In an improvisation story-telling activity in a workshop, for example, if someone seems to want to take a lead, you can appreciate that it may be productive to have them direct the story, so toss a nugget back to them to give them the opportunity to take it further...
Likewise with ideas produced during a work meeting. The idea may need a few short rounds of exploration and encouragement to gain sufficient robustness to move to the next stage. A ‘yes… and’ atmosphere will prevent new ideas being strangled at birth, and will make a big difference to whether or not colleagues will be willing to come forward with their new ideas.
Making your partner look good means supporting what’s happening. It can be seen as offering a strong ‘Yes’ and a gentle ‘And’ to help them keep going.
In a jazz band, when one musician takes a solo, you don’t expect the next musician to interrupt them and fight for the same space. They take turns, whether that’s a long solo each, or quick turns calling and responding. They lead when it is time to lead and follow when it is time to follow.
To do that successfully, it pays to develop your sense of structure – how a story or a song or a project goes, how it may be shaped. You are contributing whether you offer a major new element or the vital connective tissue. As you get more skilled, what is obvious becomes more obvious.
As the group gets more skilled, it appears as if the story is telling itself, the song unfolds, the project has a dynamic logic. There is a ‘Paradox of Effort’; trying too hard to be clever or different damages the flow.