Pass the Peas, Please

CollaborationCollaboration is first experienced when that tiny spoon comes toward your face, filled with creamed peas and mashed turkey.  The spoon moves here and the mouth moves there.  Sometimes like a game and other times – just a sure miss calculation of time and space.

Well, I do have good news.

Collaboration remains as vital now as it was back then. Think about it. How many hours of our professional lives do we spend working with others in a meeting, on a project, or in a presentation? At times collaboration comes easily, and at other times … peas all over our face.

As much as we’d like to be born with it, skilled collaboration takes practice.

Improv for Business is Like Ballet for Football – the high achievers realize they need cross training for outstanding performance.

For speakers, managers, team leads – and all who have to communicate with others – improv, or improvisational, skills are essential. And we want to make a clear distinction that improv is not simply “winging” it or “talking off the cuff”.

View our video on the “Mind the Gap” concept here

It is being present and flexible in the moment – listening and responding to the needs of the situation. Being excellent at improv takes practice.

Improv for Business GlassesWhy improvisation? Why are business schools incorporating improv into the curriculum?

In business it pays to be nimble with our thoughts, decisions and responses.

Improvisation is about learning to be in the moment, quick on the uptake, and flexible.

Business training realizes it has a great deal to learn from the arts.  Improv troupes and jazz musicians understand that improvisation is about knowing your subject so well that you can move without a script, handle variations, and play with embellishment while still having the tune recognizable.

In business, listening is absolutely essential. Improv seems like it can be all about the quick come back or retort.  Yet, phenomenal listening skills are the foundation to that response.  What do master improv actors and highly successful business people have in common? They excel at listening and observing.   (more…)

PRESS: “What is…” Wednesday – Why Should PR Folks Make Us Laugh? An Improvisational Take

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Ever see the Steve Martin/Rick Moranis classic “My Blue Heaven?”In it, the incomparable Joan Cusack asserts that people are either “The Funny One,” or “The Smart One,” assuming most people are NOT both.

Emmy nominee and PRSA Western District Conference presenter Hilary Blair, however, begs to differ.

A popular voice-over artist and actor who teaches voice, public speaking, and voice-over for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts and the National Theatre Conservator, Hilary is currently preparing to lead a group of PR peeps (myself included) in a full-on Improv Workshop at the Conference in March. More details here

So, this got me to thinking…

Hilary – why does comedy have a place in the work day?

Comedy and creative play is – or at least should be – part of our daily lives.  As adults, we move away from play – or separate out play time from our serious work time.  What most people don’t understand is that play itself is about exploration and constructive problem solving, not mere frivolity. While it sometimes gets a bad rap, play and comedy can play a very serious part in the learning process.

Humor can also help get to the core of issues in business – responses while at play and when in the throes of laughter are often from the gut. Our gut responses to most things are all too often dead on – if only we would listen.  Some of us have turned a deaf ear to our own brilliant ideas!

When we make time for play and comedy, we give ourselves a chance to get back to listening to that small voice, trusting that tiny prod to move forward in a certain direction – to try a crazy idea or look at something from a new angle.

Every day is a chance to rekindle our playful creativity for life and work.

PRESS: How to Be A Communication Chiropractor

Robin speaks with the World Positive Thinkers Club on How to Be a Communication Chiropractor:

Are You Suffering From the “Bullet Point Effect”?

The need for good communication skills is heightened during the holiday season, as are the many opportunities at parties and events to show off these skills.

One holiday that I continue to love is Thanksgiving. My passion for it began as a child. I remember waking up on Thanksgiving morning with the aroma of pumpkin bread wafting through the house. I’d spend the morning watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade—the signal to me that the holiday season had officially begun. Soon would come myriad parties, presents, and goodies to share with family and friends.

Bullet Point Communication Effect by ARTiculate: Real&ClearI discovered that to be well-prepared for the holiday season requires one essential ingredient: lists.

Lists of ingredients we need to bake the treats, lists of gifts to give, lists of parties to attend, guests to invite, and more.

The tradition of making lists is one that continues to be part of my everyday life, since lists are a great tool for staying on track. But what happens when we communicate like a list? Well, that’s where the fun ends.

I call this the Bullet Point Effect.

  • Here’s the issue: When we are writing an email or talking over the phone or even in person, sometimes we are moving so fast that we are only communicating the practical business of the conversation.
  • Here’s the problem: In the “Bullet Point Effect,” we jump right to the point of the conversation. We may think that we are being efficient and effective, while others are experiencing our conversation or email as disconnected and uncaring.

  Click here to watch more video tips from ARTiculate: Real&Clear

Bullet point lists can keep us on track, but they don’t foster trust. For example, I was recently talking with a client who said he wanted his new employees to feel that he was approachable. When we dove deeper into his communication style, he realized that he was an expert in bullet point communication. While he felt it was efficient, he also realized his pointed delivery didn’t allow time for any connection.

We agreed that without that essential connection, it is difficult to develop trust. And without trust, it is even harder to establish employee buy-in.

If you are a bullet point person and communicate in lists, try shifting your approach:

  • Be friendly. A warm greeting is always beneficial, whether in person, over the phone, or in email. Connect on a personal level beyond the business topic at hand. If you aren’t good at making small talk, practice this with friends or a coach.
  • Approach gently. Once a connection is established, guide listeners to the topic of the conversation with ease. For instance, you could say something like this: “I know that you have been working hard on project X, and I’d appreciate hearing your findings.”
  • Be transparent. If you know that your communication style is “bulleted,” let others know that you are aware this is your style—and that your intent is not to put them off. Give them permission to tell you if they need more details or guidance around projects. You don’t have to change your style, but you do need to acknowledge that others communicate differently and may need more connection.
  • Remember, communication is about making a connection. And connections create trust so that others are willing to follow where you are trying to go—ultimately, to a place that is mutually beneficial. When you are clear about your intentions, it allows others to approach you comfortably when they have a question or a problem that needs your input.

The Bottom Line

While our bulleted lists may give all the information that we need to move forward, they may not provide all the detail that others need to understand our goals.

Filling in the spaces or expanding bullet point conversations will make it more likely that what you say is heard, and that will benefit you, your team, and your organization as a whole.

So this holiday season, if you are bullet point person, get into the holiday spirit and try something new. When you do, I’m confident that the project, interaction, and goal of your conversations will turn out like my grandmother’s Cherry Chocolate Cake, which I bake each Christmas—delicious, beautiful to look at, and everyone comes back for seconds.

By Robin A. Miller, PhD, COO/Lead Coach, with Hilary Blair, Head ARTiculator and Lead Coach

This article was originally posted on in December 2014.



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