Meet WIT’s board: Hilary Joel

One of the keys to WIT’s success is our active and knowledgable board of directors. While these folks a lot of time and energy into our community, most of their work is behind the scenes. In this series, we’ll introduce you to members of WIT’s board.

Hilary Joel is an executive coach and graduate of WIT’s training program. She has been on the board of directors since 2020.


Quick get-to-know-you: Describe your life in ten words or fewer.

Lucky mom, wife, game player, and improvisational cook who loves helping nonprofits thrive.


How did you wind up in DC and how did you get introduced to improv and WIT?

I moved to the Maryland suburbs of DC as a newlywed, when my husband and I got jobs here in 1990 – well before many DC improvisers were born! [TMI: We met in college and dated long distance for 6 years – across states and countries, due to school and work demands, WITHOUT the internet or cell phones.]


You’re an executive coach. What lessons from improv do you bring to your clients?

There are so, so, SO many improv principles that are valuable in leadership development, teamwork on the job, and emotional intelligence more generally. I reference them all the time! My favorites when I coach include: Meet people right where they are – otherwise you may not
connect at all. Being fully present to your team means you’re not planning your next move. You can be very valuable to your team without bringing fully baked answers. Wholeheartedly listen and observe before you try to “add value”. Make your teammates look good – it’s a win/win that builds trust and rapport. Learn to feel prepared without having any script. Leave your comfort zone and expect to be clumsy sometimes – you’ll grow and have fun.


You have a son who also does improv! How has it been sharing that connection?

It’s been a blast over the past 5 years – whether on zoom, at home (when he’s visiting), or together on a stage at Improvapalooza or in Chicago. My son inspires me to play big, and it’s rewarding to bond with your grown up kid (and feel appreciated) over anything you both enjoy.


Why did you join WIT’s board? What has the experience been like?

I joined the board after leading a pro bono strategy project for WIT. I got to know the staff leadership and a few board members, and enjoyed the collaboration. I work with diverse nonprofit leaders and boards in my day job as a coach and consultant, so believed I could be helpful. Most importantly, I want to see many, many more people in Greater DC experience the joys, the sense of community, and the personal growth that improv experiences offer. So I want to help WIT thrive for the long term.


What’s something about WIT that you’ve learned as a board member that you didn’t know before you joined the board?

I didn’t know how much outreach WIT did to bring joyful (free or affordable) improv experiences — and its life lessons — to diverse communities across DC. And I didn’t know how much fun a board meeting could be!


Lightning round

Are you a pirate, robot, or a ninja? Aspirationally, a ninja. Skillful, agile, and a bit
unpredictable, I hope.

Dogs or cats? Absolutely positivity DOGS. Rescue pit bulls to be specific.

Last song you listened to? Dancing in the Moonlight by King Harvest

TV recommendation? Welcome to Wrexham series (Hulu)

Improv advice that also applies to life? Just put yourself out there! It really doesn’t take that much bravery, and people will appreciate it.

December 20, 2022