"Improv Leadership: How to Lead Well in Every Moment", by Stan Endicott and David A. Miller (book review)


There are a great deal of leadership books available on the market.  Some contain timeless truths and others offer refreshing insight.  Some of them are good, while others are not so good.  Some are helpful, while others are simply off base.  I think a book’s overall influence and impact has a lot to do with the author’s style, and “Improv Leadership” is that kind of book.  No doubt, the principles on which the book is founded are not new: love others, set others up for success, etc.  But the approach is fresh, and is easy to understand…and hopefully, apply.

Improv Leadership”, by Stan Endicott and David A. Miller, is comprised of eight chapter, but the real meat is found in chapters three through seven.  Those five chapters provide the theme of how to do improvisational – on-the-spot – leadership: Story Mining, Precision Praising, Metaphor Cementing, Lobbing Forward, and Going North.

Story Mining is the process by which we get to know others…digging deep with questions.  Therefore, it is an active event.  “Story Mining is not about making people better.  It is about making people known” (p.57).  Endicott and Miller suggest we must get to know the person first as a person, and not as a worker.  When people feel valued as people, they will tend to be better performers and leaders.  Tip to leaders and supervisors: commit the details of others’ lives to memory.  We remember what is important to us, but a good leader will strive to remember what is important to others.  Begin practicing today by truly committing a person’s name to memory the next time you meet someone.

Precision Praising is not the same thing as “dropping trite compliments or insincere flattery”…but is “carefully crafting praise to inspire and course-correct your team” (p. 82).  The goal of precision praise is to reinforce right, desired behaviors that correct and redirect the wrong, undesired behaviors in a team member.  When we publicly praise with precision, it impacts all who are present, not just the person to which it is directed.  If you want to find ways to practice this, begin at home, suggests Endicott and Miller!

Metaphor Cementing “involves using concrete illustrations to teach a new point of view that reshapes a person’s perspective” (p. 112).  Endicott and Miller suggest using metaphors during conversation enhances our ability to describe things with a richness that causes the hearer to imagine the unimaginable.  They also suggest using metaphors makes us more distinguished communicators.  Ironically, I’m not using metaphor in this review.

Lobbing Forward is the process of “creatively challenging your team to look beyond the day-to-day grind of their jobs and into the future” (p. 130).  Essentially, it’s “speaking authoritatively about where the person might go” [in their future] (p. 131).  I think it’s important to remember that just as in precision praising, lobbing forward cannot be accomplished with mere flattery or manipulation, but must be done in sincerity.  The purpose, to boil it down succinctly, is to cast vision, to help your team or team members see in themselves what they may not have otherwise seen. 

Going North uses “indirect influence to redirect a person’s thinking or perspective” (p. 149).  We can easily get stuck in a rut in life and work, and sometimes in order to get someone’s attention, an attention-grabber – a redirect, of sorts – may be in order.  This is a process by which we help people change their mind.  The point is to still get people to the end goal, but to approach the end goal from a different angle.

Rating: I give “Improv Leadership” 5 out of 5 stars.  It is practical, helpful, and it’s concepts are easy to remember.  Now, if I can just apply them!  If you are in any kind of position of leadership, or if you aspire to leadership, then I honestly think this little book would be a good tool.  It ready very quickly.

Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge from the author, Stan Endicott, and I am truly thankful for it.  In exchange, I told him I would provide an unbiased review.

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