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Is it time to get theatrical?

Sometimes it can be difficult to start a conversation with an employee about their performance or behaviour, and how you need them to change. It’s not so much what you need to say to them as it is how they listen to any form of feedback or constructive criticism.

You’re the one in the senior position, you earned it by hard work and lots of studying. You know the theory and the success you have achieved with other people demonstrates that you know how to put it into practice as well. But, with this one person getting past the starting block to just have a conversation is a major obstacle.

Somehow you need to depersonalise the conversation.

You cannot start by talking about them or even their colleagues, as this is likely to create a defensive response that may develop into something quite aggressive, or passive aggressive and may make the situation a lot worse.

You don’t want what should be a chat to create so much trouble that the only way to resolve it is with a disciplinary or a grievance.

Faced with the need to create a change in behaviour within a group of employee’s trainers will often create an artificial scenario which allows the trainees to see the problem from a different perspective without having to link themselves personally to the scenario until after the discussion of the rights and wrongs of the behaviour has started.

In a coaching situation, which is more personal than a training course creating that artificial scenario is more difficult. You have to find some other mechanism that will enable the coachee to constructively see the situation from the perspective of other people.

In the past I have used various different analogies and metaphors to get the conversation started.

  • A story from the news – the complexities of Brexit would provide endless opportunities!
  • Sports related stories – like the approaches different soccer team managers have
  • The storylines from TV soap operas – Mike Baldwin provides endless case studies
  • The plots from books – The Godfather is a great management book
  • Theatre and film plots – These have the advantage of also involving a good night out!

One example of a theatrical production providing a great opportunity for being the catalyst for a coaching conversation is The Magic Flute by Mozart. It’s a classic opera, one that most people have heard of, even if they have never actually seen it, or know the story.

I doubt if Mozart ever intended to create a plot that was full of scenes that coaches could use as the catalyst for coaching conversations, but a scene by scene analysis like the one provided in the free guide that is available from the Work Place Learning Centre soon shows how this is a potential use.

The Magic Flute is a coming of age story that involves

  • learning how to question information for authenticity,
  • following instructions so that tasks are successfully completed,
  • abandoning old ways of thinking and working
  • confronting authority figures and
  • Identifying goals and what is needed to fulfil them.

The fully illustrated guide is available free from the Work Place Learning Centre is based on the current Opera North touring production of The Magic Flute.

E-mail me when people leave their comments –

During a career as a human resources and employee development professional that started in 1981 Michael Millward has worked around the world in a wide range of businesses from start-ups to major conglomerates. His industry experience includes, local and national government, manufacturing, financial services, retail, distribution, hi-tech, e-commerce.

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