Last month we did something we’ve never done before…we hired an improv coach.
Why did we do it?
As a group, there isn’t much we take all that seriously. However, we are weirdly protective of our team dynamic and we are extremely dedicated to the improv as an art form. So, when we began to discuss the idea of taking on a coach, it wasn’t something we took lightly. We understood some of the benefits of having an outside perspective, but we didn’t want to adversely impact our team culture (I’m not purposely throwing in business lingo I promise).
After some conversation and a well-timed Facebook post, we decided to take the leap and bring someone new into the Buffet-fold.
While I’m sure some could say “let’s just get a coach”, it was important for our team that we had a specific goal in mind. In fact, it was only when we were able to define our objective were we able to all get behind the idea of bringing a coach on. In our case, we wanted to better refine our WildCard improv format and make it even better.
TIP: If you are a team considering taking on a coach, make sure that you identify what you want to get out of it; this will not only help you but will also help the coach in defining their plan of attack.
Finding and bringing on the right coach
As mentioned, we came across a Facebook post from a coach named Sean looking for a team. As this coach had an endorsement from an improv teacher and performer we respect and adore, and a great improv background in his own right, we thought we’d reach out.
After some discussion, we thought we’d dip our toe in the water and have Sean come out and watch us perform. After that, we’d have him out to one of our rehearsals to get a feel for one another. We made sure that both parties were clear on the money stuff ahead of time to avoid any court cases in the future.
After the first session, Sean felt confident he could coach us and, more importantly, we felt really happy about his style and approach as an instructor. Sean then coached us for a four-week period with a plan to tackle the challenge we set out.
TIP: Try and get the coach out to watch you perform in front of a real audience to get a feel for how you perform & make sure all the admin is clearly laid out ahead of time.
While I’d love to share all of the great things Sean took us through, I’d hate to give away his secrets. I can say that we learned some awesome new games/exercises that we continue to play with.
During the coaching sessions, Sean was constantly seeking feedback and was able to customise his lesson plan based on this feedback and by what he saw. Despite the randomness that exists within Improv, Sean took a very pragmatic approach.
In Buffet, we are all about the almighty “Yes &” and supporting one another through everything we do (whether Buffet related or not). This mutual support is a big reason why we love playing together and something that I hope never changes. The one flaw in this level of support is the difficulty in giving one another any type of constructive feedback. And, it is this very reason why bringing in a coach can be such a huge asset to any improv team.
Sean was able to understand our strengths, challenge the status quo, and identify opportunities for us to truly excel. In other words, he was able to provide notes on what worked and what didn’t. He was able to then take what he helped us identify and give us exercises and direction on how to improve as a team.
As a coach, Sean was energetic, positive, fun, and knowledgeable in the world of improv. He was able to introduce us to new things and helped us identify things that we weren’t able to pinpoint ourselves. In fact, in a surprising twist, Sean helped our team reach the conclusion to pause our WildCard format and play with some other less-structured formats for the next little while.
In short, Sean was awesome & we are delighted that we brought him on as a coach.
TIP: After a series of coaching sessions, it’s important that your circle back with your team and do a debrief. Is it going the way you had hoped? Are you accomplishing what you set out to accomplish?