Q: Why are you involved with Awaken?

A: Jim Wardlaw and I attended graduate classes together at Buffalo State College and hit it off. Over the years, we stayed in touch and had lunches together, during which we realized our skills. I’ve taught improv, writing for solo performance, and writing for standup comedy. Several years ago, Jim took one of my improv classes and we began discussing how a lot of the basic improv, standup, and solo performance skills are the same ones that managers need to know in order to have effective meetings. A lot of times, meetings get derailed by a strange lack of communication that comes from people’s unwillingness to hear each other out or to criticize each other’s ideas – which are two important components of improv. So, Jim asked if I was interested in presenting on this topic at Awaken 2020 and I agreed.

Q: What is the nature of your presentation?

A: My presentation will focus on how we can achieve using improv techniques, particularly “Yes And”. By using these improv skills, I guide people in bringing the “human” to their business side in a way that’s productive. I stress the importance for leaders to not be afraid to be human and to show their vulnerabilities, which expresses that sentiment that we’re all in the same boat. It’s crucial for us to learn to tell others our vulnerabilities instead of pretending that we’re robots that never make mistakes and are always brilliant. Being vulnerable allows us to be much more critical than we normally would be because it’s not personal. If you want to take the personal out of it, make it personal in the beginning. By this, I mean to communicate as quickly as possible. For example, in improv, the audience wants to see two characters talking, not two actors arguing. To be successful, we need to stop being individual actors fighting over ideas and become a group of people looking to solve a problem – which is the same in the business world. Often, the norm can be to have four-hour meetings about nothing, where coworkers are arguing, and progress isn’t made. It seems like compassion is missing from these meetings, which is where the improv tool of “Yes And” can help.

Q: In your opinion, why is organizational culture important?

A: People need to know their expectations and they need both criticism and encouragement. A truly great manager knows the difference between the person who needs a kick in the rear and the one who needs a pat on the back. A big part of managing is knowing this and acting on it. Organizational culture is important because people need their roles and tasks defined, and they need guidance and encouragement along the way, which only happens when a culture is organized. Improv is the same thing. 40% of the improv you will do just doesn’t work, 40% is acceptable because your technique is good, and 20% is good stuff. You only get the 20% if you’re willing to put up with the other 80% of stuff. You have to be willing to take that risk of being vulnerable in order to get the 20% that shines.

Q: What are you looking forward to at this year’s Awaken conference?

A: I’m looking forward to meeting a ton of really talented people who are at the top of their field and meeting people who have an entirely different approach to what they’ve done with their careers and how they approach it. I’m also looking forward to making some friends. Awaken is such a great networking opportunity.

Q: Attendees will be learning a great deal from you and other presenters at Awaken 2020. What specifically do you hope to learn?

A: I hope to learn how to be more organized in approaching my freelancing as a business, especially with regard to marketing myself. I’m going to be with people who really know how to market themselves, so I plan on asking lots of questions.

Are you ready to be more human in business? Come check out Tim’s presentation at Awaken 2020! You can get your tickets here.