Collaboration Activities For Work – With Gary Ware

Gary Ware Episode Art

How One Simple Phrase Can Improve Interactions

This month’s episode features Gary Ware, whose mission is to help people “energize their work.” If you find that your job is sometimes humdrum, and that your team’s ability to create new, innovative ideas is stifled, then this is the episode for you.

Gary provides practical tools (and cool examples) you can use to get creative juices flowing. And, there’s even a bonus – tips to improve your interviewing skills. You can use those tips on both sides of the proverbial interviewing table.

To give you a hint about Gary's essence, here’s his favorite quote by Plato. He lives his life by it:

“You learn more about a person in an hour of play, than a lifetime of conversation.”

What You’ll Learn Through The Idea Of "Yes And"

In this episode, Lisa and Gary chat about practical tools to improve creativity and problem solving at work. They even share real examples of activities they have used with teams to improve collaboration and communication:

1. Stay in the moment and be fully present. If you're not fully engaged, your ability to contribute to a proposed idea will be limited. Gary and Lisa both practice the concept of "soft focus" that comes from improvisation. In practicing soft focus, you're fully tuned into what's going on in the room. Rather than thinking about what you're going to say next, you're fully there with the intention to listen and soak in what's going on around you.

2. Use the words “Yes And” instead of cutting off someone’s idea with a "Yes, but." Make an effort to see where the idea takes you as a group, and don't deviate from a concept until it’s fully played out. Ideas are different from execution, yet often people squash ideas by thinking about impractical execution details as ideas get launched. This is why you hear "Yes, but" so often in meetings. The challenge is that ideas need space. When a team member thinks his idea will get slammed, he won't bother throwing it out. And his idea might just be the one that inspires his teammate's genius breakthrough that would have come 7 ideas down the line.

3. Notice what works. When you keep going, and when you get stuck, that’s where you get the amazing stuff! Spend time debriefing as a team. Talk about what brings out your biggest ideas. Talk about what makes you feel your best. Share moments of success because noticing what works will help you get more of what works. Accepting and considering ideas, no matter how crazy, will lead you to innovation and creative breakthrough moments. Allow yourselves to get stuck so that you can get to the breakthrough.

4. Don't disregard them.  Take the word “but…” out of your vocabulary entirely. That’s just another way of saying no. It's a way of disregarding a person’s contribution, which may inhibit them from speaking up when they have their next incredible idea. Many leaders and team members think they're being practical when they pick ideas apart. On the surface it feels like a way to quickly cull and make decisions. Yet actually, it creates a situation where people don't want to speak until they have a great idea.

5. Find your openness. Enter creative sessions with a sense of curiosity and possibility. If needed, tell everyone that this meeting isn't about making a decision. Tell them it's about coming up with ideas. If needed, create a silly mantra like "thank you for that idea" that everyone says in unison after every idea. Rather than commenting on an idea, you simply thank them, accept the submission and keep moving to the next idea. That way, you're not categorizing ideas as good and bad, you're simply generating the list of ideas.

6. Step into their shoes. Remember that we all see things through different lenses. Try to see ideas and concepts as others do. Consider that their perspectives, assumptions, and experiences are leading them to show up with a unique perspective. Using this mental practice is great for team building because it asks you to consider how someone else might view a project or problem.

7. Bonus tools to help you during an interview:

  • If you are thrown off during an interview, compose yourself and be real.
  • If you don’t know an answer, be honest. They’ll know when you're flustered, and making up an answer is not a good option.
  • Hiring managers want to know who you are. They want to know how you work. With all things being equal, people are going to hire those they like, so be your true self. Your resume tells them what you've done. That's easy enough to read, so use the interview to show the who and how.
  • Have some stories about yourself ready. Use these stories to highlight your strengths. Lisa recommends coming up with one example for each of your Top 5 StrengthsFinder talent themes. Since your natural talents are more about how you work than what you do, they make for great behavioral interview answers. For example, if you have a story about how you used your Includer talent to bring success to a high-stress project, you can use that example for many common behavioral interview questions, such as "tell me about a time when you overcame a challenging situation" or "tell me about a time when you dealt with a difficult person."
  • If you're a hiring manager, try the Monkey Wrench Game that Gary and Lisa demonstrate during the episode. This is a tool you can use in an interview to see how someone thinks on the fly. And like the Plato quote above, you can tell a lot about a candidate through their play.

Try These "Yes And" Activities With Your Team

These Improv exercises are a fun way to do a five minute team building exercise at the beginning of your next team meeting. They're a great way to set the tone for a creative, collaborative conversation.

You know those brainstorming meetings or "blue sky thinking" meetings where everyone is supposed to let their creativity out? Often it's tough to switch modes when you're used to being really serious and practical in every work conversation. If you want to open people into a new mode - get their mind loose again - try these exercises.

"Yes And" Interview (San Antonio Zoo Interview was the example in the episode)

  • Objective: Hold a 1x1 conversation between two people at a time with no pre-planned expertise or interview questions.
  • Time: 10 min. This could take 30 min or an hour if you have a large team. Be sure to set the stage so people know they should try to keep their answers to 1 minute or less. An average-size team will be finished in 10 minutes + instruction time.
  • Purpose: Get your team in the moment and fully present so that they "Yes And" their way to a full conversation. The purpose is to generate collaboration, ideation, support, creativity, and of
  • Preparation: Bring a pad of sticky notes. Get two volunteers. One person will be the interviewer, and one will be the first interviewee. The interviewer will be the same person during the entire game. This person should be a good communicator who will enjoy being part of the exercise the entire time. The interviewee will change after each question, so each team member will take a turn. Tell the team that you'll be building on a conversation (a mock expert interview) as you go person by person. Encourage them to call back to each other's references. Ask them to try to transition into their response seamlessly, as if it is one conversation. Do a quick demo so they get the idea before you get started.
  • How to do it with your team:
    • Ask each person to write one noun on one sticky note and one verb on a second sticky note. When people are finished, have them put those on a wall or in the middle of the table where everyone can see. This is your pile of inspiration words.
    • Get your interviewer to pick one of the words. That person starts the interview with, "thanks for coming in to share your expertise on [word]" - then the interviewer continues by asking a relevant question about that word. The interviewee answers and then says, "I think you should also talk to my friend [teammate's name] he/she is an expert when it comes to [word]."
    • Then the interviewer asks the new person a question about that word. The interview continues until all teammates have answered a question.
    • Key: this needs to feel like one conversation. That's where the Yes And comes into play. Try to transition into their response seamlessly, as if it is one conversation.
    • On a flip chart or whiteboard, write, "I think you should also talk to my friend [teammate's name] he/she is an expert when it comes to [word]" - this will help them remember how to generate the handoff from one interviewee to the next.
  • Debrief the experience:
    • Ask how that exercise mimicked things that happen at work on a regular day.
    • Ask what it felt like when the transitions were natural and tied together.
    • Ask what it felt like when someone abruptly moved to the next topic in the interview.
    • Note: the lesson you're drawing out is what it feels like when you use "Yes And" to collaborate and build on each other's ideas. It's to talk about what it feels like when you show up as a fully present participant who accepts what "is" and moves forward from there. If you have a team with a lot of emotional baggage or a habit of squashing infant ideas, this would be a great exercise.

Monkey Wrench Story (this was the ranch story from the episode)

  • Objective: Hold a conversation in pairs where the storyteller flexes the story based on random words inserted by the randomizer.
  • Time: 3 min + instruction time.
  • Purpose: Get your team out of an over-analyzing mode; practice full presence; have fun; practice adaptability and innovation; experience change with no luxury of planning.
  • Preparation: Get a timer. You can likely use the stopwatch feature on your phone. Have everyone pair up. One person will be the storyteller (this is the role Lisa played in the example in the episode). One person will be the randomizer (this is the role Gary played).  Ask them to decide who will play which role for their 3 minute story. Do a quick demo so they get the idea before you get started.
  • How to do it with your team:
    • Tell the storytellers that their job is to tell a story that begins with "once upon a time...", to try to create some excitement in the middle, and to bring it to a close in a relatively short period of time.
    • Tell the randomizers, in advance, to think of 5 unrelated words. Have them write them on a piece of paper that only they can see. Tell them that their job is to insert those words randomly in the middle of a sentence (not the end) while the storyteller is talking.
    • The storyteller's job is to accept the word and smoothly weave it into the story.
    • Tell them how you will call them back together. All pairs will be talking at once, so the room might get loud. Tell them how to know it's time to cut off their story if it hasn't finished when you call time.
    • Key: this needs to feel like one story. That's where the Yes And comes into play. They're practicing the idea of changing direction quickly, and not being able to plan their responses.
  • Debrief the experience:
    • Start off by hearing a couple of the interesting story topics they covered. Ask who wants to do a 15 second story synopsis. It's fun hearing that one group talked about aliens inventing a revolutionary code that will forever change software development, whereas another group talked about hardcover books being distributed by orphaned dolphins who swam with the books on their fins.
    • Ask how that exercise mimicked things that happen at work.
    • Ask what it felt like to the storytellers when they had to shift the story into an unexpected direction.
    • Ask what it felt like to the randomizer to hear where the story goes versus where they expected.
    • Ask what was difficult; ask what was easy.
    • Note: the lesson you're drawing out is what it feels like when you're fully present--when you come without assumptions or expectations about what's next. And you get to experience what it's like being fully in the moment. It's not to show that future thinking or learning from past failures is bad. Of course, if you know us at Lead Through Strengths, you'll know we love the talents of Futuristic, Context, and Strategic. Instead, this is to get people to also experience what it feels like to be fully present in the moment and to support ideas in a different way. If you have a team with a lot of competing priorities and distractions, this would be a great one.

Using these tools and techniques helps teams create and innovate, while allowing all people to feel valued and appreciated. Most importantly, they build on the "yes and" spirit that will keep people more open to ideas from others.

Resources Of The Episode

To connect with Gary, check out his website, and follow him on twitter. You'll also love these two guides that can get you in a Yes And mode of thinking:

Live Your Talents With A "Yes And" Mindset

Remember, using your strengths every day at work makes you a stronger performer. If you’re ready to try some Yes And thinking, you might enjoy interviews we did with two other experts who grew up in the world of improv.

In this interview with Strother Gaines, he talks about masks. It's a fascinating way of building confidence for speaking up and trying new things.

In this interview with Mike Ganino, he inspires you to use the Yes And mindset to build a company culture you love being part of.


Here's The Full Transcript Of The "Yes And" Interview

Lisa: [0:07] You're listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you'll learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. I'm your host, Lisa Cummings. And I gotta tell you, whether you're leading a team or leading yourself, it's hard to find something more energizing and productive than using your natural talents everyday at work. And today, you'll get some serious depth on the concept of energizing your work. Your guest hosts a show called Breakthrough Cocktail. He helps teams get out of their funk, through improvisation and through play.

Now, if that sounds just a little bit too much like a boondoggle of a workday for you, hey, listen through anyway, all right, because improv has helped me become such a better player at work. And beyond the distressing and beyond the fun that it brings you, there are real productivity benefits to this stuff. It helps you think on your feet. It helps you innovate. And you learn a ton about your teammates by being in improv games.

You get to simulate your decision-making responses, you simulate the default ways that you act in different situations. Yet you do it in a way that is accepting of each other's ideas and building instead of stripping down. Basically, you give huge support to each other, yes, even to the people who annoy you. And it shows you a whole new way to value them and what they bring to the team.

So Gary Ware, thank you for bringing us some productivity-boosting fun and games today. We're going to totally live the Yes And life. Will you get us started by telling us your perspective on play at work?

Gary: [1:48] Yeah, I actually have a quote that summarizes just that. And it's from Plato, and it says, “You learn more about a person in an hour of play than a lifetime of conversation.”

Lisa: [1:58] Yeah, that's a really good one.

Gary: [2:00] Right Lisa, I totally agree. I got hooked on doing improv because it was something, something about it. Yeah, you could do these icebreaker games. But it was just something about improv and just letting yourself go that, and play and discovery that, it was like I was transformed back to when I was five, in kindergarten on the on the playground just doing silly things. And there was no care in the world.

Lisa: [2:29] Yeah, I know that. You've said you love being goofy and I love being goofy too. So it certainly feeds that part. Yeah, yeah, just the play and not planning what to say I'm very much like that. I want to. I plan a few steps ahead. I want to be careful about what I say. And it's the opposite of that. And, and not being seven steps ahead. So really just being in the moment being fully present. It's, it's just so cool. I could go on. I could gush.

Gary: [2:56] Yeah, I know. Exactly. And, yeah, it's just a new way of thinking. And so Lisa, a question for you. So you got into improv and it sort of transformed your life? Can you talk about a few other areas of how just improv has impacted you?

Lisa: [3:14] Yeah, I mean, the ‘yes and..” part has been huge for me. So anybody who's listening who's not familiar with ‘yes and…’, it's, it's kind of a basic tenet that you're going to support what's going on, in a scene or in a moment and build on it, rather than cutting it off or saying ‘no’ to what's happening. And so putting yourself in that mindset of your, in your, in the scene or at work, you're at work, and then going with what is happening, and then making the best of it, building on it and making it better is a completely new way.

So it has shifted me in many ways - down to the basics of trying to get ‘but’ out of my vernacular, unless you're talking about a literal butt on a body. It's the ‘yes and..’ or I'll say ‘yet’. I won't say “but” if I'm being conscious of it, because it does, it changes the way you actually think and put things together. And it just changes your frame of mind. So that's been a huge one for me in life, how about for you?

Gary: [4:13] It causes me to think of other possibilities. You're right, when you are saying ‘yes’, and you are agreeing 120% with someone, and you're building on that, and everything's a possibility because I know, we are so quick to say no, for whatever reason. It could be that you're just scared or you really think that you have an idea that is stellar, and you're not listening and, and sometimes it's just all about, let's support what's already out there.

Lisa: [4:46] And it teaches you about yourself in a way that you start to understand more about your assumptions. So I'm remembering back to a recent class. And so I'm in improv and you're in this…you're doing the scene work with a person and they’re doing something. And so as the recipient or you're up there with them listening and trying to understand what they're doing through their actions.

The guy who was up there with me was… he was being a cook in his mind. And so he was chopping something with a knife. And what I saw was a guy working in his woodshop, and as a perfect example of ‘Yes And…’., because I started commenting on what he was making in his wood shop. And it was after the scene, we were debriefing, when he said, I was actually starting as a chef. It turned it in a completely different direction.

And just imagine if we weren't in front of an audience who was in the class. But if we were in front of an audience, and he's like, “Hey, dummy, I'm not in a woodshop. I'm in a chef, hello, can you not see my knife?”, I would ruin the whole thing. He just went with it. And then there's something human and real that happens too because you see his face, he's shifting gears, he's recalibrating. “Okay, now I'm in a chef, and what am I holding?” And what..and I was seeing him like with a rasp or something.

And it's just, for me, that's very insightful, when you think about it applied to work, because you see the world through your eyes, and you have no idea where they're coming from. And you can assume yet getting in and saying "Yes And” going with what's happening, really helps you understand you come from a place of curiosity, you come from a place of openness. And then you start to see, oh yeah, there are different people who see things differently. And my way is not the only way to go about the world.

Gary: [6:25] I totally agree. And myself coming from a very creative background and working in the agency world, by saying ‘yes’, it opens up endless possibilities for innovation, because I know far too often, if you're in a brainstorming session, and again everyone wants to get their ideas heard. And like every time we deny someone's idea, someone throws another idea out, if you start over again.

And but just by throwing all else aside, and just supporting what is out there and just agreeing 110% and just not exploring that until it's completely done. And then before we move on to any new concepts, you will get awesome ideas.

And another example of, this was something how we brought one of the tenets of improv, you know, ‘yes and..’ into like the brainstorming scenario, is we, when we would brainstorm, it would be uber focus brainstorm. So it would be on one concept, but we could not explore outside of that concept until we explored everything about that concept. And so no one can throw any new ideas into the mix until everything from the very first idea has been explored. And it makes you, for in the beginning, you get all the obvious things out. But then that's where the magic happens.

Lisa: [7:53] Yeah.

Gary: [7:53] We can't move on. Because that's typically what happens, you get all the obvious stuff, and then you get stuck. And then you move on to something else, and they have to start over. But you keep going. And then that's where you get those breakthrough moments.

Lisa: [8:05] Yeah, those are great. It's kind of like a..for anybody listening, if you're really into this stuff, it's convergent and divergent thinking. And the typical brainstorm people are always talking about, “oh, blue sky”, you know, think about anything wacky out there. And you do come up with good ideas there. And that's more of the divergent.

Yet if you create the constraint, and you say, ‘Alright, we're just…we're living inside of this limitation, what can we come up with inside of the limitation?’ The ideas I see come up are better when you're limiting yourself, constraining yourself, because then you can get real wacky with how to make it unique. And those are the most fun to me, but versus the wide open universe of ideas you could come up with.

Gary: [8:47] Yeah, exactly. Sometimes we need limitations and constraints, to come up with amazing ideas. And I know from my own improv experiences, sometimes those limitations are the format of the game. You know, the specific game has, has specific rules and specific limitations.

Aside from that, you're free to completely explore and do whatever you want. And like what you mentioned earlier, you are not by yourself, you are what someone that is supporting you. And we see things through different lenses. And by just supporting whatever is out there. And building on it. It's magic. It is magic.

Lisa: [9:25] Yeah.

Gary: [9:28] And so I thought maybe we can kick things off by playing a little game. Like one of the simplest games is is ‘yes and..’. And maybe we could just start with, since this is career-focused and whatnot, maybe we can do ‘yes and…’ game where maybe it's an interview-focus game. But we're going to just keep saying “yes and” then we're going to build on something and see where we go.

Lisa: [9:50] Okay, cool.

Gary: [9:52] Lisa, would you like to be the interviewer and I will be the interviewee?

Lisa: [9:57] Yes, I would love to and I would love to know what job you would like to interview for?

Gary: [10:04] I would like to interview for a trainer at the zoo. Okay.

Lisa: [10:09] Gary, it's, it's great to have you in here. Tell me about the wackiest animal experience you've had at the zoo so far, or in your, in your animal life?

Gary: [10:21] I have to say, the most wacky experience that I've ever had was when I worked in Africa, and I was tracking rhinos through the Safari.

Lisa: [10:34] You know, I've always wanted to do Safari in Africa. And I know it's a little off of our what you might expect an interview topic to be about, but can you tell me what you learned while you were tracking Rhino? And what the purpose was? What were you out there after?

Gary: [10:54] Yeah, what I learned is that rhinos, they travel in packs. And that reminds me of family, and the importance of having a good support system. And I can bring those, you know, that experience here to this zoo, the San Antonio zoo, and I can apply that to any aspect of our training facility.

Lisa: [11:22] That's great. I love the lessons you can apply. I'm wondering, so rhinos, they seem kind of scary. Were there ever moments when you were just, yeah, they scared the bejesus out of you or were you pretty confident the whole time? How did you handle fears being out like that in some risky environment?

Gary: [11:40] Yes, they did. Right, those are scary bees. And I'm not going to lie, I was quite scared. There was one time when we were trying to identify if this was a specific herd that we have tagged. And I had to go into the pack where a mother was, was nursing with some of her young. And just like any mother, if you're going to approach her children, she's going to get defensive.

I personally thought she was going to charge me. But I noticed the warning signs. And I stayed very clear. And one thing that you have to know about rhinos, is that if you, if you don't show fear, and you show dominance, they will immediately back down.

Lisa: [12:34] Wow, how did you show dominance to a rhino?

Gary: [12:38] Well, I think the best way to show dominance to a rhino is to appear like you are a male Rhino. So that requires you to get into this position and start stomping your feet. It is quite the sight. And I did that very successfully.

Lisa: [12:57] And have you ever stomped your feet like that in a work environment?

Gary: [13:02] Actually, sometimes you have to show dominance in a work environment. And so yes, that I can relate to multiple times when, if I'm in a situation where I'm being bullied, sometimes you just have to stomp your feet and, you know, show that you mean business. But that doesn't necessarily mean that I am going to always do that.

Lisa: [13:24] Well tell me about a time when you had to show you my business.

Gary: [13:27] Well, I, I am a little ashamed about this. But there was a time when I worked for the San Diego Zoo. And I thought I was up for a raise. I had to say, ‘Hey, I'm doing a superb job. And I felt like I am due for a raise, would you please reevaluate me?’ And I was very firm, yet not overbearing. And that was the last time I had to really show that I meant business.

Lisa: [14:01] Now if you had to show you meant business to end this interview, and show me that you wanted the job. What would you do right here?

Gary: [14:10] Well, I would make sure that I have a power stance and a power stance means that my feet are more than shoulder width apart, I am leaning in which is more of a position of power. And I will make direct eye contact and I would have more of a deeper voice. And I would say I am the best candidate for this position. You should hire me because no one else is going to bring very experienced like myself.

Lisa: [14:39] And end scene.

Lisa: [4:42] So now if we go out of character and debrief that, some things that were really cool to me is for the listeners out there, it's kind of cool to show ‘Yes and..’, an improv stuff doesn't have to be about being funny. It's about going with what's going on. And having been a recruiter and a hiring manager, as I watched and listened to your answers and thinking about how you just rolled with it, it didn't matter what I threw out you, they were not typical interview questions.

I don't know if they are typical zoo interview questions. It's a different environment. But it was interesting you probably think you're going to get ‘tell me about your strengths and weaknesses’, ‘tell me about your background’.

We ended up talking about rhinos and power stances. And I think that's a really cool thing. Sometimes when I interview people, I see, ‘uh-oh, they're off script’. What am I going to do? I used to ask a question of people about what is the last thing you did that you found really fun. And people were like, “fun”? It just really, “whoo!”, it surprised people so much. And no, people have fun. They just…it was not a weird question. So it really threw people and that's something I looked for in interviews is, “Will they be able to roll with the punches?” And sometimes the punches are weird questions.

And sometimes it's giving you the insight, especially the tell me about a timeline. I mean, that's a very technical. It's called behavioral interviewing. And it's beautiful as a candidate, because you get to tell stories and stories, bring emotion into the picture and make things memorable until they're so great for you as a candidate. But a lot of people resist them. So I thought that showed all sorts of cool things. How about you?

Gary: [16:25] Agreed. And another thing to note, especially being on both sides of the table, being someone that is interviewing and being interviewed yourself, you're right, you do not know what's going to be out there. However, if someone throws you for a loop, all you have to do is just take a deep breath, pause, because you don't have to answer right away. Compose yourself.

[16:45] And just be yourself. Be real. At the end of the day, they're hiring a human. And if you don't know the answer, you know, feel free to you know, just be honest, and just be real. And, and you're right, stories are that…is the, in my opinion, the trojan horse of an interview, because if you can talk about story, you sometimes get off tangent, and they stop interviewing you and you're having a conversation. And when you're having a conversation, now you're getting real. And now you're getting to the heart of like, why we want to interview someone, we want to find out what they're about.

Lisa: [17:23] Yeah. And and you're getting to the… what makes people pick people. I mean, if you think about, if you talk to people, the way you talk to your friends, you're not so formal and stiff. You think about what you do when you sit around and…it's the theme, you know, cocktails, right? Breakthrough cocktail. So when I sit around on the patio with my friends, what do we do? We sit around and tell each other stories. When you talk to people like you talk to people, you like you tell stories.

So do that with your employer, give them the chance to see the you behind the kind of robotic curtain that people put up in interviews, and let them like you. And people hire people. They like..all things being equal, if your resume looks about the same, that's what got you in the door, the thing that gets you hired over the final couple of candidates, it's the interpersonal stuff. And that's the stories are such a great way to go with that. So embrace behavioral interviews. They’re awesome.

Gary: [18:17] I totally agree. And as a way to prepare, we can’t, you can't really prepare. We run through games, but as a way to prepare, I tell all of my…the people that I mentor, “have some stories like about yourself”, whether it's, you know, what was the last time, you know, you felt yourself in a scary situation. You know, how do you have fun? You know, anytime I come across a really good story that I could use in any situation, I sort of just jot it down.

It actually reminds me of one other game that I would like to play with you, Lisa, if you would like to be so brave, and it's called the Monkey Wrench game. I don't know if there's a technical term, but the person, so Lisa would be brave to be the person on this one. I asked him to tell me a story about anything. It's just telling you a story, but I'm going to throw up random words. And then you have to just take that word and immediately add it to your story.

Lisa: [19:15] Okay, love it.

Gary: [19:17] Cool. So, to get you started, maybe just tell me a story about, you know, a time when someone had fun since we're talking about fun.

Lisa: [19:27] Once upon a time, there was a man who had no fun in his life. And he went on a quest to have fun.

Gary: [19:35] tractor

Lisa: [19:36] So he showed up at his friend's farm and said, “You know, I've lived in the city my whole life and I want to learn to drive a tractor. In fact, I want to operate the backhoe because I think it would be so much fun.” So his friend got him out. He started tooling around with all of those knobs and sticks and he started thinking “wow, this is not as fun as I thought. I want to do something else on the farm. I want to…

Gary: [20:02] plank

Lisa: [20:04] So his friend said, I think you'd have more fun if you walk the plank. And the guy said, “What do you mean walk the plank? I thought you walked the plank when you were like, getting off by haters or something. And so Joe said, “nah, nah, nah, walking the plank here is great”. So he takes him out to the pool and stands out on the diving board, puts a blindfold on him, and asks him to jump. So he jumps in the pool.

Gary: [20:31] sunset

Lisa: [20:33] So he jumped in the pool and started treading water. And Joe said, “You know, here's the thing. You've walked the plank, you've done the best cannonball we've seen in like four years. The next part of fun, is whether you can tread water until sunset, and do some of that synchronized dancing to the beat of the music on the radio. So he started listening to the songs and moving his body to the sounds of the songs. And he felt like a synchronized swimmer in the Olympics only he was.

Gary: [21:04] glasses

Lisa: [21:06] So his friend said, “You're brilliant. I mean, if only you had that swimming cap, that was pink, you would look great. So let's get out of the pool and finish up the night by having an old fashion and clinking our glasses, because today was a breakthrough for fun”.

Gary: [21:23] Yay. End scene.

Gary: [21:27] Oh my gosh, how was that? Thank you for being…by little getting take on this.

Lisa: [21:33] That was a cool game. Yeah, I really liked it. I've done the game where you do story building where you do like once upon a time, and you start it off, and then you just cut yourself, you edit yourself and the next person has to build on the story and let it roll. So I really, other than having hearing problems, I really liked pivoting because your mind's going in one direction and then you have to juke over to the side and make it something totally different. So I thought it was pretty fun. How was it? Listening?

Gary: [22:05] I thought that was great. Yeah. And I have to say the story became even more creative because with this, and I do with a lot of people that I mentor with, is to get them out of their head and to be ready for anything. And yeah, and now you created a story that you never would have thought you would have went there.

Lisa: [22:24] Right.

Gary: [22:24] And I had no idea and yeah, sometimes again, in interviews, and on the workplace, you think you know where things are going, and then you get thrown a monkey wrench, you know pivot and adjust.

Lisa: [22:38] And sadly, for this episode, things have to pivot to the close, boo. So we have to do more of this though. It’s so good. Thanks for the monkey wrench game and the interview game, Gary. I mean, this has been quite this drinks jam. So I know a lot of listeners can learn from this advice you gave on telling stories during interviews, whether the interviewer or the interviewee.

My favorite action tip out of this whole conversation is to practice at least one “yes and…” every day. And then you'll notice how much you say “but” as well. And just watch what it does for your influence, for your listening and for your trust on the team. That one tiny word, “yes” instead of “but” can change the whole dynamic on your team.

And then for that monkey wrench game, try that with your group at work. It's such a fun team builder. And it's really good for getting in that creative mindset when you need to, or for exercising your Adaptability muscle if you have to deal with a lot of change. And it's even a good way to practice that “yes and” concept because it builds on other people's ideas, even if that's not where you were planning to take the conversation.

Now I know all of you listeners want to check out more from Gary, you can find him at or he's out on Twitter as Gary Ware. So his handle @garyware .

You'll also love these two guides that can get you in a Yes And mode of thinking:

So thanks for listening to Lead Through Strengths. If you're only focused on fixing your team's weaknesses, you're choosing the path of most resistance. So instead, claim your talents and share them with the world.