Can a TV Sitcom Teach You Innovative Leadership?

Are you aware of your perceived status?


Sean Monahan is a Senior Instructor for Business Improvisations who travels the country leading workshops that help organizations improve employee engagement, organizational culture, team building and more, through the application of improvisational techniques. Status is the respect and influence people have from the perspective of others.

Sean explains that it is important for leaders to be aware of their status, the impact they have on those they lead, and how their status can affect employees’ willingness to collaborate, offer ideas, problem-solve, and more.

One of the big concepts that we deal with in comedy and in business improvisation is the idea of status, right? In comedy, it's a real gold mine for status. You know you think about some of the classic even sitcoms out there, a show like "The Office" is a great example, where you've got the character of Michael Scott, who is the highest ranking person in the office but the lowest status person in the office, right? Then they juxtaposed that with the receptionist and she is probably one of the lowest ranking people on the show, but she is one of the higher status people on the show, and that juxtaposition really provides a lot of comedy.

What we are trying to make people aware of, especially leaders, is the recognition that when they enter a meeting, when they enter a department, when they're around their colleagues and especially the people that report to them, that they have to be keenly aware of what their status is, what their perceived status is, and how that's affecting the people that they are with. The only person that can level a leader status is that leader. They have to lead by example, they have to be willing to come in, we refer to it as being the person who is willing to get into the pool and splash around. If they are willing to be that person, then suddenly everybody else will join in.

When we make people aware of status, to watch them sort of make that recognition of, "Oh, wait a minute. When I am not worried about status, when I am not worried about proving who I am within a meeting, suddenly I am actually focused on the goal of the meeting." Now, you can't have two masters, right? You can't be in the meeting trying to prove to everyone else in the meeting that you are the smartest guy in the room and also focus on the objective, and when you eliminate that need to be the smartest person in the room or be the most creative or the funniest, or whatever it is that you are trying to prove to the rest of the world, if you just focus on this idea, now suddenly it's way easier for me to build on your idea, for me to build on whoever's idea and for us to focus on the problem and we'll find way more possible solutions.

Sean Monahan

Sean Monahan is a co-owner of M.i. Productions (parent company of the nationally renowned Mission iMPROVable and M.i.’s Westside Comedy Theater) and a Senior Instructor for Business Improvisations who travels the country leading works...

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