Inclusive leadership

Inclusive Leadership training for the NHS: Q&A with Creative Director, Rosie Perkin

Since late last year, Enact Solutions has been working with South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust putting together an Inclusive Leadership training programme with a difference to help them achieve 3 key aspirations for BME employees.

The pilot stage took place last week, and the first of 20 sessions for all staff with leadership and managerial responsibilities will shortly get underway. Also, in March, there’s a complimentary (no charge) event to tell interested NHS Trusts about the work.

To throw some light on what goes on behind the scenes with a job like this, we asked Rosie Perkin, Creative Director, a few quick questions.

So, Rosie, all the pilot sessions for South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust’s Inclusive Leadership programme have now been completed. How’s it gone?

Really well. The feedback from both the senior leadership team and the diversity team was all highly positive. ‘This was exceptional’ was just one of the comments we received. When you are working with mixed teams of people it’s always a challenge getting the scripts spot on, so everyone can identify with the characters, the behaviours and the situations.  This is really important as it enables individuals to easily translate their learning back to their own working environment.  There were no script changes needed which is always a relief to the actors at this stage.

Very little else was changed, a few minor tweaks here and there just to make sure it will achieve exactly what they need it to.

Everything is falling into place nicely then?


So, what’s it meant to achieve? What does success look like for the Trust, and for you as the creative force behind it all?

Okay, so this piece of work supports the start of a four-year programme of change for the Trust. Whilst the sessions as a whole look at Inclusive Leadership and what more we can be doing as leaders to ensure we are promoting a healthy, happy inclusive working environment, there’s a clear focus on changing the face of diversity within the workforce; particularly the higher you move up within the organisation.

At the moment, approximately 53-57% of the local population, the people this Trust serves, are white.  Just under 40% of the workforce are from Black, Asian Minority Groups. As you move higher up the organisation this representation drops to as low as 8% – that’s at Board level.  So, how can we be sure we are driving and implementing decisions that best reflect the community we serve?  This was one of the findings in Roger Kline’s work, Beyond the Snowy White Peaks of the NHS, in which he identified 7 areas related to race inequality that were potentially impacting on patient care.  Our client has made a commitment that before 2021 they will have proportional representation at all levels across the trust.  I’m proud that we are supporting the start of that journey, engaging with leaders to consider their inclusivity and the part that they will play in achieving the Trusts aspirations.

We’re calling it a ‘training programme with a difference’; what exactly sets it apart in your eyes? What kind of experience can participants expect?

The three hours that they are with us will absolutely fly. From the moment they are in the room it will feel different.  There are lots of activities to get them up on their feet, engaging them to think about how they see things and how they might view things differently.  Although they are never asked to role-play, so they are safe, it is hugely participatory and experiential. Working with actors is one of the most engaging ways to really get to understand what it might be like for someone different to you working in a similar environment. I truly believe we open their eyes to seeing the world differently. We blend this with paired and small group work so everyone feels they can contribute in a way that makes them feel comfortable.

And the client, presumably they’ve been closely involved in the creative process long before the pilot?

Yes, and that’s exactly how I like it. I encourage them to be as hands on as possible.  The more involved a client, the more we understand exactly their needs and what they want to achieve. Either myself or one of the creative developers work closely with all clients from the outset to make the project the very best it can be.

What’s your favourite part of putting together a programme like this?

[Laughing] It’s easy to let the ego come in to play and say ‘See that there? I made that!’ But it’s much bigger than that, why we do what we do. Because we want to make a difference. That’s my measure of success and what gives me personal satisfaction; knowing the long-term changes that a client will see are, in part, because of our intervention.

It all sounds very bespoke; would it work elsewhere? Lots of organisations, not just NHS Trusts face similar challenges.

Of course, Inclusive leadership is the future! And whilst there is lots of research around NHS organisations and why this is important, actually what we are talking about is every single member of any organisation feeling engaged, respected, listened to and with a fair opportunity to develop – show me an organisation that has nailed this and I’ll apply to go and work for them [laughs].

What’s next then? Is your work here done?

Well, there’s lots to do, projects to create around difficult conversations, unconscious bias, bullying and harassment, but, that doesn’t mean to say I’m leaving this one behind!  I will be observing the programme once it’s underway.  I love to see how it develops once it’s been run with delegates a couple of times.  I make sure I get out to see the sessions to make sure they are still on point, doing what we need them to do and keeping them fresh. I don’t think we can ever sit back and think that something is good enough, I’m constantly looking at ways we can tweak things to make them even better.

Great stuff. Thanks for lifting the lid on some of what goes on behind the scenes. We obviously hope it all goes well.

Thank you! I’m confident it will.

Enact Solutions and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust are running a complimentary (no charge) event about our Inclusive Leadership Programme in London on Friday 2 March 2018. Places are limited, but when they run out we will be running a waiting list in case any become available due to cancellations.

Find out more and book your place here.

Also, do feel free to contact our Creative Director, Rosie Perkin, directly if you’d like to discuss any aspect.

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.