Thursday, 17 August 2017

How I Failed in Feedback...

Research is finally showing the link between free-flowing feedback and better business results. In workplaces where managers don’t give and receive feedback, employee engagement rates limp in at 29%. On the flip side, when feedback is regularly exchanged between managers and employees, engagement jumps to 79%.
But let’s face it, we’re human — and we find it tough to engage in feedback. Many of us —including myself — get defensive when we hear it, or we assume nobody wants to hear it. So feedback gets chronically buried and put off.
But it doesn’t have to. 
In my experience, there is a simple principle that can play a key role in unlocking feedback:
It’s not who you are, it’s what you do
As a communication trainer and role play actor, I assume that everyone wants to, and can, get better. When I take this approach I find myself able to engage in discussions about areas for improvement with an optimistic and open heart. But even though I always try to take this approach, my best intentions still sometimes fail me... I recently found myself linking feedback to someone's character, rather than focusing on their actions. 
Here’s what happened:
About four months ago, I told one of my clients, a manager of a business development team, that she came across as uninterested in her team members. Not engaged. Distant. 
As I should have predicted, she countered with defensiveness. She told me she loved managing her team and started listing examples. We were heading for a debate and when it came to knowing what was going on inside her head, she had the clear upper-hand. As we ended the short conversation, all I had achieved was a bigger wedge between me and my client. 
It wasn't until afterwards that I realized the feedback had been unspecific, second-hand, and judgmental. So I decided to practice what I preach.  
I watched her in action during one of the activities in the training workshop that day. And later I pulled her aside. I said: “I’ve found that when people are sharing their feelings with the rest of the team and someone is leaning back, arms folded, avoiding any eye contact to me that person looks like they’re not open or interested.”
She looked concerned, but not defensive. There was no argument to be had here. She didn’t want to debate what folded arms meant. What I was saying was not specific to her. This opened her to noticing a range of subtle ways in which she was appearing closed to her teammates, and we worked together over the next few training days to address them.
Today, 4 months later, she is far more in sync with her team. Once she received feedback about her behavior from a team member (rather than her personality), and she was able to discuss it openly. It was easy for her to take action because my feedback was specific, and closely timed to when the behavior occurred.
Takeaway: When people start saying that someone “is or isn’t something,” try to observe what that person is or isn’t doing. As close to the moment of observation as possible, present them with the behavior and offer to help them address it.
I’ve found that this lesson provides a powerful tool. But it’s the consistent practice — along with the commitment to learn more every day — that signals that the organisation is a place where feedback can flow freely. Those awkward feelings from being honest and holding each other accountable will start to disappear. And each of us will grow faster than many of us thought possible.

I count myself on the side of those trainers who believe ‘practice makes perfect' and that we as educators should never stop practicing what we preach. Even if we sometimes mess up ourselves, feedback can make our workplace a far better place to grow, learn, and thrive together.

Monday, 17 July 2017

The Power of Role Reversal

Our son Sam turned three years old last month. And let me tell you...his pretend play is firing on all cylinders! Construction sites, dinosaur battles, horsey rides and chasing the 'bad guys' - all walls of reality are broken in imaginary play as he loves to pretend to be something or someone different from himself.

I absolutely love the fact that our little toddler already knows that the success in life is largely pinned on the ability to positively interact with others and that the best way of learning this is by using different roles and then acting them out.

I believe that we don't have to be kids to learn through play. I believe that in adult learning the concepts of role play are still one of the most powerful and effective ways of learning and developing new skills.

For example: My son loves to switch roles in his pretend play. I have to play him and he get's to play me. During these role plays between me and my son, it is like I am looking in the mirror... Through his play I learn how he feels about the way I talk to him, what he retains from what I try to teach him and most important...he has the opportunity to express his needs in a safe way.

When I work with professionals in training workshops I often use the same concept. This method is called Role Reversal and it's a technique that is perhaps one of the most effective ones in Drama Based Training.

How does it work? 

In a Role Reversal, the participant is invited to move out of his own position and enact the role of the other person. There are three powerful effects of doing this. Let's take a Manager - Team member relationship as an example.

Effect no 1. 
Role Reversal will help the Manager to feel and understand the other role and how it reacts with its environment. For example the Manager gets more awareness about how the team member feels about and reacts to the role of the Manager.

Effect no 2. 
Role Reversal helps the Manager to observe himself as if in a mirror. Through playing his team members' role, the Manager sees the role of himself from his team members' perspective.

Effect no 3.
Role Reversal also prevents the Manager from being trapped in his own defenses. By changing positions with the team member he produces new insight of the whole interaction which helps to create understanding rather than being stuck in his own perspective.

Bringing in professional corporate actors to help facilitate exercises like this is absolutely crucial for the success of role play. Would you like to learn more about why? Have a look at our website here.

Finally, the famous Irish playwright critic George Bernard Shaw once said:

We don't stop playing because we grow old,
We grow old, because we stop playing. 

And I couldn't agree more.

Whether you are a toddler or an adult, (role) play gives an unique chance to learn from each other in an imaginary world. I look forward to meeting you there!

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

To the person ignoring my email

Dear email neglector
Last month I sent you an email. It took time and effort to write this message, but I didn’t get a response.
My first reaction was, You are just busy. After a few days, I wondered , Did you get my e-mail? A few days later, What did I do wrong? Then, invariably, What a jerk!
It seems like it’s becoming more and more “acceptable” to not respond to e-mails.  In the last month I sent out 20 personal emails and only 2 people replied. And trust me, I get it. You are busy. But that’s no excuse for bad behavior. You seem to forget that there is a human being on the other end who has feelings.
Maybe you think your neglect of my email isn’t hurting you...I hate to burst your bubble. This behavior could be more damaging than you realize. So keep reading: 
In one study, people who didn’t respond to an email, were evaluated more harshly, assigned more negative intentions and viewed as less credible than their responsive counterparts. Put simply, if you don’t respond, people won’t trust you. When they don’t trust you, they won’t respect you. And when they don’t respect you, they’ll never see you as credible. 
See, I understand there are reasons why you don’t respond. Maybe you had great intentions but failed in execution. Or maybe you were worried about saying no. Or you simply felt unmotivated. But there is no explanation for it: email silence harms you and your business.
Let me tell you a story about a CEO of WA based organisation. Perhaps you will understand my point a bit better. Three years ago, I had just started my own business here in Perth. I decided to send this man a message that took me at least half an hour to put together. You see, English is not my first language and I wanted to make a good first impression. He replied to me on the same day: “Got your email, Janine. I’m tied up this week but will reply as soon as I can”. He bought himself goodwill and time by acknowledging my message. 
A week later I received his definite answer: “Janine, thank you so much for your request. I appreciate your interest in working with our organisation. I am sorry that I can’t help you at the moment. We are happy with our current training providers. I wish you all the best with your new business!”
And guess what? I wasn’t even disappointed. 
Because I can handle rejection. I just can’t handle not knowing.
Last year I met him at a seminar and I decided to tell him how I remembered and appreciated the way he handled my email many years ago. He told me that it's the way he grew his business. He found that when you're reliable, even if you’re not always right, people will want to work with you and for you. No matter if you’re flipping burgers or you’re the CEO.
I have been recommending him and his business to my network ever since.      
So dear email neglector, will you join me in the revolution of responsiveness? Let’s make this world a better, more civil place, one email at a time. What do you say?
Kind regards,
Janine de Muinck - Managing Director at InterACT WA.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

The trouble with training

It’s more important for success than technology, strategy, and even products. The only way for your organisation to survive and thrive in the long run is the ability to keep developing your staff. 

Having spent the last ten years designing and delivering interpersonal skills training and leadership development programs for dozens of companies in both Europe and Western Australia, I’ve seen a lot of what works. And what doesn’t.

I believe it is time for some new rules to make training more productive than problematic. 
Starting with these 3 hard-and-fast rules:  

Rule 1: 70-20-10
Have you ever sat in a classroom all day for a training program, wondering “how much longer??” Of all the things we do to educate, the least valuable of all are the endless hours we force people to sit still and … “learn”. The 70-20-10 rule suggests learning from challenging assignments like role play simulations should account for 70% of training time, with 20% from peer-to-peer learning and just 10% from traditional coursework. A great training program integrates all three. 

Rule 2: Eat your own cooking
I find it fascinating when I get asked to roll out a leadership development program to managers without the participation of senior executives. There is no replacement for them being involved as teachers, facilitators and coaches. And maybe even more important, if the CEO thinks it’s wise for middle managers to learn about, say, soft skills, why is the top management team not doing the same or similar? Not only does participation enhance the credibility, but it also helps share a common logic and language.

Rule 3: Customise to your world
Business schools and training organisations love to sell stuff off the shelf. It’s easier, it’s proven, it’s faster. But what works in the mining industry in Perth is not necessarily right in financial services in Sydney. Just like the best managers customise how they manage people on their teams, the same is true about the specific experience and content needed to train a group of individuals. How could it not be? One size most definitely does not fit all.

Nowadays vast amounts of money — into the tens of billions — are spent on training every year, but the return on investment in many cases doesn’t ad up. So make sure you don’t give the green light for yet another round, magically hoping that results will materialise while not doing anything different. 

Curious about how our Experiential Learning Solutions? Contact us here for a chat.  

Monday, 1 May 2017

3 Benefits of making role play part of training

Benefits of Role-Play
Here are just a few of the benefits of making role-play a part of your business training:

  1. 1. It builds confidence: When your team role-plays, you can throw any number of situations at them. Role-playing provides a safe environment to encounter these scenarios for the first time, which builds confidence in team members that can help them in their day-to-day roles.
  2. 2. It develops great listening skills: Good role-playing requires good listening skills. In addition to understanding the words the other person is saying, it’s important to pay attention to body language and non-verbal clues. Better to have your team develop these skills while role-playing than when they’re trying to perform in the real world.
  3. 3. Creative problem-solving: No matter how outlandish a situation you create in a controlled environment, generally, something even more bizarre is bound to happen on the job. Role-playing will at least give your team the chance to get some experience in handling difficult situations and in developing creative problem-solving skills.

How to Start Role-Playing
While most organizations prefer to hire a professional facilitator for the most effective role-play, here are a few tips for doing it yourself:
  • Use actual locations: The best role-play is as realistic as possible. Put participants in the physical locations where they actually would experience the scenarios you’re trying to replicate, whether that’s the boardroom, the warehouse, or an executive’s office.
  • Videotape your role-play: Videotaping the participants in role-playing scenarios is a valuable teaching tool. It allows people to see themselves—and their strengths and weaknesses, which can be quite powerful. It also allows them (and you) to “record” improvement as they progress.
  • Imitate real-world scenarios: This is perhaps one of the easiest forms of role-play training to execute yourself. Give the “customers” or “clients” a personality profile and list of objectives that the trainee doesn’t know about. Make the goal to determine the “customer’s” objectives.

Getting an authentic role-play experience from your team may be difficult to do on your own. Bring in consultants and professional actors to get the training your team deserves. At InterACT we design and deliver experiential learning solutions that use the power of role play to help people interACT even better. Contact us here and we are happy to tell you more.  

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Is (s)he the right one?

Experiential learning is hot. More and more organisations are looking for ways to make their business theories 'come to life' and create a higher transfer of learning. It looks like using simulations and role play actors is the way to go. L&D and Corporate Actors have undeniably tied the knot. 

But there are two types of corporate actors in the world: Those who come into the training room and say, "Here I am!" and those who come into the room and say to the learners, "Ah, there you are!" 

The true meaning of a corporate actor, in my opinion, is to be an all round facilitator of the learning process more than a presenter or an entertainer. 
I find that many corporate actors tend to fall into the second category. And I can't blame them. Performing Arts Academies prepare you for many things: theatre, film, perhaps television. But because they are still very much focused on entertainment and there is a huge difference between being an amazing actor and being an amazing CORPORATE actor. 

Which, I have to tell you, has me worried... 

Because even though the industry for corporate acting is growing fast, most Performing Arts Academies have yet to include role play acting in their curriculum.   

This can make it challenging for Trainers, Facilitators and L&D Professionals to judge the quality of the actors. Considering that the mere prospect alone of participating in a role play still drives fear into the psyches of many, it is imperative that you undertake this endeavor with a professional. 

Therefore, InterACT WA recently started running workshops exclusively for Professional Actors to get them educated on professional Role play acting. Also we drafted industry standards to help make it easier to find the right choice of role play actor for your organisation.

These criteria are:

-          Finished degree in Performing Arts
-          Realistic and conducive play
-          Ability to improvise
-          Positive attitude in the group
-          Being able to give dosed feedback related to the learning goals
-          Being able to adapt the level of challenge to match participants skill level
-          Confronting in a caring way
-          Working together with the trainer as well as independently
-          Knowledge of behaviour models, emotional intelligence, personality styles,                  communication and coaching tools.
-          Being able to offer a safe, non judgmental, learning environment

    Hopefully this will is helpful in the search of your corporate actors. Should you wish to work with one of our professionals than you are guaranteed that they meet these requirements.  

Would you like to know how InterACT can help improve interACTions within your organisation with our training workshops and corporate actors? Feel free to contact me on 

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Practice Repeat Learn

I saw this image today and I love it. Here’s why.

With InterACT WA, I run a consultancy based on practice. When I am not delivering training workshops, I focus on my sales. And every time I try to lock in a meeting with a potential client, I have to remind myself of the number of times I have to contact someone on average before it leads to work. I can tell you that answer: It’s 6. 
But the beauty is not in that number. The beauty lives in what happens in the process: because I have to keep trying.

It is what I make people do in my training workshops, so it is also what I have to do myself. A little thing called "Practice what you preach". 😏

Maybe you are trying to communicate more assertively. Or perhaps you struggle with giving feedback to your team. Or getting through that presentation without talking too fast. Whatever it is: When it’s important to you, you don't stop after the very first attempt.

In my training workshops I give participants the opportunity to practice different approaches in a safe, non judgmental learning environment. They try a different message. A new way. A change of body language. And they practice it. It may take 6 times. It may take 100. But when they finally succeed, they’ll know exactly what it looked like and how it sounded.

So as I am about to pick up the phone to make call number 4 to that potential new client, I am thinking of all the amazing people that have participated in one of my workshops and who tried and tried and tried.

I think of Sly Stallone. He wasn’t going to stop trying until his Rocky script was sold with him as the main character. It took 1500 tries! Practice matters. All the good ones do it.

How many times will you try?