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Acting Up!

In my first two weeks I’ve been amazed by the huge impact our actors have made on the leadership programmes I’ve observed.

Funny and sensitive to what the delegates were dealing with; our actors brought a human approach to playing out “difficult person” meetings as delegates reconstructed challenging scenarios to practice ways of interrupting established relationship patterns.

I had no idea how true to work life they would be. Disbelief often followed when delegates would tell the actors “That is the kind of thing he would say”...or “you must know this person, she reacts in that exact way”. At maximum stretch, one delegate remarked to the actor...”I don’t like you”. The actor laughed and said “You mean you don’t like my character, right?”

Not only were the “real play” delegates emotionally engaged, their team of colleagues observing were on hand to guide them through difficult interactions. “Time out”, the delegate would say at sticky points in their “real play” so that they could rewind or change direction. With coaching from “the floor”, actors and delegates responded to suggested new behaviours. The audience were stage directors, trusted with straight feedback to encourage their colleague to try out new techniques and gain win-win in their meeting. Whether in the hot seat or observing, there were light bulb moments on both sides as delegates cringed in recognition of themselves when meetings went pear shaped.

Each of our actors expertly tuned in to characteristics and internal politics defined by the delegate. They portrayed the characters well, responding naturally and afterwards, let the delegate know what it was like being on the receiving end of their communication.