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How Actors Help Us Build Better Leaders

Our first Leadership Coaching Series of 2015 wrapped up April 1 and participants are back at their jobs with improved leadership competencies and a host of new skills that will help them lead their teams, departments and companies to greater success. One way they developed these skills was through role-playing exercises, not with their peers, but with a trained actor who won’t flinch — even in the most challenging scenario.

A lot of leadership development programs and courses involve role playing, but all the roles are usually played by participants. This is convenient, but not always effective. Most people have a hard time acting out difficult scenarios and staying in character for an extended role-play session. That makes it hard for a person who’s supposed to be practicing leadership to get the most out of the experience.

To offer a more realistic and more effective role-playing experience, in 2006 Success Labs started hiring local actors to do role-playing exercises with Leadership Coaching Series participants. That group included actor and singer Celeste Angelle Veillon, who has been working with the Leadership Coaching Series ever since.

Better Role-Play Exercises Help Build Better Leaders

“Each time I have the opportunity to work with the Leadership Coaching Series, there is one goal in mind: To help the participant,” Celeste says. “My job is to make sure that the participant has as close to a real-life experience as possible. Confrontation and conflict management are difficult areas to navigate in the work place. If, through their experience with me, the participant becomes even a little more comfortable, we have succeeded.”

Actors bring a variety of real employee emotional responses to role-play exercises.  They have the skills needed to stay in character, which allows the participants to practice active listening, giving feedback, dealing with conflict and even delegating work throughout the role-play scenario. There is real emotion involved, and participants begin to understand that both what they say and the way they say it can make a big difference in others’ reactions.

Celeste and Leadership Coaching Series participants role play through a variety of scenarios modeled on real-life work situations. This exercise allows participants to put concepts we’ve been coaching them on into practice and develop skills they can use when they return to work. And participants have said they appreciate learning how to communicate in a safe environment  and practicing effective communication tactics.

Celeste says that while sometimes the scenarios involve an industry she knows little about, her knowledge of human responses and emotions is what’s important. “I can usually grasp the technological terms by the information the participant gives to me. It’s really important to listen carefully,” she says. When the role playing is done, other team members can offer feedback on what they observed.

Celeste has played defensive employees and difficult co-workers, but says that when participants communicate correctly, she can’t continue being emotional for fun or to push the situation further. “In real life, when others communicate with you effectively, it’s difficult to give emotional responses,” she says. “This is an incredibly important technique to learn to be an effective leader.”

Contact us if you’d like to learn more about enrolling your company’s leaders in our Leadership Development Series.

Success Labs is a leadership development and management consulting firm in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than 25 years, our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to explore their business potential and improve their company and cultural performance. Contact us to get proactive about your people strategy.

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