Human Resources, Small Business Spoonful

Leadership Training: Lessons We Can Learn From Jimmy Fallon

2016 is the year you become a leader.

“I’m already a leader”, you say. Yes, but are you as effective as you would like to be? Is leadership training one of the least items on your long list of things to do this year? Do you struggle with the blocks in your pyramid crumbling and pushing against one another? Do you ever wonder why customer service and satisfaction scores aren’t great in your organization? Is negativity in your workplace and passive-aggressive behavior an ongoing battle? Do you wish communication was better and people just said what they meant? (and meant what they said?)

If you answered YES to some of these questions, then listen up. Jimmy Fallon and I are going to give you  some insight to the issues that may very likely be your plight.

The Tonight Show's Jimmy Fallon

The Tonight Show’s Jimmy Fallon Credit: Unknown via bostonharold.com

Last week, I watched an episode of The Tonight Show. Tyler Perry was one of the guests. They had a great conversation and then, as usual, Fallon challenged him to some sort of a funny game. This time the game was Spin the Microphone, a singing game.

If you don’t know, let me tell you that  Jimmy Fallon sings really well. He often sings on his show and has been invited onstage at concerts by various performers. So, I sat in my living room watching the show and assuming Tyler Perry could sing. I mean, he does everything else so well. Man, was I surprised to hear that Mr. Perry could not carry a tune across the street in a bucket!

Now, I am thinking how awkward this may become if Fallon takes his turn to sing and kills it like normal. Jimmy Fallon can sing. It’s his show. He is a multi-talented and seemingly very competitive individual. He has worked hard to inherit the throne and no one embarrasses the King in his own palace. Right? Well, frankly, yes. This is a true statement. But, Fallon is not your average late night talk show king. He is an improviser. He is a veteran of improv. (I’ll get back to why this is significant.)

So, Perry sings and everyone laughs at the bad karaoke. Perry laughs, too. Now, it’s Fallon’s turn and he sings with another one of the  guests who I have never seen before. Their performance together was also very cruise ship karaoke. So, finally Fallon and Perry sing together and between the two of them I would wager that dogs were howling for miles! Ha, Ha…. it’s all so funny and cut to commercial.

Now, what does any of this story have to do with your success as a leader? Well, let me ask you a question. What kind of person do you have to be in order to take the back seat and humble yourself in front of millions of viewers around the world? How does a person so competitive allow himself to lose in his own house? I will tell you what kind of person does this. A person who  is looking out for the good of the others around him and has the goal of making others look good instead of constantly showing off and dominating every challenge.

You  see, Jimmy Fallon comes out of an improv environment. He worked with the Groundlings improv troupe for two years and performed stand-up during that time, as well. His dream was always to be a cast member on Saturday Night Live. Working with veteran improvisers like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, among others, was no doubt a great learning and development experience.

So what! Why is any  of this experience relevant to my life as a leader in my organization? OK, OK! So, the thing that all improvisers are taught on Day One is the rule of Yes…and. This the cornerstone of improv. If Yes…and is not applied in every interaction improvisers create on stage, the entire scene (if not show) will bomb. Yes…and is a mindset. Yes…and is the spirit of giving and working very  hard in every scene to make sure you support the efforts of your fellow players. Improvisers understand that it is OK to shine. But, not to outshine at the expense of your team mates.

Good leadership training should teach us to be accepting of what comes our  way. We should lead with the mindset that creates the Yes. And, then follow up with the next most positive forward-moving step or decision. Sadly, many leaders fail to lead with  the Yes…and mindset and end up being Ya’ But leaders (or actually blockers) instead.

Effective leaders manage by “accept-tion”, not by exception. Yes, I  made that up. But, it does make sense. A person who takes exception to everything and challenges ideas constantly is usually the leader who people only follow long enough to find a way out. The negative attitude of “exception” trickles down to all in the organization and is a potential spoiler to the whole organization. But, the person that manages by “accept-tion” looks for the Yes and then identifies ways to enhance and up build.

When the NO must come into play, the Yes..and mind-set looks for the most honest and encouraging way to commend the person or team responsible for the idea not being pursued. This response eliminates embarrassment or negative feelings. Instead, the whole group is left with the great feeling we all get when the crowd cheers after we completely butcher our favorite song on the cruise ship karaoke stage.

If you are struggling with the problems I listed in the first paragraph, please know you are not alone. But, do some honest self-examination and ask yourself: Am I willing to put myself to the side and let the others shine? Have I become jaded and fallen into management by exception? If Jimmy Fallon spent a random day in my company, would he be more likely to see an up-building group of team players or a jaded bunch of individuals in conflict. Gossip, subtle sabotage, managers who seem like glorified babysitters, angry customers and uncooperative executives. If this is your cast of characters, it is definitely time for a lesson in Yes…and. (Call me!)

So, that is one leadership training lesson we can learn from Jimmy Fallon. Stay tuned. I have many more to share with you in the coming weeks. And, if you witness  a Yes…and moment, drop me a line and tell me your story. I will be very happy to share it with our readers.

Until Next Time, Be Audit-Secure!

Lisa Smith


Lisa Smith is CEO of Andere Seminars, LLC and Chief Content Developer at BeAuditSecure.com. Follow her on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn, listen to her Small Business Spoonfuls Podcast, and find more from her in Audit-Secure Authority at BeAuditSecure.com.


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