Independent Contact Center Consultants: Bridging Strategy, Technology and Operations Since 2004

Why our Team Took an Improv Class – and You Should Too!

I instilled fear in my team when I scheduled an “Improv” session at our recent annual meeting. I’m sure they had visions of being “onstage” and having to come up with something incredibly clever and funny. In reality, everyone left feeling like it was one of the best “team-building” exercises they’d ever experienced. Let me explain…

improv for contact centersComedySportz’s improvisation players entertain people all over the country. But they also offer workshops for corporate teams to learn how to apply some of the principles of improv to working together. Through a series of fun exercises (none of which threatened life and limb or let anyone feel out of their comfort zone), we learned a few things:

  • How to listen – really listen – to everything someone says
  • How confusing our language and directions can be when there is a lot going on, and how complex direction leads to a “result,” but not necessarily the expected result
  • When resources are “flying blind,” no amount of direction will lead to a successful outcome
  • Agility is key to forward momentum when things develop a bit differently than expected
  • Roles can shift and everything can still work when we are operating as peers, with mutual respect of capabilities and strengths and focus on the “right” things
  • Teamwork is also about having fun; good things can come out of “play”
  • How to build on what someone says, not reject it outright (which is often the reaction when we have points we want to make or think we have the answers)

This last one provided a golden nugget and gave us some new lingo to use in working together. “Yes, and…” is a key to success in improv, and a great way to leverage others’ input and ideas. It lets people take risks, present new ideas, and feel respected and appreciated. It beats “No…” or “Yes, but…” any day. It doesn’t mean we always agree, but we try to listen to what our teammates have to share and use their ideas rather than reject them.

Because the improv class was so valuable for us, we discussed the impact it could have for our clients. We’ve seen teams going through big changes that could use an infusion of fun as well as teams that weren’t hearing each other well, or lacked the openness to take good ideas and turn them into action. Contact center leaders, support resources, IT teams, marketing, training, and HR could all benefit from a little improvisational thinking and interaction. Supervisors, team leads, and agents could learn not just how to interact with each other and their leadership and support, but how to better handle customer interactions. As ComedySportz reveals in Jill & Patrick’s Small Book of Improv for Business, it’s about “observing, connecting, and responding.” And boy, does that sound like a recipe for improving the customer experience!

So even though terminology may a bit of a challenge here, the opportunity to learn and apply improvisational techniques to improving teamwork and communication is valuable and highly recommended to enhance collaboration and results. Now go out and play!

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Interested in seeing how Improv can help your team work better together? Contact us to talk about working with our new partner, ComedySportz, to conduct a session for your center. Or read the article I write for Contact Center Pipeline entitled “Team Building Redefined: It’s Time to Improvise.”