Share the Focus

There is a concept in improv (which is my side passion and hobby; more on this some other time) that when there are more than two scenes on stage at the same time, you have to share focus. Basically, you have to take turns speaking and being the center of attention.

Another wonderful concept of improv is that there really are no leaders and followers. It doesn't matter who initiates the scene or comes on second: to make the scene work, you both have to "yes, and" (ie, support each other) and contribute, since the success of the team and show are everyone's goal.

Businesses and leaders could stand to learn from this (and other improv "skills"). Here are some ways this can translate: 
  1. Regardless of who you are, share credit and acknowledge contribution. 
  2. Give everyone a chance to contribute, regardless of their title or function, since you never know where the next great idea or breakthrough will come from.
  3. Encourage everyone to speak up and contribute.
  4. Take turns speaking—no one should be allowed to interrupt or speak over anyone else, regardless of title or function.
  5. Everyone can and should at times be both leader and follower.
  6. The good of the whole—whether it is team, project, company, etc.—should outweigh the good of any of its individual members.
It's amazing how many lessons on leadership (and good business) can be learned from all aspects of life. Years ago, I read this great leadership book written by a mountain climber (On the Edge by Alison Levine) that I highly recommend, and here's the previous blog post if you want a sneak preview.

Takeaway: Life can teach you to be a better leader but make sure to encourage everyone to contribute and share the credit.

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