3 Critical Skills Community Managers Can Learn from “Whose Line Is It Anyway”?

Successful (and hilarious) improv is more like Community Management than you might think.

In both, you need to be able to work together with another person (or a group of people), often in the moment, to solve problems with uncontrollable factors including your environment and any shared & internal feelings.

Both can also feel risky and scary. And both benefit from the practice of a few critical skills to become very good.

Many improv schools teach three key “guidelines” that, with just a little bit of translation and some practice, can have a measurable impact on your effectiveness both within your company and within your community.

1. Accept and Build

The “yes, and…” method is something I learned first from one of Indy Hall‘s first members during a brainstorming session. The goal of using “yes, and…” is to be able to accept contributions from the group, even if they need to be added to or modified in order to create value after the brainstorm.

In a Community Manager context, using “yes, and…” is a powerful way to bring somebody closer into the community by not only accepting their contribution but immediately using it as the foundation for creating something new, together. This signals that you’re there to collaborate, not just to lead.

Instead of quickly saying “no” to a community member or one of your team members’ requests, try looking for a way that you can accept and build on their idea instead.

2. Make Your Partner Look Good

Truthfully, this guideline doesn’t work very well without the first one, “Accept and Build”.

For Community Manager, your “partner” is the community. And you are the community’s partner. This is a critical two-way street.

There’s no room for sabotage in Community Management. Set your partners up to win. When you work to make everyone else look good instead of just yourself, you both win. Simultaneously, you open the door for community members to go out of their way to make you look good, too.

This works with your company as well. You’re doing double duty in a way, making people look good in your community as well as within your team. When you work to keep those two in balance, the improved results are greater than the sum of the parts.

3. Dare to be Average

This guideline is the toughest to swallow, especially when you’re working for early stage companies. It’s not their fault. Their instincts (and what they’re good at) is to go for the gold, do the most, be the best. And you’re probably feeling some pressure from them to meet or beat your goals.

In improv, this instinct is what keeps you from living in the moment while you look for the “perfect line” to get the most laughs. The sketch grinds to a halt.

Every second you spend looking for the “perfect execution” for your team is a second you’re not making your partners (your community members) look good, or giving them something to accept & build.

In Community Management, “being average” doesn’t mean letting yourself slack off. You have a job to do, and results to show for your work. This sometimes means choosing the “first thing in your head idea” so that you can work together with the community using the other two guidelines. This is how you and your company can become extraordinary together.

How will you put these guidelines into practice?

Like improv, Community Management is a creative experience for you, your members, and your team. This means you need to practice!

How can you start putting these ideas into practice this week?


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About the author

Alex Hillman

Alex is the co-founder of Indy Hall, one of the world’s most respected coworking communities with hundreds of active members and thousands of participants from around the world. He publishes the Coworking Weekly email newsletter every Thursday. And he teaches people how to build amazing communities in the Community Builder Masterclass.


Make your partner look good. Or, as Franz Beckinbauer said, "You're only as good as you make other people look."


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