Ask any improviser how they come up with ideas in the moment and they’ll immediately direct you to the concept of “yes, and…”
“Yes, and” is the foundational principle upon which all solid improv scenes are built on stage without a script or advance preparation. Improvisers know it well and use it to develop a whole world stemming from just one word.
Improviser or not, the principle of “yes, and” can be applied to more than just the stage. It can also be used in the workplace as the basis for improving communication and growth and fostering creativity and collaboration. This technique helps give employees a voice, feel seen and heard, and feel like they have some control over their own workload and direction. Practicing (and I do mean practicing) “yes, and” makes employees feel like they are making a greater contribution to the success of the organization, which in turn, promotes greater employee engagement.
Let’s start with what it means
A common misconception is that “yes, and” means saying yes and agreeing with everything someone else says. Instead, it invites us to be active listeners and acknowledge someone else’s reality or idea as truth. It’s actively listening and recognizing their point of view allowing them to feel heard.
The “and” part is to build on their idea by adding something of value to work toward finding common ground. Saying “and” prevents us from using “but” or “no” which is essentially negating the initial idea put forth. It’s the “and” that lets us explore the reasons that something will work versus immediately jumping into all the reasons that it won’t work.
This doesn’t mean that we always have to agree with one another, but it opens the door to collaboration with the goal of finding a solution or resolution that allows everyone to have a voice and feel heard.
Boosting employee well-being through the art of “yes, and”
Active listening, consideration and acknowledgment are three key things to remember when utilizing “yes, and” for the purpose of improving employee well-being at work. If you allow it to open up a dialogue between all levels of the hierarchy where people feel like their ideas are valued and respected, the magic will start to happen behind the scenes. Leading with a “yes, and” mindset can shift company culture to one where employees feel trusted, ready to tackle any obstacle and take down barriers with innovative solutions. Here are a few ways that practicing “yes, and” can contribute to employee well-being:
- Opens the lines of communication – Emphasizing “yes, and” fosters an environment where employees feel comfortable expressing their ideas, concerns, and suggestions. This open communication can lead to increased trust, reduced stress, and improved overall well-being.
- Fosters creativity and innovation – “Yes, and” enables individuals to build upon each other’s ideas, leading to innovative solutions and creative problem-solving. When employees feel their contributions are valued and integrated into the team’s efforts, they gain a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
- Reduces the fear of failure – In a “yes, and” environment, mistakes are seen as opportunities for growth rather than something to be feared. When employees feel less afraid of making mistakes, they experience reduced stress and anxiety, promoting their well-being.
- Generates buy-in / more investment in the work – Implementing the “yes, and” approach can encourage managers and leaders to give employees more autonomy in decision-making. Empowered employees often experience higher job satisfaction.
- Nurtures a positive and inclusive working environment – By promoting collaboration and teamwork, “yes, and” fosters a sense of camaraderie among employees. Stronger social connections at work can lead to increased happiness.
Introducing the “yes, and” mindset into the workplace is not just a simple change in communication style but a cultural shift that requires commitment from all levels of the organization. Yes, it takes training and PRACTICE, and when it starts to come together, employees are more likely to experience improved well-being, leading to increased productivity and job satisfaction.
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