Performing Your Way to Growth – Webinar with Cathy Salit



We had a great time with Cathy Salit today, CEO of Performance of a Lifetime.  A powerful company with a  funny name.  As you can see from the photos, she engaged a whole class of psychology students by asking them to perform (and groan and stretch).  Their teacher wrote:

Hi Cathy,
    My students and I enjoyed your Webinar.
​They groaned with you, and wrote what they learned afterwards.
Play and performance is so radical, when people get it, it’s life transforming.
Great job.


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Cathy spoke about her book, Performance Breakthrough:  A Radical Approach to Success at Work.  Based in a field called Performative Psychology founded by Lois Holzman, Fred Newman and Ken & Mary Gergen from the Taos Institute.  As Dr. Holzman said:  ”We collectively create our lives through performance (simultaneously who we are and who we are becoming).”  Salit has coined this The Becoming Principle.

There are five key fundamental elements of performance she covered.

1)  Choose to Grow.

(This is where we groaned.)  You have to make a choice to grow, because growing is hard work.

2)  Build Ensembles Everywhere

Their work is also based on Lev Vygotsky who coined the phrase ‘zone of proximal development’.  Basically, how we allow children to perform a head taller than they are.  We grow in groups, not alone.  This has been a criticism of positive psychology, that we are only focusing research on the individual.

Her practice, “Say ‘we’ when you would normally say ‘I’.”

3) Listen!:  The Revolutionary Way to Have a Conversation

Apparently, most people only listen 20% of the time.  This is the fundamental point of improvisation (the methodology of POAL’s work).  While we didn’t have time to do the ‘yes, and’ exercise I recommend you looking it up.  If we all really listened, how amazing would our conversations be?  A great Ted talk in this regards is Ken Robinson’s.

The practice?  Perform being curious.  Even if you’re not.

4) Create with Crap

“Option A is not available.  So let’s just kick the shit out of Option B.”  Sheryl Sandberg

This is my favorite section and comes out of the listening for ‘offers’.  In improv, an ‘offer’ isn’t always something you want.  How do you create with something you don’t want?  Cathy gave a good example of empathy when you get the crying person in your office after a performance review.

The practice?  She encouraged participants to make a poem from their ‘crap’.  Send your “Create with Crap” poem to

5)  Improvise Your Life

1. Say “Yes, and” (and mean it!)

Yes means you accept what your partner gives you, ‘and’ means you add to it.

2. Make the other person look good

If you don’t do this in improv the scene dies.  Same is true for making your boss look good.

3. Celebrate mistakes and failures

We learn by failing.  As Beckett said, “Fail fast.  Fail better.”

4. Follow the follower

If you are following each other then you can really build rather than try to dominate a ‘scene’ (or a meeting).

5. Delight in curveballs

Take what you weren’t expecting and run with it.  I wasn’t expecting tech glitches in the webinar but we rolled with them!

Wrap up:

Performance is all around us.  We don’t wake up in the morning with a script.  So take a risk.  Even if it is a small one in your workplace.  And write us back to tell us what you decided to do!  See below for more ways to stay in touch with Cathy.

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And you can follow @CathySalit on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  

We’ll be posting some of her questions to webinar participants in another blog post.

This entry was posted in Creativity, employee engagement, Leadership, listening, Positive Psychology, Shannon Polly, strengths, Webinars by Shannon Polly, MAPP. Bookmark the permalink.

About Shannon Polly, MAPP

Shannon M. Polly is a corporate communications trainer, facilitator and speaker and founder of Shannon Polly & Associates, a leadership development company in downtown D.C. Shannon works with executives, managers and employees of Fortune 500 companies in two areas: executive presence/presentation skills (based on over a decade of experience as a professional actor/singer in New York) and positive psychology. Shannon is one the first 100 people in the world who have received her Master in Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) degree from the University of Pennsylvania under Dr. Martin Seligman. She also holds a graduate degree from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in classical acting and a B.A. with honors from Yale University. She also holds a coaching certificate from the Georgetown Leadership Coaching Program.

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