应用即兴18--Action! Transforming Executives through Improvised Theatre

The founder of StarMaker, Teresa Norton brings a lifetime of professional theatre experience and over thirty years living in Greater China to her coaching, training, and consulting of executives in how to inspire confidence, lead with authenticity, communicate with impact, and engage across cultures.


Imagine having the courage to get up in front of a paying audience without a script and co-create stories in real time. In my view, this is precisely what business leaders do at work every day in meetings, during performance reviews, and in discussions with their own clients. In the late 1990s, I began to develop training programs in Hong Kong using tools I had gathered from a career in the theatre. Convincing human resource managers that executives could learn about communication from actors, theatre directors, and playwrights was not an easy sell.


In my pitches, referencing American actor and teacher Sanford Meisner’s techniques of “the reality of doing” helped enormously. I would point out that if “acting is living truthfully under an imaginary set of circumstances,” executives could be trained to “act” in ways that would better serve them under the real circumstances at work. Applying my experience as an actor, director, and playwright, I knew I could help executives prepare for their role of “Leader,” and for the past twenty-five years I have had the great privilege of helping them  perform in more emotionally intelligent, thought-provoking, and dynamic ways in the workplace.


Some of my coachees seek out my support independently, but in most cases I am approached by someone from a business Talent Development department to work with a manager on a communication-related issue. The general request is to develop their leadership skills, often with a more specific directive to focus on influencing stakeholders, presentation skills, demonstrating gravitas, engaging team members, or adapting their communication style to the audience.


My bimonthly, ninety-minute sessions with my coachees mirror the relationship between a director and actor. We typically meet nine times to explore different strategies for overcoming their communication challenges using a variety of theatre techniques and activities. Some of the most valuable of these tools in my kit come from improv, allowing us to recreate real-life interactions that identify the gap between what feels most natural and what will be most effective when performing as a leader. And because improv exercises are basically games, they help create a nonthreatening coaching environment where my clients can practice new behaviors, and I can start and stop the activities to provide them with ongoing feedback.


FIGURE 8.1 Norton at work in Hong Kong.
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