Workshops


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?

Absolutely.

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.


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.

Perspectives

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.