Tiffani Sierra | Yes and… and Other Lessons For Salespeople and Leaders

Today we look at sales and leadership from a different angle with Tiffani and Adrian Figueroa.  Watching an Improv show, we have all marveled at what the actors can make up and do it so quickly.  Turns out there are techniques that are the foundation for how they work that make it easier to react smoothly and be focused.  As salespeople and leaders, we can plan the greatest presentation or conversation but, at some point, it also becomes Improv.

Adrian trained as an engineer and became a Lean facilitator.  Tiffani is an actress who started doing Improv training.  They have married their backgrounds to teach people from CEO’s to scientists to salespeople to students to Improv(e).

We talk about:

  • Using Yes and … to keep the conversation moving forward
  • Listening to another person’s whole body
  • Making your partner look good

Also, what makes something funny.

Listen now

Mentioned in This Episode:

Michael Webb:     B2B sales and marketing works to find the highest quality prospects, reach decision-makers, and sell value. Operational excellence uses data and system thinking to make changes that cause improvement and eliminate waste. My name is Michael Webb and this is the Sales Process Excellence podcast. In the next 30 to 40 minutes, we’re going to destroy the myth that these two groups conflict, and show you how to bring both strategies together to create more wealth for your company and your customers.

Michael Webb:     Michael Webb here, and I am excited today to bring two very interesting people to your attention. We have Adrian and Tiffani Figueroa, and Tiffani has founded a firm called Improv It Up that is devoted to using the skills of improvisation to help B2B salespeople to improve their performance. So Adrian and Tiffani, welcome here!

Tiffani Sierra:         Hi!

Adrian Figueroa:   Hi Michael.

Tiffani Sierra:         Thank you so much, Michael, for having us.

Michael Webb:     Well, you’re quite welcome. I think this is going to be really interesting since improv is something that always fascinates people. And how it’s connected to B2B sales. Could each of you take like 30 seconds and help the audience understand just a little bit about your background, and in your case especially, Tiffani, go on and say how did you get started in doing this?

Tiffani Sierra:         My background is as an actress. I spent my whole life as an actress in the theaters, San Francisco and New York and L.A. I started teaching an acting class out in West Hollywood, and I was working with actors mainly, because improvisation is vital if you want to audition. It’s really important that you’re able to be able to think on your feet and just pick up things quickly. But what started to happen was, I was getting non-actors coming into my workshop. So I started to get engineers, scientists, business owners, priests. I’m being honest when I say that. You can imagine that you know all of the jobs they’ve probably come through our workshop. What was happening was all of these students that were coming to my class were saying that improv was really changing their lives.

Tiffani Sierra:         Just to kind of backtrack just a bit. I went to the Second City, which is a huge improv school based in Chicago, but I went to the L.A. location. And improv really changed my life. I went through a really tragic family situation and improv really became my therapy. It was at that point that I really realized that the therapeutic elements that were happening in improv, that I could help others. So what started to happen was that was translating into people’s lives and obviously really translating into the workplace, no matter what job they had. It was helping them to be more confident. It was helping them with so many other skills. But I realized that this was something not only for actors but really for anyone, that these skills could be used.

Tiffani Sierra:         So really Improv It Up was born in West Hollywood through my experience of working with non-actors. Then really we just grew the business over the past several years. We also work with middle and high school students, we have programs. We’re a social enterprise, and what that means is, I like to think, is a for-profit business with heart. So the heart part of what we do is our school programs and then we have our corporate and business programs as well.

Michael Webb:     Okay, wow, what a fascinating background. So real quickly, Adrian, your background’s quite different, right?

Adrian Figueroa:   Oh yeah, significantly. Tiffani’s story’s much more exciting than mine. For me, it’s going the path of the engineer. My background, engineering, mechanical engineering, then the MBA. Working in the industry, being a part of building products in aerospace, those being my strengths in industries. Then through there just getting certifications with Lean, Six Sigma, supply chain, and so just growing the process side of it. Tiffani and I met each other and she had this business going, and I started sitting in on all the workshops years ago then became a facilitator alongside with her.

Adrian Figueroa:   It was marrying both of our loves and passions where, we like to say, I’m the left brain, right? I’m more methodical and a little cool. Probably tending more toward the hard skills. And then Tiffani comes in as the right brain, being more the creative artistic and the soft skills. What we offer businesses is you get the best of both worlds. Hard, soft skills, left brain, right brain. We kind of complete each other.

Tiffani Sierra:         We’re very opposite.

Michael Webb:     Yeah! So some neat people who listen to my podcast regularly may remember Adrian. We did an interview a month or two ago, I think, and your day job is Lean facilitator at Cadence Aerospace, as I understand.

Adrian Figueroa:   Right.

Michael Webb:     So you’ve been able, it sounds like, to use some of these improv skills in your leadership at the aerospace company, is that true?

Adrian Figueroa:   Yes, every day.

Michael Webb:     That’s amazing.

Adrian Figueroa:   Where I’m most effective is being able to use that soft skills side to actually commit to and bring forward the hard skills. Profits and results.

Michael Webb:     Okay, all right. So Tiffani, why did these men and women off the street who are not theater majors, why did they want to attend your improv class and what did you give them that made it so valuable?

Tiffani Sierra:         Well, I think a lot of these non-actors, salespeople, entrepreneurs that have come to our class really have come because there’s a lot of fears. You might have the fear of public speaking. We have a lot of students that come to us, believe it or not, that even work in sales. They have fears of public speaking. Or fear of failure is a huge one. We actually, Adrian and I, facilitated a workshop called Fail Into Success. It was really obvious, them trying to get comfortable when they’re uncomfortable. So that’s something that we see a lot. I would say those two things, and building confidence, really, the confidence to be you. I can’t tell you. It sounds so simple. But when someone can have such ownership of who they are and really be their authentic self, I just believe that helps to draw authentic connections with other people. I think that’s just such an important piece of being a salesperson, coming across as authentic and genuinely connecting with people. So I would say those are probably some of the top things that a lot of people have come to our classes for.

Tiffani Sierra:         How improv works is, just so your listeners can kind of understand, a lot of people who have maybe never seen an improv show might think that you just make up whatever you want. That there’s no structure. But believe it or not, if you watch shows like Whose Line Is It Anyway, have you seen that show, Michael?

Michael Webb:     Yes, I have and it makes me laugh because those guys are funny.

Tiffani Sierra:         Okay, well, they’re great and wonderful improvisers. Actually a lot of them went to the Second City, the school that I went to. But they’re great because there’s a structure behind what they’re doing. There’s rules and principles. And those rules and principles are really what guides all of the work that we do. For example, one of the rules of improv, the cardinal rule you might hear, and that a lot of other corporations and business professionals might use, is the rule of “yes, and.” And what that rule says is that you work in agreement with others. That you’re not negating what other people are saying. So how that works in an improv setting is if Adrian and I were doing an improvised scene and he makes me the Queen of England, I’m not going to go at him and say, “No Adrian, I’m not the Queen of England, I am the Queen of Wichita,” whatever that might be. I would say, “Yes I am,” and I would go with that. Because in an improv scene, we’re going to find that we’re going to have a lot more opportunity to grow that scene.

Tiffani Sierra:         Well, the same thing could be said for a workplace. So for example what we hear a lot of times is, you’re in a meeting and people are pitching different ideas. And somebody starts out with an idea and another person says, “No no no, I don’t think that idea is good enough.” So that shuts that person down and possibly that person might not share their ideas again. But what happens, as you see, that thought then dies. Improv allows that thought, the rule of “yes, and” allows that rule to be built upon. When you’re building upon ideas and you’re “yes, anding,” not only are you creating an inclusive environment where people feel comfortable sharing their ideas, but you’re also building upon an idea to make something far greater than what it could be.

Michael Webb:     Okay. So “yes, and.” How do you come up with comes after the “and?” I mean, you’re still going to have people drawing a blank.

Tiffani Sierra:         This is true, and actually we have a lot of people come to us. They say, “I don’t know what to say.” This is really where it comes to working with being yourself. In the improv world we always like to say, “Your scene” or “Your dialogue”, through the other person’s eyes. So when we’re making those authentic connections, we’ll always have something to say. When we’re honoring our truth, whatever that may be, we’ll always have something to say. So the and part could be really anything. It’s just that we’re building upon an idea in a positive way. We’re not negating what somebody else has said.

Adrian Figueroa:   And Michael, just for an example. One of the workshops we did a few months ago, we actually had this particular salesman, and he said exactly what you just asked right now. On day one, his fear was, he’s a salesman, but he’s fearful of speaking to somebody and not knowing what to say. He thinks he has to watch all the sports, watch all the market, watch to come up with ideas and figure out what he can possibly speak to them about. And so exactly what you said. On day one of the workshop, we’re going through one of our exercises and it got to him and he blanked out. Deer in the headlights, exactly like what you said. We just waited there and paused for a moment and then we just guided him through it. Because he literally said out there, he’s like, “Uh, I don’t know what to say.” And okay, first thing. What are you thinking about? “Um, I don’t, I don’t know what to say.” And he just kept repeating it. And so, it’s like, you know, it’s okay. First spot. He finally gave a first spot. The class celebrated. Yay! And then move on.

Adrian Figueroa:   We kept going with the exercise. By, I think it was the third workshop with the same salesman, we actually saw a breakthrough. Where he started making these comments and it was just, “Whoa, where did this come from?” He didn’t hesitate anymore. He just allowed himself, his first spots to come to mind and come out. That was a major breakthrough that we saw with him. We celebrated and throughout the rest of the workshop, you could just see the growth in him being really more comfortable with himself. By the end, he was coming up and thanking us for the work he’d done there in the workshop, for the tools we’d provided for him. He was real appreciative of everything he’d learned because he felt more confident in that.

Tiffani Sierra:         And really what he was doing, he was working through a lot of his fears.

Michael Webb:     Okay, well. And so, to that point. It strikes me that the skill you’re referring to here doesn’t just apply to sales. It applies way more broadly to social intelligence and self-awareness more generally, wouldn’t it?

Tiffani Sierra:         It does, really. That why I said the people that started coming to my classes 10 plus years ago back in Hollywood, they were of all different walks of life. When you start to work on one facet of who you are, it can’t just affect one portion of your life. It’s going to benefit your work life, it’s obviously going to benefit your personal life. For example, Adrian and I really try to implement the rule of “yes, and” in our marriage. Not only in the work that we do individually in our own careers but even in our marriage. Like I said, it just helps you build upon and not negate what somebody else has said. There are other rules of improv, Michael, I didn’t get to them. I don’t know if you wanted me to mention some of the other rules.

Michael Webb:     I do, but let’s hang on a minute on this “yes, and.” Because we haven’t mined that one all the way through, I don’t think.

Tiffani Sierra:         Okay. It could take up years. I tell you.

Michael Webb:     As you’re describing this, I’m thinking about the environment that a lot of us grow up in as kids. It’s not always a healthy environment. Depends on the kind of family that you have, right? But if you grew up in a family like I grew up in, where there was a lot of negativity and a lot of “Shut up!”, as a kid you can close down and actually not even become aware of how you feel, much less the people around you feel. This “yes, and” idea sounds like it’s sort of changing the way your own mind habitually works by dipping in a little bit more to what you might be feeling and therefore what other people around you might be feeling. And that’s the only way you can get the material to have a response, isn’t it?

Tiffani Sierra:         That’s so true and I think you’ve touched on something that’s really important. That you are essentially rewiring your brain using improv. Through experiences of learning your whole body, you are able to rewire the way that you think. I think that’s why Adrian and I have our really different backgrounds. All of his skills have been engineering and his left brain. A lot of the work that we do tends to lend toward a lot of the therapeutic side. I have some background, I’m certified in being able to use the arts as therapy. I’m not a therapist and we don’t process, we’re not going to do therapy with anyone. But we find that there’s a lot of therapeutic benefits to what we do.

Tiffani Sierra:         For example, when we’re working with middle and high school students, you’re right. If they come from an environment where they’re used to being told no and living in that negativity, it can be really challenging for them to be in a positive environment. But again, with just the consistency of learning the language of improve, and through the games and exercises that we do, it’s possible to rewire your brain so that you can develop a different language.

Michael Webb:     The next thing that came to my mind after the sort of childhood memories, and I think we all have to go through a period where we become more conscious of ourselves and how we’re thinking and how we’re feeling and if you pursue that you become a more mature sort of person. You can have much better executive functions because you can manage yourself better. Well, that also leads to the ability to manage other people. Really good leaders have very high social acumen. They can readily influence all the people from all the different backgrounds of all the conflicting interests inside of an organization. And they’re really good at working through all that. They would have to have the kind of mind that readily does that because they get stuff thrown at them all the time. So it’s leadership skills and then obviously that moves towards, or it implies, really good sales skills. That’s really fascinating. Let’s move on. What are some of the other rules and how do they help people?

Tiffani Sierra:         One of the other rules is to listen, so obviously you need to be listening with your whole body. I would say, I’m not trying to be a good listener, I’m trying to be an impeccable listener. And what that means to me is, I’m not just listening with my ears but I’m also paying attention to body language. I facilitated, actually did a workshop, and I had maybe up to 100 people in my workshop. It was all professionals. So either they were entrepreneurs or they’re business professionals. I did this whole statement on body language and how important it is that when we are talking to somebody, either in networking situations or in sales situations, that we’re not only listening to their words but we’re paying attention to what their physical body is saying to us. A lot of times we don’t pay attention to that stuff. So that would be one of our other rules of improv.

Tiffani Sierra:         Another rule of improv is making your partner look good. That’s something that I love because it really shows how selfless improv is. It’s really about building the other person up and not focusing on yourself. That kind of takes the ‘you’ out of any situation and puts the focus on the other person. For example, how that would work is if you’re in an improv scene. You’ll see this a lot on Whose Line Is Is Anyway. One of the improvisers will, it’s called endow or label, the other person with something very grand like being a queen or something really high status. We’ll often laugh and just get a kick out of that. Then that person, the theme becomes about the other person. So that’s really an important role of improv, to make your partner look good.

Michael Webb:     So explain this a little more. If I say, “You are the Queen of England,” that would be me making you look good, right?

Tiffani Sierra:         Yeah, it would be endowing me with something really fun and positive that I could play with.

Michael Webb:     And then you go, “Yes, and I love being fat,” or whatever, whatever the Queen of England is, right? But how would you turn that around and then make the person who just gave you that line look good? Is that what the goal is here with each interaction?

Tiffani Sierra:         Sure, sure. When you’re working with a really experienced improviser, you’ll find they’re really able to coach another improviser that maybe doesn’t have as much experience. And by making them look good, it just means that I’m not going to let you fail. If you’re working with me, I’m not going to let you fail. I think that’s something that’s really important because, as I mentioned before, we find that a high percentage of people that come through our workshop have this great fear of failure. So the rule of making your partner look good says I’m not going to let you fail. I’m going to have your back. I’m going to support you. Not only am I going to support you, but I’m going to make you look really good.

Michael Webb:     You’re both up there in an improv situation. You’re both up there for sort of a common purpose, right? To create entertainment. And you have to entertain yourself, right? If you’re entertaining yourself and enjoying it, it’s going to be more infectious for the audience. If that other person fails, that affects you too, so you’re not up there being altruistic. It sounds like you’re up there accenting the good things and building on the good. In the Lean philosophy, one of the bedrock principles is respect for people. That means respect for their ability to think and be rational. They may have different backgrounds, they may be more obstinate, they may not really understand the point that they really need to understand. And in a healthy Lean culture, I’m sure Adrian, you’ve seen this, you have to respect people if you expect them to grow. Is that fair?

Adrian Figueroa:   Yes.

Michael Webb:     This builds on the same thing, doesn’t it?

Adrian Figueroa:   Right, yeah, it’s exactly that. Most examples you have when you’re working in the private sector or anywhere in the corporate business world, you have more so what I see leaders that just expect a job to be done from their employees. It’s very rare that I’m finding those that are doing exactly what Tiffani has said, where they said I’m not going to let you fail, we’re going to do this together. The leaders are normally, well this employee’s terrible, that employee’s an idiot, this employee can’t do this, this employee can’t do that. You have that, and that’s the way they look at it. Literally, we just need to get somebody else or we just need to move whatever they’re not good at and give it to somebody else. That’s part of my role. I look at that behavior and I go and coach those leaders along the way. That’s not what we’re here to do, think about it this way. Maybe we have to work with this individual in this certain manner.

Adrian Figueroa:   Back to what you said, lead with respect. We had a CEO come to us last year in a workshop. She’s what she thought was a good leader. She has all her employees there in the business, and she comes up and says, “I thought my employees really liked me but our business isn’t thriving very well and all of a sudden I started getting feedback.” A lot of the employees didn’t really like her because she would come across as very cold. Very stone-faced. And she was like, “What I’m missing is empathy. I know you guys offer that. What can you do to help me in training to understand what this empathy is so I can utilize that within my business and get the other piece that I’m missing as a leader?”

Michael Webb:     And how did improv help her?

Tiffani Sierra:         When you’re doing an improv scene like I mentioned with making your partner look good. One of the things is that you’re listening to what the other person is saying and you’re able to reflect that back to them. Somebody that doesn’t have skills of empathy is really not able to voice and reflect back what was just heard. Empathy says that I can hear what you just said and I can kindly or warmly reflect that back to you in a positive way.

Michael Webb:     I can feel it and I can respect it and I can say, “Oh.” In other words, I’m not criticizing how you feel, I’m identifying it.

Tiffani Sierra:         Really, empathy says you’re not alone. It says that I can feel with you. That’s really the definition of improv, I’m feeling with you. That’s what we’ve found a lot of executives in high positions are really lacking those skills of empathy. Like the CEO that came to us. She’s very prominent in the business world and she’s a best selling author. She’s an amazing woman. But that was one of the skills that she wanted to work on. Through one of our workshops, through some of the games and listening, and really being able to take in and really digest what was being said to her and then reflect that back to somebody, she really learned those skills. She started to implement them and she came in, I remember, to our last workshop. It was a six-week workshop. She said, “People are noticing a difference. I’m making change. I’m really implementing what I’m learning in here. My employees are noticing the difference. Thank you.”

Michael Webb:     Wow, that’s awesome. That’s a great testimonial. These are interesting stories. So we’ve got “yes, and”, listen with your whole body, make your partner look good, what else?

Tiffani Sierra:         Another rule that we have is to tell a story. This is something that’s actually really great for salespeople. In improv, we tell a story, beginning, middle, and end. Storytelling is something that’s been used for ages. There’s so many different components of storytelling and what makes it so powerful. We like to think that improvisers are really great storytellers because they can concisely tell a story from beginning, middle, to end. Sometimes within about 30 seconds. There’s games and exercises that we use that help to implement those storytelling skills. That would be another rule.

Tiffani Sierra:         There’s other rules in improv that we use. For example, if I were working with actors, the rules that I mentioned to you are pretty much the cardinal rules. Although I’ll add one more. That is to try to be truthful, not funny.

Michael Webb:     Try to be truthful and not funny.

Tiffani Sierra:         Correct. Let me ask you a question. What makes something funny, to you?

Michael Webb:     It is something unexpected, a surprise, and in particular… You could have a surprise and it makes you scared to death, so there’s something about being funny that is a surprise. I don’t know exactly what it is. It’s unexpected, it’s a surprise, and it’s funny. I don’t know. Tell me.

Tiffani Sierra:         Those are all true. What if I told you that what makes something funny is truth? We laugh because we’re a part of something. We laugh because it’s truthful. For example, where we live, the 405 Freeway or the 91 is just madness. If I were to say anything about any of those freeways in front of an audience of people that live in L.A., they’re probably going to laugh because they get it. They’re in on the joke. But if I’m out in, let’s use Wichita, Adrian was recently in Wichita. I just love saying Wichita. I don’t know what it is about Wichita. I just love saying it. Let’s say that we’re in Wichita and I made a statement about the 405. You’re going to have people saying, “Huh? What?” They’re not going to be in on it. It’s not going to feel truthful for them. So they’re probably not going to laugh.

Michael Webb:     So you have to know your audience in order to know what’s funny. The context is crucial.

Tiffani Sierra:         This is true. If you’re doing an improv show, you want to know your audience. But there’s a lot of universal truths for all people, right? The majority of people are all on social media. There’s kind of a lot of truths that come with being on social media. Things like that could be funny. But what makes someone funny is someone who is honoring their own truth. That can only be true for them. The one thing for myself that I have learned is I’m a very quirky kind of person. I’m very spontaneous. I’m very kind of fly by the seat of my pants person.

Michael Webb:     You’re also the queen of England, right?

Tiffani Sierra:         I’m also the queen! Let’s not forget that. Adrian’s going to buy me my crown later. You’re laughing with me right now, which is exciting for me. I love that. I thrive off it. What makes it really interesting is that I’m honoring who I am. When we honor who we are, it doesn’t matter what personality traits you have. That’s where connection comes from. There’s so much importance in connection and in being able to connect with people. Social media is built on people don’t feel connected so they go to be online. What if we could create true and authentic connections in our own lives? What if salespeople could create true and authentic connections just from a quick conversation? Really, what if it started by them just being themselves and setting the ground for that space of comfort? Because when we’re our authentic self we invite others to join in and for them to be themselves.

Michael Webb:     Wow, that’s interesting. You brought to mind an important idea here. Something that was said, I’m trying to remember the author’s name. Russell Ackoff, Systems Thinker. I have to paraphrase here because I can’t find that file. He said that most of the time when we’re trying to improve things that we make the mistake, we improve the wrong thing. Because we don’t understand the system that we’re in, right? In a human system, the issues, as we’ve pointed out here, could be in your own mind because you’re unaware or you have a block. So it’s hard for you to get a connection with the other people around you. This improv could help with that. So I can see readily how it could help salespeople to be better communicators.

Michael Webb:     On the other hand, there are lots of poor salespeople who are thrown out there to make a million cold calls as fast as they can because that’s the only way they can find somebody who might be ready to buy something. Unfortunately, there are people who think the solution to everything is all about the salesperson, but that’s not always true. One of the reasons why there’s such high turnover in sales organizations because nobody is paving the ground to make sales easier for people. Have you seen places where improv won’t help an executive or a salesperson?

Tiffani Sierra:         I haven’t. I have not honestly come across a person who has not benefited in some facet from the rules of improv, the work we do and growing. I think there’s always opportunity to grow. I think there’s always something we can work on. With that being said, I just haven’t seen it yet.

Michael Webb:     What’s your observation about that, Adrian?

Adrian Figueroa:   I feel the same way. You can go to all the top CEOs in the world and yeah they’re making a lot of money, but are they really successful? What is going behind the scenes that nobody else knows about where they probably wish they could speak up and become their authentic selves. They really need help with this, really need help with that, this is going on in my social life, pr this is going on behind the scenes that nobody knows. They’re going with the flow of fear of what others think and how the world views them. Yeah, they might have tie ins where they want more money or they want more this or that. If they’re allowed to be their authentic selves and come forward, they’ll continue to grow. As Tiffani was saying, hey, I need help in these facets. What can improv do? It would make them a stronger leader. A better person that can grow connections.

Michael Webb:     Yeah, that’s interesting and kind of fascinating. You’re answering the question in a different way than what I expected. This respect for people idea is huge in organizations. I have to say that the number one issue that I have. I have people who find my books and my articles on my website and most of them are people who are in an organization. A lot of them are salespeople or sales managers or even VPS of sales. And they’re in an organization where the management culture does not respect in this way. They would love to try to do some of the things that we bring to them, defining the problem and using observable characteristics to prioritize opportunities and reducing waste and improving the quality and the value that’s created within the sales and marketing function, but they can’t. Because they’re trapped in this organization that does not respect people and they wish that there was some way they could get their leaders and managers to get it. That’s like ten to one of the people I come into contact with and subscribe to my materials and things, compared to the one who’s actually…

Michael Webb:     If you are on top of one of those organizations and you’re trying to improve the culture, you’ve got huge challenges too. I can see it definitely in the case of that second executive, helping them become more self-aware and more facile with their emotions and picking up on those of other people and being unafraid to be transparent. Deal with the environment and the real issues. I can see where that would have a huge impact. And I think you’re right. Even at a low level, if you’re an entry-level salesperson and you have the ability to do this, you’re going to have a better impact and earn more respect of the people around you including your customers. It’s just that the impact is a little more limited.

Adrian Figueroa:   Normally what I tell executives at that level is that they just have to do it. At whatever level you’re at, you just have to do it. Whatever you wholeheartedly believe in, you just have to start somewhere and start implementing it. Because others will follow and you’ll be much stronger within the position that you are. Because you’ll have a lot of followers that will help you. I know that’s –

Michael Webb:     I’m sorry, go ahead.

Adrian Figueroa:   I was going to say that, I’m not going to go into the story because it was on a previous podcast but that was my story of how I was able to help and thrive and make all the hard improvements is just because I decided to do it. This was what I was going to do within the lines of what the business needed. But I was going to spin it in this way, improve it, and then the company succeeded but they didn’t understand how it really did. What was the driving tool.

Michael Webb:     Right. Well, and you all are bringing home a real crucial point, I think. In the operational excellence industry, Lean or Six Sigma or just about any of the flavors of operational excellence, most of the companies that attempt to go down this path of this style of doing initiatives, it’s not as successful as they would like it to be. Especially in the past when the focus has been on the tools or the method. And/or it’s on the project. It’s not about how we show up and how we think, it’s about following the Six Sigma process, or being Lean. We’re going to follow these rules even though we don’t know why we’re doing them. So they don’t have the successes they would like to have and it’s hard for them to sustain this more arduous way of being analytical and gathering data and making decisions and performing experiments.

Michael Webb:     You have to make it part of the culture. If it’s part of the culture, that presupposes that the people value it. The only way that people can value it is if they’re aware of it and they’re communicating about it and authentically discussing it. I wouldn’t have thought that improv would have an impact on that but you’ve just shown me that it does. So thank you.

Tiffani Sierra:         Awesome, well, thank you for having an open mind to it. That’s where it starts, right?

Michael Webb:     Yeah. And it helps if you’re really quick-witted and can say funny things.

Tiffani Sierra:         True. We could teach anybody how to do that.

Michael Webb:     Yeah, because I often find myself being caught not having anything funny to say. The funny thing is, my wife is laughing at me all the time and she says I say funny things but I don’t know. The funny ones just come out and when you’re stuck for something you can’t. And that’s what you remember.

Tiffani Sierra:         But remember that she’s probably laughing because you’re saying something that’s truthful. As long as you’re honoring your truth, Michael, and this is true for anyone. People will often find comedy in that. You’d be really surprised.

Adrian Figueroa:   We actually go through that ourselves, Mike. When I say something and I’m just being normal, like right now as I’m speaking to you at this moment. I’m just even-keeled, regular tone voice. I’ll say something and Tiff will just start busting up. And I look at her like, what are you laughing for?

Tiffani Sierra:         And it’s because you said something that was really truthful that I could connect with, typically.

Adrian Figueroa:   And to me, it wasn’t even funny at all. I was just repeating the truth.

Tiffani Sierra:         Because he has a very particular way of talking so I often laugh if you word something a certain way because it’s just funny. He’s just being him. There’s humor in that. People want to laugh so bad, especially right now. People really do want to laugh. Isn’t it fun to laugh?

Michael Webb:     Oh yeah, and it’s healthy too. This is great. This has been awesome. I’ve really enjoyed it. How can people get ahold of you if they want to learn more about what you do? Where can they go? How can they find you?

Tiffani Sierra:         They can find us at our website improvitup.com. You can also find us on social. We’re on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. We often will post ways to improv your life on our social media pages. Be sure to follow us, so you can see tips. For business professionals and just anyone, we’ll post some helpful tips on how to improv your life and improv your work.

Michael Webb:     That sounds great. Well, I thank you both. I want to start following your work and may take some of those tips and put them into an article or something. Maybe we can have you back at some point in the future. Thank you very much for being interested in the Sales Process Excellence podcast. Glad you were here. And to my audience, so long until next time.

Adrian Figueroa:   Thank you, Michael.

Tiffani Sierra:         Thanks, Michael.

Michael Webb

Michael Webb founded Sales Performance Consultants to create a data-driven alternative to the slogans and shallow impact offered by typical sales training, sales consulting, and CRM companies. Michael helped organize and delivered the keynote speeches for the first conferences ever held on applying Six Sigma to marketing and sales. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

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