Monday, 21 October 2019

5 Reasons NOT to use Fellow Students in Roleplay Simulations



Perhaps you've heard this before: Global spending on training tops $350 billion annually. 

Estimated is that more than 15% of this goes towards 'Soft Skills' development with the vast majority focused on Communication Skills, Coaching, Feedback, Conflict Management and Self Awareness. 

That's A LOT of money spent on trying to improve people's interpersonal skills, leading to a growing demand for a high return on investment. The logical next question is, what training method is most successful when it comes to implementing the newly acquired knowledge into day-to-day workplace interactions? 

Research consistently shows that one of the most effective ways to achieve success and a high return on investment is to simulate a real experience by incorporating Role Play into the training programs. 

Roleplay gives workshop participants those “in-the-moment” experiences and it allows them to experiment with the new behaviours in a safe-to-fail setting. Sadly, many trainers and workshop facilitators still choose to use fellow students for the roleplay simulations instead of working with actors.

So why should you work with a Role Play Actor instead?  

Well, the answer is simple: A Role Play Actor is a professional and a fellow student is not. 

Still not convinced? Here are 5 more reasons why hiring a Role Play Actor is to be preferred over using a fellow-student.

1. A Role Play Actor acts realistically
A Roleplay Actor is able to act out various behaviours convincingly. This is much more difficult for fellow-students to achieve because they are not trained actors and often have a tendency to exaggerate the acting. The role play will therefore often lack authenticity and lead to a less effective learning experience.

2. A Role Play Actor acts interactively
A Role Play Actor always responds to the behaviour of the learner. If the student starts to display ineffective behaviour, the behaviour of the actor will adapt in response to this. As a result, the student experiences the effect of his/her behaviour immediately. Fellow-students are not trained to do this and will tend to maintain their own role and become more rigid in executing it.

3. A Role Play Actor adjusts to the student
The Role Play Actor can adapt the acting to the required level of difficulty for the student. Fellow-students are more likely to play behaviour that is appropriate for themselves rather than tuning into the person for whom the practice situation is intended.

4. A Role Play actor is able to provide feedback after the role play
A professional roleplayer is a multitasker. While acting out the role-play and adjusting the level of difficulty to the student, the actor also observes, as it were, with a helicopter view, so that good feedback can be provided once the role-play has ended. An actor is able to explain clearly why a certain response was made in a particular way in certain situations. Fellow-students, however, can get so caught up in their own acting that they can no longer maintain their helicopter view or give valuable feedback afterwards.

5. A Role Play actor is familiar with various training methodologies
The actor knows precisely what the learning objectives of the training are. As a result, the actor can very consciously reward the desired behaviour during the role-play situation, while also relate the feedback to the learning outcomes of the training. Fellow-students will be less capable of achieving this.

In other words, with a Role Play Actor, you have access to a true professional for your training or workshop who is able to produce maximum results from any role-play situation. 

Want to learn more? Meet some of our actors here or check out our website

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Role Play as Essential Tool in Soft Skills Training



Soft skills are key to effectiveness in life.

From self-confidence to communication skills and emotional intelligence, they all play a significant role in determining a person’s success and happiness. 

Per the World Economic Forum’s “Future of Jobs” report, emotional intelligence, creativity and people management will be the top skills required in 2020.

However, 'soft skills training' is always challenging since it requires people to change their habits that have been developed over a lifetime. Hence, for any training to be effective in the development of interpersonal skills, it has to allow for repeated practice and provide extensive feedback.

Roleplay with professional actors is a medium that has all these as built-in mechanisms.

What soft skills can be honed using roleplay?

1. Self-Confidence: Roleplay helps to build self-confidence by encouraging participants to practice difficult situations and try out different strategies in a safe to fail environment.

2. Verbal and Non Verbal Communication: With bespoke or scenario based roleplay, participants learn to speak more clearly, precisely and with more confidence, while learning how to vary their pitch and tone. They also learn the power of pause, the impact of body language, and how expressions play a prime role in communication.

3. Listening Skills: Listening is a skill that is usually hard to teach through any other form of training, but by listening to others’ dialogues effectively, paying attention to body language and intentional pauses, roleplay can make a difference.

4. Stage Fright: Roleplay-based training helps participants overcome their fear of being vulnerable in front of others – helping them feel more comfortable in front of an audience.

5. Self-Development: Through self-discovery, observation and learning from their mistakes, participants are more aware of their key development areas. Roleplay encourages to overcome their fears and improve their abilities. They also stretch themselves based on the roleplay scenarios, thus discovering their undiscovered potential and talents.

6. Emotional Intelligence: Roleplay helps in enhancing emotional intelligence. It puts people in touch with not only their own emotions but also the emotions of others. It helps them to see their impact through various roles, enhancing their empathy and their capacity to handle emotions more effectively.

Roleplay based training is a methodology for training to enhance many competencies, including leadership, communication, creativity, team building, and emotion management skills.  

It has a great impact besides increasing engagement. It brings change, joy and... a true return on investment.

Saturday, 24 August 2019

The Secret of Great Roleplayers


Recently I recruited for a new corporate actor for our growing team. 

During one of my interviews, I asked the actor sitting in front of me what he thought to be the most challenging part of corporate acting. His answer: 

“Challenging? If you know your lines you should be ok, right?”

Wrong.  

The art of corporate acting is a lot more than just learning the lines of a role-play scenario. 

Corporate actors are expert improvisers and can create believable characters and in-the-moment performances. You know that feeling when you watch actors on stage or film, and you are transported to places that seem real and believable. Well, the same applies when actors take on corporate roleplay. The person they are interacting with quickly forgets they are with an actor, as the situation comes to life.

At InterACT we only work with first-class role-play actors.Our actors are trained to create those ‘real’ situations in imaginary circumstances so that participants can practice interactions as if they are real. A Corporate Actor can articulate meaningful, honest feedback based on what their character felt and experienced to assist the participant to better understand their own experience.

Now if you have worked with a first-class role-play actor then these qualities should be obvious. But if you’ve experienced mediocrity then perhaps your role-play actor didn’t possess the magic ingredient that, at our InterACT team, comes as standard…namely, an excellent attitude.

Because an excellent attitude from our role-play actors is as important as their talent and skill. An ‘excellent attitude’ can be open to interpretation of course, so let us break down what it means to us and what it can mean for you if you have hired a role-play actor for your training, presentation or assessment:

1. The role-play actor is happy to be there.
The actor’s attitude should be that your project is as important as any other job they have worked on. Corporate acting work is not a ‘fill in’ job, or temping work – something to do if there’s no better acting offer on the table. We specifically recruit role-play actors who have a keen interest in using their skills to help learners achieve their goals.

2. The role-play actor is hard working.
Attitude also shines through in the preparation for a project as well as the delivery. If the actor is not sufficiently prepared then the exercise will not work. We have heard stories of other role-play actors not knowing the learning objectives, or delivering a role-play with their brief ‘on their lap’ – this is not acceptable or professional in our book. Thorough preparation should be a given.

3. The role-play actor is not on a power trip.
The actor is there to deliver their role in the most realistic way and work in a collaborative partnership with the trainer, presenter or assessor. Through a careful briefing the actor must be disciplined enough to listen extremely carefully, concentrate and react to the participant’s behavior. The role-play actor may have to portray a certain characteristic in order to challenge, but a role-play exercise should NEVER be a celebration of how well the actor can act.

At InterACT we go to great lengths to work with actors who represent our values. Trusting the quality, commitment and attitude of your role-play actors is essential in delivering the most effective training, presentation or assessment.

Want to talk more? Give us a call on 0487 693 349.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

New Way to Address Mental Health in the Workplace




At the age of 11, I learned my mother suffered from manic depression. Today, 30 years later, we call it bipolar disorder but however you’d like to call it: she struggled tremendously with her mental health.

She still does.

Over the years I have seen a dramatic change in the way we talk about mental health. Growing up in a small town where everyone tried to hide their struggles, my mum was a bit of an uncomfortable exception. She never tried to hide how she felt. She thought it was important not to look away from pain. From the psych ward she would send me brochures about her disorder. And she would ask her psychiatrist to explain her disorder to me.

At the age of 11 that was a lot to take in. But as an adult, I am so glad she did.

Because it taught me how to have conversations about mental health. And how to recognize the signs.  
It doesn’t really matter who you are. Your size and shape, or gender. Mental illness doesn’t care and it affects 1 in 4 of us at some point in life. What does matter, however, is that most of us are not very good at spotting the signs and even worse at knowing how to have the conversation when we do see them.

That is why working around the subject of Mental Health feels like such good use of our professional role-play actors. Those that know of InterACT’s work, know that we believe that lasting change is brought about through what we call ‘Role Play Based Learning’. And it offers a different approach to learning how to address mental health in the workplace. 

How does it work? 
For our Mental Health Programs we take our participants through 3 confrontational stages:

Stage 1. Recognize it
Stage 2. Acknowledge it
Stage 3. Adjust it

When we are in front of our audience we start with Recognize it. Using very careful researched case study, our actors play out a scenario that holds up a mirror to the current culture around Mental Health so the audience connects with what they see. They see themselves in that mirror and recognize the behavior of others. 

Once you have that recognition, delegates are willing to Acknowledge it: to take personal responsibility for change. 

Then we talk about Adjust it. What are people actually going to do? What are they willing to commit to?

Finally, how do you make sure you have a culture where it’s ok to have a conversation about mental health? So that it becomes ‘what we do around here’?

I have to say, in this program, whilst we garner that recognition – recognition of a very difficult subject – the most powerful, moving part isn’t our actors. It’s the disclosures that come from delegates themselves. It’s when they, of their own volition, stand up in front of everyone and say ‘this happened to me’, ‘it happened to me here’, ‘I’m back now, but there are many that aren’t’, ‘please don’t let this ever happen again’.

Have I got a magic wand for you? Nope. 
Do we clear our clients of all mental health issues? Not even close. 
Is there a book you can read? Maybe.

What everyone does agree to after our programs is to watch for the signs. Changes in behavior, going early, coming late, changes in mood, performance; anything that’s ‘not like them’. And they agree that doing nothing is not an option. They agree to ‘have the conversation’ – just like my mum decided to have the conversation.

Even if it does go a bit wrong or feels awkward (and it probably will), it can’t possibly be worse then the consequences of doing nothing.


Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Why You Are Not a Good Communicator


One of the ideals of many people is to become a ‘great communicator’. Truth is though...very little of us truly are.

Why is that?

I believe that a ‘great communicator’ is someone who has the capacity to give another person an accurate picture of what is happening in his or hers emotional and psychological life – and in particular, can describe the very darkest, trickiest and most awkward sides in such a way that others can understand, and even sympathize with them.

Now I realize that sounds very daunting, so perhaps it’s no surprise that many of us or not such great communicators because we simply do not wish to expose ourselves that way.

But make no mistake: Where we don’t ‘communicate’ a message, we still manage to get our points across, but just in toxic forms. As the expression goes, ‘if we can’t talk it out, we act it out’

So when someone asked me recently why we are not all great communicators, I shared these three important reasons:  

1.    No good role models

We learn to speak by hearing others speak. And in particular, we learn to speak about tricky topics because we hear others discussing them elegantly and kindly.
But most of us did not grow up around ‘good communicators’.  I sure know I didn’t...My parents loved me deeply, but they did not pull off the trick of describing difficulties within in timely, sane and reassuring way.

And then there is the even more dangerous possibility. What if the role model was a parent who loved us fiercely, but wanted us to be a certain way. They could not be disappointed. It was our job to help keep them intact.
This way we learnt that we could easily hurt someone by communicating a part of your personality which doesn’t fit the preconceived ideas. A precedent was set...

2.    Can you be ‘bad’ and ‘good’?

In the ideal upbringing, those who loved us would be able to do so without demanding that everything about us is good. They could tolerate that we could – sometimes, for a while – be selfish, angry, lazy, close minded or mean – and yet still remain accepted.

But mostly we come from backgrounds which fall far short of this ideal.

We feel that if we ever lose our temper, we will be revealed as aggressive. Or if we confess to having some lazy sides, we will be condemned as layabouts. Or if we reveal our worries about a task at work, we’ll set off a panic about our lack of skill.  

Our tendency to assume that others will judge us is the central obstacle to good communication. Shame robs us of the capacity to put our case sensibly and plausibly. It makes us long to hide our failings; we feel the only way to protect ourselves and retain dignity is to go silent.

3.    I can’t do it

I guess it’s no surprise that we sometimes think that communication will never work out. Looking back at my own life I have failed so often in the past. My history is full of failed attempts where I tried to tell a colleague, a friend or a partner something and it hasn’t worked.

So, what do we do? We give up.

But, to inject hope into the situation, I learned that this fear is based on a false assumption: The idea that we can’t learn how to better communicate about what is going on inside us.

The fact that it didn’t work out in the past isn’t decisive. I just needed to train myself to accept the darkness, to reduce fear, to present myself calmly and to not give way to self-loathing…

Only that way we can become that great communicator after all.


Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Do you swear to tell the truth?




Yesterday I picked up my son Sam from school.
When we came home and I unpacked his schoolbag, I noticed there was a toy in there that didn't belong to him but to the school.

When I asked him about it, he said he got it for Christmas.
When I probed him a bit more he said his teacher gave it to him as a present.
And when I asked him if his teacher would confirm that to me he admitted he liked the toy, secretly hid it in his bag and took it home...

Because my son is only 4 years old he's not very good at lying. Moral Development hasn't quite kicked in yet.
But by the time he is an adult, he will probably be a lot better at it. And he will still tell several lies a day.

Six, to be precise. According to research.

As adults we lie during presentations, during job interviews. We lie about purchases we made. We lie to friends and to strangers. We lie about how we feel.

Mostly with just one simple reason: to avoid confrontation.

So does the truth always set us free?
If we want to lie a little to get along or bail us out of awkward situation are we betraying our authentic self?

Here's my two cents.

Perhaps this is my Dutch Directness speaking, but I believe the answer is that the truth almost always sets us free. The key is to check in with our intentions first.

Do we wish to tell the truth because we are frustrated with the feelings of guilt building up?
Then of course it feels damn good to tell the truth. It's like taking a emotional poop (excuse the metaphor) which provides instant release from pressure.

But when you are just dumping your emotional turds on others (excuse the metaphor again, but I'm on a roll now..) you are flushing your relationship down the toilet.

Do you wish to tell the truth to connect closer to your colleague, client, partner, friend or boss?

Then the worst truth is always better than the best lie. 

At InterACT we give workshop participants the opportunity to practice these open and honest conversations with professional actors. And every single time the biggest eye opener is that no matter how badly they think someone will react when they tell the truth, the lie often causes more dismay that honesty.

This morning I dropped my son of at school.

I asked him if he wanted to tell his teacher what happened. He firmly shook his head and said he was afraid his teacher would get mad at him for stealing.

"It takes courage to tell the truth, Sam." I said.

And for a while we said nothing.

Suddenly he looked up at me and said he changed his mind.
And a few minutes later, with blushing cheeks, eyes down and squeezing my hand tightly, my little boy struggled through the words to tell his teacher the truth.

And his teacher?

She kneeled down and gave him a big hug.

"I know that must have been hard to tell me you took that toy. But I am so glad you chose to be honest about it..."



Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Smell to Boost Learning Power



Only true die hards have read the novel 'A la recherche du temps perdu' by French writer Marcel Proust, but one particular scene from that book is famous: The main character dips a cake called a Madelaine into a cup of chamomile tea, which evokes a torrent of memories from a forgotten childhood. 

Marcel Proust understood intuitively what science would only discover many years later: There is no sense that reaches more deeply and suddenly into our emotional center - right into our solar plexus - than the sense of smell. 

So if smells can take us back to various memories, can they help us remember facts?  

Science has already proven that smell can influence our behavior. Like the scent of citrus that makes us want to clean more. Or Auping, a large bedding retailer, who spreads the smell of freshly washed linen through their shops because it increases sales. And what to think of the Dutch Tax Authorities? In their offices the smell of orange circulates every afternoon to help employees through their midday slump. 

The correct term for this phenomenon is Subliminal Persuasion, which simply means influencing people at a level below their conscious recognition. 

The birth of Subliminal Persuasion dates back to 1957 when a market researcher named James Vicary inserted the words “Eat Popcorn” and “Drink Coca-Cola” into a movie. 

The words appeared for a single frame, allegedly long enough for the subconscious to pick up, but too short for the viewer to be aware of it. The subliminal ads supposedly created an 18.1% increase in Coke sales and a 57.8% increase in popcorn sales.

What does all of this mean for boosting learning power? 

Less research has gone into the idea of whether scents can help with improving performance, but so far there have been intriguing findings. 

For example psychologist Mark Moss, carried out a range of cognitive tests on subjects who were exposed to rosemary aroma's during lectures. Those in the rosemary group, memorized the content significantly better than the control group. 

And although lavender is know for its sedative qualities, scientist Sakamato found that during recess periods after intense and long lectures, it can prevent deterioration performance in subsequent work sessions. 

There's been more research that suggests that smells can have an impact on learning, performance and creativity, so perhaps the use of scent in the classroom can no longer be brushed of as pseudoscience. And even though a lot of aroma therapy marketing is full of false claims, I do believe we should consider fragrance as a tool to create a psychological state of mind for ultimate transfer of learning. 

While more scientific evidence is in the making, why not give it a try? 

At the very least they will produce a more pleasant learning environment for workshop participants. 




Sunday, 20 January 2019

The Fear of Feelings at Work


I remember it like it was yesterday... Monday April 11th 2011. 
I was about to present a Leadership Development Program to one of my biggest clients. However the night before my partner of 11 years had decided to end our relationship. He met someone else...
That morning I decided to suppress all my big feelings and 'stay professional'. I needed to lock in this deal. So I started my presentation. 

A few minutes in I suddenly felt tears welling up from down deep inside. I tried really hard to not to display my emotions and push them away, but the harder I tried the stronger it grew. And then it happened... I started to cry. 

In front of my client, in the middle of my presentation. 
Ashamed I tried to get out of the meeting room and hide in the toilets. But my client stopped me. He sat me down and asked me why I was upset. I told him what had happened the night before. And then he said something I will never forget. He said:

"Janine, showing your true emotions, does not make you less of a professional. It makes you human. Whatever you feel, it is welcomed here. So let's talk." 

Now this sounds simple enough, but it’s pretty difficult in practice. 

Because emotions have a bad rap in the workplace. If you’re a true professional, the thinking goes, you don't show emotions at work. Consequently, in many workplaces showing strong emotions, good or bad, can be career suicide. If you allow your frustration at a bad decision or your elation at a victory to shine through, you will be seen as volatile, untrustworthy and, of course, unprofessional.
There’s only one problem: Human beings don’t work that way.
We have emotions. We have them in our private lives, and it’s not like we can leave them in the car in the parking-lot at work. Whether we want them to or not, they’re coming to work with us.
The best workplaces, like my clients', know this, and leave room for both positive and negative emotions. As a result, people are happier at work, are more creative, function better in teams and are more productive and motivated.
On the other hand, companies that ignore emotions are setting themselves up for massive doses of conflict, frustration, disengagement and unhappiness at work.
So, should all business devolve into endless meetings where we can talk about our feelings? Should all meeting rooms be equipped with Kleenex in case someone starts crying? Should we express our tiniest emotions and go into full-on tantrums whenever we feel like it?
No.
But workplaces should:

1. Make room for the emotions that employees have. They’re there, might as well deal with it.

2. Learn how emotions influence business success factors like learning, creativity and teamwork.

3. Learn how to deal constructively – and even appreciatively – with displays of emotion – negative and positive.

And that’s how the best companies handle emotions. 

They ask questions like:

“So, how do you feel about this meeting/decision/project/whatever?”
“How are you doing?”
“I can tell you’re not happy with this decision. What’s your take?”

And then they shut up and listen!


What about you? Do you show how you feel at work? The good or the bad? How does your company receive displays of emotions? 

Write a comment, I’d really like to know.