Join Allie & Erin on the improve it! couch to chat about what values make the office tick, how they set (and celebrate!) goals, and how to turn your visions into a reality. (SPOILER ALERT: The answer is hard work and persistence).
Feel free to listen in via podcast, or get the highlights from the conversation below!
Curious how to apply the improve it! methodology to your own dreams? Check out our "Confidence in Change" DIY Coaching Curriculum here as a part of our improve You! Series.
What Change Inspired improve it!
Allie: What changed in your life to start improve it! from the very beginning?
Erin: I think for me it was a huge calling. Any time I was leading a group of people and I could see them changing – from being uncomfortable to comfortable - I felt like, “This is what I’m supposed to do with my life.” And, if I could make people feel more confident in who they are, that was an even bigger win for myself. So, I came up with this! I had been doing improv for a while and have always performed, but really started getting more heavily into improv when I started taking classes at Second City and iO, and I just really started to feel that connection of being more present, being more focused, being more in the moment.
What really drove me to it was this idea to change others but also to change people through our charity partner. Sort of a “what you give, you receive”, so I wanted to make sure our mission supported giving to other people so it was a full circle round of support.
What really changed for me was, once that idea got really stuck in my head, it was all systems go- I couldn’t let it go! I would tell people about it and they would say “Oh, what a good idea,” but nobody really believes you’ll do it until you actually put it into motion.
How Values Motivate improve it!’s Mission
Erin: I would say for sure the number one value that sticks in my mind with the whole vision of improve it! is "impact." Creating an impact for other people, creating an impact internally for the people we bring into our team and to mentor them, and for the people who mentor us – feeling their impact and putting that into motion. When we first started, man- things just change so much… (laughs)
Allie: So, what was the nugget? I know even since I’ve been here for a year and a half or so, we’ve changed 50 thousand times... (laughs)… so, what was the nugget – what was thing that took it from, “this is a good thing to do” to “now I’m doing it”?
Erin: It was just- I can’t chalk it up to anything besides strong intuition. Saying, “this is how you’re going to make a difference – this is your purpose”.
Taking a Value and Turning it Into a Goal
Allie: I know what we do on the outside is very improv-based – everything is very improvisational and we change a lot in what we do, and we’re very welcoming to that change. But we also are very… I don’t want to say OCD… but we’re very meticulous about how we gauge metrics and how we set our goals. So maybe let’s talk a little bit about that – about how we take those values and turn them into goals.
Erin: It’s really fine tuning everyone’s strength and putting the right people in place so that we can create those processes and formulas. And now I think we use so many tools to do that – I could list off all the software systems we use. But then, being able to track those – we have that large board in our office, where everybody has their own goals. Like, Jenna has a set number of appointments to make, the social media girls and our intern team they have a certain number of engagements and interactions and clicks that they get, you and I have a certain number of workshops we want to hit per week, Cristy has to take everything we book and staff it as appropriately as possible so she’s adding to this greater collective. Every time we hit one of those goals, we add a hypothetical amount of money to a pot – which is really just an end-of-the-quarter celebration – and we use that hypothetical money to do something we all want to do together as a team. So, we feel empowered by completing that goal. We’re excited – we ring a bell… there used to be a really weird air horn… (laughs)
Allie: That was probably the cheapest air horn I’ve ever seen. (laughs) I’m not convinced it wasn’t just air escaping. Like a weird fart.
Erin: (laughs)Like a weird fart! Now it’s a bell. And we ring that bell and we get excited, and it just adds to the collective. And now we’re going to go to Medieval Times and do our “Knight to Remember”. […]
Allie: I think that’s something I definitely learned from you this year, celebrating goals. I’ve always had the idea of setting metrics – setting goals for myself. But I’ve never really celebrated them… (laughs) I don’t think. Maybe in my own way, I’ll take myself out for dinner or go for a nice walk or something like that if I’m like “Oh, I feel good about myself – I did a good job”. But I think that’s something you were really insistent on – especially with all of our internal staff. Making sure everyone feels like they’re contributing, and that they’re celebrated at the end. Is that something you’ve always had in all the places you’ve worked? Or is that something you’ve wanted to have in your office?
Erin: Yes. Well, I’ll tell you this – the answer is, I did not always have it. And the I had it, and then I was like, “How did I ever not have this?” My old boss, Jenn D’Angelo – giving you a prop here, sis! – she would celebrate everything. It made work fun – I stayed at that job because of her. Because she made where I came to work every day so fun. And we celebrated all the small wins. And if you think about it – that’s what we do. That’s what we tell our clients to do, so if we don’t practice what we preach then, you know… how are we going to be in business?!
How to Turn Your Goals into Actions
Allie: We went over values, we went over goals, so now let’s talk about action. What’s important to you when working, specifically – since we’re talking about how we work together – what would you say is the one thing that makes things happen?
Erin: (pause) Time and energy.
Allie: Yup! (Both laugh) Just wearing it down.
Erin: (laughs) Yup, time and energy – we were just talking about this! Legitimately – time and energy are the only things that will put things into action.
Values, Goals, & Actions for 2018
Allie: If you were going to set an intention quadrant for 2018 for yourself slash improve it!, what will the quadrants be? Are they still "impact", "income", and "personal"? Or, do they change? And what do you hope will be in there?
Erin: Gosh, Allie!
Allie: I can start putting stuff in there! I think… "impact." Expanding our offerings, and making them work better for our clients. Because now we understand what they’re looking for a lot better than a year ago.
Allie: "Income," obviously… We would love it to be full. (laughs)
Erin: Yeah, be real full! Be plentiful! We just want to keep the lights on! We just want to eat filet, you know, a couple times a year.
Allie: We just want to keep our little basement ten by twelve office.
Erin: Just keep the lights on that actually never go off…
Allie: They never go off… But! To that end, I know there are a lot of clients that we loved working with this year that we were not planning on necessarily – we didn’t go for them. But I could name ten clients that we worked with that we’d love to work with in 2018.
Erin: Yes, under "impact" or "income." I think those quadrants, in my personal opinion – because I didn’t come up with this whole thing until three months ago - I do think those values still exist. I think in a business perspective... I think "impact" is crazy huge and "income" is what sustains the business, so – I don’t know, from a business perspective, what is the third? I don’t know.
Allie: From a business perspective – that’s a good question. "Impact", "income"… for sure. I still think – I know in 2017 our word was “growth”. I think "growth" is still in there. Maybe not physically as a business – we grew a lot as a business [in 2017] which is awesome. But I think professionally growing even more, and understanding what that means. I know I’m looking more into how different businesses run, how different business owners – I’m learning a lot from the different groups that we’re a part of and the different podcasts that we listen to about entrepreneurs that we respect and how they do things a little differently and take that into account. I just listened to a podcast about a woman who owns her own business, and she owns her business so she can take two-week rock climbing trips.
Erin: That’s crazy – yeah! Making the business work for you!
Allie: Exactly! And she has a monetary goal that she reaches and hustles to reach, and when she reaches it… (snap)
Allie: She goes! She’s like, “This is not my life – I go and do this now.” And I’m like – Oh! You don’t have to go and grow your business everywhere. You can, and that can be an awesome goal and it’s something we’re looking at. But – what do we really need? What do we really want?
Erin: I love that, yeah. "Growth" makes sense in my mind. And as a company, "growth" can mean culturally internally. This year we brought on Jenna which we didn’t really know we were going to do at all – we didn’t think it was going to happen. So, that was exciting continuing that growth. And through that really finding what our culture is – what that means, what it looks like- I know we’ve done a really good job of defining but furthering that. And making this work for us – we’ve started doing that and its been hard!
Allie: (laughing) We figured out 2/3rds of the way through the year, “Oh, we run this business – we don’t have to show up at a certain time.”
Erin: Yeah, exactly. This is really funny – when Allie came on, it was just me. And we had interns but I had never officially had holidays or specific time off. So when we had our first holiday, Martin Luther King Day…
Allie: Ohh baby, we celebrated!
Erin: Oh man!
Allie: Day off!
Erin: Day off! But now it just feels so nice because we’re able to take time away from business. And what I really appreciate – I was thinking about this the other night- I think you and I both do a pretty good job of setting work boundaries. If it’s an emergency or something super crazy we’ll email or text after hours. But if it can wait until tomorrow, it can wait until tomorrow. And weekends, we’re done. We need this time. And, I’ve done a better job about not responding to emails on vacation!
Allie: Well, we have that deal! If you didn’t respond to email on your vacation, I wouldn’t respond to mine.
Allie: That’s a good way to get Erin to do things. Guilt.
Erin: That’s true, and it worked. I think it’s just – this was something that was a vision in my mind but I never knew how it was gonna grow, or how it was gonna get there. And you’ve come along and you’ve taken that vision and that growth and I couldn’t do it without you and Cristy and Jenna and our interns who helped us along the way. We’re in such a good place now, it’s just continuing to grow that place and make improve it! a place internally people want to work and they can thrive professionally and personally and bringing that to each of our clients.
Allie: I love it.
Erin: I love it, too.