Yearly archives: 2017

Leadership training – Playing a different tune

It ain’t what you do (It’s the way that you do it)

At Enact, we employ techniques and principles from the world of drama to help people in organisations learn more effectively. Lots of what we teach (we’ll use that word as shorthand for what we’re about) is readily available in books and online, and yes, from other consultants and training providers, but it’s the way we deliver it that gets results.

“The way the whole course was delivered really affects you and makes you think about things differently.”

“I enjoyed the format of the training and found I took in more info than usual training.”

“After six months, people still remember the training and have noticed a significant increase in awareness of the issues raised and changes in behaviour.”

Delegate Feedback

What’s going on?

Put simply, we show people something, that causes them to feel something, that fuels change. Using realistic and relevant dramatised scenes, alongside experiential exercises, we put feelings back at the heart of the learning experience. Which makes it much more likely the lessons will stick and turn into action back in the workplace.

The brain science behind this centres on a cocktail of three organic chemicals – Dopamine (which plays a role in reward motivated behaviour), Noradrenaline (which increases arousal and alertness, focuses attention, and enhances formation and retrieval of memory) and Acetylcholine (which is also implicated in learning and memory). Our drama-based approach gives the learner the kinds of experience that will stimulate these physiological responses, making it more likely the learning will make a real difference.

Leadership training, especially developing inclusive leadership capabilities, is one area where our approach comes into its own.

I’ll be your mirror

People have such strong, common sense notions about what it means to be a proper leader that it can be difficult for them to envisage alternative approaches. Throughout the many years we have been working with leaders, we’ve found that using drama to hold up a mirror to their behaviours really helps them to recognise their own style, understand its impact, and identify ways they can change for the better.

By way of example, explain to leaders how they should aim to listen more and talk less when dealing with team members, and these days it’s unlikely many will disagree. Most will probably tell you it’s their preferred approach. Alternatively, present them with an under-pressure fictional leader (played by one of our professional actors), who’s in a hurry to get to their next meeting and as a result quickly working through a standardised ‘team huddle’ agenda with their team members, then they’ll start to reflect about their own behaviour.

Who’s asking nearly all the questions, deciding what’s a problem, and coming up with most solutions? What’s it doing to the engagement of the team? What’s the energy in the room like? What do you think the long-term outlook for this group is likely to be? We can even hear from different team member’s, like Jenny, who never bothers to make suggestions for improvements any more because ‘no one’ listens, or Amiya who is resistant to changes to ways of working because she’s not received the training everyone else has. Makes you think. Makes you feel, too, which is powerful.

We never tell anyone, ‘This is about you.’ Usually, we say, ‘It’s fictional and exaggerated to draw out the learning,’ only to be told, ‘No, that’s exactly what it’s like here.’ From there it’s a short step to exploring alternatives, trying them out through our fictional characters, and seeing what happens as a result. It’s powerful, active experimentation that provides lessons leaders can apply back in the workplace.

“It provokes you to think about the issues in a way that just seeing a written format or e-learning could not. If you see real people, it is easier to empathise and consider what is happening to them.”

“Raised awareness and prompted future action.”

Delegate Feedback

The world keeps turning and someone’s learning

In case you haven’t guessed, we’re proud of how well our approach works. Results from recent Inclusive Leadership programmes show that delegates:

  • Have a clearer appreciation of what’s expected of leaders (96%);
  • Understand more about how inclusive practices support business success (95%); and
  • Have fully explored the challenges facing leaders like themselves creating an inclusive workplace (92%).

No surprise then that most delegates say they found their time with us worthwhile (96%).


Of course, nothing stays the same and our inclusive leadership material continues to evolve. We’re currently weaving in elements of Compassionate Leadership for a session we’re delighted to be running for the HPMA on 29 November 2017 as part of their ‘Compassionate leadership, compassionate care‘ event at The Queens Hotel, Leeds. We’re looking forward to it. If you’re planning to attend, be sure to check out the session. Do come and have a chat, too, if you’d like to find out more about our work in this and other areas.

Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who’s the bullying and harassment scariest of them all?

We’ve recently experienced a big increase in enquiries for our Bullying and Harassment awareness raising workshops. I don’t pretend to know what lies behind the change, but I do know that in drama we have a powerful tool to make real headway dealing with the issue.

Uncomfortable truths

You might think a drama-based learning provider is a strange place to go to get to grips with a challenging cultural problem like this. But it makes perfect sense when you consider the mix of characters, perspectives, and all that messy human behaviour and interaction stuff that plays out daily in the workplace.

When things aren’t going well at work, every day is a kind of drama; one in which the ‘actors’ struggle to break free from the roles they’re playing. What we provide with our dramatised workshops is a mirror that reveals uncomfortable, but nevertheless vital truths that enable people to start to make a change.

All of which fits with John Kotter’s explanation of the change process as, put simply, people see something, then feel something, then change as a result. That’s exactly what we see happening in our Bullying and Harassment workshops.

A drama in three acts

At the start of our workshops, even before any dramatised material is presented, we ask delegates two questions. Using our electronic polling system, we ask them which of a range of negative behaviours they have witnessed or experienced at work in the last year. After reviewing the results, which typically reveal that many behaviours are more common than you might think, we then ask everybody which of those behaviours they themselves have demonstrated at some point in the same period.

I won’t deny it can be entertaining watching delegates squirm as they reflect on their own behaviours, but what happens next is telling.  The results are always lower. It doesn’t matter who we’re delivering to; board members, senior leaders, managers, front line employees or mixed groups, I can guarantee many fewer delegates report having done any of the things listed.

Somewhat mischievously, we suggest that quite clearly most of the delegates in the room don’t need to be in the workshop. Then we ask them what else might lie behind this pattern of results. Eventually, someone always says words to the effect, ‘It’s easier to observe faults in others than it is in ourselves.’ This is undoubtedly true, and it’s an insight we build on.


Next typically (we design for each client so exact content varies) we invite delegates to watch a short dramatised scene in which they see a team member grabbing a moment with their line manager for a ‘quick word!’  On first viewing, delegates’ sympathies tend to be with the team member.  What they’re asking seems reasonable and the manager’s reply is curt at best.

We then introduce delegates to the manager. They get to question them and learn a bit more about them.  Having introduced some more context in this way, we revisit the dramatised scene again. But this time we show it more from the manager’s perspective.  Same lines, but slightly different body language and inflections.  The impact is striking and it’s amazing to process with the delegates how quickly you can have sympathy with another perspective.

This is how we gently introduce people to the notion, summed in Robert Evans’ quote, ‘There are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth.’ Or as we adapt it for delegates, there’s my world, your world and the ‘real world’. The real world is where we put the audience next; they become the outside eye, able to appreciate both perspectives, at least to some degree!

Learning into action

In our final slice of dramatised action, we show delegates a scene in which the characters exhibit a range of inappropriate attitudes and behaviours. Then, using stop-start (forum) theatre, we get delegates to explore how to challenge inappropriate behaviours when they observe them, as a bystander. It’s a safe opportunity for them to take what they’ve learned about what constitutes negative behaviour and about the different perspectives that are at play, and practise interventions to make a positive difference.

To be clear, we’re not saying the perpetrator or recipient of unwanted attitudes or behaviours don’t have a responsibility to do something about it. But in this exercise, we want to explore why and how we can all play a part in maintaining an inclusive working environment. In fact, we typically frame this and other parts of the workshop in terms of the organisations stated core values and behaviours, where they have them, so they become more than simply ‘words on a piece of paper’ (as one delegate memorably called them).

The end

Of course, all of this doesn’t stop negative behaviour in its tracks overnight. And we are always very clear with clients that our Bullying and Harassment workshop should never be a replacement for taking appropriate action with known perpetrators. It does, however, as our evaluation results show, increase organisation-wide awareness of what exactly constitutes unacceptable attitudes and behaviours. It also boosts delegates’ confidence to do something about it when they come across it. All of which helps explain why nine out of ten delegates see the workshop as a worthwhile session to take part in.

So, sad as it is to see requests for help with bullying and harassment rising, it’s really good to know we have a tried and tested means to offer practical, effective support.

If you’re interested to know more about our approach, feel free to get in touch. I can fill in the details, and we have video material and evaluation results we can share. Also, it’s well worth keeping an eye on our Events page for opportunities to catch one of our showcases.