1 question you can ask to improve office collaboration

December 16, 2019
  • AACRAO Annual Meeting
  • Collaborative Decision-Making
  • Competencies
  • Leadership and Management
  • Meetings, Workshops, and Trainings
  • AM2020 Teamwork & Collaboration
Speaker Joel Zeff headshot next to text that reads "improvise"

Have you ever thought of your workplace like a stage? According to Shakespeare, all the world is one, and we all play our parts. And according to national workplace expert Joel Zeff, the skills actors develop in their craft may serve us especially well in our roles in the office. 

Zeff draws on a particular kind of acting -- improvisational theatre (improv) -- to illustrate his point. To be successful at improv, actors must use collaboration, change management, positive support, mindful presence, and other skills in order to succeed in their performances.

These fundamental tenets of improv can also help professionals feel more confident and willing to take risks, build teamwork, increase productivity, and improve the workplace climate.

Meaningful choices

“I try to help people, especially leaders, remember that through the choices they make each moment, they can create fun, collaboration, and passion in their offices,” Zeff said. His book Make the Right Choice: Creating a Positive, Innovative, and Productive Work Life further explores the role of our daily choices in our professional development.

In his role as a speaker, Zeff recruits audience volunteers to come up on stage and spontaneously perform a hilarious improv exercise -- using the scenes created by the actors’ choices to illustrate his message. 

For example, when teamwork and collaboration emerge as central to the improv, Zeff offers guidance that can be applied not only on stage, but also taken home and put to work in an office setting. His advice is that professionals prioritize a collaborative environment by asking one simple question each day:

What can I do to help the people around me succeed?

“Ask the question, answer the question, and act on the question,” Zeff said. Building on the stage metaphor, he advises knowing your line in the story while also helping those around you tell theirs.

“Don’t worry about who gets the credit,” he said. “If you give someone opportunity and positive support, you will receive more from them.”

Zeff brings his signature brand of humor, improv, and inspiration to the 2020 AACRAO Annual Meeting in New Orleans. His plenary session will offer unique, creative, and fun strategies for dealing with change and creating a positive workplace environment.

Find more professional development opportunities related to Teamwork and Collaboration at AACRAO 2020. Register before the Feb. 28 early bird deadline!