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2020 Reflection: A Study in Extremes

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Leadership Lessons

Comments from Karen Hough, ImprovEdge Founder and CEO

The message of improvisation – arriving onstage (or at work) with no script, few resources and having to figure out a plan from nothing – has never been more resonant. We are truly all improvisers!

And if we don’t reflect on 2020, we aren’t being authentic. As much as improvisers look to the future and insist on positivity, we also must be in the moment, and acknowledge what’s right in front of us.

The year has been marked, across all the industries in which we deliver, with trends in human psychology and behavior.

2020 is a study in extremes, and we’re all feeling the effects of fatigue, stress, grief and … hope.

We’ve been human boomerangs of intense focus and ridiculous productivity in the face of change, to hitting walls with the realization that this marathon won’t be over soon. Everyone has lost something, or most tragically, someone. Yet, each day, we try to rise with gratitude on our lips and eyes straining for silver linings.

At work, the leakage of duty hours into our lives is the worst I’ve ever seen it. It’s troubling to have the same conversation about exhaustion and lack of boundaries with clients on three different continents.

At the same time, the focus on the individual, and a deeper understanding of the lives and needs of our colleagues has increased exponentially. We know their pets and their families, and their photos on the wall, and intrinsically trust them more deeply.

At ImprovEdge, we believe in behavior. Like all actors, we put our bodies into the practices that create change on stage, or in our lives, and know that our minds and moods, will follow. I have all the statistics behind the trends affecting our emotions and psychology, AND…I want to focus on behavior.

Think about what you’re doing day-to-day.

Is every little movement serving a higher purpose?

Is kindness at the center of your decisions?

With those questions in mind, consider how small behaviors can lead us to better outcomes.

STOP

  • Skipping meals or eating at your desk.
  • Multi-tasking.
  • Sitting on back-to-back video calls for hours on end.
  • Skipping your walk, or run, or virtual yoga class.
  • Rushing through meetings just to get them over.
  • Working every night and every weekend.
  • Obsessing over tactical tasks and petty grudges.

CONTINUE AND START

  • Setting boundaries. Your health, sleep, and nutrition take precedence over everything else.
  • 25/55 on meetings. End every half-hour meeting at 25 and every hour meeting at 55. Then everyone gets to grab a drink of water and use the restroom before the next one.
  • Small movements every 15-20 minutes. Roll your ankles and wrists, sit up and breathe. Smile at your pet.
  • Big movements every 90-120 minutes. Stand up, stretch your whole body, walk outside, jumping jacks, vocal warm-ups, hug a loved one.
  • Focus. Our output suffers significantly every time we split focus. Do one thing at a time, very well. Then go to the next one.
  • Calendar management. Block time for family, friends, exercise, deep thinking on critical projects where all the reminders and distractions are turned off.
  • Big picture thinking. Spend at least 30 minutes every week stepping back to view things from five years from now. What will matter? How do you want to be remembered and what sort of reputation will your actions build during this difficult time?

And, finally, keep improvising. That little phrase has been my sign off for years, and boy can we ever use it now!

Keep being positive, flexible, adaptable.

Keep knowing that you are valuable, talented and worthy of the spotlight.

And thank you. For supporting and inspiring us at ImprovEdge.

Here’s to 2021.