How Saying “Yes, And” Led To My Next Great Career Opportunity

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My career has been one long improvisational act. Not one step has been carefully planned. I’ve always struggled with the requested 5-year plan. I’ve simply been fortunate to have amazing mentors guide me along my journey, and I’ve always been willing to take on any project or role that involved a little elbow grease. I learned early on to say “yes.”

This probably stems from my upbringing. My Parents encouraged me to tryout, audition, and pursue anything that interested me. Of course, this meant they were driving me to early morning track practices in high school, downtown to election headquarters in junior high, and acting classes in middle school. It also meant tolerating my changing interests. But as long as I was meeting new challenges head-on, they were happy. And that’s what’s always made me happy; discovery, innovation, and creation.

But I only recently discovered the power of saying “yes, and.”

But I’m Not Funny

Saying “yes” is how I discovered my most recent opportunity. I said “yes” to a phone call. I wasn’t looking for a new job. I was very happy in my work. But a trusted friend, a desire to grow my network, and a comedic curiosity resulted in a phone call. As a fan of Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, The Office, and anything involving Tina Fey I was intrigued by The Second City’s involvement with companies like Farmers Insurance, Cisco, BlueCross BlueShield, and Clorox.

I clarified “Second City? Like the comedy troupe?” I explained immediately that I’m not the least bit funny. And that was OK. The Second City is an established brand with a very specific voice. They didn’t need comedic genius, but they had a desire to evolve their marketing practice.

Yes = Affirms; And = Builds

That first call led to “yes, and I’d like to learn more”. So I started reading “Yes, And.” In this book I learned how The Second City Work’s efforts help people become better at what they do by showing them how improv training can increase their capacity for innovation, their creativity, and their confidence. They show how to process on the fly, relinquish power, create a space for others to contribute, and learn from failure. As I browsed countless video content pieces, I was excited by their ability to tell a memorable story and put the customer first.

Coming from the world of technology, I find the biggest hurdle companies face is not the adoption of technology but the acceptance of organizational change and the impact on the business caused by technology. So much of Second City Works’ initiatives addresses this change management challenge. The Yes, And approach affirms and builds on ideas. They really help businesses work better. My interest quickly grew into “yes, and I think this could be amazing”.

Team vs. Ensemble

In a marketing planning exercise, I saw the Second City Works executive team practice their “Yes, And” approach to business. We discussed revenue, metrics, content, technology, and inbound and outbound marketing. But we also explored opportunities to highlight the success of Second City Works Alum, potential in extending improv best practices to a broader audience, forging partnerships, creating a personal Second City Works experience for each individual, and enabling the sales force to show not tell. It was invigorating to watch five bullet points grow into an entire marketing plan.

I recognized that I would be apart of an ensemble (rather than a team), which means I’m part of a chorus of creative voices who have skin in the game and are responsible to protect, sustain, and grow the business. My response was “yes, and I can start January 4th”.

Discovery, innovation, and creativity are my fuel, but also my fear. Risk and failure always creep into my mind. But a mentor was very direct in saying “You know you have to do this. Jump in. You’ll find your breath”. And that’s correct.

Because in the end, business really is one big act of improvisation.

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Marilyn Cox

Marilyn Cox is the Director of Marketing for Second City Works - the B2B division of the famed Second City.

You know the buzzwords; inbound, outbound, content, demand gen, lead gen, martech, social media, account-based, advocacy, customer success, sales enablement, and analytics.She studies it, plans it, executes it, experiments with it, and loves it.

Through discovery, creation, and innovation she's learned to say "Yes, And".Like business, her career is one big improvisational act.

She leads all aspects of the brand and culture, developing and executing a clearly defined, integrated marketing communications strategy.Marilyn is responsible for planning, organizing, staffing, training, and managing all marketing functions to achieve objectives of growth, awareness, customer success and making work better.

Marilyn exists to empower sales and support the customer. When not geeking out over marketing analytics, she can be found daydreaming about her unrealized dream as a professional wrestler with the WWE.
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