🚀 Breathe.



“If you are kind, honest with people and value them, and are transparent as a leader, then you build trust. That trust in your truth leads to organic fun.”

In this episode

In episode #66, Kathy Klotz-Guest helps you realize whether or not you are nurturing innovation or if you are sending “shut up” signals. 

Kathy Klotz-Guest is a storyteller, humor in business expert, and Founder of Keeping It Human

In this episode, we talk about the conversations leaders should be having with their team… and how improv can create psychological safety. 

We also explore having a template mentality and how leaders should get creative with their approaches in order to build more trust.

Tune in for an entertaining and valuable episode and to learn about the difference between a “Yes, and” and a “Yes, but” mentality. 

Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.


Keeping It Human


Challenging old school management


Template mentality


Nurturing trust within your team


This is what failure looks like


Improv as the epitome of psychological safety


The language of business


“Shut Up” signals


Play and its link to self-awareness



Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  00:00

 Kathy, welcome to the show. 

Kathy Klotz-Guest (Keeping It Human)  02:14

Hey, happy to be here. Thanks for having me. 

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  02:17

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, we were just chatting. And I think we’re gonna talk about a lot of things related to improv, during this discussion, but you had mentioned that you’ve done quite a bit of stand-up comedy. Tell us about that.

Kathy Klotz-Guest (Keeping It Human)   02:33

Yeah, I still do. I started in stand-up comedy right after college. I was in LA and I got this handbook on. It’s called the Comedy Bible. Now I don’t make money off of this, Judy Carter’s comedy Bible, like read it ear to ear and I started doing open mic nights, just started jumping in full, like headfirst before I knew what I was doing. And something clicked in me, I couldn’t remember the first three or four times I was up there because it was all a blur. But I just knew I needed to keep going. So I kept doing it. And that was like, you know, over 20 years ago, and I still, I do stand up. And there’s something magical about telling your story. Because comedy is storytelling, and it’s probably the most intimate storytelling you’ll ever hear. I’m telling you what I think who I am my point of view in the world. And that’s such a beautiful bond with the audience. So it’s one of my favorite things to do.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  03:27

We’re going to be talking about how improv and all these things relate to leadership. But one thing so you have I guess had a pretty extensive leadership career you’ve been at Autodesk, Gartner excite. And you’ve now co-founded Keeping It Human. What do you do at Keeping It Human, at a high level?

Kathy Klotz-Guest (Keeping It Human) 03:48

So I am the founder of Keeping  It Human and Keeping It Human was founded to bring the worlds of comedy and my business background together. So I knew that there was even back, you know when I was still in tech, and I was, you know, running teams in tech, I was like, you know, there’s a better way to show up in the world. There’s a better way to embrace our humanity and our humor, and not to be ashamed or shy of it. There’s a better way to talk to people like our marketing sucks because our culture sucks. And there’s nothing worse to me like how about truth, right? as a comedian and a comedian sensibility, there’s nothing worse to me than having a very crappy culture, a sucky culture where you don’t respect people, and then all of a sudden, trying to be funny in your marketing for customers, when you treat your employees like garbage, and I think there’s that disconnect, and comedians are like, Oh, no, let’s talk about that hypocrisy. So for me, it was like, let’s take these words and what if there was a better way to communicate, to show up to impact culture and that’s what keeping a human was founded on that belief that we can make business better by taking down that wall that somehow I don’t know how it got But the stupid artificial wall that’s like, No, we can’t have humor here. We can have fun here we can like, Are you kidding me? I was like, we’ve got to, we’ve got to because it sucks here. So that’s really what I wanted to do was take down that wall.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  05:14

Yeah, that’s super interesting. So I have to ask you. When you first started, like, do you remember when, when it was when you first started leading teams and maybe some of the mistakes that you had in those early days? I’m wondering if some of that relates to what you’re doing now?

Kathy Klotz-Guest (Keeping It Human)  05:29

Yes. Because when I was in my 20s was all of a sudden thrusting to managing teams, like I had no training, like probably a lot of us. It was like, she seems smart. She works hard. Like, let’s just dump her in the deep end of the pool. And I was like, ah, we’re a pool noodle app. We’re bubble noodles. I know what it’s like nuts. Yeah. Like, I don’t know what I’m doing. And like I had no support. And I don’t think that story is unique. I think for a lot of us who are kind of self-directed, we get thrown into these situations. So thankfully, I had I was doing comedy and stand up, you know, five, six nights a week, I already had some sense of emotional intelligence from the stage. Because I wasn’t getting it in companies. And I came up as a Gen X or I came up in the age of you. Maybe you remember this, maybe you don’t, but some of your listeners will. There was a model of leadership, all the HBr you know, the business literature at the time was like, Don’t bring me problems. Bring me solutions.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  06:26

I remember that.

Kathy Klotz-Guest (Keeping It Human)  06:27

Yeah. What a crock of crap. We just say what a crock of crap. Because what you’re doing is, you’re saying to your employees, I know you don’t see the 360 that I do. But I want you to somehow have answers to things you’ve never seen before. And don’t come to me. And then you wonder why your team members never tell you anything. So then I was raised in that stupid, stupid mindset that old, like tired. You know, we got to get rid of its mindset. So I didn’t know how to lead. And I remember. That’s how I was managed. So I tried that it did not work. And I remember thinking but of course, it doesn’t work. Because they don’t know. They, they come to me with a piece of the puzzle. And they’re asking me to help them fill it in. That makes sense. And I realized that that way of thinking was counterproductive. And so there was a whole lot of like, sort of mismanagement and ways of thinking about really old school militaristic backward management styles. And I think I discovered it because I was open enough. As a maybe being an outsider, as a woman, being a comedian, having a comedian sensibility being wired the way that I was, I was probably the perfect person to challenge that.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  07:44

And so what are ways? What are some ways that we can challenge that?

Kathy Klotz-Guest (Keeping It Human) 07:49

Ask yourself, when you know, I get it, we’re sort of, we’re all sort of victims of the culture we’re in. I think the biggest thing that we can do is start to question these things. Why? If that’s how you were sort of kind of groomed into leadership, maybe you step back and ask yourself, why does that work? Why wouldn’t it work, try to find holes in it be open to the idea that the way that you sort of came up in management might not be the way that it should be. And be open to the fact that when people come to you and say that doesn’t work, really be open to their experience, because that doesn’t work for everybody. So just be willing, I think the greatest gift you can be as a leader, as a manager is to hear what your people are telling you. Because if they’re telling you if one even one person on your team is willing to tell you chances are they’re not the only one who feels that way.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  08:40

Yeah, you know, it’s a very good point. And I think, you know, part of it is that we often look for, as a template to run right, like so basically something that has worked and just tells us what works, tell us the template, so we can just run the template, and hopefully, it’s just going to solve all the problems. And you talk a lot about this, right? Like the template mentality. How do you know that if you’re stuck in a template like this, this is an actual question, because there’s this template mentality, and then there’s also just being authentically you, which we also just talked about

Kathy Klotz-Guest (Keeping It Human)  09:16

Such a great question. I think, for me, it’s the moment am I listening to the person in front of me? Are they coming to me and telling me something I need to hear? Are they risking something? That’s something, that’s not nothing. Are they telling me something that I need to hear? Then the response? If my responses, hold on? Let me get back to you. I got to look it up in the HR manual, hold on, you know, if my response is that that I’m responding out of fear or I don’t have the answer, and a far better way to do it is to just say, that is a great point. That is a great question. I don’t have the answer, to be honest about it and to say, let me noodle it with you. Let’s see if we can come up with a solution. And I think the most honest, we can do as leaders are, be vulnerable, say, we don’t know, we’ll work on it together. You know, somebody brings me a piece of the puzzle. I can snap at them and try to go to the handbook or I can, I can just be honest and say, Look, you brought a piece of the puzzle that I, I hadn’t anticipated it was unexpected. Let me let’s get back to you. Or let me figure out how right now we can sit down and talk about how that all fits together? And I don’t have the answer. But let’s see where we go. And I think that kind of openness is, I wasn’t, I wasn’t, I didn’t come up in leadership with that openness, I would have loved that. So for me, learning what I did come up with, I want to completely flip leadership on its head, and I want to have those human moments of I don’t know, let’s be vulnerable. Let’s take a look at that. And rather than pretend that I got to have all the answers. Isn’t it far better to work with the person in front of you, who’s coming to you and risking something to tell you something? I think that’s what leadership should be.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  11:05

Yeah, you bring up a very good point. I think it’s one of those, again, like templates that have been run that we’ve all learned that it’s Yeah, you know, it’s nice to be the powerful leader that has all the answers at all times. But even not responding to a question is somewhat hard, right? Because I think like, we just have this bias to act, almost as a question or problem comes up. But sometimes it’s indeed okay to say, Well, I don’t know the answer right now. But I will get back to you. And just basically noticing that at the moment is useful, I guess, skill to develop.

Kathy Klotz-Guest (Keeping It Human)  11:40

Mm-hmm. I think we have this idea that somehow because we’re leaders, we have to have the answer at all times. It’s just the craziest, silly thing. Nobody has, like, you know, like, I talked to leaders, sometimes they’re like, well, I don’t want them to think they don’t know. And I’m like, I have news for you. They already know you don’t know. And look, they don’t expect you to be perfect. everybody already knows you’re not right. got news for you. newsflash, you’re not and everybody knows it. And I think those are the human moments that we can lean into with people if e’re honest enough with them that actually, most people go wow, that that took some guts and some courage and vulnerability. And I think those are the moments that we miss when we’re trying to have all the answers. We missed these fundamentally human moments that connect us. And I just think it’s a shame. 

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  12:27

Yeah. So Kathy, one of the things that I know you’re a big fan of is, you know, we were talking about this earlier. But if you want to say your marketing to be funny, or your marketing to resonate well, you have to start with actually treating your employees well and nurturing them. I guess one of the questions that I had for you is from all the different teams that you’ve worked with, or teams that you’ve led, when like, What does nurturing look like when done well?

Kathy Klotz-Guest (Keeping It Human) 12:57

It’s interesting because I’ve seen a lot of different styles in the world. And I think the consistent outcome that I’ve seen is that your team is willing to say what’s not working. And I’ve seen a lot of leaders dismiss it. But if you’re, if you’re at a point where your team is willing to say, “let’s let’s talk about that”, that may mean that there’s trust. Now, you don’t want a bunch of people dismissing things out of hand that can go too far. But I think if you have a group of people that are willing to try to fail to know that they can take risks, to know that they can bring up uncomfortable things in a respectful way. You don’t want total as you know, anarchy but respectfully, that’s a really good sign that they feel comfortable enough with you because they don’t fear reprisals. That’s a really good sign. So I think the question comes down to is how do we make people feel safe enough to where they can take these risks, try new things, experiment, and not be blamed or shamed? Or, you know, you know, any of that stuff. So starting to build that kind of trust? Is the difference is everything?

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  14:12

Yeah. And can you think of an example of something that people can very tactically start doing to, I guess, nurture that trust in their teams?

Kathy Klotz-Guest (Keeping It Human)  14:21

I think it starts with having open conversations about challenges and letting people know openly. It’s okay to fail. Here’s what failure looks like. Here’s what your degree of freedom is. Here’s what it looks like to experiment. Because a lot of times, what happens is, you know, we all get innovation horny. Innovate innovate, right? But what does it mean? I mean, most teams never discuss what the parameters of innovation look like. I mean, I can tell you right now that eight out of 10 teams that I deal with, they’ve never had an open conversation of what? Okay, go innovate. Alright, that’s right. You say that a lot. But what happens if we fail? How many signatures do I need? Before I go experiment on social media? Can I? People don’t know? Because it’s never openly talked about. So don’t assume that your team even knows what’s safe. Chances are if you’ve never talked about it, they don’t know. So start to normalize those conversations. What does it look like? What’s okay to experiment with? What? Where are the boundaries? What would be the acceptable risk? What if you’re saying that that experimentation is part of their job? And by the way, it should be everybody’s job? Okay, what does that look like? How much of their week can they devote to what? What is? What is the successful measurement look like? Are they responsible for certain KPIs? Or is okay to just experiment and not expect anything from that? How do these open conversations, I promise you to start there because I am willing to bet most of the managers out there have never had that kind of conversation with their team?

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  16:05

Yeah, I think that’s a very good way to put it. One of the things that I know a lot of teams do and like we certainly do, is just building out, you know, some of these things as practices or rituals. So for example, we have a hackathon internally. And it’s not just for developers, either everybody gets to participate. And so the idea is that you will work on things that you don’t normally work on, and you know, try something new, like try a different ad format, or try, like going out and forming a partnership or, you know, try something that you know, you normally won’t do. And again, there’s no point other than to encourage everybody to experiment. And so this has been something successful for us. And it kind of just like, is one of the many things you can do to nurture. I think.

Kathy Klotz-Guest (Keeping It Human) 16:58

I love that. I love that because that’s a very tangible thing. And I think the question is, your, your people just need the details filled in, because it’s just that fuzziness keeps people stuck. And I did a study with a large B2B client last year when COVID hit, and we went out, and we asked their employees or partners, and we did this study that was taken a survey taken by 1000s of their employees across the globe. And what came back, confirmed everything we thought that most of the time, people don’t innovate, and they don’t take risks. They will tell their boss that they feel overwhelmed, and they don’t have enough resources. And yet, yet we know that creativity, constraints breed creativity. And then when I asked them and another question, Okay, forget about what you tell your boss, what do you think it is. And like three-quarters of the respondents three quarters, said, here’s what I think it is, I’m afraid, I’m afraid to fail, I’m afraid of judgment, I’m afraid to take the risk because their boss had not made it safe to do that. So again, you can never enough make, make your people by example, not just talking about it, but by example, make them feel safe. So there is no going overboard and over-communicating. When it comes to safety, they need to know because when fear is high, the do-nothing option becomes their default.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  18:33

Yeah, that makes sense. And I think like there’s probably like, some really good ways to emphasize is whenever like, there is a big blunder in the workplace. Like, don’t go out scolding. You know, because if you do that, that erotic hits everything that you’ve ever said on that topic. Or even if like something was tried, it was very ambitious, you know, but it failed, maybe even talk about that in a town hall. And just say, Hey, we tried it didn’t work. But you know that that’s why like, we try these things, and sometimes they work and other times they don’t.

Kathy Klotz-Guest (Keeping It Human) 19:06

Yeah, Intuit, for example, has what they call these failure parties. And I love that they ritualize it because they’re not about the shame of the failure. They’re about the What did we learn? And their goal with these failure parties is to celebrate the people who took a risk, a quantifiable risk. And then what did we learn and then the party is celebrating the knowledge, the defusing of the knowledge of the organization. All right, here’s what we learned. And so the other parts of the interesting organization, now I know what not to do. And so when you take away the fear, but you celebrate it, and you normalize it, man that makes such a difference.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  19:45

[AD BREAK BEGINS] Hey there before moving to the next part of the interview, quick interjection to tell you about one of the internet’s best-kept secrets, the manager TLDR newsletter. So every two weeks we read the best content out there. The greatest articles, the advice, the case studies, whatever the latest and greatest is, we summarize it, and we send it to your inbox. We know you don’t have the time to read everything, but because we’re doing the work will summarize it and send it to your inbox once every two weeks. And the best news is completely free. So go on over to fellow dot app slash newsletter, and sign up today. And with that said, let’s go back to the interview.[AD BREAK ENDS]. One thing that I think it is related, is just connecting this concept of improv and psychological safety. So, you know, we talked about comedy, and we talked a little bit about improv before, but I’d love for you too, like this concept of improv in the workplace. I’m not sure that most people understand it. So I’d love for you to just give us a primer on what it is and how it can work.

Kathy Klotz-Guest (Keeping It Human)  20:53

So sure, you know, improvisation epitomizes what psychological safety is and psychological safety is that sense that people can go out and they can make mistakes, they can admit a failure without fear of retribution. That’s psychological safety. And we want that in our teams. Because that’s foundational to high-performing teams and aeration and all that stuff. We all want creativity we all want that. when push comes to shove, is it there or not. And improv culture from the stage is all about psychological safety. How we build scenes, is that we’re able to somebody tosses an idea instead of arguing over the idea somebody else? Yes. And it will be calling Yes, ma’am. And oh my gosh, that I want to get buried. Yeah. Okay, a bear and a cat. Why not? What has never been done before? But let’s do this thing. Come on, let’s just, let’s just have babies. Let’s just have a beer, cat babies. And someone else goes, Oh my gosh, now let’s do that. And then let’s like build a house in the woods as what else is like, yeah, we can make it like an Airbnb. We got Goldilocks, like, be our spokesperson, and then we can, and then you end up in this crazy place. Because in this beautiful world, there was no I didn’t like that idea. I didn’t like that. No, no, no. Yes. But we Yes. And it and we just kept building on. And the best innovation is a guess and mindset. So that kind of psychological safety that we create in our team is exactly the kind of discipline in psychological safety that we need in business teams. It’s no different. It’s no different. So this improv mindset, this improve the mindset of Yes, sanding and agreeing with your partner and exploring and not tearing down and yes, buddy, but yes, Andy, all these disciplines belong in higher-performing teams. So that’s really the connection. And it’s foundational, and more and more people I think are understanding that. Oh, yeah, that’s it. It’s not about being funny. I mean, yes, improv will make you funnier. The reason it makes you funnier is that when you feel safe, you’re not afraid to take big risks. The humor is organic because if I know that everybody has my back, no matter what crazy idea, I just said, hell yeah, I’m gonna go to that crazy play. And that’s the real gift of thinking like improvisers and we’re all improvisers anyway, I mean, we all adapt and pivot every day. So I believe that, even though we might not call ourselves that everybody in life and business is already improvizing.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  23:19

Yeah, no, this is interesting. Of the like, one of the things is, for me, this makes a lot of sense. And right away is any form of a brainstorming meeting, where you’re trying to come up with a solution or something creative. You know, it makes sense. How does this play in? You know, how do we make this, you know, more a way that we do things in other types of meetings?

Kathy Klotz-Guest (Keeping It Human)  23:43

Well, it is about meetings. It’s also I think, a cultural thing. I think it’s less about brainstorming. I think when we think on improv, we defer to like, oh, idea brainstorm. And that’s true. That’s one application for it. I think yes. And is a cultural mindset. It’s a cultural mindset. So that they, the way that it kind of shows up in meetings is are we listening when somebody has an idea? are we listening? When somebody, Yes, but it’ll shut down Are we aware? Are we truly listening to help people are showing up? So part of that yes, and mindset is listening to the tone of how people are showing up and today with COVID you know, culture is is tricky, and people are seeing the world kind of burning and incorporations across you know, the world. People are scared they are they have your and are we as managers listening to the way that they’re expressing that fear. And yes, and mindset would be listening and making a safe place for people to, you know, express that. So Connect before we get to the content of the meeting. We have to connect and listen to what people are saying Before we can get to the content, and that could transform meetings, it could transform culture all over the place.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  25:07

Yes, that’s interesting. I guess it’s it also, you know, extends into you’re in a one on one and someone comes and says, Hey, I have this idea about how to improve this particular thing. Like maybe your default reaction is no, that’s not a great idea. Because blah, blah, blah. But I can see how it can be something that extends across all the different interactions you have with people.

Kathy Klotz-Guest (Keeping It Human)  25:33

Yeah. All the time. All the time. I mean, your family, your friends. Yes, And. I mean, “Yes,and”  is the language of business. Think about it, the customer comes to you and says, this isn’t working. What do you do? Do you say yes, but what do you say? Yes, I hear you. I acknowledge that the first version wasn’t the best. And let’s figure it out together in the foreword, that’s the language of customer service. Right. So yes, and is is is foundationally written in our business contract? And yes, and by the way, doesn’t mean you have to do it. I know, everybody thinks their ideas are genius, and everybody else’s is crap, well I have news for y’all, we’ve all Yes. but-ed. And we all have been Yes, but-ed, and it shuts us all down. And so what “Yes and,” says is, look, this idea that we’re creating might not work. However, for purposes of just exploring, I’m just exploring, so let’s not primarily, and prematurely shut it down. Let’s explore. And let’s just see where it goes. Because you don’t know. And how many ideas that we need to shut down prematurely? Because we just thought, No, it’s a bad idea. Well, how do we know? How do we know? And what Yes, and asks us to do is to withhold judgment just a little bit? Doesn’t mean all ideas are equal, it doesn’t mean we’re going to go deep all ideas, will think what a yes. And mindset would do for our relationships to you if we Yes. And in people who came to us and wanting to be heard, and just they want to be acknowledged? And think about a yes. And versus a yes. But how would that transform your conversations? I mean, it’s fundamental.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  27:17

Yeah, you know, it’s really interesting, I think the and you can tell me if I’m on the right track here, but if you work at an organization, and as the management as senior leadership, one of the things that you’re thinking is, you know, it seems like I’m driving the train here in terms of all new ideas and new initiatives. And like, it feels like we’re doing all the heavy lifting from you’re generating new ideas or new approaches it you might benefit from, you know, basically building this culture of improv and also psychological safety. It’s not that you’re the only ones with good ideas, you’re just not creating an environment where those ideas will get to you.

Kathy Klotz-Guest (Keeping It Human)  27:57

Amen. When I hear this, my first reaction is that’s interesting. Tell me more. And then typically, to your point, I’ll find out that it’s not that there are great ideas, it’s just that they’re not listening. They’re not listening. They’ve made it unsafe, somewhere, people have gotten the message that their ideas weren’t welcome. So guess what, people aren’t stupid, they stopped innovating, they stopped coming up with new ideas. And if an organization or lead a group of leaders tells me that I know from experience, chances are that, because I’ve seen great ideas come from everywhere. You and I both know that. It just says to me that that leadership team is probably somewhere along the line, not intentionally, but through their actions, you’ve probably made it unsafe, and people have said, stop trying. I’m just gonna stop trying. And here’s the thing. We don’t give, we can say go innovate all day long. There’s something called shut up signals, and leaders give shut up signals. So a shut up signal. You can say go innovate, I can say to you, yeah, we value innovation here. And then five times in the meeting, and I’ll say, well, that’s a bad idea. That doesn’t work. So what do people listen to the go innovate or the shut up signals? intuition signals? And I think in those instances, probably those leaders are very in denial about the shut-up signals that they’ve been sending.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  29:30

Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense that I like the word shut up signals because it’s exactly what you said. Like they’ll try it a few times. But then, you know, if every time you do something, you get a shut up signal. You might stop going for it.

Kathy Klotz-Guest (Keeping It Human) 29:43

Right, Its like, Kathy, we said go innovate and I’m like mhm, let’s look at the number of times you did shut up signals and they are stunned, they’re stunned and I think in a good way, is once you get them to see the gap, that’s what comedy is right? The gap. between what you want and what you have, right? All the companies that are like we believe in innovation, like cut to the meetings, that’s a crappy idea, Bob shaft and don’t get some coffee, right? That comedy that juxtaposition is why it’s so palpable is that a lot of times leaders, we will say one thing, but people feel very differently. So somewhere along the line, there’s a gap, there’s a gap of the reality, and you can’t move forward until you address that gap. And comedy, by the way, is very good, how I get a lot of leaders on board. Let’s talk about that. I mean, it’s funny, it’s also painful, and it’s true. But let’s figure out why there’s this big, gaping hole in your innovation.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  30:45

You know this is very interesting. And I like your definition of comedy there, which is, I guess like you said, it’s, it’s the gap between what you want and where you are, I’m curious, like me, you’ve talked a lot about this, right? And I get the sense that it probably is going to come down to a lot of the micro habits that you’ve built as a leader. So how do you insert more comedy in the workplace? Or how do you make the workplace more fun?

Kathy Klotz-Guest (Keeping It Human)  31:12

So I think it is about that. It’s about more truth and more psychological safety because you’re going to have organic fun, right? I always joke that you know, Nobody puts out a party like HR, right? Like, nobody wants to come to mandated, you know, fun by MBO that No, no. And so there has to be an organic, honest sense that the the the leaders get in and care about people, because then the signals are, yeah, we do back up what we say. So I think the way to think about it is how do we get rid of the shut-up signals. Fun is blocked by all these shut up signals, if you are kind, if you are honest with people, if you are transparent, as a leader, if you value people, and you tell them exactly how they’re going to be measured, and then you actually measure them according to the actual way you said, and you have credibility, then what happens is that trust, that trust in that truth leads to organic, fun, fun will never flourish. When there’s low trust, it just can’t. And I’ve been in organizations that are like, Hey, you know, we’re gonna fire 15% of our workforce, I’m like, Well, did they deserve it? No, it’s just that we think it’s a good thing to do. Right? Because, you know, we want it like, it’s the sort of the jack, what was the jack welch? Ge, he innovated this cut the bottom 10 15% just because, which was no with no, like, the humankind of thought, just do it. And so this old kind of ways of thinking, you know, you go into that kind of mentality, where’s the trust? People don’t trust, right? And then they wonder why people don’t want to come to a party. And they wonder why, you know, how do we get our employees more engaged? Kathy, we don’t understand it. Like, break it to you. Like, like, you know, you just laid off, you know, 10 15% of your people for no reason. And then all sudden, you think you can put a bandaid on a hemorrhage by having a beer party? Like, are you kidding me? Like, there’s the comedy. So I think we have to just be very honest. So if you want fun to flourish, respect your people, be honest with your people create that trust, because now, organic, honest, fun has a chance, you know,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  33:33

This is very, very interesting. You’re right, that it can’t be just a, you can’t kind of like look at them on a very topical level and say, why didn’t people come to this party? Maybe maybe the entertainment wasn’t so good. You know, it’s probably something much more deeply rooted and systematic. You know, one of the other things that you also talk about is how play is tied into self-awareness. And, and I kind of, like draw this back to what we started the conversation with, which was, you know, if you’re a stand-up comedian, one of the things that you have to be good at it, is being self-aware, being able to speak a truth. Sure. So I’m curious, like, what are some like if someone wants to go away today with just a practical tactical thing that they can do in their interactions in the coming week? What some way that they can be a little bit more playful?

Kathy Klotz-Guest (Keeping It Human) 34:37

I’m being playful, I’d say. How an attitude of lightheartedness. You know, if there’s the elephant in the room, that people are kind of uneasy, you know, we’ve all started the meeting the world’s burning down. Maybe don’t just jump right into like, Alright, what’s everybody what’s on everybody’s agenda today. Maybe read the room. All right, everybody. I know it’s been tough like last week or so. How’s everybody feeling? Give me one word, how’s everybody feeling? Okay, go around the word or the room and ask for one word, let people opt out, if they’re not feeling it, this is important. Mandatory play violates every principle of organic play, let them opt-out. But when you make it safe, and you make it a way that everybody can contribute, it’s not about liners are doing stand up. It’s about everybody contributing, maybe doing an improv activity. Maybe you’re building a story, one word at a time, and you’re laughing, you’re getting warmed up. Now you can create the sense of just laughter and recognition that you know, things are, are hard, but you’re having a moment to connect, take that moment to connect, honestly Connect, and then get to the content of your meeting. And just little things like that, over time will start to build trust, because it signals to the people in the room that you care how they’re doing. And no amount of like, you know, a happy fun time will ever take root. If people sense you’re not legit, and you’re not for real, and that you don’t care.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  36:16

Yeah, that’s that’s actually really, really good advice. Kathy, I know we’re coming up against time here. This has been incredibly insightful. And it’s very, very cool. It’s not very often that you get to marry these two different aspects from, you know, improv and comedy into leadership. So this has been a treat. One of the questions that we asked all over, you know, guests on the show is for all the managers and leaders out there constantly looking to get better at their craft. Are there any tips, tricks, resources, or just final words of wisdom that you’d like to leave them with?

Kathy Klotz-Guest  36:58

Absolutely. I know, it’s a hard job. They have a hard job right now. And your people need you and you need them. Embrace your imperfections, make it safe, take an improv class, I do believe that, you know, certainly, you know, there’s plenty of improvs out there, take an improv class, start to learn to play, so that you’re you, you can take what you do seriously. But you don’t have to take yourself seriously all the time. You don’t have to. And I think when you start to open up and show that side of yourself, it changes the dynamics in the room, it does. So maybe take an improv class, play, make play part of how you show up, connect before content, and make it safe for people to do the same. You know, really just humanize yourself as much as possible. And yes, yes, of course, I’m going to say go take a comedy class or an improv class. It will, it will change how you show up. And I believe that leadership starts with us and how we show up.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  38:02

And that’s a great place to end it. Kathy, thanks so much for doing this. 

Kathy Klotz-Guest (Keeping It Human)  38:16

Thank you.

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