How Leaders Can “Improv” Company Culture With Erin Diehl [Podcast]

How Leaders Can “Improv” Company Culture With Erin Diehl [Podcast]

Today on the PR Talk Podcast, Amy Rosenberg explores a different way of creating a positive company culture with Erin Diehl, founder and CEO of Improve it!, a unique professional development company, and host of the Improve It! Podcast. Erin shares how she uses the connection between improv and business development to help others grow professionally. 

Confidence Building Through Improv

When Erin began her career in recruiting, she was feeling a lot of anxiety until she joined an improv group. Growing up in the arts, Erin always felt comfortable with being in the spotlight, but that was when her performances were scripted. Now in the improv world, her confidence began to flourish as she lost her reliance on scripts, which connected to her professional growth. Erin’s newfound ability to initiate solutions on the fly, without fear of rejection, ultimately led to the creation of her company, Improv It! Now Erin combines improv practices with play, laughter and experiential learning. 


Getting Comfortable With the Uncomfortable

With a unique set of objectives provided by each client, Erin’s team at Improv It! develops a plan that not only tackles these objectives, but also leaves an opportunity for employees to voice their concerns. Providing space for honest communication allows for judgment-free employee engagement, which can expose where cultural problems might lie. 

Essentially, the process begins with a pre-questionnaire for all employees to define what is lacking. They then join a large meeting to practice improv games related to work. Afterward, a 3-week e-learning course allows teams to practice culture-building elements for 5 minutes every day. The point isn’t to change the culture in one day but to start the conversation.


Seeing a Need for Better Culture

Because the pandemic resulted in people quitting or feeling disconnected in WFH scenarios, the need for good company culture has become essential for many decision-makers. Leaders are realizing that in order to do business, they must first take care of the people who take care of the customers. When energy is low in a company, revenue may not be far behind.

An improv game Erin mentioned her team executes during development sessions provides an example of how to build energy and comfort among employees. Called “yes and,” the game provides fluid brainstorming by only allowing positive responses (through saying “yes, and”), before adding to or pivoting the conversation. Erin learned that when people respond with a positive phrase like “yes, and,” rather than a negative phrase like “no, because,” there is less judgment and fear, enabling employees to feel more comfortable and confident to make suggestions. 


Ways Leaders Can Improve Culture 

Realizing that not all companies can invest in development sessions, Erin says that the most significant action leaders can take is to ensure employees are never shut down. Moreover, leaders might practice stepping back and letting go of control to allow for new ideas and approaches. And finally, offering space for employees to connect and even approach past work failures from an optimistic point-of-view, may also help grow open and engaged cultures. 

Companies with happy, fantastic employees end up thriving and evolving, likely resulting in more revenue. Goodbye hiring and retaining issues. Hello, positive culture and more success. Tune in to learn more about Improve It! and what can happen when leaders let go of control.

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About the Guest: Erin Diehl

Founder and CEO of a professional development company, Improve it!, Erin Diehl conducts workshops across the country, leveraging improvisational techniques to improve employees’ skills in corporate settings. Her work with clients such as United Airlines, PepsiCo, Aon, Warby Parker, Lowe’s, Groupon, Deloitte, Motorola, Walgreens, Uber Freight, and The Obama Foundation earned her the 2014 Chicago RedEye Big Idea Award and nominations for the Chicago Innovation Award every year since 2015. 

Erin was a speaker for DisruptHR Chicago, hosted the 2016 RedEye Big Idea Awards, and has spoken at HRMAC Chicago, SHRM Chicago, the Business Marketing Association, and Emerging Leaders of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. She is also a proud member of The Chicago Innovation Awards Women’s Cohort and a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program.

Diehl Headshot

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This episode of PR Talk is brought to you by PRSA Oregon

Throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, PRSA provides members with networking, mentorship, skill building and professional development opportunities – whether you are a new professional fresh out of college or a skilled expert with 20 years in the industry. Check out for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.