Lisa Linke on improvisation: the art of focusing on the other person (#38)

What happens when you talk to someone who has combined an MBA with over two decades of improvising and performing experience? You get an hilarious conversation that adds a ton of value. 

This is the most we’ve ever laughed in an interview. This episode was a blast!

Today we talk to Lisa Linke about what improvisation can teach us about communication and collaboration.  

Lisa is a veteran improviser, actor and writer. She has connected her passion for performing, teaching comedy writing and improvisation with her experience as a consultant to become a corporate communications workshop facilitator, executive presence coach, and storytelling maven. She’s facilitated hundreds of workshops on five continents for well over a decade with clients that have included Google, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Goldman Sachs and Unilever to name but few. 

Lisa has appeared as a recurring guest star on ABC’s Bless This Mess, and can be found in Blackish,  Grey’s Anatomy, Modern Family, This Is Us, Goliath, and other series. She appears in feature films and several web series, including DOG MOMS (check it out here, it’s hilarious!), which she created and was featured in several film festivals. 

She is the co-creator and host of Go Help Yourself: A Comedy Self-Help Podcast To Make Life Suck Less, which has over 250 episodes and was recently featured alongside Brené Brown, Michele Obama and Oprah Winfrey in a Spotify “Inspirational” podcast line up. 

We hope you enjoy this entertaining conversation with Lisa Linke. 

You can listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and Simplecast.

You can connect with Lisa via her website:

Show Notes

3:06 – life is abundant.
6:26 – MBA consultant who turned to acting.
9:50 – pursuing the path less travelled led to more admiration than judgement.
12:07 – acting started from a young age.
13:15 – managing your energy when you need to be “on” in front of people.
15:40 – my best is different at every moment.
17:56 – it’s impossible to do it all.
19:55 – what is improvisation.
22:01 – we’ve learnt to supress our ability to be spontaneous.
24:14 – I can say anything! vs “I can say anything?”
25:30 – improv is the art form of putting the focus on the other person.
26:16 – what improv can teach us about being better listeners.
28:30 – we communicate better when we are in the moment.
30:23 – the audience is rooting for you.
31:22 – The improv philosophy of “yes, and…”
35:35 – you can influence more by listening than by speaking.
36:10 – the ability to listen impacts every relationship.
40:16 – using “yes, and…” to improve collaboration.
44:15 – creating a safe space where people can share ideas.
46:39 – how to bring a brick, not a cathedral.
48:29 – the best worst idea.
50:04 – nothing speaks louder than who you are.
51:25 – walking ten thousand steps per day is a lie!
52:51 – teaching presence to executives.
55:48 – no one cares what your head is doing.
57:30 – being intentional about how you come across: put the audience first.
1:00:55 – the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition.
1:03:52 – getting involved in improv.
1:04:39 – the benefits of improv.
1:06:10 – connect with Lisa.
1:07:18 – live improv exercise!
1:09:45 – debrief on the improve exercise.

Links to references

Dreyfus model of skill acquisition

Go Help Yourself podcast episode about Dale Carnegie


Laziness Does Not Exist by Devon Price

The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism by Olivia Fox Cabane

The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self–Not Just Your “Good” Self–Drives Success and Fulfillment by Todd B. Kashdan  (Author), Robert Biswas-Diener  (Author) (Post Podcast Suggestion)

Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett (Author, Narrator), Dave Evans (Author, Narrator), Random House Audiobooks (Publisher) (Post Podcast Suggestion)

Key Quotes

“Life is abundant.”

“Improv is making something out of nothing.”

“I was doing consulting by day and improv by night. I noticed that I was improving as a consultant because of the improv. I was able to get more out of clients by really listening and not being scared of sticky conversations.”

“Work does not equal productivity.”

“’Yes, and…’ is not a phrase, it’s a philosophy.”

“Acceptance does not equal agreement”

“You cannot pre-plan what you are going to say.”

“Validate their perspective.”

“Bring a brick, not a cathedral”

“We are a team functioning as individuals.”

“When facilitating brainstorming sessions I sometimes ask the group to think of the best worst idea.”

“I have never bought a movie ticket to sit through data.”

“I’d be skeptical of any advice about how to present yourself better because it’s so much influenced by the context.”

About the author

Divan and Mark are co-hosts of the Candour Communication Podcast where we discuss interpersonal communication and all the human stuff that gets in the way.