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Erin Diehl

Have you ever tried improv? Neither had Chris, until he met Erin Diehl. Erin is a former experiential marketer and veteran improviser that conducts workshops leveraging improv techniques to improve employees’ skills in corporate settings. That’s right. She brings improv to the corporate world.

How to think on your feet
How to think on your feet

How to think on your feet

Ep
174
Feb
02
With
Erin Diehl
Or Listen On:

Yes, and…

Have you ever tried improv? Neither had Chris, until he met Erin Diehl. Erin is a former experiential marketer and veteran improviser that conducts workshops leveraging improv techniques to improve employees’ skills in corporate settings. That’s right. She brings improv to the corporate world.

One of her many mottos: inspire, don’t perspire.

In this episode, Erin shares her story of starting out sweaty and terrified of trying improv, to then wielding it as a powerful communication and team working tool.

It makes sense. Improv is about staying in the moment, listening, and—more than anything—making other people look good. Improv teaches you how to postpone judgement, think on your feet, and trust your gut. Not unlike some of the advice you may hear from Chris.

If you’re shy or introverted, then give this episode a good listen. And in those moments of panic or distress, Erin suggests surrendering to that feeling so you can then move through it.

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Appearances

Episode Transcript

Erin:

... so it's really believing in yourself. And if you can do that, your audience is going to follow soon. They're going to say, "Yo, she knows what she's talking about. Cats love dog food." And they're going to literally join in because it's the energy that you bring to it too, that is really going to impact the people that are watching. Because remember, people don't really pay attention to what you say, people remember how you make them feel.

Chris:

Okay. Erin, I'm super excited to talk to you because I'm fascinated about this whole idea of introducing improv into our work and how we coach people. And I have no idea how it's done. I've seen things like, "Whose line is it anyways?" And I'm just blown away by the way that people are able to think on their feet and the situations that they can get themselves into and out of. And so, I'm excited to talk to you.
For people who don't know who you are, can you introduce yourself, please?

Erin:

Yes, I sure can. I am Erin Diehl. I have a dog, just so you know, with the name, Big Diehl. Use that last name very punnily. And I am the founder of improve it! And we are a company who uses improv comedy to train professionals on what we call power skills. I no longer call them soft skills, because they're actually the skills that we need to succeed in business and life. We've been in business now for about seven years, made it through the, Chris, the pandemic, and we're completely an in-person business who turned completely virtual overnight. Now, we're sort of a hybrid of the two and it's been a wild ride, but I love bringing this art form to companies, to teams, professionals, because it truly is an experiential way to learn and to make your...
Let me just give you a quick synopsis of how it works. It essentially breaks down the barriers that we bring to work. And I like to say, we all wore masks to work before March of 2020, the hypothetical mask, right? So, this idea that I'm leading from a transactional place, I'm not somebody who is vulnerable, I'm not a leader who can't show up and actually care about the people that I work with. I'm here to do a job, right? And so, we break down those barriers through laughter, learning, and through play. And it's in that moment where the aha happens, where the change occurs. Because when that barrier's gone, we're postponing that judgment, we're allowing our true selves to show up, and it's in those moments where we actually become our best professional selves.
So, it's a really wonderful thing to watch. Can I ask you a question, Chris, real quick? Have you ever done it?

Chris:

Yeah. Wait. Wait. Are we entering into something? Do I need to be prepared?

Erin:

Yeah, this is... No, I'm just kidding. We're going to do some improv now.

Chris:

You have to warn me, okay?

Erin:

No, no, no. I got you. And I got your back because improv's about making the other person look good, so no, that's a big piece too. But have you ever done improv or performed or taken an improv class?

Chris:

I've performed, but I don't know if anybody would call that an improv, and it's definitely not something that I've trained for sure.

Erin:

Yeah. But it's something that if you've witnessed it, you can see... You've seen a really good show. You've witnessed the magic. If you've seen a really bad show, that's okay, because they're still learning, they're still perfecting the craft because there's actually hours and hours of practice, and training, and technique, and form that go into making improv look good. And that's what we pull from, is those rules, those forms, the mechanics of it, and we put that into a professional setting.

Chris:

Okay. But you were going to ask me a question, right? I'm bracing now, I'm like, "Shoot."

Erin:

No, no, that was it. That was it. Have you ever done it before?

Chris:

Oh, that was it?

Erin:

That was it.

Chris:

Oh. Okay. Okay. That was an easy one.

Erin:

Yeah. No, you got this. Wait, I have to ask. I do have actually one more. We're on video right now, I can see your hat and you have the ampersand and. Where does that come from? Where does that hat from?

Chris:

Well, it was given to me as a gift when I was speaking in Miami. And I like topography, so I like anything that's got a cool element to it. And Roman letter forms are pretty abstract, but numbers and symbols are even more abstract than letter forms. And there's something that's really beautiful about the ampersand. But I know you're going to talk about this because of the whole Yes, And, right?

Erin:

Yeah. Well and a girl friend of mine and a colleague actually in this space, she is creating a brand with the ampersand called, [The House of And 00:05:13], and I wondered if that was hers, but that's so cool because, the and is really powerful, and improv comedy. And I love that. See, you know improv, Chris. You know what I'm talking about. It's a powerful tool. It's a really powerful tool. I was very curious about that when we first started, so I'm glad. That was my last question.

Chris:

Okay. All right. Back to you now. I'm curious how someone who has the background that you do in terms of majoring in communications, how do you get into dance? And how does dance become improv? And how does improv become business coaching? That's a really strange meandering path through a professional career. Can you take us through the highlights here?

Erin:

Yeah. Wow. This is a great question. And I'll kind of flip it because I actually did dance and acting and performing first without improv training. I grew up in community theater at the age of three. My mom taught piano and voice out of my house growing up, has done local theater her entire life, still does it in her late 60s when safe. I grew up performing with a script. Dance is all about choreography, so you can definitely improvise in dance. There's definitely moments when you're at a club or you're doing something, you're just feeling the beat, that's improv in itself, right?
But the type of dance I did was trained. I danced at Clemson University and we were a collegiate varsity sport, competed my whole life in dance. And when I graduated from Clemson, actually, my goal, Chris... And this is every parent's dream, was to be a talk show host. And I said that to my parents, I said, "This is what I'm going to school for, communications. I'm going to become a talk show host." This was early 2000s. There were no YouTubes, no digital courses on this, nothing to emulate, except my guiding light Oprah Winfrey. And so, I said, "Where does one become Oprah? Oh, Chicago. I'm going to move to Chicago. What do you do in Chicago to become Oprah? I guess, improv. I should probably do that."
And so, I actually, before I moved, walked into an audition at the Actors' Equity office in downtown Chicago, did not have an Actors' Equity card, auditioned for a predominantly improv-based show. And believe it or not, it had dancing in it. And so, I was on part of the dance team within this improv-based show, it's called The Awesome 80s Prom, whole thing, a real show. It was off-Broadway and off, off. And it was so much fun. But again, I didn't have fear. I literally walked into that office, said, "I'm going to do this, audition for the show, got in the show." And it wasn't until I was surrounded by really fantastic improvisers that I became very aware that I had no improv training.
And so, I started taking classes. And I'll tell you, this improv scared me. It literally gave me that armpit sweat that you feel when you're like, "I need a strong antiperspirant right now, because I feel so uncomfortable in my skin." I would go to class or training and just freak out. And what I started to do was realize, "Okay, I need to just expose myself to this again and again and again, so I become less afraid." Finally, after many, many classes and awful... Chris, I'm telling you, awful performances. I started to catch on that improv is really the truth in the comedy. It's not about saying a joke, which I was... In high school, I was voted class clown. I've always been the funny friend.
And so, when I released that, I said, "You know what? I'm just going to play. I'm going to be present in the moment. I'm going to react to the last thing that was just said to me, and I'm going to play off of that." That's when the light bulb happened. And then, at this time period, I was also doing business development at a recruiting firm, so when the light bulb for improv hit, and I started to see a really strong connection on stage, I started to see a really strong connection in my professional life. And I was a better listener to my clients. I was more present in meetings. I was more empathetic to people around me. I just was present. And so, that's when the magic and the aha for improve it! started, but it was allowing myself to go off script that allowed me to even find this space.

Chris:

Okay. I need to take you back because I tend to listen to a very specific parts of the story. The armpit sweat part, I want to take you back there, if that's okay. Because that tells me something. That tells me, you're entering into a zone of discomfort. Something inside you tells you to move forward instead of run away, and most people run away. But can you just relive some of the moments that made you scared? What exercises did your improv class put you through that got your pits all sweaty?

Erin:

Chris, you are such a good interviewer. This is why you're amazing at what you do. Okay. First and foremost, I can physically feel the sweat coming back right now. Okay, let me grab some degree. Okay. So, truly, I remember, I did classes in Chicago, and then I had to stop for a while because I actually booked hosting gigs and I was traveling a bit. Once I came back from traveling, I said, "I'm going full force." It wasn't until I walked into the classroom at Second City in Chicago where I stood outside that door, my armpits were literally like, "Okay, we're going to do this." I'll say this, I was terrified. But once the class started, I started to actually feel more free at the very same time, so it was a release actually of the fear that I had built up in my own head.
It was my own limiting beliefs that I can't do this. I need a script. I need choreography. I need lines of dialogue to make this work. I didn't trust myself. But then, once I started playing, I embraced that. Because I tend to play really big characters and like I said, I've always tried to be that friend who lifts people up, and if I can get you to laugh, oh my God, I feel like my day is made selfishly. To make somebody else smile has always been a goal. And so, once I started to overcome that fear and limiting belief that I put in my own brain, it actually made me start to feel like I belong here. This is my space. But it was the buildup over time before even walking in the door that was stopping me from going in.

Chris:

Got it. So, it was this built up anticipation of going and doing something new and different that's cause all of your anxiety. But once you're actually in it, things were much better and you learned to trust yourself, and you let go of some of the imposter syndrome like, "I don't belong and I'm not capable of doing this," right?

Erin:

Yeah. And let me step you too right there. I love this topic. And I'll say this, a defining mentor in my life who was actually one of my first improv coaches said this to me a couple of years ago, he goes, "You could have quit. You could have stopped doing this," and I'll tell you why. I actually felt like within some of my first improv groups... Improv is all about, "I've got your back. I'll support you no matter what." I had a couple people that I just felt we're not on my side. They didn't have my back for whatever reason, and it's funny. I've seen them years later, and one of them actually apologized to me because he said I was coming from a different place. And I knew it wasn't about me. I mean, I'm an acquired taste, not everybody's going to like the flavor, but I knew I didn't do anything to that person.
So, there were imposter syndrome feelings. There were feelings of vulnerability, people pleasing like, "Oh, why doesn't this person like me?" that I had to overcome. And then, once I got through it and started performing with other people, I realized that wasn't about me at all. So, there was a lot in the beginning. There, I could have said, "I'm not doing this anymore," especially after some really bad shows. I am married to my husband now. We've been together 13 years, so he has seen me really from day one. Let's just say, thank God, a lot of phones didn't have video back then because there were some serious moments of just plain suck. It was painful to watch, but you got to get through that and you have to have those moments to build.

Chris:

Yes. So, the larger life lesson here is that, this fear that a lot of people feel is enough for them to turn around and walk the other way. And I think I heard this from Jack Canfield, he said that, "Fear is just a fantasized experience appearing real, F-E-A-R." A Fantasized experience appearing real. And you courageously marched in there and dared to suck. You embraced the suck part of it for a number of days, weeks, or months. And I think that's a really big deal.
And I find that this is a very common trait in people who are successful. And sometimes, you can overthink a situation, but it's just better to just put one foot in front of the other, close your eyes, just have faith that your experiences, your wit, your intelligence will get you through it. And it won't be pretty at first, but you eventually get through it.
But as a person who knows nothing about improv training, I still want to know, what are some of the exercises that they put you through in the beginning where you're like, "Okay. All right. Let me see how I can respond to that," or maybe one that was really illuminating for you in terms of like, "Oh, I could do this." Either one.

Erin:

Yeah, that's a great question. So, just thinking back to my actual... It's hard for me because I have been doing improv for business for so long now. So, thinking back to just my improv training, there's just game after game after game that they teach you in these classes to help teach you the rules, which are Yes, And. Another big role. There are no mistakes, only gifts, so that's where this whole embrace failure comes into play. I'll talk about that too, if we want to dive deeper.
But one game that just pops up that I sometimes do in some of my coaching is called new choice, and it's actually very applicable to what we're talking about. Chris, you want to play a little bit? You want to play?

Chris:

Okay.

Erin:

Can you play a little?

Chris:

Okay.

Erin:

Okay, it's easy.

Chris:

Sure.

Erin:

We're improvising right now. What happens is, we can be having a conversation about anything at all. Usually, there's two people in a scene and you have an outside facilitator, so let's just you and I will talk. And at any time in the conversation, I'm going to say new choice. And so, I'll say something like, "Whatever you're talking about." It could be like new food that you ate. I'll be like, "New food." If you're like, "We're going to talk about our upcoming holiday plans." How about that?
And so, maybe it might be something like new location. In that moment, I'm asking you to change what you just said, and then build off of that change. For example, if I said new location and you had just said, "I'm in New York." And I said, "New location" And you said, "I'm in Santa Monica," which is actually where you are. I know that. Then, you'll start talking about being in Santa Monica, so you just build off that last choice that I gave you.

Chris:

Oh, I see.

Erin:

Does that make sense?

Chris:

So, you're making the players in the game. I like how it's described as a game instead of torture. And you're making them take a hard turns to just kind of be in the moment and not worry too much. And is there any other rules to the game, like you have to continue the narrative thread or it could just be these hard turns, these non sequiturs?

Erin:

Yeah, you have to continue that narrative. We're taking you through the turns. You're just having to react in the moment to the thing that's being said. What this game teaches you? Postponing judgment, thinking quickly on your feet, trusting your gut, so instead of thinking ahead and pre-planning what you're going to say, you can only think about that last thing I just gave you, and build off of that. That's the Yes, And right there. So, it's literally... Yeah. It's such an interesting art form. Improv is an art form, and I love that you said not torture because that's how I felt about improv in the beginning. I felt tortured and I felt like this, "How do people become so good at this? How do people find joy?"
And I'll tell you when the light bulb switched for me, and I just reacted to the last thing that was said and built off somebody else's idea, I didn't negate it. I just said, hypothetically, "Oh, yes, let me add to that." That is when I started to see improv as therapy. That's when I started to see improv as a way... What I love about it is, you can create characters, so I would just bring real things from my daily life into my scenes, and those characters would kind of be a release for me. And that's what we teach in the business world is like, using these scenarios to help you in these uncomfortable situations at work. And you can feel what the right way feels like by using improv as the tool to do that.

Chris:

Okay. I'm going to take a moment to address our audience because they're, I think, mostly, creative introverts. And hearing something like this has probably got them all sweaty in the car. If they're in bed, they're, "Woo, I got to stop listening to this." Because just the idea of this, not even having to do it is enough for them to freak out. And I just want to address that dear listener. Okay. Now, we understand that part.
And I find this very fascinating, exciting. I want to ask you a little bit more about the structure of this, so I can put myself in there, at least mentally. Okay. I'm trying to envision it in my mind. There are two players, there's a facilitator, and the facilitator is the one who's yelling at "New location, new food, new activity," right?

Erin:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris:

How do the two players work together? Because I can understand it being one person, like I'm going to tell you a story about Christmas dinner, and then you're flipping the script on me. How does the other player participate in all of this?

Erin:

They literally react to the last thing that is being said. I wish we had a third person right now.

Chris:

Yes.

Erin:

Okay. Let's just try this and I'm... Can we try it?

Chris:

Yes.

Erin:

And I'm going to try to facilitate, but play with you at the same time, okay?

Chris:

Oh, whoa. Okay.

Erin:

Let's just try. Let's just try. We got this, Chris. We got this. I got your back.

Chris:

Wow, this is wild. Okay.

Erin:

I got your back.

Chris:

I wasn't prepared for this, this morning. Here we go.

Erin:

No, it's so easy. Literally. Okay.

Chris:

Let me take a drink of water here. Let me just... Please go.

Erin:

Take a drink. I'll have a sip of coffee. Here we go.

Chris:

Yeah. I'm dry mouth right now.

Erin:

See, this is the armpits sweat I was talking about. And also, I want to address your listeners too before we get started.

Chris:

Yes.

Erin:

My entire team, I have 22 facilitators, we call them improv professionals between New York, Chicago, LA. Between of the 22, about 18 would identify as an introvert. Just so you know. Just so you know.

Chris:

All right, so we're not alone here?

Erin:

You are not alone. And actually-

Chris:

Now, you are definitely not an introvert, right?

Erin:

I'm definitely not, but-

Chris:

Yeah, you're very extra.

Erin:

... I would say, I am very extra. I'm extra of the extroverts, but I will say this. I also have the tendency, I know, as later in my life I have to recharge by being alone. So, I charge to get energy from people but I have a very... I have a battery, and when it's dead, it needs a significant amount more time now to recharge.

Chris:

Okay.

Erin:

Okay. We're going to do this and you... Chris, it's literally just telling me what you're doing for the holidays. So, what are you doing for the holidays?

Chris:

I'm getting together with family and I'm a little nervous because of Omicron. And so, my wife and I are debating about whether or not we should continue getting together or we should just hit a pause on the holiday plans.

Erin:

I hear you on the holiday plans. My two best friends who are coming in for new year's just decided that they aren't coming. Oh, you know why? Because they actually have COVID.

Chris:

Oh, what a bummer. My goodness.

Erin:

New word choice.

Chris:

Wait, what am I... a new word choice in this?

Erin:

Off a bummer. Not a bummer. Not a bummer. What's the new word?

Chris:

Summer. I can't wait to look forward to moving past all this and getting together with people during summer break.

Erin:

Summer's my favorite time of the year. Honestly, if I could live in it, I'll move so I could have it in the summer.

Chris:

Oh, where'd you move to?

Erin:

Charleston, South Carolina.

Chris:

Okay. I have friends that live there. I've never been there.

Erin:

Change that you've been here. You've been here before. New choice.

Chris:

Wait, I don't understand this.

Erin:

Change it now, so that instead of never being here, you've been here before. Tell me about Charleston. It's hard.

Chris:

Okay. I'm sorry. I know nothing about Charleston.

Erin:

That's Okay. You can make it up. It's improv. Just make it up.

Chris:

Okay. Okay. Yeah. I've been there before and hanging out at the beach, hanging up the ranch.

Erin:

New location. New location. Yeah. There's start with ranch. Keep going with ranch.

Chris:

Okay. Now, we're in a new location.

Erin:

You're at the ranch. Keep going with the ranch.

Chris:

Oh, I'm at the ranch. Okay. I'm at the ranch and hanging out with my friend, Carrie Green who lives in South Carolina, and she-

Erin:

New friend.

Chris:

... calls it the sticks.

Erin:

Yeah. New friend.

Chris:

Okay. Ben has moved there as well, and he's loving it because of how much space he can get. And he can actually afford a home now, which is wonderful for him and his family.

Erin:

That is a blessing. You get way more bang for your buck here.

Chris:

Yeah. And he's telling me about the house by the lake, and I'm so jealous because all my life, I wanted to be close to bodies of water.

Erin:

New choice. Where did you want to be close to?

Chris:

Where I'd be close to the beach.

Erin:

New choice instead of the beach. New choice.

Chris:

I like to be at the heart of the city, in a metropolis. A bookstores, cafes where artists hang out, where there's a lot of activity and buzz. I feed off people's energy and the pulsing of the city, if you will.

Erin:

Yeah. I'm not going to give you another new choice. You nailed it. See, it's hard in the beginning, but did you see how you started to postpone that judgment? You stopped actually judging yourself and be like, "Oh, I'm going to lead into this." And then, you just kept rolling. You did it, Chris.

Chris:

I can't say that was exactly fun, but it was interesting.

Erin:

I love your honesty.

Chris:

I appreciate it was real. It was fun, but it wasn't real fun.

Erin:

Hey, you know what? I'll take it. Because it's improv for people. And I just want to share this with you. You're an improviser, Chris, do you know that?

Chris:

No.

Erin:

Everything we've done on this show already today, you've just set off the cuff. I mean, I know you have pre-planned questions, but you've actually been in the moment and listening and reacting to the things that I've said. Like the armpit sweat, that wasn't a planned question. So, you're already improvising and that's is not just you. I did the same thing. I was the same way when I hear the word improv. And a lot of times, in a corporate setting, people think when we come in, we're going to have them stand up on stage, bark like a dog, and look silly. That's the opposite of what improv is about. It's about making people look good. It's about supporting each other, and fundamentally building off of each other's ideas.
It is hard. What you just did, and what you've been doing, what you've done with this incredible show is all improv, but it's just not labeled as such.

Chris:

Right.

Erin:

So, when you label it, it causes it to feel stressful, but you do it, every day.

Chris:

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Erin:

You do it.

Chris:

Yeah. That is a larger lesson in life, how we label things, our perception, and the words we attach to experiences changes the experience altogether. I do exercises in this. The interesting thing is when you asked me earlier about, do I know anything about improv and have you performed before? Teaching is a performance, I think, when done right. Because you're reacting to what students are saying and doing all the time, and we have great fun doing it.
And the reason why I wanted to talk to you so much was, because you're a professional doing this, I'm an amateur just playing around with it. But I think there are a lot of similar concepts and ideas that we both are working towards, we just call them different things.

Erin:

Yeah. That's it. That is it. And teaching is improv. I mean, talk about reacting. And teaching is one big Q and A session.

Chris:

Yes.

Erin:

It really is. And so, you can't prepare for a Q and A. And so, for what you've been doing with this show, what you do with the work that you do, you are an improviser exactly right. I call it improv, you call it teaching, helping, impacting, it's all the same. It's all the same.

Chris:

Yeah. And I want to take a moment here to dovetail this into a business discussion, and maybe it might be a bridge to where we go next with the conversation, I'm not sure. But many years ago, as I'm working in advertising, we have to pitch for new business. And so, the clients will send over a brief, sometimes a script or a storyboard. And the thing to do is to prepare, to read through, and to get all your questions lined up, and to think through the problem because the last thing you want to do is show up unprepared and to disrespect the client's time.
But I found an interesting phenomenon that happened is that, I was less present. I was looking through my notes and to trying to check off the questions. And this is the nature of human beings. People don't answer the question that you ask, they answer for other questions that you didn't ask. And I found myself scrambling to think, "No, I think they already answered this." And I have to check off the list. And there would be these long awkward silences between when they said something and when I would follow up with something else.
But I found that a lot of times, I wasn't really present to it, so I tried something very different. I would glance at the brief. I would read it once and I would put it away. And I would just begin the conversation by listening. My only intention was just to listen. And inevitably, what happens in this dialogue is, the clients will say something like, "Do you have any questions?" So, now, I'm listening to what they're saying, just wondering if there's anything there that they said that I want more clarity on or greater definition or an example of. And from that point forward, I was much more comfortable, much more relaxed. But more importantly, the kind of rapport and dialogue I was building with the client was a lot deeper. The awkward spaces were gone and it was a hundred percent present. And in return, our wind percentage went up 20, 30, 40%. So, that's a testament to the things that you're talking about and why it resonates with me.

Erin:

Can I add something to this, Chris?

Chris:

Yes, And.

Erin:

Yes, And. Okay. First of all, kudos, I'm giving you slow claps here.

Chris:

Thank you.

Erin:

That takes special skill, number one. Number two, you are doing something that is so important, I think, and is the fundamental of communication. And this is what I truly believe, if the world could take an improv class, we would be a better place because improv is about listening and reacting. But number one is listening. And so, you were building that trust because you were making people feel heard. Trust was formed because you weren't just showing up and throwing up your pitch, you were actually getting to the pain killer of what you were helping this company solve this product. Whatever it may be, you were understanding, what is the challenge and how are we going to help you with this? How are we going to showcase your product, your service in the best light? And I'm going to understand this by listening, first and foremost.
And that, I think, is one of the biggest fundamentals of sales. We work with so many sales teams. A lot of times, even myself included, I used to be in business development at a recruiting firm. I would show up and throw up. When I flipped that script and I just asked question after question, and I built off each question, and really learned what it was that they needed and how we could help solve that problem, that's when you build trust. And people buy from people they trust. People want to work for people they trust.
The same can be said in leadership. As a leader, listening to your team, understanding what drives them, what motivates them outside of that scope of work that they're hired to do. And if you can build that trust the way that you did with this advertising firm and your clients, and you can build that internally within your teams, that's when magic happens. As human beings were wired to connect, that's when connection happens. That's when people are really there for the right reasons, because they believe in the person who's leading them to do the thing that they're hired to do. And that's when you, as a salesperson, are leading the people that you're going to be working with and partnering with. And they're going to feel complete trust in this partnership, because they know that they've been heard. That is all people want, especially in today's world, is to feel, seen, and heard. It's beautiful.

Chris:

Some of this is seemingly natural to you or I but counterintuitive to many people that we have been socialized to believe that people who have answers are more valuable, and we've been trained through our educational system. When the instructor asks a question, whoever darts their hand up first and is able to blurt out the correct answer, they're the smart ones, they're the ones that everyone looks up to.
And so, we grow into our teenage years, and then into adulthood and think we have to have all the answers. And that's what I thought at the beginning. When I was talking to clients in these new business pitches, I was under this impression that I had to have the answers, so as soon as the clients finished talking... Literally, it's what I was thinking. As soon as they finished talking, the spotlight was going to swing over to me, and I had to start saying and sharing all the ideas, and showing off my creative genius, if you will.
And that was exactly the wrong approach. And it took me a while to learn this. But eventually, when I learned them, I'm like, "Why is this the way? What is it about our culture and our society that makes succinct this?" Is this something you put thought into? Do you have any theories as to why this is happening, especially maybe in the circle in which you're seeing like people in corporate space?

Erin:

Yeah. So, you're talking about a scenario where you're pitching at an advertising firm, and then pitch is done and now people are like, "Boom. Who do I look to for the answer?" Right?

Chris:

Yes.

Erin:

Can I use this metaphorically in terms of team dynamics?

Chris:

Yes.

Erin:

Because I think that's actually interesting because when this happens... We actually do an activity in our workshop called, inspire don't perspire. A lot of armpit talk in this show.

Chris:

I love it. You have all these rhymes.

Erin:

Yeah.

Chris:

Show up and throw up, inspire and perspire. How many of these do you have, by the way?

Erin:

So many. I don't even know. They just come out. They're just there, but this is actually very applicable to what you're talking about. Because a lot of times and situations, especially when we're in a team dynamic, when things are being decided, brainstormed, we're looking to build some project. When there's silence or when we need to make a decision, who do we look to? Oh, the person with the highest rank, the highest title. VP, senior, whatever.
What should actually happen in that dynamic is, everyone should feel included in that conversation from intern to CEO. And if we're leading through the power of Yes, And which is, you allow people to share ideas, you allow everyone's voices to be heard. And we don't negate the idea that we've heard before us, we just built off of it, which is what we were doing in new choice too. I was building off the last thing that you just said, right? So, I was Yes, Anding you in that moment. When we allow each other to build off of each other's ideas, then it's a collective effort. Then, once we've all shared ideas and we are all going in the same direction on whatever is that we're building, let's say it's a project and we've shared ideas on how to get there, we get to the goal of the project, and we know this is where we're going.
And then, let's say the project's complete, and the goal that we set for the project was achieved. Instead of senior person getting all the credit and taking all the success, the entire team is collectively successful because they've had part of the foundation and laying out the project, and they feel like they're along for the ride. Whereas, when we have just senior person saying, "This is how we're going to do it," and dictating, "This is how it's going to be done." They get all the credit, they take all the motivation, and the rest of the team is not motivated anymore.
So, it's just really interesting when you talk about it and your situation where we always look sort of to the loudest person or the person we always... If we can use this notion of Yes, And in any facet of our life, from our family, to our corporate world, to our teams, to clients and partners that we work with, and collaborate and allow everybody to share an idea, we are going to feel so much more successful and we're going to make people want to be where they're at, whether it's a part of a family dynamic, a team dynamic, a partnership with two different entities.
It's a very fascinating thing. And this activity, inspire don't perspire, we give everybody a playing card and we say, "Whoever's the highest playing card, like a deck of cards. Whoever's a king or queen, you're going to share all the ideas. If you're lower on the ranks, like a two or an ace is actually the lowest, you can't really share ideas." So, it's allowing that louder voice to be heard in that scenario. We have them plan out a party, so you're only hearing from the highest ranking people, the lowest ranking people aren't really talking. We simulate this, and then we say, "Is this similar to a meeting that you've been in recently?" And it's just fascinating because we always... The best leaders don't raise their hands. They let everybody else talk. That's my soapbox.

Chris:

Yeah. So, you are getting people to shift their perspective through that exercise because the ones who always hold the king by default, the C-suite executives, the VPs, those titles tend to have the king card all the time.

Erin:

Yeah.

Chris:

Whereas, if you're new or in the intern, you're at that card where you are never allowed to speak or so you've been led to believe. So, by flipping the roles that kind of randomly, we can see how this impacts how people feel, especially if you're used to being the king, and now you drew a four or something like that. And now, you have to be quiet and you're listening.

Erin:

That is my favorite. That is my favorite.

Chris:

Well, you might have a valuable contribution or you could see a potential pitfall in the party planning, but you're not allowed to say anything.

Erin:

And you know what? We do purposefully as facilitators, we'll hand pick the cards, and then we'll hand a lower card to the leader in the room, just so they can feel that moment-

Chris:

Oh, I see.

Erin:

... what it feels like. Spoiler alert, that happens.

Chris:

Are you dealing from the bottom of the deck on that one? You're like, [crosstalk 00:39:11]

Erin:

Here's your two.

Chris:

I was like, "Oh, why do I always get the two? It's so weird."

Erin:

Yeah. But it's fascinating to watch and to witness. And what is really cool about the work that we do is that, I get to work with leaders who genuinely care. People who reach out to improve it!, they went outside of the box training. They want something that's going to impact their team in a big way. And so, the people are usually talent development or HR, but they care. They care about their people.
Literally, it's amazing to watch the leaders that I get to witness working with their teams because they actually step back. They watch people. They care about ideas. They care in the collective ideas. I'm witness to some amazing leaders because literally, they call us because they want this extra nudge for their team, and that's what I love doing is watching a leader thrive in these scenarios. I never want them to feel like we don't have their back, but I love watching them have these aha moments and realizing like, "Wow, I don't have to speak up all the time. I don't have to interject. Let me let my team guide this to fruition." And it's been a real journey. I mean, we've seen it all, but it's a fascinating ride, I'll tell you that.

Chris:

I have a game for you, Erin.

Erin:

Yeah. I'm ready.

Chris:

I want every sentence to end in two words at rhyme, from this point forward.

Erin:

You don't know this, but I'm actually really good at poems. I just hopefully, I didn't sell myself short, but I'm ready. All right.

Chris:

In our normal dialogue, I need you to integrate...

Erin:

This is amazing.

Chris:

A inspire perspire, shut up to throw up or show up to throw up.

Erin:

I got you.

Chris:

I thought you were going to say collaborate and then elaborate. But then, you didn't, so I was like, "Wait a minute. Why didn't she do that?" You set up an expectation now.

Erin:

I'm going to do this. You know this, Chris. Hold up, let's grow up. I don't know. I don't know. I'm going to feel it. I'm going to feel it. I'm going to feel it. I waited too long on that. I judged myself. I judged myself. I was like, "Mm. Mm. Nope. Nope." See? And then you can fail. You can fall flat on your face and be like-

Chris:

Yes, you can.

Erin:

Yes, you can. Yes, you can. And it hurts. It hurts, but you get up.

Chris:

You can. You can.

Erin:

You can.

Chris:

If you have expectations.

Erin:

That's right. That's right. I couldn't think of a word that rhymed with expectations. Salutations. Expectations and salutations.

Chris:

Okay. The conversation's going to get really strange if we forced you to do this.

Erin:

I know. I know. I know. I was trying-

Chris:

So, just work it in whenever possible, whenever it feels natural to you.

Erin:

I'll give you some Easter eggs, okay? Just wait for it. Wait for it.

Chris:

I will. I will. So, listener, pay attention every once in a while, Erin's going to slip on in when she feels it.

Greg Gunn:

Time for a quick break, but we'll be right back.

Audio:

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Greg Gunn:

Welcome back to our conversation.

Chris:

A lot of things that you're saying about improv as a tool, I find in story. When I ask people to think about their origin story, their transformative moment, all these things in their childhood, some people are not coming back to me and saying, "Oh my gosh, I didn't realize, me trying to find my story was a form of therapy." I'm having this awesome inner dialogue. And so, it's kind of an interesting thing that you're finding that through improv.
If you ever go to Erin's site, it says improve it! But the E is kind of like a different color, so it says improv it! And I think it's really clever. And there's a lot of little clever things that you write in there. And it's like an Easter egg. You just go through it and you read, and there's plenty expressions in there. And you get a strong sense of who you are, your personality, and what you're going to get with the package.
I'm curious how you are able to translate this extra-vertness into words on a page.

Erin:

Oh my God, you are so good at, "Hey, don't quit your day job." Okay. You're nailing it. You are nailing it.

Chris:

Just want to side hustle, by the way.

Erin:

Oh my God, I know, but it's so good. It was so good, so thank you. And the extravert, the extra, extravert in me is like... For a long time, especially working with corporate, I said, "I got to be professional, I got to show up, and button up, and wear the heels, which God bless my calves." I mean, I have shin splints still from those days, but it was definitely something that at first I was a little bit like, "I have to show up this way, because I'm working with these big companies and I want them to see me." And then, I got tired of not being myself. It was more exhausting being somebody else.
And I know this. Chris, listen, I just had a girls trip with my high school best friends, and we were literally the loudest people in every spot we ever went to and I just thought to myself, "Well, this is why I'm this way." It's just who I am. I can't tone it down. I guess I can, but it's not my go-to. And as soon as I just leaned in to really embracing who I was, because ultimately, I started the business, right? And then, I found people who believed in it. And so, they actually helped create our core values with me or my internal team, and we hire from those core values, we review... I just got off a review with one of my girls before this call.
And everything we do is based off of measurement of those core values, so it was really understanding. Number one, we started improve it! I'm a punny person. I love puns, so with the E... Thank you for noticing the E, was a big part of it. And also, the message that we send is all about laughter, levity, and positivity at work. And that is, at the end of every workshop, at the end of everything we do, we have something called laugh breaks that we do now in corporate meetings. I always say, "If you get anything out of today, my only ask..." And people think I'm about to sell them something. I'm like, "Here's my only ask..." And I'm teeing them up like, "I've got merchandise," but I don't. "If we made you smile, if you laughed that you pass on that laughter levity and positivity to somebody else."
It's through that message that through line that we do everything with our marketing. If I can literally make somebody laugh at work on LinkedIn, I have done my job because I now know I'm in alignment with my assignment and my greater purpose here. There it is, alignment with my assignment. Easter egg.

Chris:

I saw that, by the way. I was going to say something.

Erin:

There it is.

Chris:

There it is.

Erin:

There it is.

Chris:

Very natural on that one.

Erin:

Thank you. It wasn't forced, but-

Chris:

I like that. Maybe that's part of this.

Erin:

Thank you.

Chris:

You don't have to force it.

Erin:

I don't. And I think that's like, once I leaned in to embracing that and kind of getting over the imposter syndrome, which creeps in every day, every day. But I just started to say, "This is our brand and this is who we are." And so, when you are true to that and when it's not forced, you attract the people that also believe it. I'll also say this. What they say is, the traits of a great improviser make up the traits of a great human.
When I look at the team, that is improve it! Literally, in 2020, March of 2020, I thought it was over like, kid you not, everything we did was in person, I said, "There's no way this is going to happen digitally. No way." And it was almost like senior year of high school where you open your yearbook and you look back and reflect. I hadn't done that in the past five years of building the business until that moment. And I said, "No way. This is too special. There's too many amazing memories and too many amazing people here. This is not going to go away. We're needed right now."
And so, I did everything I could, and the team that we have are literally some of the best people on this planet. I mean, they believe in it. We aren't teaching them to believe in it. The belief is there. It's just teaching them the tools to teach others with it. And so, it's just so really an interesting thing for me to look back on and reflect. And I appreciate you saying that because, at first, I hid from it. And now, when I fully embrace it, it's more fun for me, honestly. I don't have to try.

Chris:

Yeah. As a branding person myself, I think this is a lesson that a lot of people don't learn, that you show up to a market and you think this is how I need to be. But I got to tell you, Erin, if I went on your side and I was looking for training and interested in improv is doing something new and different for our group, and you sounded like a boring suit, and you spoke in that corporate language, I would think you're the wrong person. Instantly, I'm like, "This person is no fun at all, and I'm getting the preview of their personality and their approach and I'm not liking it."
So, if you use a really corporate font, and you spoke in that corporate speak, marketing ROI, blah blah, blah, blah, blah, I'm like, "No. No, thanks. There's a gazillion trainers out there that do that." So, leaning into who you are and expressing that through your voice and through your lens into the world is what makes you unique and different, which then allows me to make a decision. Am I right for you? Are you right for me? And that's the best kind of way to market yourself, so I just wanted to tip my hat to you there.
But you left me on a cliff hanger. You did leave me on a cliff hanger. You said that the traits that make you a great improv artist are also the traits that make you a good human, but you didn't tell me what those traits were.

Erin:

Oh. Well, first of all, thanks for tipping the ampersand hat to me. Thank you. I will take that I received that, and I will tell you those traits because they're amazing. They are, you are empathetic human being, you are a good listener, you are inclusive, you are supportive, you are brave, you are confident, and all of those things are what has to happen to get on stage with seven other people and make things up for 30 minutes. You have to have their back, you have to be empathetic to their character, you have to support their decisions through that lens of Yes, And, you have to not judge yourself, so be confident and brave in what you're about to say, and you just kind of believe that what you're about to do is going to impact somebody in some way.
And that's the traits that when I look at a really great, fantastic improviser, they almost always spill over into their personal lives, because they're able to facilitate that in a 30-minute improv show into real life. And they're just the most charismatic people who care about individuals. They care deeply. And that's something I've really seen through the course of this pandemic with my team is how caring and loving they are. I mean, they're just great human things. And that, to me, is invaluable. I will never lose sight of that.

Chris:

I love your list. I think you described it, but probably the word that I would add to it is generous because I think that's what you're talking about. You're going to make other people look good.

Erin:

Yeah. Yeah. I like that.

Chris:

Okay. I want to circle back to something else here. I think part of the fear of letting go of your pre-scripted questions or whatever thoughts you have in your mind is that, you are letting go of control.

Erin:

Yes.

Chris:

And I was reading something from Tony Robbins and he says that, "We all are driven by six primary needs. And one of them, an important one for a lot of people is the need to be in control to have a predictable outcome." And my friends who are probably listening to this are probably nodding head. Yep. Yep. I see that in myself and it's driven by this fear of needing to look good, needing to be light, needing to please other people and to appear as a professional. And this is a huge stumbling block for them that truly live facilitation, or Q and A, or just being in the moment and not knowing where it's going to go is really scary for them. Can you give some general thoughts on this to help them get through this part?

Erin:

God, it's so true, Chris. I mean, they say the biggest fear more than snakes, more than anything in the entire world, death, is public speaking, right? And there's a couple of things that I really focus on when I think about being present in the moment. If you can get your mind, if you can wrap your head around bullet points, if you can literally keep it simple, if you can think about one thing that you want to get out of the conversation or one thing you want to add to the conversation and just say that one thing, and say it with confidence and conviction, half of the battle... Literally, I could say to you right now, dogs eat cat food. Okay. But I could say it like this, I could be like, "Dogs love cat food" or I could be like, "Dogs love cat food?" And the way that I said it, the first time is with conviction. I'm believing it in myself. The second time I'm asking it as a question.
So, I'm going to relate this to one of the girls on my team. Our director of talent, Christie is truly one of the funniest people I've ever seen on stage. In her personal life as well, she is the most confident person. She could say anything and you believe it, because she says it with confidence and conviction. And I've talked to her at length about this like, "How do you believe?" And she said, "It just comes from within. And if I don't believe it, then no one else is." So, if you're ever watching somebody in a presentation stumble or fumble for words, it's because they're not listening in here. And if you literally just say in your mind, "I got this."
Sometimes, I channel Oprah. Sometimes, I channel just people that I really respect, and I pretend in those moments I'm them. And I'll tell you straight up, when I facilitate, I do a power post before I facilitate, which... If you don't know what power posing is, fantastic TED Talk by Amy Cuddy, Google it. And so, anytime I facilitate, I stand in a power pose for at least two minutes, if I'm in a bathroom stall, wherever it is, and I just say, "Let me be the vessel. Let me just..." And I'm a spiritual human, I don't call myself religious, but I kid you not, when I walk in a room, I don't even have to think. I just go. And by standing in that power, I'm believing in myself, I'm believing and trusting my gut, and what I'm about to say is going to help somebody. And all I ever ask is just let me empower one person. Let me help one person, and then I just go.
And if you can do that, stand in a power pose... I hope your listeners are listening to this. Stand in that power, because when you stand in that power, it sends endorphins to your brain and it allows yourself to think, "I am in control. I've got this." So, it's really believing in yourself. And if you can do that, your audience is going to follow suit, they're going to say, "Yo, she knows what she's talking about. Cats love dog food." And they're going to literally join in because that energy, it's the energy that you bring to it too that is really going to impact the people that are watching. Because remember, people don't really pay attention to what you say, people remember how you make them feel. And that's what we teach is, we experientially use improv to make people feel a certain way, which is always better than they walked in the room.

Chris:

This is fascinating. Okay. As the class clown, as the child of a mom who trained piano and voice, and a person who's been in performance, dance, acting, theater, all the kinds of things that you do, it's actually kind of shocking that you have these moments where you're backstage doing your Amy Cuddy power posing and expanding your physical self, right? This is the shocking discovery is that, we know that your mind influences your body. We didn't know that your body can influence your mind, there's science behind this.
And so, you're expanding yourself to occupy a lot of space, chest forward, breathing deeply, hands out, right?

Erin:

Yep.

Chris:

Like the Wonder Woman pose as well, or the Superman pose, all those kinds of things.

Erin:

Yep. Yep.

Chris:

And then, you're ready to take on whatever you need to take on, right?

Erin:

That's it.

Chris:

Now, I got to tell you, here's a little confession as an extremely awkward and shy, introvert, as least likely to do anything, I tried all of these things before public speaking, and I got to tell you, I told myself, "I want this to work. I need this to work so badly." And I would still go out and be hella nervous, so I find a different-

Erin:

That's okay.

Chris:

... approach that I'd like to share with you.

Erin:

Oh, what is it? Yes, I would love to hear it.

Chris:

For my friends who are introverts like, "Dude, I tried that power posing. I've tried the voice exercises. I've tried every TED Talk tip on how to get public talks." Here's the one thing that helps me out a lot. I think, a lot of times, the nerves come from your need to impress people, your need to sound smart, to have coherent sentences strung together without any kind of stuttering or stammering. And the more you think about that, the more you're going to be nervous, the more you're likely to stutter and stammer and be a loss for words.
So, my whole thing is... and I learned this from watching, a Buddhist monk talk, is to completely just to surrender. To say like, "I am nothing. I'm not trying to be anything. All I can do is be me. I'm going to step onto this platform. I'm going to say a few things. I hope I can help someone, but even if I can't, that's okay." And I find that through surrendering, it's like, "You know what? It is what it's going to be." And then, I find that then I'm more natural, more comfortable, more confident, and more in my own power in listening to myself, and having faith that I can do this, and it's counterintuitive. What are your thoughts on that?

Erin:

Chris, I adore you. When I was speaking about... your listeners can't see me, but you can, I was opening my arm.

Chris:

She's huge right now.

Erin:

Yeah. I'm huge. I'm huge.

Chris:

You're huge.

Erin:

My arms are wide and I am taking up all the space in my podcast closet, but truly, when my power pose is arms open in a T, I stand like this, my legs are open, my arms are open, and my head is up and I literally say-

Chris:

Like a snow angel.

Erin:

Like a snow angel. I say, "I'm a vessel and that is my surrenderance." I guess I hate when podcasters say this, but I did just get goosebumps for real and that's one of the most cliche things. Here's an Easter egg for you, goosebumps. No, but I'm a very spiritual person, as I mentioned. I found a mindfulness practice, just very personal, don't care, will share, open to sharing through an infertility battle. I have a miracle baby son, but I really learned in that years leading up to having him that I had to learn to mother myself before I could mother somebody else, and that was through meditation. It was through connecting with the Divine. It was through a spiritual practice.
And so, I really feel, when you are in alignment with your assignment and you completely surrender in moments of chaos and stress, you will always be guided. You will always be guided. And if you can focus... I'm going to Yes, And what you said. So, surrendering, I love this idea, this notion. I do it in my own way. The Yes, And to that is, if you can focus not on yourself, but on the people in the room and what they want, what's their problem? What do I need to give to them today? Then, the focus is off of you, and you're there to create magic. You're not doing anything other than helping. And that's truly transformed, because I still facilitating our workshops right now. I just know them so well. I don't get as nervous, but if I have a new keynote or I have something new, I'm nervous as all get out, so I'm scared. And I just turn it over to surrendering, to being a vessel, and I turn it over to the people and it helps.

Chris:

I love that. I'd like to share a story with you, and it's a real story. It is about my friend who is from South Carolina, so maybe there's a way for us to tie all this stuff together.

Erin:

Yes.

Chris:

Her name's Carrie, and Carrie works with a lot of influencers and authors, and they're kind of tough people to deal with sometimes.

Erin:

Sure.

Chris:

And she's tired of being beaten up and battered, and she was just in a vulnerable moment when she shared with me something, she said, "God, just for once, I wish my clients would respect me, and listen to me, and have some respect for this whole process that this creative thing that I do." And I said, "Okay, I'm going to tell you to do something. It's going to sound really wacky. And I think your approach is unfortunately not the right one. I want you to find a client that you definitely don't want to work with." She goes, "Oh, I got those. Trust me." "For budgetary reasons, for personality reasons, for poor fit, whatever." And she goes, "Okay. And so, what am I supposed to do, Chris?" And I say, "Okay, here's what I want you to do. Now that you don't want this person, my only objective for you is to serve them really well, to listen to their pain points and challenges, and then to recommend them someone who's going to help them and just do everything you can to serve them." She goes, "Okay, no problem."
And luck would have it, someone called her later that day. And so, after she did that call, she called me, texted me and my phone's blown, I'm like, "What is going on?" When I talked to her, she said, "Chris, you won't believe it." I'm like, "What happened?" She goes, "I did everything you said." I said, "Okay." "I didn't want anything, I didn't ask for anything, and I referred her to someone else. And you know what happened? She called me back, telling me that even though we didn't work together, she told three other friends about me and how great I was." And I said, "How did you feel, Carrie?" She goes, "I felt respected. I felt heard. I felt listened to." I said, "So, you see, when you're there to serve other people, when you start with an empty canvas and you don't try to force anyone down an agenda, you become much more attractive."
And so, it reminds me of this book. The book is called, Obliquity. It's a play in the word ubiquity, but it's like this thing where we take an oblique strategy. Everything that you want, don't take the direct approach because it's not going to get you there, so if you want to be seen as an authority or an expert or a confidant, just try to do the opposite, try just be there for people. Be that vessel that you spoke about.

Erin:

That's it.

Chris:

And then, what happens? And the craziest thing happens. People see you as an authority, people see you as an expert, and they like you more. It's so weird. Back over to you, Erin.

Erin:

Chris, you're speaking my language. I'm just going to sing now. They're singing in this show.

Chris:

Yes, you can, if you like.

Erin:

Okay. So many thoughts about this, but I want to focus in on a thing that you said. I think a lot of people, especially in entrepreneurship, in any type of working world, we sometimes lead from a place of scarcity. And we think there's not enough to go around, so perhaps, Carrie in that moment was thinking, "You know what? I might need this client, but I don't necessarily really want to work with this client. But you know what? I'm just going to serve. I'm going to give all I have in this moment." And so, leading from this is an abundance mindset is what you suggested to her. You suggested, "Hey, lead from a place of, we're collective society. We're universal. This is universal love." I'm getting real hippie-dippy here. "We are all here on this earth to fulfill a specific assignment. And Carrie, if you can just help this person, help somebody you don't necessarily want to work with, help them in some way, shape or form, you're going to turn a light bulb switch on."
The moment that I stopped... I'll tell you this. After 2020, I was living in some scarcity. I have lived in an abundance place for a really long time with this business. But 2020 robbed me to my core, and I was working from a place of scarcity, for sure, in 2020. I flipped the script in 2021 and I literally said, "This isn't about me anymore. We've gotten through what we needed to get through. We're just here to help people. We're here to help people." I can't tell you the magic that came out of that. It's surrendering to the fact that we need to give more than we receive. That's a wonderful lesson in improv too. Improv is all about give and take.
And so, relating it back to what I do, you cannot take, take, take. So, Carrie giving in that moment, I know she was feeling like she wasn't being heard by her original clients, that giving actually gave to herself, and then it attracted more of what she was putting out because our energy is this mirror, right? So, she's putting out good vibes. She's going to get that back, and that's what I tell leaders like, "You want your team to respect you, respect them. This is their job. They have to come here every day, give them the energy that you want back to you."
And so, that's what she did and she nailed it. And then, she received that energy back and that give and take, that energy of give and take is so predominant in everything we do at work, in our family, in our professional and personal lives. We're always seeing this mirror of the energy that we put out. So, I love that you noted that, and she flipped that script and it was like, she signed this little contract with the universe like, "I'm going to give some love and I'm going to receive some love."

Chris:

Yeah. I can talk to you for a really long time, Erin.

Erin:

Me too, Chris.

Chris:

But I noticed something. I noticed something here. I can't of let you get out of here because I noticed we're a little over an hour already. I can't let you get out of here without asking you about, what the heck is the chicken dance?

Erin:

I wish your viewers could see this, but I actually have... I'm in my podcast closet. I have a bin above me filled with chicken hats, okay? This is what happened. When I first started improve it!, I wanted something interactive in the sessions, so I've had this random chicken hat that I bought at a boutique that I said, "Okay, every time you hear the word improv, we're going to pass this chicken." It's comedy, chickens were part of comedy, we'll just spring that in. One of my improvisers, still with me to this day, one of my lead facilitators, Andrew, was like, "Okay, we're going to Yes, And that, we're going to heighten it." We're not just going to pass the chicken, but every time you hear the word improv, we're going to do the chicken dance that like.... Like at weddings. Okay.
So, it's a reminder of two things. Number one, improv like your job requires you to focus on multiple things at once. Number two, it's a reminder to play, learn, and have fun. Right away, in the beginning of our workshops, we start off with, anytime you hear the word improv, we're going to pass the chicken and we're going to do the chicken dance. This is in person, pre-COVID, okay? Because now, we don't have a physical chicken, too many germs. But what we have learned is that, it's a wonderful barrier or a tool to break down barriers right off the front. Right off the gates, we're showing you... We're going to get a little outside of the comfort zone today. We're all doing it together, so no one's looking silly up alone. And we're laughing. We're smiling. We're breaking down the transactional things that you bring to work every day very slowly.
Now, we do most of our work now on Zoom. We just say the word improv and everybody is on camera, on Zoom, so if you can imagine 50 people in gallery view, we just do your own version of the chicken dance, which is kind of a happy dance. We have 50 people. It's a really fun Giphy. If you have everybody doing this together, you can record it. And your viewers can't see me, yet again. I'm flapping my wings like a chicken. But we have successfully gotten over 26,000 people, now more. That was a while ago when we made that. Probably 30 something thousand people to chicken dance.

Chris:

I think you need to put on the hat and do a little demonstration for us.

Erin:

I mean, [crosstalk 01:10:06] are we going to... Yeah. You want me to get it? I'll show you.

Chris:

Yeah.

Erin:

Okay, hold on.

Chris:

Please. Please. We can have a video part of this.

Erin:

Okay.

Chris:

Yeah. Yeah.

Erin:

Hold on. Hold on.

Chris:

Okay, I'm going to hang tight.

Erin:

Okay, Chris, hold on.

Chris:

Okay. Okay. I'm waiting.

Erin:

I can't hear you yet. Hold on. Here we go. This is real. I have a bin. I got a chicken hat guy at this point, so literally, see the chicken. He has feet. He has sneakers on.

Chris:

He's got Converse.

Erin:

Yeah.

Chris:

Okay, here we go.

Erin:

The Converse sneakers. Okay. I'm doing it. You do it with me, Chris. There it is. Hey.

Chris:

Okay. You lock left and right on this, on the elbows?

Erin:

Yeah. Again, with the armpits, you're airing out the armpits. Okay. This show is all about armpits. Title of this show, armpits in improv.

Chris:

So, this is really just secretly for you to pull off a little bit, right?

Erin:

Yes. Yes.

Chris:

Okay.

Erin:

No.

Chris:

And what do you with your feet?

Erin:

Well, if you're in person, just kind of like move side to side. But if you're on Zoom and sitting down, you just let your arms take the lead here. Now, this guy's retired a little bit, because we don't have the chicken hat on Zoom. But in person, we do bring the chicken hat with us so people can see it. But now, we're just chicken dancing because germs.
It's been a wild ride with this chicken, but it's our mascot. And the guy, Andrew, who actually heightened everything with the actual song of dance has strong regrets because now, my entire team can't say the word improv without chicken dancing.

Chris:

Right.

Erin:

It's like, you do a couple of workshops in a day and you're like, "Oh, hold on."

Chris:

You can't get any work done, because the word improv is used so much.

Erin:

It is so silly, but people love it. And it's like, when we first tell clients we're going to do this, they think we're absolutely insane. But then, when you watch it, it's so fun. And truly, it just breaks down the barriers quickly and it's just fun. You need to laugh with your coworkers. You need to smile. And so, that's what it does. But it's 26,000 plus participants have now chicken danced, so getting up there.

Chris:

Aside from being a great icebreaker... I don't know if this is the correct understanding of the Stockholm syndrome, but when you all suffer together, you build a bond with your fellow hostages, right? We're like, "Okay. We did this really dumb thing together. We saw the CEO do it, so they're human, they're human and-"

Erin:

Thank you.

Chris:

Right? And I think that's really cool.

Erin:

Chris, that's it. Because we always encourage like, if a leader books this and they don't do the workshop with their team, we always say, "No, you've got to do it. You're going to learn so much about your team." And I've had CEOs. I mean, we do an activity towards the end of one of our workshops called, movie trailer. And I've had CEOs pretend like they're in a Western film, riding a broom stick like a horse.
I've had CEOs that you would never imagine break down a barrier, break down a barrier, and their team loves it. Pictures are taken, people are crying, laughing, I've laughed so hard, I've cried in these workshops. I've also actually cried. I mean, we use the games and the activities to facilitate conversations, so after the game, we're debriefing it and we're relating it back to whatever power skill it is we're training on. And so, it's a really different way to teach, but it's a really fun way.

Chris:

I love it. I love nontraditional approaches to teaching and use the use of games and gamifying everything, because when we play a game, we don't feel like we're working and all barriers come down, and that's when the magic happens. Kudos to you.

Erin:

Nailed it. Nailed it.

Chris:

Okay. Before we go, I've written down four pairs of rhymes that you've said. If you would like to contribute the fifth after I'm done, entirely up to you.

Erin:

Okay.

Chris:

So, here's what you said in... And I think in order here, I think.

Erin:

Okay.

Chris:

I think.

Erin:

I'm ready.

Chris:

So, let's see here. "You were showing up and throwing up." You said, "Inspire don't perspire." One that I liked that you said a lot was, "Alignment with the assignment." It reminds me of a Nicki Minaj song, I understood the assignment.

Erin:

Assignment.

Chris:

You know what song I'm talking about?

Erin:

Yes, I sure do. It's a classic song-

Chris:

Yeah, I love that song, by the way.

Erin:

... on Instagram right now. It's a trendy song.

Chris:

Yes. Yes.

Erin:

Yes.

Chris:

Yes. Yes. And then, the one that you said was, "Don't care, will share."

Erin:

See, I don't even know I said that one.

Chris:

Just pull that one out.

Erin:

Don't care, will share.

Chris:

Just pull that one out.

Erin:

Yeah, that one-

Chris:

[crosstalk 01:14:53] Don't care, will share.

Erin:

That one, was we just said in the moment. Yeah. These things happen. So, fun fact for you. I don't have another one, but I actually also officiate weddings, but they're just for people that I know and love, so I need to really know you. But it's part of the efficiency, I write poems for the people that I'm marrying. And so, I don't know, rhymes are fun for me. They come quick. Not right now. They're not in the moment, but maybe something will happen before we go. Maybe these rhymes going to pop out of here, and I don't even know it yet. I don't even know.

Chris:

And there's probably something that I missed throughout the entire podcast conversation, but...

Erin:

It's so funny. You say this too. My last name, this is my married name, Diehl, so everything is a pun on my name like, I almost had a little girl and named her Silda, Silda Diehl.

Chris:

I don't think she would forgive you or whoever that was would not forgive you, right?

Erin:

Right. Right. My son-

Chris:

No one would forgive you. That's too much, though.

Erin:

I got one more, though.

Chris:

You do?

Erin:

But I got a son's name, which we... I do have a son, his name is actually Jackson, but I was going to... If I really wanted to be awful, Dunn, D-U-N-N. Dunn Diehl.

Chris:

That one's actually not that bad.

Erin:

That's right.

Chris:

It could work.

Erin:

It could be like, if I have a second, which I probably won't, that could be the last one because then, we're done having kids. Dunn Diehl.

Chris:

Yeah, Dunn Diehl, right?

Erin:

Okay. There's the thought.

Chris:

There's a lot of meaning to that. There's probably some hazing, and teasing, and bullying that'll happen in the formative years. But if they can get through it, they have such a unique name to work with.

Erin:

Building character, that's what I'm doing as a parent. Building character.

Chris:

You raise them hard like, "Hey, your entire life is an improv. Deal with it."

Erin:

Yeah. Oh, you just made a pun. Didn't even mean to, Diehl with it. Look at you. Look at you.

Chris:

Oh, it's been a blessing.

Erin:

Diehlicious. Diehlicious.

Chris:

Okay. Okay. How do people find out more about you? Where did they go?

Erin:

You can check out... Well, we have a podcast too, so Chris-

Chris:

Yes, I know.

Erin:

... we're going to talk, okay? It's the improve it! podcast. You can listen to it wherever you listen to pods. You can find us on the interwebs at www, that's the World Wide Web, .learntoimproveit.com, that's learn T-O. And I'm on Instagram and LinkedIn. I'm only Erin Diehl on LinkedIn and improve it! And then, keepinitrealdiehl, there's another pun, keepinitrealdiehl with the D-I-E-H-L, and on Instagram.
Thanks for having me, Chris. You are freaking awesome.

Chris:

Well, thanks so much. I really enjoyed our conversation, and I would expect nothing less from someone who works with improv. Thank you, Erin.

Erin:

Well, you're an improviser, remember that.

Chris:

Okay. I'm going to now officially put on that badge. I just did it guys. Erin gave it to me. She's annoyed me, so I'm going to add that to my list of things.

Erin:

It's next on your ampersand on your hat now, you have a badge.

Chris:

Well, it's been real fun. Thank you very much, Erin.

Erin:

Thank you, Chris.
I'm Erin Diehl, and you are listening to The Futur.

Greg Gunn:

Thanks for joining us this time. If you haven't already, subscribe to our show on your favorite podcasting app, and get a new insightful episode from us every week. The Futur podcast is hosted by Chris Do and produced by me, Greg Gunn. Thank you to [Anthony Barrow 01:18:36] for editing and mixing this episode, and thank you to [Adam Sanborn 01:18:39] for our intro music.
If you enjoyed this episode, then do us a favor by reading and reviewing our show on Apple Podcasts. It'll help us grow the show and make future episodes that much better. Have a question for Chris or me, head over to the futur.com/heyChris and ask away. We read every submission and we just might answer yours in a later episode. If you'd like to support the show and invest in yourself while you're at it, visit the futur.com. You'll find video courses, digital products, and a bunch of helpful resources about design and creative business.
Thanks again for listening, and we'll see you next time.

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