In As You Like It, the great poet and playwright William Shakespeare wrote that “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” Each one of us, no matter where we live or what we do, has a significant part to play. Each encounter we have is a small ripple that eventually becomes part of the great wave of life. But all too often, we just flit in and out of each other’s lives, not stopping to think about the impact of our actions or what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. Drama helps us get to the heart of the matter. As much as it’s a means of entertainment, it is also a cathartic and healing art that allows us to get in touch with our feelings, as well as those of others.
This past June, approximately 25 branch managers (BMs) with Royal Bank of Canada from across the province got a taste of the spotlight during an improv workshop with Joint Productions, a non-profit theatre company based in St. John’s. Held during RBC’s Branch Manager’s Conference, the 1.5-hour team-building workshop used comedy and collaboration to show participants how to apply improv skills to the business world. Using improvised scenarios with actors, the theatre company provided opportunities for BMs to practice listening and responding to customers while showing how certain skills can transfer to things like sales and management.
The goal was to “help build skills and capabilities to enable BMs to be on the floor with clients, engaging them in discussions and providing financial advice, and to then turn around and teach/enable their teams to do the same,” says Jeremy Storry, Regional Vice President of RBC and recent board member with Business & Arts NL.
The workshop also helped participants learn how to cope with the unknown. While some may feel nervous or intimidated by the idea of speaking to clients out in the banking hall, Storry says the workshop quickly helped quell those fears with laughter and real-life scenarios, which gave managers the chance to practise dealing with customers while testing their acting chops. While the BMs may not be swapping the bank for Broadway anytime soon, the lessons learned during the workshop helped instil within them a sense of confidence that will carry them through their careers.
“After the session a number of BMs noted they were more confident and appreciated that the risk of talking to clients proactively is pretty minimal!” Storry says.
“For us, it helped the leaders get outside their comfort zone and show that nothing terribly bad is going to happen if a client says something unexpected. It gave them confidence to get out in front of clients more often, more effectively. It was a good investment and fun.”