IMPROVing Your Leadership

FYR 2014 6On February 1, 2014, I participated in the Honors Leadership Retreat, IMPROVing Your Leadership. I applied thinking that it would be a good way to gain more leadership skills, and also have a little fun with improvisation (plus I would get a free t-shirt!).  I definitely did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did, and learn so much about myself in the process.

When I got to the retreat, we were introduced to two improv actors from the Improv Asylum in the North End of Boston. They split us up into two groups, and we played a couple of intriguing games. All of these games were a lot of fun, but they also each taught me something about leadership. In the first game we played, one person said a word, and then pointed to another person in the circle, and he or she said the first word that came to mind. The goal of the game was to eventually get back to the same word, but our director didn’t tell us that until we were halfway through and far away from the first word. Some of us had even forgotten it. This showed that the more people who remembered the word and were working together to get us back to the first word, the more efficiently and more quickly we would reach that goal.

For the next game we played, one person said the first part of a word, and then the person next to them finished the word. They then said the word together. For example, if I said “pur-“, the person next to me could say “-ple”, and then together we would say “purple.” This game represented the fact that if one person starts an idea, and another one finishes it, both people deserve the credit for the idea. Maybe the first person had a different word in mind when they said “pur-“, but the second person finished the word in their own way.

Another game that we played consisted of everyone standing in various spots in the room. One person would point to another, implicitly asking if they can take their spot in the room. If that person said yes, they then had to ask someone else if they could take their spot. However, if that person said “no”, then the original person had to try again with someone else. You could only be said “no” to two times in a row. If the person who you said “yes” to arrived at your spot before someone else said “yes” to you, then you were out. You could tell that some people were saying “no” constantly to stay in the game, while others were saying “yes”, hoping that that person would return the favor somewhere down the line. This can be applied to any situation in which you must work as a team. If you keep saying “no” to everyone else’s ideas, nothing will ever get done.

I think that participating in the retreat was a valuable learning experience, but I had such a good time and wished it could have lasted longer. I am grateful for this opportunity to improve my leadership skills, and I’m definitely glad I applied. I also know I will have to go to a show at the Improv Asylum sometime soon!

Heather Davis, Chemistry