Episode 4 – [AUDIOBLOG] Yes, And-ing Unforeseen Obstacles in Dangerous Territory

In this episode, Allision Gilmore recounts her experiences while on vacation and relates them to a real case study with one of our clients in “Yes, And-ing Unforeseen Obstacles in Dangerous Territory”

10 Reasons to Leave Your Technology At Home During Vacation

When Jim decided to leave his computer at home during his beach vacation, his family was in shock. When he told them he would be turning off his phone and leaving it in a drawer for the week, they checked his temperature. Seven days later, a more energetic, clear-headed, and mindful Jim returned from the beach. Here are 10 Reasons to Leave Your Technology At Home During Vacation

10.) Our Phone Can Be A Coping Mechanism

Being away from home and around a large group of people for an entire week can be stressful even if they are your closest and best friends. For those of us who have a somewhat introverted nature, we can end up coping with that stress by disappearing into our technology while in the room with others. When Jim left the phone in his drawer and focused on balancing full respectful engagement while taking opportunities for rest and self care, the entire week’s experience improved dramatically and his vacation became exponentially more enjoyable. 

9.) We Might Need a Technology Detox

At some point in time, we have to be honest with ourselves and ask the difficult question: “Am I addicted to my technology?”  If you are someone who answered with, “No I am not”, congratulations! But we would challenge you to take a closer look and see if that is really true.  Keeping a balanced use of technology as a tool should be our goal, but utilizing a tool wisely can quickly degrade to checking your email again just because it gives you a good feeling dose of dopamine. None of us want to be an addict, and we should all be aware that it is a real thing. Jim discovered that as the week of vacation went on it became less compulsive to want to check his notifications, which resulted in a much more pleasant and rewarding calm and mindfulness.

“Every time we switch tasks, we’re also shooting ourselves up with a dose of the stress hormone cortisol. The switching puts our thoughtful, reasoning prefrontal cortex to sleep, and kicks up dopamine, a brain chemical that plays a key role in pursuing reward and motivation.” – Business Insider

8.) We Are Not Necessarily As Important As We Think We Are

We all like to think that people can’t do without us. If we are not careful we may start to believe ourselves so indispensable that we can’t give ourselves a break when needed. Coming to a place of balance with our own self importance and ego can allow us to take a real break with time for self care.  Failing to wrestle our ego into place can result in a constant tension as we subconsciously wait for the phone to ring. 

7.) We Can Make Space for Forgotten Hobbies and Exploration

There are lots of things that we all want to do that we just don’t seem to be able to find the time for in life. If we look at how much time we spend each day checking our phones, scrolling through Facebook and playing games, we can tell where our availability for other hobbies has gone. Leaving our technology behind for a short time can show us how much we enjoy things like reading, biking, bird watching, or just walking on the beach. 

6.) Sometimes Epiphanies Appear from the Vacuum

Allowing our brains to be “bored” every once in a while results in some really incredible conclusions and ideas. Out of the chaos and overwhelming nature of social media, and constant connection online, our brains sometimes fail to communicate our best ideas to us because we are so mentally under water. In unplugging, and waiting for our brain to leave technology withdrawal, we can find ideas and clarity waiting for us to jot down on a piece of paper, and then go back to relaxing. 

5.) We Can Find More Opportunities For Connection

Looking down at our phones, or staring at a screen, takes away opportunities for face-to-face connection with others.  While on vacation, Jim noticed many more opportunities to play, have conversations, and revel in the personalities around him.

4.) We Need A Check In With How Facebook is Affecting Us

Not only is Facebook a time suck, but it is also an emotional roller coaster. We are affected just as much by the negative stories we see as we are the constant self edited perfect life stories of those around us. Giving ourselves a break for a significant amount of time is the only way we can truly come to terms with exactly how that social media monster is affecting us. 

3.) Getting Better Rest is the Best

Less screen time means better rest. When we aren’t looking at screens before bed and our thoughts are clearer it is much easier to engage with sleep. Also.. our screens suppress melatonin.

“The blue light emitted by screens on cell phones, computers, tablets, and televisions restrains the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle, or circadian rhythm. Reducing melatonin makes it harder to fall and stay asleep.” – Sleep.org

2.) Sometimes We Need a Subconscious Recalibration

Our subconscious is a powerful place that can communicate all sorts of amazing thoughts to us if we are available for them.Technology can get in the way of these powerful connections. This may sound a bit like the Epiphany section above, but the truth is that our subconscious is capable of so much more than our conscious brains can do on their own. When we free up our mental RAM, and take in more detail of what is going on around us, our subconscious makes connections for us to other important concepts. The end result is more of those “shower thoughts” we love so much in our daily life.

1.). We Can Come Home With a Cleaner Running Engine

Overall the clarity of a tech free mind leads to a more fine-tuned and cleaner running brain. Have you noticed that the amount of time you feel really and truly clear minded and fresh isn’t as high as you want it to be? Did you come home from vacation feeling just as cloudy as when you left? Consider a technology break. Put down the phone, pick up a book, and a margarita, and let yourself really take a break. Say yes to a real vacation. 

Courage Doesn’t Come from a Wizard

We live in a world of unknowns – Will I get that promotion?  Is he going to propose? Are they going to respond to my email with a signed contract?  What am I going to make for dinner?

The thing about unknowns is that they can often-times trigger a tricky emotion that can undermine our well being – fear.  When our mind enters a fear state our body releases hormones that slow or shut down functions that are not needed for immediate survival, such as the digestive system, and sharpens functions to help us survive, like increasing our heart rate, and blood flow to muscles so we can escape danger faster.

As experiential facilitators with improv experience, we are consciously aware that every time we walk into a conversation or a scene on stage, we risk triggering the fear of the unknown.  Are you aware of this reaction in these situations as well? How is the performance review going to be received? What if the client decided to go with another vendor? Is our product development going to be executable?

There is no magic potion to gain courage. It doesn’t come from a wizard or a self help book. Courage comes from feeling the fear and doing it anyway. In improv, we rely on the axiom of Del Close’s “follow the fear”, and prepare ourselves to accept whatever happens next.

We understand that we can’t control other people or their behavior, but we can control how we let their words or actions determine our response.  Immediately, the sense of fear reduces (let’s be honest, it never totally goes away), allowing us to enter into those scary or difficult conversations or situations. We can take the next step with less fear because we know we are going to just accept whatever happens and then figure out what action to take.

In the last few weeks, we have acted courageously in ways that surprised ourselves, thus the topic of this story. Allison found the courage to specifically make an “ask” to a new C-suite client, in an effort to build a relationship within their organization now that they have experienced our work.  

Allison’s husband, Joel, a “behind the scenes” part of DuMore, and a fine art painter, found the courage to take his work out into the world by painting plein air as a daily commitment to get his work out of the studio and out into the world (it’s working – he sold 3 paintings in a week!).

Jim has been bolstered by a new coaching program that has encouraged him to take steps outside of his “comfort zone” by engaging with colleagues and clients in new ways.

We are finding the courage to move past our fears and see what happens next.  As we like to say, the worst they can say is “no” and then we’ll at least know what our obstacles are and begin to find another route to success.

What do you wish you had the courage to accomplish? Go ahead. Ask for the “yes.”

Episode 3 – The Brady Bunch and Unconscious Bias

In this episode, Allison and Jim discuss the different types of unconscious bias, and how they play out in the world. Also, a quick story about the Brady Bunch.

The Artifact Effect

Jim’s first experience with the Artifact Effect, (an in-house DuMore term, so don’t bother googling it) happened a week after his twelfth birthday party. He was having a conversation with his mom, and he kept looking down at his wrist, admiring his brand new shiny black Casio digital watch. His mom saw him do this several times and then paused the conversation.

“Do you have someplace to be, Jamie?” she asked.

“No. Why? Mom, I’m listening,” he said, confused.

“Well, you keep looking at your watch and when people look at their watch it means they either need to be somewhere else or don’t want to be where they are.”

In this particular case, Jim wasn’t focused on the time; He was checking out his brand new tech, but how often is that really true? People look at their watches when they are worried about time or because time doesn’t seem to be moving. Looking at an artifact betrays our intention and feelings.

So why is this important? And who wears a watch anymore? Don’t people just look at their phone for the time?

Well, we’re glad you asked.

Prior to the tech boom, the Artifact Effect allowed easy navigation of relationships by sending helpful positive signals of intent while being able to avoid harmful signals of disinterest or split focus. For instance, if someone says something in a conversation and then you pull out a piece of paper and a pen, you are communicating that you perceive value in what they said. If someone says something and you look at your watch, it looks like you are bored or have someplace else to be.

Fast forward to the mid 2000’s, where the Artifact Effect met its match with the invention of the smartphone and a social media frenzy. Since then our intentions have become harder to read, our social cues harder to decipher, and our eye contact and full attention are harder to garner.

We should add, there are two audiences for this article: those who grew up in a world with no smartphone and those who grew up in a world with no encyclopedias. Our hope is to get everyone thinking about what signals we are sending when we engage with certain artifacts and what we can do to communicate our intent for more clear social interactions.

Together we will take a look at a handful of powerful artifacts, how they have been replaced, and how each swap-out has made things less connected and more confusing.

The Telephone

We start with the telephone because it has changed the most dramatically of all of the artifacts. In the 1980s, if the phone rang, you answered it. Unless it was dinner time and then everyone looked disparagingly at the phone and pitied the upbringing of whomever would call a residence during dinner time. If you placed your hand on a phone that wasn’t ringing, it meant that you were about to make a call. If someone saw you do this, they would know what was about to happen. Reaching for a phone meant one thing and one thing only – a phone call.

With the invention of the smartphone, when someone puts their hand on their phone, you have no idea what is about to happen. It could mean they are going to pick it up, put it in their pocket, and leave the conversation. They might be about to make a note of something. They may want to take a photo or record a video. When they reach for their “phone” they are reaching for a culmination of 100 different potential actions. So which assumption are we most likely to make if we don’t have a cue to follow?

The unfortunate answer: whatever pattern of behavior we have most observed and been affected by. We might assume a child is about to play a game or watch a video. We may believe our partner is going to read the news. But we have no idea, really – no idea at all.

The Typewriter

In the days when typewriters still sat on most desks, this artifact was an easy to discern signal. Like the telephone, the typewriter only did one thing. You didn’t reach for your typewriter if you wanted someone to pick up milk on the way home. Additionally, if someone were typing, they were working. You didn’t need to ask them if they were working, they just were. They were writing something, or perhaps transcribing something from notes, but they definitely were focused on a task and you could be sure that interrupting them was likely to stop their flow.

With the invention of the smartphone, we can still see when someone is typing. They almost always use their thumbs, and we can see them speedily choosing letters on their virtual keyboard. We cannot, however, tell the context of their typing. They could be playing a word game, they could be typing an email for work, or they could be making a social media post. These days, they are just as likely to be typing a message to someone that is sitting right beside them while they are pretending that they are capable of multi tasking their conversation with you.

The Pipe

This entry might seem peculiar, but a pipe is a perfect and seamless artifact for anyone that doesn’t mind being around pipe smoke. If you are in a conversation, and someone picks up their pipe, you don’t suddenly stop talking because you think they are going to be too distracted to talk. As the person packs their pipe, lights it, and smokes it, we know that they can do this ritual while still engaging in the conversation that is happening. For someone suffering from anxiety, preparing and smoking a pipe can give exactly the sort of busy motion they need to keep down their social nervousness.

We now live in a world where smoking a pipe in the middle of the traditional workplace would be unthinkable. Thanks to smartphones, many people deal with nervous fidgeting in their day by playing games on their phone or interacting with social media. Unfortunately, this activity is not one we can take part in while also giving our full attention to the relationship and conversation. When we choose to put our phone down and devote our attention to the moment, do we also forfeit any type of pipe preparation activity? Many facilitators and trainers have begun to incorporate fidgeting toys into their meeting environments. An explanation as to why they are useful is then given at the top of a meeting. As the facilitator says in this video, (http://youtu.be/aHlH8nIGUSE) – choosing to hand out fidget or stress toys during a meeting can help your attendees to focus better, enhancing the meeting and learning experience.

If you happen to be in a less formal meeting environment, communicating your use of a fidget device to the other person and bringing them in on why it helps you to stay focused on the conversation can be all it takes to deepen the understanding, enhance the relationship, and even possibly to give the other person a new tool to use for themselves in future.

The Coffee Cup

The coffee cup is an artifact that has stuck around and is in no way threatened by technological advancement. On the other hand, not everyone is consciously aware of how important or impactful the coffee culture is on relationships and connection. Having, and holding, a coffee cup can be something to do with your hands; it can be a comfort to hold, and it has no confusing messages attached to its use.

People do not get confused when you reach for your coffee cup. They understand the artifact and may even offer to perform the ritual of retrieving coffee for you or with you. They may want to join you in getting coffee, enjoy the atmosphere of a coffee shop with you, and getting out of the office and meeting at your local java distributor may even send positive energy into the conversation.

So if you are not a coffee drinker, consider joining the coffee drinkers in their rituals as a way to tap into this artifact. Take up drinking tea, flavored decaf coffee, hot chocolate, or hot water with lemon. Place yourself in the environment where others are conversing energetically and take part with your coffee cup proxy. Utilizing this Artifact Effect can be of benefit especially if the conversation you are having is not in itself exciting, or if you want to add comfort to an uncomfortable conversation.

Rolodex

The rolodex was once a must have on every desk in every office. It was a powerful resource and a symbol of networking power and connection. If you were reaching for a rolodex you were reaching for information. Flipping through the cards was an experience; a sign of your intention to help the person you are meeting with.

Other artifacts that have gone the way of the rolodex are the thesaurus, dictionary, encyclopedia, and phone book. Now all of this information is found on a computer or smartphone. As we have already discussed, picking a card out of a rolodex is a clear and powerful action. Picking up your smartphone or typing on your computer could easily be interpreted as losing focus, growing bored, or putting someone else who is not in the room ahead of the face to face connection you are making.

When someone picks up their phone to send you some information, have you ever experienced sitting and waiting for an extended period of time and still not getting the information you asked for? The person might have been distracted by a text, email, social media, or possibly even their move on Words with Friends. Sometimes they completely forget why they got on their phone in the first place. After reminding them of what they were going to do for you, the cycle may very well start again from the beginning.

The Newspaper

At one point, the newspaper was the great divider. Because of its construction, unfolding it creates a visual barrier between us and others in the room; it sends a signal that we are done with a conversation, wanting to have peace and quiet, or that we are passively listening to what is being said around but not to us.

If there is a new world Artifact that has the most similar feeling to picking up the newspaper and separating ourselves from the connection in front of us, the smartphone is the strongest candidate. When people pick up a smartphone they may not even realize that they are disconnecting from what is happening in the room.

So what can we do?

If you watch, you will see that people know exactly how to deal with seeing their friend get a phone call, the friend excusing themself to take the phone call, and the friend coming back to the conversation. It is all of the other uses of the smartphone that mangles the social cues.

In our opinion, having all of these actions take place on one device simply means that we need to use the smartphone with an understanding that it is the equivalent of 100 artifacts. We need to realize that when we are engaging with our phone in the middle of an engagement with a live human, the other person is more likely than not to misunderstand our use of the device. We should precursor our use in a way that communicates the missing Artifact Effect.

A few examples:

“I’m so sorry, but I just realized I forgot to send an important text.” This would be followed by pulling out the smartphone, sending the text without looking at other notifications, and then putting the phone away again.

“Can I get a picture of us together?” This could be followed by a photo and then the return of the phone to the middle of the table.

“We’re likely to be waiting here for a few hours. I was going to catch up on my social media.” This would allow the other person to feel free to engage in their own entertainment without any stress.

Verbal communication must take the place of physical Artifact Effects if we want to break the cycle of misinterpretation and fragmented social connection caused by constant smartphone usage.

One Last Thought

If you want to show someone that you trust them, are there for them, and want to be intentional about the moment you are sharing together, consider entrusting your cell phone to them. Jim does this with his wife when they go out to eat together, and it gives her absolute confidence in his intentions. Jim’s idea of handing her his phone to keep on her side of the table or to put into her purse while they ate has become its own Artifact Effect carrying its own energy and meaning. Does it make you feel anxious about the idea of giving your phone to someone or not having it for a short while? Ask yourself what that means about your connection to your phone and what it could mean for the relationships in your life. Let’s be intentional, communicate, and allow these devices to be tools, not barriers.

5 Reasons Why Conference Calls Are The Worst

Virtual meetings are our new way of life. They are beneficial to the company’s bottom line, and if we execute them correctly, they can be even more impactful than meetings held on site.

Video conferencing can help build trust and increase engagement in your teams without the need for a plane ride, gridlock traffic and a night or two away from family. So let’s dive into a few virtual meeting tips:

Conference Chaos

Conference calls can be the absolute worst when bad habits meet less than engaged attendees. One way to combat conference chaos is to create a set of meeting Norms. Norms are an understanding amongst the group of what will and will not be allowable when meeting. The trouble is, many teams create their list of norms separate from the group and result in work around behavior or people just sliding back into their normal habits. To avoid this, meeting leaders should set norms with input from the group in order to reach a consensus about virtual meeting behavior.

Terrible Tech

Waiting until the beginning of a big meeting and then discovering that your video isn’t working usually results in a loss of visual connection with your telecommuting teammates. Make sure that upon arrival, technology is the first priority. When possible, have someone arrive early to make sure everything is setup properly.

We Could Have Done This In An Email

Holding a meeting that could have been an email is a waste of time for everyone involved. Sending an email that should be a meeting is just asking for things to go sideways on you. Correctly evaluating when to send an email and when to have a meeting can help save everyone time and will help them stay more attentive during the meetings themselves.

Wrong Party Guests

Asking someone to sit on the other end of a phone or video chat when they do not need to be there creates a culture of multitasking and half listening. Once we train ourselves to do other things while on a call it can be a difficult habit to break. Making sure that everyone who is invited is truly needed on the call can be a great step toward full attention during meetings.

There Was Homework?

Sending out condensed readings to prepare for a meeting can help make the most of everyone’s time once they are online together. In order for this to work the meeting preparer should only send out the most pertinent info and encourage a culture in which reading prep is done before the meeting.

For more helpful tips on mastering your virtual meetings, consider DuMore’s Virtual Collaboration Workshop to help your team have powerful and effective meetings virtually.

View Our Workshop Catalogue

Allison and Jim

champagne toast

A Special DuMore Improv New Year’s Toast…

Cheers, friends! DuMore Improv’s favorite holiday is almost here – New Year’s Eve! We’re looking forward to good food, good buddies, lots of fun and games and an exciting newyear. We hope you are too!

Loading up your plate at the New Year’s Eve buffet table sounds easy, but coming up with the perfect party toast? Not so much. So we decided to help you out with a DIY mad libtoast. Share it with your colleagues, friends, family or strangers in line for the bathroom.

2016 New Year’s Toast

Happy New (noun)____________, everyone! I’m so happy to have my closest (plural noun)____________ here with me to share this (adjective)____________ moment. Today we (verb)____________ our (plural noun)____________ and look forward to a new yearof (noun)____________.

Once a year we (verb)____________ together to watch the (noun)____________ drop, stuff our bellies with (noun)____________ and then (verb)____________ on the dance floor until it’s time to (verb)____________.

So let’s raise a (noun)____________ and toast! May your (noun)____________ be forever (adjective)____________ and your (noun)____________ always be filled with(adjective)____________    (noun)____________.

Cheers & Happy New Year!
Allison, Jim & Elizabeth
toast new year
halloween candy

What Our Favorite Halloween Candy Says About Us

It’s Halloween week & we hope you’re ready to dig in to some spooky treats. Did you know that our favorite Halloween candy says a lot about our (or our co-worker’s) leadership style? Read on to see if you can spot the Snicker or Smartie in your group.
What Our Favorite Halloween Candy Says About Our Leadership Style
Candy Corn – A super sweet leader, but best in small doses
Snickers – A little nutty sometimes, but your team is always satisfied
Reese’s – A balanced approach to leadership and appreciate all perspectives
Dum Dums – This style can be mysterious, but it never fails to surprise and delight
Kit Kat – Loves shared leadership (and taking lots of breaks!)
Smarties – Thrives on change and having a lot of options.
Junior Mints – A team player and who always sticks together with their group.Favorite team outing — going to a movie!
Laffy Taffy – A committed leader who will chew on a problem until it’s solved.
Fruit – Not always the life of the party, but at the end of the day everyone feels great.
————————————————————
Hope you enjoyed our Halloween fun! To learn about REAL leadership styles, check out this Harvard Business Review article about common leadership archetypes.
Need help with your personal style or your team’s leadership skills? Schedule a quick discovery call with Jim Karwisch at jim@dumoreimprov.com or 404-272-1212.
Happy Halloween & we hope you get loads of your favorite candy!!
Cheers,
Allison, Jim & Elizabeth
candy comic
snoopy fall

The #1 Office Game Changer This Fall

Tired of your team turning on each other like fall leaves in New England?
Wish your teammates would bring some business-changing ideas to the table?
Wonder how you can get everyone’s energy level up for the Q4 push?
If that nip in the air is getting you excited about a new season, there’s a good chance your teammates are ready for a shift, too. Fall is a great time to usher in a fresh approach to doing business and subtly nudge your corporate culture in a new direction.

Adding improvisation skills and emotional intelligence to your playbook can instantly transform your team from ho hum to high energy. And even if you’re happy with your current culture, it’s never hurts to have a refresher on these 5 key elements of high-level collaboration and teamwork:

  1. Crystal Clear Communication
  2. Awareness & Empathy
  3. Radical Risk Taking
  4. Shared Leadership
  5. Positive Problem Solving
Hop on a quick Discovery call with us to explore how a culture tune-up can get your group psyched for a new season. Contact Jim Karwisch atjim@dumoreimprov.com or 404-272-1212 to set up a time to chat!
Cheers,
Allison, Jim & Elizabeth
 
snoopy leaf dance
Business Bookshelf

Your Top 25 Summer Reading Picks!

Aw, yeah. Our bookshelf is about to look like THIS — thanks to your contributions to our summer reading list.

We appreciate everyone sharing their favorite titles. Wow, you guys are serious readers! We’ve got a great mix of inspirational, intriguing and just plain fun. Now get your beach and pool bags ready…here are YOUR top 25 picks.

  1. The 46 Rules of Genius by Marty Neumeier
  2. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
  3. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell
  4. Why A Students Work for C Students… by Robert Kiyosaki
  5. Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
  6. Holacracy by Brian J. Robertson
  7. #GirlBoss by Sophia Amoruso
  8. Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone
  9. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
  10. What Color is Your Parachute by Richard N. Bolles
  11. 1984 by George Orwell
  12. Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald
  13. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
  14. The Pope and Mussolini by David Kurtzer
  15. Never Too Late: Your Road Map to Reinvention by Claire Cook
  16. The Promise of a Pencil: How An Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change by Adam Braun
  17. Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg
  18. Freakanomics by Levitt and Bunar
  19. SCRUM: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland
  20. The Nightingale by Kristi Hannah
  21. Once There Was A War by John Steinbeck
  22. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  23. Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon
  24. Carolina Moon by Nora Roberts
  25. Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins
And cheers to the winner of our random drawing — Lily Zhang. We’ll be sending you a $50 Amazon gift card to get your reading list off to a good start.

Happy Reading! We’ll check in again this summer for your book reviews.

Cheers,
Allison & Elizabeth

Your tan lines this summer.
book_nerd_tan_lines