Succession Planning: In an interview with Harvard Business Review Kevin Spacey was asked if he accomplished what he set out to as the Old Vic Theatre, he said that the most important thing was succession and that he wanted to build a theatre company solidly, so that when he left, it would continue. Words from his closing speech as he stepped down as Artistic Director: “The best thing about The Old Vic is its future”
I was at a Masterclass at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in which the Actor Mark Strong shared his experience of the industry and his career before hosting a Q and A. One of the questions Mark was asked was how he gets into a character – to understand the essence of their being. His reply was that’s its in the writing and he gets everything he needs from the words, he spoke in particular about his role as Eddie in the play “A View from the Bridge” by Arthur Miller.
It was a very simple yet powerful answer, because words have the power to change the world. Think of the four words, “I have a dream”. The moment they enter your mind, you know who said them and why. They are a call to action, and a call to find the best part of ourselves, because words have the power to arouse every emotion.
Words are fundamental in our lives and the medium through which we communicate who we are and what we stand for. Just as Mark used the words written to understand who Eddie is, the people we interact with come to understand our beliefs, values and dreams though the words we use to communicate. Because as people its what we can make with words – ideas, images, hopes, theories, fears, plans, understanding, expectations, a past and a future, culture, ways of seeing …. the list is endless and the power is simply ‘powerful’.
Whenever we communicate there is much at stake, and perhaps even more so in our working environment. When you’re preparing your next presentation or key note speech, to help your process, consider the following techniques actors in training develop to hone their skills in understanding the words, that will allow them to deliver them with the greatest impact:
They are encouraged to read play after play after play because script analysis is the nuts and bolts in the literal fleshing out to bring characters to life. Every line of dialogue, every movement, every action and reaction gives an understanding of a character’s motivations and objectives, emotions and desires and allows the actor to step in and become the character.
You can apply this technique by following the ‘Thought Leaders’ in your industry: study them as the actor does to gain valuable insights into their characters and stories. Use the same approach to understand what’s happening outside of your industry and sector, to recognise successful trends, practices, and behaviours that could make a difference to your world. Harvard and Forbes are good sources for promoting excellent communicators and leaders and people worth reading. Another excellent source is The growth Show from HubSpot, a business podcast for leaders featuring conversations with people who have achieved remarkable growth. The Growth Show from HubSpot
Interestingly writers are often recommended to take an acting course to follow this same process, because particularly in the early stages of developing a concept, they need to get to know their characters inside and out and learning to live in a character’s skin, the same way actors do sharpens their innate ability to substitute and imagine emotionally truthful stories. Maybe its time to take an acting class to develop your voice – technically to develop a great speaking voice and also to develop your unique character voice that will motivate, inspire and impact those listening to you.
In the meantime you can draw on your learnings from your reading, research and analysis to adapt this process to the concept, message, idea you want to communicate, by following these three steps:
1. Begin by understanding the bigger picture in the same way Dr. Martin Luther King did. He had a deep rooted understanding of the world he existed in, the challenges and problems, and the changes that needed to take place to move beyond this. You will need the same understanding of the world/industry/organisation/team you operate in.
2. Dr. King took time to get to know people at grass roots level, to understand their hopes, dreams, fears and challenges, you need to stand in the shoes of your audience to understand your world from different perspectives. These are the first steps in developing your message to communicate your understanding of what others are feeling and thinking and show respect of other’s point of view.
3. Having an understanding of both the big and small picture – the world you operate in and the individuals within that world, provides the backdrop to your story (script, concept, idea, message), as well as an understanding of the fundamental words you need to use that have the power to arouse every emotion, and how to deliver them with the greatest impact that demands a call to action.
Evolving Careers Players can help you make an impact through the power of words. The techniques of performing arts are at the core of our work. Get in touch to discuss your needs: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can check out our programmes: http://www.evolvingcareersplayers.com/programmes.html
During an improvisation workshop one of the exercises was for the group to work in pairs and to tell a story by each saying one word at a time. They did this by moving around the room and they began to step into the story and played out the actions and emotions as the story unfolded. The instruction was to go with it even if it took them to a scary place and to then go beyond that and experience where it took them from there. Every single pairing ended up dying and then coming back to life in a different capacity, and that was where their stories became even more interesting and great fun as they began to explore unknown quantities in respect of the pathways ahead of them as they unfolded in the moment.
I find so many parallels in corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios and real-time work-based scenarios from career development and management through to career change and transition. The techniques, methods, and structure of performing arts, which are at the core of our work are significant in the always evolving world of career learning and development.
I have conversations all the time with people who have reached a scary place in their career and they are struggling to go beyond that and this reminds me of a Mark Twain quote “courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear”. Metaphorically speaking the courage needed to go beyond that barrier of fear to the other side of your career life can be compared to the fear felt before dying and crossing over to the other side or spiritual world.
Richard’s story is one of many in terms of clients who have come to this place in their career. Richard was a language teacher, his first language was English and he was fluent in French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish. His whole career had been within private schools teaching young adults, and while he had enjoyed his work, he felt he needed a change and wanted adventure and excitement in his life. Unlike some clients who reach this stage but don’t know what to do next that will give them what it is they’re seeking, Richard did know, but nonetheless it was still a scary prospect because to take this step beyond, would take him away from the security and stability he had in his current role and into the unknown.
Richard wanted to move into the travel industry with a specific focus on educational travel languages and cultural programmes within Europe. This would allow him to use his language skills and to nurture his knowledge and love of medieval and 20th century European history. He was experienced in designing school trips and had established strong collaborative working relationships with partners in a number of countries. He had also spent many holidays skiing and hiking in the Alps and so all in all he was in a pretty good place in knowing the possibilities that could be out there.
But it kept coming back to giving up a full time job and everything that went with that, it would also mean leaving his home in the UK for part of the year at least, as well as the social world he’d established for himself, and he had a pretty good life in London embracing his cultural interests and had a good circle of friends and so he fought this urge to move beyond where he was, which was actually pretty good but at the same time lacking that sense of excitement and adventure that he yearned for.
It was actually three years after I first met Richard and when he shared his career dream with me that it finally came to fruition. He admitted to having being scared to take the step he so wanted to, and of course he needed to consider the reality of the situation, particularly around the financial implications, relocating and what he would do with his home in the UK and moving away from his friends.
During these three years however he did work towards his career goal and spent his holidays exploring the countries of his choice before narrowing it down to specific regions and all the time talking to people and building relationships and friendships. Once he began to open up to people about what he aspired to do, he began to have some interesting conversations and more and more ideas opened up to him around how he could make this work and the opportunities that were out there.
For peace of mind he wanted to secure enough work for his first year and the good groundwork he put in place throughout his three year research enabled this to happen. He got his first assignment in a ski resort in the French Alps, working with Japanese business people to ensure they experienced the cultural highlights of the area. He has further work which will take him into the summer and autumn organising hiking exhibitions throughout the Alps.
Richard has now resigned from his teaching position, he’s rented his home for one year, his friends have all promised to visit him and he’s already established a good circle of friends in France. He’s stepped beyond that place of fear and is ready to embrace what lies ahead.
*Published with client permission. Name has been changed.
Evolving Careers Players can help you take the necessary steps to a difficult career transition. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. http://www.evolvingcareersplayers.com Get in touch to discuss your needs email@example.com
Leadership and change are driven by people who act and speak in a different way. Great influencers have always known the elemental role of communicating is motivating, persuading and gaining cooperation. But are great communicators born with those inherent skills or is it necessary to practice and develop techniques? The age-old nature versus nurture argument around trusting nature and acting by instinct as opposed to precision techniques and clear understanding to liberate hidden possibilities to learn the hard task of being true to the instinct of the moment.
Cicely Berry (renowned for her work as voice coach and director of the RSC) has based her work on the conviction that while all is present in nature, our natural instincts have been crippled from birth by many external influences and society at large. She goes on to say that while there is no one right way to speak, there are a million wrong ways that constipate feeling, constrict activity, blunt expression, level out idiosyncrasy, generalise experience, and coarsen intimacy.
So the work is about setting the voice free because life in the voice springs from emotion and speaking is part of a whole: an expression of inner life and awakening deep experiences which are seldom evoked in everyday speech. The voice is the means by which, in everyday life you communicate, and through of course how you present yourself – while your posture, movement, dress and involuntary gesture – gives an impression of your personality, it is your voice and the words you use that convey your precise thoughts and feelings.
Poetry in voice is an exciting way to explore moods in tone and voice to tell an emotional story and build confidence to speak more persuasively. Poetry presents a wide range of learning opportunities to include:
Offering examples of mastery of language and stocking the mind with images and ideas expressed in unforgettable words and phrases.
Training and developing emotional intelligence.
Reminding us that language is holistic and that how something is said is part of what is being said: the literal meaning of words is only part of their whole meaning, which is also expressed through tone of voice, inflection, rhythm.
To get started:
Find passages in poems which you find striking or memorable.
Imagine situations in which those passages might be put to use, whether to console, encourage, taunt, flatter, or otherwise make an impact on the listener.
Write a short story, letter, or speech in which at least three passages can be quoted effectively to move another character or the listener/recipient.
Poetry goes further than connecting with your voice because its also about connecting your head to your heart. Its an unique and dynamic way of getting back to the vocal pathway of instinctive expression through simple, practical actions that can empower you with the ability to communicate with power and impact.
Evolving Careers Players delivers 121 career coaching and group learning and development. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios to help individuals and groups develop their communication skills. http://www.evolvingcareersplayers.com
Get in touch to discuss your needs: firstname.lastname@example.org
In this current economic climate many organisations are forced to go through restructuring processes resulting in considerable downsizing. This can seriously impact morale and bring it to an all-time low. People are struggling to keep their heads above water but they need to somehow come through this and make it work if their organisation (and their roles) are to survive.
‘Survivors Syndrome’ is when the people who have remained in a job are challenged with delivering not only on their original roles/workloads but also stepping in and stepping up to fill the gaps caused by the loss of their colleagues along with their skills, knowledge and experience.
Low morale leads to negativity causing a ‘stuckness’ in people’s thinking. Fresh thinking is needed to be able to move beyond this, to explore ideas that stimulate. A useful technique to help achieve this is to work with archetypes.
Kate as head of Human Recourses is tasked with rebuilding morale within the organisation. She brings in Evolving Careers Players (ECP) to explore ideas that will be stimulating to the project and the team. A pilot team made up of 4 people across 4 functions of the organisation: I.T. , Finance, Sales and Marketing and Research and Development are selected work with the ideas before the project is rolled out to the organisation at large.
To be in a position to understand the 4 team members ECP need to take on their characteristics. Working with the core principles of ECP around the techniques, structures and methods of theatre, together ECP, Kate and the team are able to identify/recognise the team/themselves as the following archetypes:
The Brick Wall: This role specialises in stonewalling, it refuses to make any contribution to the interaction. It is the archetypal ‘no comment’
The Rescuer: This role is about putting the focus on to other people, calling for help to be given to someone else. This way the spotlight on the self is avoided.
The Mouth: This role likes to talk its way out of situations, saying anything at all, even complete rubbish, rather than have the focus of enquiry more meaningfully directed.
Mr Cool: This role likes to take a laid back approach to life, essentially articulating an arrogance that makes a mockery of any challenge.
The first scenario
The ‘big question/problem’ is raised: ‘How do we rebuild morale’ and is answered in a ‘round robin’ way in character.
This is conversational: by way of dialogue the players take on the identity of the 4 team members. This allows the players to gain an understanding of each person: to get under their skin, to feel their pain and to get into their minds to allow them to know how they think.
Kate and her team observe and the scene is filmed to be watched back and discussed. Each team member is asked to say one positive thing about themselves in the interaction, to say what one thing would they change about themselves to allow this to move on. Then the person sitting to their right is asked to say one positive thing about their colleague in the interaction and to make one suggestion to their colleague of a change to be made to move on. They are instructed to keep this positive. Following on from this the second scenario is established. The team take on the role of directing themselves.
The second scenario
The ‘big question/problem’ remains. ‘How do we rebuild morale’
The players in their characters keep the two positive things mentioned and take on the two suggested changes they could do to move things on. The conversation continues, is observed, filmed, watched back and discussed. Each team member again says one positive thing about themselves in the interaction along with one thing they would change about themselves to allow things to move on. The person to their right once again says one positive thing about their colleague in the interaction and one suggestion of a change to be made to move on.
The exercise was repeated as many times as needed for the team to be be confident they had a workable action plan which would help rebuild morale that could be rolled out throughout the organisation.
Evolving Careers Players can support your change management strategy and help you to rebuild morale within your team when times get tough. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development, and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. http://www.evolvingcareersplayers.com Get in touch to discuss your needs: email@example.com
Role-Storming is a brainstorming technique to encourage group members to take on other people’s identities while brainstorming. This reduces the inhibitions that many people feel when sharing their ideas with a group, and it helps people come up with ideas that they may not have otherwise considered, because they’re considering them from someone else’s perspective.
It’s a useful technique for #CorporateDramaRolePlay for developing problem solving skills.
Begin by presenting the problem to be solved to the group. It need not be a problem directly related to their work, in fact its probably even more beneficial to have a generic problem, because this demonstrates the transferability of problem solving skills which can be taken back to the workplace and applied to real problems.
Step 1. Brainstorm obvious ideas by conducting a regular brainstorming session with your group. Not only will this generate some good initial ideas, it will also highlight more obvious ideas. This leaves the group free to expand their thinking and push boundaries in later steps.
Step 2. Identify Roles: Ask each group member to think of someone they know – alive or dead, who they admire and respect for their problem solving skills. Ideally, they should know enough about them to take on their identity for a short time. The person they choose can be anyone, so long as it’s a person not in the current group.* Its best for it not to be someone the rest of the group knows.
Step 3. Get Into Character: For each role, allow group members a few minutes to get into character. ‘Hot Seat’ (put them on the spot with quick fired questions) using these questions to help with this:
• How does this person see the world?
• What is this person’s personality or attitude likely to be?
• How would this person solve problems?
Make an effort to support each member to get into the persona of the character: the more deeply
they understand this person’s feelings, worldview, and motivations, the better they can use this
perspective to generate good ideas.
Step 4. Brainstorm in Character: Present the same problem to the group and ask them to brainstorm in their chosen character.
Step 5. Repeat the exercise with as many different identities as you need, so that you can generate enough good ideas.
Evolving Careers Players can help you in developing creative and imaginative solutions to your problem solving skills. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. http://www.evolvingcareersplayers.com Get in touch to discuss your needs: firstname.lastname@example.org