Show up at any improv course and you’ll learn rule #1: The rule of agreement. Player One might say: This is the biggest fish I’ve ever caught. Player Two could reply: Yes, and it’s very smelly! Agreeing that the fish is big and offering ‘smelly’ helps build the scene. Insisting instead that the fish is not big, risks stumping Player One and killing the scene. Yes/And is key to letting the story unfold.
The rule of agreement is fundamental on the tango dance floor too. The leader guides a step (the offer) and the follower accepts and builds on it. So seamless, beautiful and complicit is the dance that you’d think it was choreographed in advance. In fact, the dance is created moment by moment through a series of offers and acceptances, a series of Yes/And.
Coaching is part improv, part tango. Coach and client “dance in the moment” with what shows up. At its best, coaching is a splendid unfolding of powerful questions, curiosity, deep listening and insights. Plenty of Yes/And.
The rule of agreement offers possibility to leaders. Imagine what a little more Yes/And looks like in business:
Yes, what an awesome win and let’s pause to celebrate.
Yes, budget cuts suck and let’s find a way to innovate through this.
Yes, I failed you and let’s talk about how I can better support you.
Yes, your behavior is not ok and we need to address it directly.
Yes, I’m scared too and let’s figure out what our fear is.
Yes, we lost the contract and let’s look at what went wrong.
Yes, there’s a lot we don’t know and let’s focus on what we know for sure.
Of course, more Yes/And risks things getting messy. It means being more in the moment and less scripted. It means being more vulnerable. It could even mean looking silly at times. And it could be the beginning of a beautiful improvised dance between you and your people.
So while you’re busy pondering, would you care to dance?