Theater is a leadership skill
When I do workshops all over the country, I am always encountering the same question: “My kid wants to go into theater… what do I do?!?!?!”
The look of fear and concern from the parent is evident.
I usually have to unpack the discussion to find out what exactly is their concern about a degree in the arts?
Always, the answer is: “They will never make enough money to survive….”
This has led me to talk openly about what I have learned from my training in theater. I learned:
In short, I learned sales, fiscal responsibility, leadership, management and presentation skills.
Theater training is leadership training. Taking the talents of others and directing them into a cohesive project, which is inclusive of all of their abilities, is a skill that only a true leader can accomplish. Listening, responding, and motivating others to work towards a goal larger than their own individual part is the essence of leadership. Creating theater is the essence of leadership.
So, when a concerned parent asks me that question, I always say “Let them.” The truth is, your child will learn more about themselves (authenticity) and more about others (emotional intelligence) then they will in any MBA program. They will learn how to tell a story, motivate a team, and use whatever resources they have to make a vision come true.
Theater is the skill we all need and use everyday. And if you don’t have it, find an actor to teach you.
Find out what theater training can do for your team - email Andrew today!
Public speaking is an art. As someone who provides multiple speeches every year, I have a chance to see many of other speakers.
Inevitably, I see the same thing. Like this article in Forbes, the same mistakes are made over and over. You can see the coaching that someone has been told, and the little things that a speech coach did to quell the speaker's normal responses: they walk in a straight line from one side of the stage to another, they try to have flashy graphics, and they start with a joke of some sort (which often does not work as well as planned.)
From my work as a professional Actor - we train to engage an audience. We practice bringing a personal connection, carrying the rhythm and tone, changing the speed to make emphasis.These are all part of the tools of our trade. And it takes years to master - one ToastMaster class is not going to make you a dynamic speaker overnight.
As with all practices, it takes perseverance, training and practice. And it shows when someone has spent the time, and invested in their presentation. It makes us, as listeners, feel respected.
So next time you have a big speech coming up - consider it this way: You are a world famous actor, and these are your lines. You might win an Oscar/ Tony for this role, so you want to prepare for every possible scenario, and stay on message. And most important, you want to be willing to improvise based on unforeseen changes in the situation and make it all seem like it was planned.
So be prepared for your next presentation. Take an acting class.
Every year we perform an improvised Shakespearian show called "The Lost Folio". The idea behind "The Lost Folio" is that it is a play of William Shakespeare's that was lost in time. We recreate it live, with suggestions from the audience.
This year, I was reminded how fluid the English language has always been, and how many words, grammatical conventions, and idioms were in flux during Shakespeare's time. Due to the influence of new ideas and languages it was ever changing. When the complete works of Shakespeare were eventually published, many scholars believe that moment started to codify the English language, and set certain parts of it in stone.
In improv, one thing I have found is that codifying something, naming it and setting the rules, begins to make it stale. It now has edges - set perimeters - that keeps it reigned in and not fluid. For many new improvisers they get stuck on the rules and the question of "Am I doing this right?"
By codifying something, you stop the forward motion and arrest its development. When you stop a process by naming it, you no longer make it innovation.
When I speak with many business leaders, I ask them "What are hard and fast rules that you adhere to?" Sometimes looking at the assumptions and rules can help to find where we have blocked ourselves from innovation, and where we can open up to new ideas. Ask yourself "If this were all new, and the rules didn't apply, what would you be doing differently?"
So, as I perform in "The Lost Folio" this summer, I look forward to inventing some new words that are a mash-up of many languages, and having fun with a style of English that existed before we were stuck in the rules of grammar.
Contact Andrew to find out more about how to drive innovation in your organization.
There is one thing that separates good actors from struggling actors: How well do you listen?
In my work I get to interact with actors at all levels. A struggling actor knows their lines, and is pre-planning how they will react when they hear their scene partner say something. They are scripting (even if the play is improvised) how the story will come out, and how they will listen. There is a need to control what happens, and what the audience sees, rather than actually listening and being affected by what someone is giving you. In fact, you can actually see them trying to listen, as if listening is something to show people you are doing it. You can visually see them planning how they will respond, rather than listening and reacting.
The same is true for managers. I have worked with many managers who have a "listening face" which they use to "show" people they are listening. When asked to share what they just heard, their retention and understanding of what was said to them is appallingly low. And just like with actors, employees can see when you are not listening to them. They can see when you're merely waiting for their mouth to move so you can speak. They can see when you have disengaged because you have already solved the problem you think they have (even if you are not sure what the problem actually is, or if there even is one!) They can see when you are not present.
This skill is hard to learn, and there are a variety of methods to help you be aware of how you listen and how you can improve. After a few of my exercises, I have had participants say "This was the first time I really was able to hear what someone said..." Imagine if all your staff felt that way, like they have been heard and appreciated.
Honing this skill can affect your bottom line in multiple ways: increased engagement, improved customer satisfaction, innovative directions, happier and appreciative staff and family, etc. It's a simple skill that we often overlook in the wider scope of our work.
Find out how to increase your listening potential - email Andrew today.
At a recent workshop for an executive group at Microsoft we discussed using a shared language for listening. We defined three methods:
The goal with defining these styles ws to say 'How do you want me to listen to what you are saying?' It was to help them set expectations for the conversation, and allow the listener to be attentive and best provide what their fellow co-worker needed. It also created a little negotiation in the beginning of the conversation, so that both parties were on the same page with what they wanted to have happen. And many times, one thing bled into another. Conversations would begin as a Friend, and then change into the Solver. However, it was the speaker, the initiator who was responsible for the changing. 'I wanted you to listen as a Friend, but I guess I am asking you to help me Solve this as well...'
So when you head into a conversation - try setting up the expectation of how you should listen. Does your co-worker need a Rock, a Solver, or a Friend? Ask first, and see if you set the expectations first to be be the most attentive and available you can be.
Which way do you want me to listen?
Click here for more information on Andrew's workshops for your organization.
Start Up Weekend
I had the opportunity to Emcee an event here in Seattle this week that was a graduation of nine companies from a start-up accelerator. As I spent the week meeting and listening to the pitches of the budding CEOs, I was struck by the importance of story and presentation.
Each company had a great story, and some AMAZING technology. The start up accelerator had some great stories as well, and a great track record of helping entrepreneurs find their mission and realize their dreams. As each company's CEO stood up and talked for their six minute presentations, they were only able to partially tell the whole story of what they do.
I started teaching a story structure I learned years ago that is close to the same structure that Pixar uses for their movies:
This basic structure is based on all fairy tales. It can be adapted to whatever need you might have - even a new company:
There are really only three parts:
It's an easy structure, one that we all recognize and can use to help make people understand why we have created the company we have created, or why our software solution exists and what problem it solves. It also helps us see what the future will look like with our new solution.
Ask yourself: am I telling the whole story? When I send emails - am I telling people: 1) what I am working on, 2) what I need and, 3) what I hope to accomplish - or am I not telling the full story? When you tell the story of your company, can you tell the whole story?
ImprovMindset can help you present your story in an effective and memorable way. Click here for more info.