna try. Here’s a first draft of some general principles.”

– for which his general principles, in my opinion, are comparable to approaches for the workspace. See the details of each listed bullet in his blog postAnd where he references “show”, replace this with “workspace project” – whatever activity you are co-creating with your work colleague.

  • Sit on impulses, especially angry ones.

  • Make sure you’ve taken the note you want to give.

  • Don’t do it over email.

  • When you want to say something, don’t be polite. Be direct.

  • Can you talk right to the person who is bothering you in an honest non-angry way?

  • Offer a specific not-that-binding constraint.

  • Be honest.

  • Is the show working?

To close out his post, Hines also shares –

“But here’s my hesitation about all of this. You ultimately cannot control other people. If you’re only going to be happy if other people do certain things, you will never be happy in your improv shows. Improv is about being surprised and reacting to it. If people are listening and not denying the FACTS of what you are saying, there’s not much room to complain.

I asked a member of a very prominent and successful improv team if my team should have an honest session of giving each other notes and he said “I wouldn’t give anyone on my team a note, and if I did, they wouldn’t take it.”

The best teams I’ve been on are people who are capable of taking care of themselves. This is assuming they do listen to and then don’t deny the facts of what each other says on stage. Everyone is ready to react and deal with whatever.”

I wholeheartedly agree. Taking care of one’s self is core to being part of an ensemble. And overall, I believe Hines shares the importance of not having unspoken expectations.

That said, how about your experience. Please let me know the following –

What circumstances, considerations, and approaches do you have for providing feedback? How does Hines’s list compare to your personal experience and observations?

* There are other improvisors’ perspectives
on providing feedback. I will share those, as well.

– – – –

I am gathering and sharing my thoughts as I evolve ANTHROCUBEOLOGY – INSPIRED by IMPROV, a CATALYST for WORKSPACE CULTURAL SHIFTS through TINY CHANGES.


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