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I know there’s no “T” in LABS, so I’m breaking my own acronym. But, it’s MY acronym and I’ll do what I want.

We’re starting with TRUST here because that’s ultimately what makes improv work. Trust is how a team of improvisers can build something out of nothing. It’s what allows each team member to be bold and take risks that lead to something great. It’s because improvisers know that even when they eff up, the team is there to not only support them but to turn that mistake into gold.

Trust is also what can make or break a workplace. According to research reported in “The Neuroscience of Trust”, which appeared in the January 2017 Harvard Business Review, Claremont Graduate University Professor Paul Zak wrote, “Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, and 40% less burnout.”

Put another way, a workplace built on trust is healthier, more productive and more creative.

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Unfortunately, we’re still trust-deficient in the workplace. According to a Harvard Business Review survey, 58% of respondents are more likely to trust a stranger than their boss. That’s just not right! As someone who has been responsible for folks within a team, I’d hate to think more than half my team would be more likely to share what’s irking them at work with someone off the street than with me.

So, trust is pretty much the whole ball of wax. If teams and organizations can operate from a foundation of trust, just like in improv, people can bring their full bold selves to work each day. Trust ultimately elevates functional teams to great teams. Folks feel safe to take risks and the team is there to support one another and build together.

Improv LABS Assignment for Building Trust: Got Your Back
I’ve performed improv all over the country with all kinds of folks. With teams I’ve been with for years and with teams scrumbled together ad hoc. No matter where it is or who it’s with, there is a common tradition before every show. Before we walk on stage together, we look each other in the eye and tell one another “I’ve got your back” and we tap our hands on each other’s’ back. It’s a way to remind ourselves that we’re there for each other and that we can go out and play with all our heart because we’re there for each other. We’ve got each other’s back.

We can do the same in the workplace. We can ask our team to do this simple quick ritual before a meeting. If we’re in person, we can go up to each other and simple say “Got your back” and – if permitted – tap each other on the back. If we’re virtual, we can look deeply into our cameras and tell our team “I’ve got your back.”

If this feels a bit too risky, we can take it upon ourselves to have our teammates’ backs. Give it a try. Before our next team meeting starts, or just as it starts, we can look at each of our teammates and in our heads tell each teammate that we have their back.

Let’s see what happens. We can ask ourselves:
•    What’s different about how we’re experiencing our team during the meeting? What about after the meeting?
•    If we have our teammates backs, how do we want to show up for them?

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