The 5 tenets of a ‘Yes, And’ culture
By Ashleigh Petersen Galen Emanuele

The 5 tenets of a ‘Yes, And’ culture

What is “Yes, And,” and where does it come from?

“Yes, And” comes from improv. It is the core concept that drives how the magic of improv works, and how improvisers are able to create successful stories together on stage without any scripts or planning what to do ahead of time.

The idea of creating a “Yes, And” culture in business is what originally brought me into the work of helping teams and leaders become more intentional and effective together. It involves adapting the primary skills and mindsets that you need to develop to become a brilliant improviser into five simple tenets.

  1. Say yes. This doesn’t literally mean saying yes to every single thing in the world. It is a mindset and intention of looking for any way possible to say yes when you can. Saying yes involves actively looking for ways to make things work, instead of focusing on finding reasons why they won’t.
  2. Listen and be present. Listening and being present is about being attentive, focused and tuned-in while communicating with others. It’s about inviting and validating other people’s perspectives and making others feel considered. It means letting other people finish without interrupting them, and truly hearing them instead of just waiting for your turn to speak.
  3. Make other people look good. Having the intention of making others look good makes you a great improviser, and it also makes you a great human, co-worker or leader. It’s about lifting other people up, stepping in to help when needed, and using language to support rather than criticize. It involves extending grace, having short memories about other people’s mistakes, and doing what you can to support the success of the people around you.
    Another element of this is around embracing and honoring diversity. It’s important to acknowledge that diversity, and a cross section of skills, experience, talents and styles makes teams and organizations stronger and more successful.
    Also, when you have static or conflict with someone else, go directly to that person immediately, and attempt to solve it with them. Avoiding any lingering resentments or static with other people is a way to make them look good to you in your own head.
  4. Embrace change and failure. Change and failure are constant elements to just about every process. This is very much about growth mindset and understanding that anything you set out to do at all, no matter what it is, it’s natural to experience a lot of change or failures along the way.
  5. Be positive. Being positive is about taking ownership and accountability for the impact you have on other people based on your attitude, energy and influence. It’s about being intentional about the words that you use, your body language, and the energy you bring into a meeting or conversation. It can be as simple as choosing to not infuse situations with negativity or criticize somebody’s idea.

 Galen Emanuele is a speaker and trainer on business leadership and team culture based out of Portland, Ore. Every week, Emanuele produces a video and blog post highlighting vital conversations, building skill sets and showing teams how to drive exceptional culture and leadership. To see more, visit

Ashleigh Petersen

Ashleigh PetersenAshleigh Petersen

Ashleigh Petersen is the digital communications manager for Rental Management. She writes news and feature articles, plus coordinates the monthly Safety Issue and several sections in the magazine. Ashleigh loves spending time with her husband and young son, baking, gardening and listening to true crime and comedy podcasts.

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