I’ve seen it at hundreds of corporate Christmas parties, sales retreats and other banquets I’ve performed at over the years. Staff members called up to be recognized for their years of service or another award. Winners get a handshake, a photo and a little glass trophy. Sadly, these annual or semi-annual functions are often the only time the organization celebrates work well done.
Companies should be creating a culture of celebration that is woven into the fabric of their workplace. Celebration will transform your team into a more energized, productive and unified group. Your people will push harder, do more and handle disappointment better within a culture of celebration. In this post I’ll show you why celebration is such a powerful element of great teamwork and list 5 real benefits of celebration in the workplace.
May of 2016 marked twenty years for The Panic Squad Improv Comedy, the company I own and act with. This weekend myself and some of the other founding members will perform a Panic Squad reunion show as part of the annual alumni weekend at Trinity Western University in Langley, BC, Canada. That’s where this journey began for me. TWU is where I first saw improv comedy and met the friends who would launch into this adventure alongside me.
With the reunion show drawing near, I’ve been reflecting on twenty years of performing clean comedy across North America. Front and center in the reflection pool is a key moment at the beginning of our career that defined who we are and impacted our trajectory over the next twenty years. Here’s the story behind that decisive moment and a challenge for you to take hold of your own work with resolve and excellence.
I had the privilege of being interviewed on the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast. Listen in as Carey and I discuss how improv comedy applies to leadership.
I started four businesses between the ages of 8 and 13. Not all were good ideas. My longest one lasted about a year. I shut down my shortest venture after 2 minutes. Each one taught me some important lessons about perspective, people and opportunities. Here is a brief and humorous synopsis of my childhood businesses. I trust that you will learn from them just as I did.
Business #1 – Candy Man.
My mom wouldn’t let us eat hard candy when we were kids.
“It’s bad for you.”
“You’ll choke on it.”
“You’ll break your teeth”
The problem was, the hard candy was the cheap candy. Most people buy big bags of cheap candy around Halloween. It seemed to be the go to candy of choice to hand out to trick-or-treaters. We ended up with a lot of left over hard candy.
One day in early November I was lamenting the tyranny of my hard-candy-hating parents to my friend Chris as he sucked on a green apple Jolly Rancher in front of me. He tucked the Rancher into his cheek and said, “I wish I still had a bunch of candy left over like you. I’m almost out.”
It was a Light Bulb Moment.
Fear taunts us, stalls us, compares us to others who seem so much more equipped for success or are already more successful. Fear keeps us from voicing a great idea because we’re worried it may be lame. Fear is like those stupid trick birthday candles that never really go out. Just when you think you’ve extinguished fear, it flickers back to life again.
One night following a gig the guys and I were back in the hotel and ended up watching “Bad Ink”. In a nutshell, the show features people with horribly embarrassing or poorly done tattoos who go to some master artists for help. The tattoo artists miraculously turn the bad ink into creative, tactful masterpieces. They don’t remove the bad tattoos. They build over and around them.
We need to handle fear the same way. If our goal is to remove fear from our lives, then every time it flickers to life again we’ve failed. Rather, we build around the fear, master it, and turn it to our advantage.
Thrills and Chills
Personally, I love fear. I’m a thrill seeker. The higher, faster, and more dangerous something is, the more I am drawn to it.
Even if skydiving and bungee jumping isn’t your thing, my guess is that everyone embraces fear to some degree. Just think of how many people enjoy suspenseful movies. Take a minute to consider why roller coasters are so popular.
Grace. It’s been a popular name for decades. We say grace before we eat. The Bible says we are saved by grace. Without grace, figure skating becomes hockey, and dancing devolves into twerking. Grace is also a key element of improv comedy and needs to be a key component of your organization.
One of the things I love most about improv comedy is the inherent grace that is a part of each show. Because of the immensely interactive nature of improv comedy, there is a connection between the actors and the audience. We’re in this together. They become invested in the success of the show as we use their ideas to create the comedy.
The audience is also aware of the risks we have to take to do improv. That’s why it’s so exciting. Humor and story written in the moment. Created for the first time, every time, right before your eyes. It’s the comedy version of crossing Niagara Falls on a high wire. Comedy without a net.
For improv to work, grace must be in play.
Grace must be in play because we’re going to fail. At least once every show. Failing is part of improv. Sometimes a joke bombs or the guy who can’t sing is forced to sing a solo. He painfully screeches his way through a song about the trials of raising hairless llamas as the audience applauds and cheers with glee. That’s right, applauds and cheers. Because they love it.
Audiences love the authenticity and vulnerability of improv.
They love it because they understand the agreement.
Here we go. Post #1. Lift off. On your mark, get set, GO! Through this blog we will laugh a lot and learn together from successes I’ve found, secrets I’ve discovered, and horrible mistakes I’ve made. We will look at life and leadership through the lens of improv comedy.
I’ve been a professional improv comedian for 20 years. I absolutely love it. Not only do I get to bring face stretching, stomach clutching, tear streaming laughter to audiences across North America, I’ve been working in a teamwork and leadership crucible for 20 years.
Improv is the essence of teamwork and leadership. Trust is crucial. Fear and ego must be overcome. Forward momentum is key. Listening is essential. Improv has so much to teach us about teamwork, leadership and life in general.
I guarantee Improv has something to teach you, too. To be certain, let’s take a little test. Improv has something to teach you if:
1. You are part of a team with other people that don’t think exactly like you.
2. You lead a team with other people that don’t think exactly like you, or each other.
3. You want to move forward but feel stuck. It’s like you’re standing in Jello. You know what needs to be done but it’s hard to move and kind of comfortable. Who doesn’t like Jello? Then your competition eats you alive.
4. Taking risks and leaping into something new sounds wonderful and terrifying. Mostly terrifying.