No more model citizens! What I learned at the ATKV this week.

ATKV Jeugleiersimposium

Dit was my voorreg om hierdie week, Maandag en Dinsdag, as spreker op te tree by die ATKV se Jeugleiersimposiums by die Goudini Spa naby Worcester en Buffelspoort naby Hartebeespoortdam.

My onderwerp: Vyf soorte weerstand teen leierskap en hoe om dit te hefboom. As jy daar was kan jy die opsomming hier aflaai in die vorm van die skyfie reeks wat ek gebruik het. As jy nie daar was nie, sal dit maar min sin maak vir jou.

Vyf soorte weerstabd teen leierskap


It was my privilege to speak at the ATKV Youth Leaders symposia on Monday and Tuesday this week at Goudini Spa in the Western Cape and Buffelspoort in Gauteng.

My topic: Five types of resistance to leadership and how to leverage them. If you were there you can download the slide show above. If you were not there, it won’t make much sense to you.

Insights from this experience:

I am unable to divorce strategy and narrative from embodiment

I have come to distrust speaking as an effective way of bringing about change completely. There was a time when I thought that experiential interactive processes were mostly effective but that, now and then, speaking was still the best way. That idea might still be true for some and in certain contexts, but no longer for me and I can’t think of a context anymore where I would do it this way. It was my two talks at the ATKV Youth Leadership Symposiums this week that finalised this deduction for me.

Read about the five differences between SNE and motivational speaking.

The audience was wonderfully attentive, intelligent and as interactive as can be expected from 170 youngsters listening to a talk. And they were so beautifully compliant.

However, I wanted to interact with them more – hear about what erks them and talk about resistance. Being an applied theatre practitioner, I did interact, of course, but not in an embodied manner. It was mostly through conversation and feedback. They were model citizens, responding just like I would have wanted them to – if my talk was not about resistance. I no longer want neat well crafted processes where the audience do what the mode of presentation requires. I wanted some disagreement, some sparks. Yes, some resistance.

What I did in these talks was a combination of strategy and narrative, but it is the embodied part of the model that allows participants to interact with the narrative, the ‘story in the room’. If they don’t, it is left, for the most part, un-interrogated. The strategic narrative embodiment model of designing workshops and interventions is the model I developed over the last 7 years in my work in organisation development and leadership coaching.

I have made peace, I think, with the fact that no work I do creates any bangs and does not cause the populace to rise up in adoration. The work is too challenging and out of the ordinary. However, I have come to expect that I will love what I do. Interactive talking just did not do it for me here. I left feeling completely unmoved. That is just no good. So, if you want a 45 min to 1 hour talk on the five types of resistance to leadership and how to leverage them, forget it. I will rather ask for 90 min or 3 hours and do a truly Strategic Narrative Embodiment session.

It seems I am a one song bird.

Contact me to make a booking.

Why did Luke’s family and Obi Wan have to die?

Starcon logo
Starcon logo

As I prepare for my talk at Starcon on Tjhu, I wonder:

  1. Why did Luke’s family have to be killed before hewas willing to go with Obi Wan ti help Princess Lea?
  2. Can such tragedy in your own life, and more importantly, the lives of your audience members be spared by listening to stories?
  3. Why did Obi Wan have to die too? Could Luke not find the force if he stayed alive?
  4. If we as speakers are the Obi Wans for the Lukes in our audiences, do we also have to die? How?

The talk I will be giving is the “Seven Story Secrets for Speakers” illustrated by the journey of Luke Skywalker from Starwars episodes 4 to 6. Reflect with me on the role you want to play for your audience members and the role stories play in your talks. On Thu I will be sharing three ways in which to use stories: Telling the story, letting the audience consider their stories and using a story as the design inspiration for a talk. The Seven Story Secrets for Speakers use the first two ways, but explains the third in greater detail. More about Starcon: Toastmasters International in Southern Africa’s May Conference is happening this week from 14-16 May 2015. Our team is all about finding excellence and reaching beyond your perceived limitations. And so, the theme of “Reach for the Stars” was born and all things Star Wars and Star Trek were adopted. I have been asked, in the words of the organisasers to “joining Starfleet in the fight against the evil forces of Glossophobia.” What does this mean? do I suffer from it unknowingly? I  look forward to sharing stories with all the delegates and speakers.

Dr. Petro Janse van Vuuren

Researcher, Speaker and Coach

Need a speaking coach? Contact Petro

Interested in a course in facilitation and coaching? Click here

Looking for a speaker or storyteller at your event? Contact Petro

Story Secrets for Speakers #7 – Die with grace

Can you remember the shock you felt in the Lion King when Simb’s father, Mufasa dies? Or when Gandalf is overcome in the dwarf’s mountain? Or in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince when Dumbledore is slain? Or in Star Wars when Obi Wan Kenobi is killed by Darth Vader? Stories teach us that every mentor or guide must die, otherwise the hero cannot learn to stand on his own. This is the seventh and final story secret for now. If you had managed to fulfil your duty in all of the other six secrets, you must die as the guide to those in your audience. If there is one pain all speakers feel, it is the fact that they only have a short time to influence their listeners and then it is over. Heartbreaking statistics do their rounds: Only 12% of an audience are actually listening, the others are worrying, daydreaming, thinking about lunch or, surprise, religion (recorded by Paul Cameron; assistant Professor at Wayne State University). People remember only 10% of what they hear and 20% of what they see (Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience). How do you make the best of the little time you have?

Let us review secrets number 1 to 6:

  1. Paint a picture of the possibility contrasted with the pain of the current reality.
  2. Call on the Hero’s Character This is the chosen one, the one whom the prophesies mention
  3. Demonstrate your magic: by providing a personalised tool
  4. Your secret weapon and the power of 3,5 and 7
  5. Introduce the travelling companions so they know who is in it with them
  6. Reframe the situation with a fresh perspective when the pawpaw hits the fan

Then, when Simba is at his most desperate, he looks into the sky and sees an image of Mufasa calling to him: “Remember who you are.” Gandalf reappears when he is most needed as a white wizard, Dubledore find Harry in a dream-like limbo place to guide him one last time and Obi Wan appears in a flickering of the Force as Luke seeks aid. As speaker, you too can engineer such a re-appearance at the request of the hero in your audience. Five ways to reappear:

  1. Promise them an eBook if they give you their contact details. Time your eBook so that it reaches them within 30 days before they have forgotten you.
  2. Let them sign-up for your news letter. Now you can appear to them every 30 days. Motivate them to sign up by doing a lucky draw on all the sighn-up forms you collected.
  3. Give them a worthwhile gift like a book or CD with some of your wisdom in it. Mind you, course notes don’t work so well because they are too easy to throw away. It is much harder to throw away a book or CD.
  4. Give them a free App to download.
  5. Ask them to tick different boxes for how they want to stay in touch so you can friend them on Facebook, connect with them on Linkedin or give them a personal call, if that is one of the options. People love this one, I have done it and even though they ticked the box that I may call them, they are always surprised when I do.

The trick is, here that they must be able to find you when they look for you. It must be their choice. IF you appear to them in emails or calls without their request or agreement, they may confuse you with the villain of the story. Villains appear when you don’t want them and they are invasive, disrespectful and intrusive. Villains get killed and do not come back from the dead – or if they do, they become super villains or arch enemies… Better to die with grace and reappear as a surprise in a dream than die in disgrace and become a nightmare. Dr. Petro Janse van Vuuren Researcher, Speaker and Coach Need a speaking coach? Contact Petro Interested in a course in facilitation and coaching? Click here Looking for a speaker or storyteller at your event? Contact Petro

Dr. Petro Janse van Vuuren

Researcher, Speaker and Coach

Need a speaking coach? Contact Petro

Interested in a course in facilitation and coaching? Click here

Looking for a speaker or storyteller at your event? Contact Petro

EVENT: Pig Catching Session 1 for 2015

Dear Pig catchers old and new,

We kick of our pig catching sessions this year with a session on Threshold Guardians. We will work metaphorically with our own TG’s just like we did with our pigs in the first session last year (for those who remember). You will work with different people in pairs to explore:

  • What does your TG look like?
  • What prize is he or she guarding?
  • How do you usually interact with him/her?
  • How do you win the battle so that you can claim the prize?
  • How does all this serve your coaching/facilitation practise?

If our sessions from last year is anything to go by, you will leave with a greater sense of understanding, freedom and victory, not to mention techniques that you can use in your own practise.

For those who don’t know what I am on about:

Catch a Flying Pig
Catch a Flying Pig
Pigs in this conversation represent that breakthrough, that elusive insight that we are always chasing while we coach or facilitate. Often the pig is just out of our reach taunting us with that little curly tail. Other times we jump and grab for it, and it slips out of grasp to leave us with a skinned knee lying in the mud. But other times, we grab and hold on, it thrashes and twists, but we maintain our grip and finally subdue it so we can take it home as a pet, or feast on its bacon with our clients as guests of honour.

NOTE: no real pigs get harmed during the course of our work, we play only in the metaphoric sense and all our pigs have wings)

In the session with the pigs I refer to above, we played in pairs exploring the exact nature and character of our individual pigs. Through embodiment and sound we examined how we usually deal with our pigs, how we try to catch them, and we experiment with different ways of catching – ways that can bring about different results from what we are used to.

All our pig catching sessions are geared to learning new techniques for helping our clients to insight, break through and sustainable transformation. More specifically, we look at using methods and techniques from the performing arts. We have found that this is an untapped world of wealth where metaphoric work, embodied experiences and group imagination can bring about powerful transformations.


Date: Fri 20 Feb
Time: 7 am to 9:30 am
Place: 305 Long Avenue, Ferndale.
Cost: R200 or R150 if you are still in the first year after attending the Playing Mantis Essentials Master Course in Coaching and Facilitation.
Coffee, tea, muffins and fresh fruit on arrival.

More on Threshold Guardians

You know when you really, really, REALLY want to do something, but something in you won’t let you? It tells you that you can’t, that you will make a mess of it, again, that others are already doing it, or that everyone else can do it better than you, so why try? It is the giant that guards the treasure castle of the evil wizard, the three-headed dog that protects the philosopher’s stone and the dragon that watches over the princess. He, or she, is not the villain, but the threshold guardian placed there to scare you away.

When you coach or facilitate, your participants or coachee are also facing their own threshold guardians, and the scary thing is, that until they are conquered, neither you nor your client can get to the prize.

The heartening fact is, that in the many tests and trials the hero faces on his journey, the battle with the threshold guardian is always won. There may be other defeats, but usually not the fight with this kind of resistance – except of course when you deal with a tragic hero, but we are not in business for those guys. Othello, Oedipus Rex and Macbeth stubbornly hung on to their fundamental weakness and would not let it go. They do not make good clients. We work with the Harry Potters, the Shreks and the Brave Hearts. These guys can win and so can you.

Click here if you want to attend

Story Secrets for Speakers #6 – When the world is against me


You painted a picture of the possibility (Secret #1).  Then you lead your audience past their doubts and reservations about their own suitability (Secret #2), whether or not they can trust you (Secret #3), the practicality of the solution (Secret #4) and the people that would be on the journey with them (Secret #5). Nowthey look at their context and go: “Great plan, but life just doesn’t work that way”.  They look at their reality and say: “What if the solution or the people having to implement it fail?” I call this cosmic resistance.

Cosmic resistance is what happens when everything is lined up to go and your budget is cut, or a key player gets sick and unable to continue, or the equipment simply fails. Through no fault of yours, or the people trying to make the difference, it just fails. What then?

In stories this is that devastating moment where all seems lost. This is when Andy Dufresne, in Shawshank Redemption learns that his eye witness was murdered by the prison warden, when Brave Heart is betrayed by one of his own, when, in The Great Escape, the fleeing prisoners discover that their tunnel is a few feet short of the cover of the trees.

In situations like these stories provide only one response: Reframe.

Here are 3 story tools to help your audience of participants reframe their situation:

 1. Humour

The Blonde goes to the doctor complaining of aches all over her body. “Where does it hurt?” The doctor asks. Pointing to her left shoulder, then her nose and then her right calf she answers: “Here and here and here”. The doctor takes her hand gently examining it and says “My dear, your finger is broken.”

This is a reframe.

Humour is fantastic for helping your audience reframe their situation and see it in a fresh light. The right story at the right time can break cosmic resistance.

2. A true story

My husband hates it when the local minibus taxis stop directly after a traffic light it really gets him angry.  Taxis all across South Africa do this driving the other motorists insane causing hoots and honks at every intersection. The are the fiends of the roads.

Then I move to Johannesburg – the big scary crime ridden city fill of bad guys. As usual I am reliant on public transport because of my bad eyesight, and I need to make use of taxi’s. Can I make peace with having to drive with a fiend behind a wheel?

I get into my first taxi and as he pulls into the road he does it with gusto exactly in the fashion that most irritates my husband. “What is he doing? Can’t he use his eyes??” I can almost hear him saying.  Behind my taxi a 4 X 4 family van swerves out of the way and honks loudly. The taxi driver honks back, leans over to me and says: “It must be a friend”.

Fiend or friend, it is all a matter of perspective, and choice of attitude. What a beautiful reframe and one I have used many times to break through cosmic resistance.

3. An interactive exercise

Yet, as I have mentioned before, it is really only when the audience can apply what you offer to their own individual life stories that break through is really possible. The following is a story structure to help your audience do this. It comes from the world of Applied Improvisation.

Step 1. Reflect on an issue in your personal or professional life that you would really like to change. Complete the following sentence:

Concerning this issue, I really want  … (fill in what it is that you want to see happen).

But… (list one to 3 things that are in the way of you achieving this outcome – things that are blocking or frustrating your efforts).

Step 2. Cross out the ‘But’ and replace it with the word ‘and’. Now the obstacles become mere conditions for the solution, they are no longer blocks.

Step 3. Complete a final sentence:

So what if … (what alternatives can you think of that accepts the conditions for the solution.)

Anexample from a workshop participant:

As the event co-ordinator of a large networking evening, I really want my guests to feel at home and set the scene for a wonderful event. I also want to enjoy the event myself.

But  AND I am not a good speaker, my hands shake and I am afraid I will forget important information. I stress so much that the whole evening is a blur usually.

So what if I rehearse a short welcoming speech to set the scene and then get an MC to co-ordinate the rest of the event, so I can sit back and enjoy it.

When all is lost, it is time for a reframe. A story that beautifully illustrates this reframe is the recent Lego movie. All seems lost when Emmet, the main character fall into the void, the abyss. His friends believe he is dead and their cause seems lost. In fact, Emmet simply falls off the table where the humans build their lego models. He is picked up by the boy playing there and from this big picture perspective Emmet’s entire world is reframed. With this insight he returns to save the day.

Humour, stories and interactive exercises all help your audience to reframe their failures and see them from a fresh angle braking through cosmic resistance. Now there is just one more thing left to do…die. Read more in the final of the series: Story Secret 7.

Dr. Petro Janse van Vuuren

Researcher, Speaker and Coach

Need a speaking coach? Contact Petro

Interested in a course in facilitation and coaching? Click here

Looking for a speaker or storyteller at your event? Contact Petro




Cosmic resistance – When the world is against me

Emmet from the Lego movieYou have lead your audience past four types of resistance: 1. their doubts and reservations about their own suitability (Personal resistance), whether or not they can trust you (Relational resistance), the practicality of the solution (Practical resistance) and the people that would be on the journey with them (Social resistance). Now they look at their context and go: “Great plan, but life just doesn’t work that way”.  They look at their reality and say: “What if the solution or the people having to implement it fail?” I call this cosmic resistance.

Cosmic resistance is what happens when everything is lined up to go and your budget is cut, or a key player gets sick and unable to continue, or the equipment simply fails. Through no fault of yours, or the people trying to make the difference, it just fails. What then?

Read more and find out  how the Lego movie helps answer the question…

Easing past social resistance when facilitating

Do I fit in?

EeyoreEvery coaching client or participant wants to know:  am I alone in this? Many times somewhere in a coaching session a client would ask something like: “Is it just me who have these issues?” or “I sometimes wonder of my situation is more messed up than other people’s”. Just yesterday one asked me: “Do other women also struggle with the fact that their male colleagues are allowed to rant and rave and get all emotional, but as women they get patronised when they get upset?”.

In facilitations, it is often feedback like: “we discovered that our problems are very similar” or “i am so glad I am not alone in this”, that helps the facilitator know that social resistance is breaking down. Yet, this is not one you can give a single blow and be done with, it can take some people a long time to feel part of a group. This type of resistance must be gently worked on throughout a coaching session or a facilitation.

In the Lord of the Rings Frodo has learned that he is chosen (breaking through personal resistance) he has learned that he can trust Gandalf  (relational resistance) and he has heard the plan (practical resistance). Now he trembles as he almost accepts his duty…”So I must go to Mordor and deliver this ring into the fires that created it. And I must go alone…” But Gandalf surprises him. The wizard gets up, opens the door and brings in Samwise who had been eavesdropping the entire time. Neither Samwise nor Frodo can believe their good fortune when Gandalf informs them that Samwise must accompany Frodo. Sam is thrilled because of the promise of adventure, Frodo is thrilled because he would not be alone.

Samwise becomes Frodo’s loyal companion and it is thanks to him that Frodo finally manages to achieve the objective. We all need loyal support when we accept a new idea, try out a new habit or open up to a new perspective. But there are other social forces too that are needed to make sure we succeed and we must work on all of them throughout a process. I will share six of them with you here. Note that they work together in pairs.

Read more on the Playing Mantis blog andfind out what Eeyore has to do with it.

Overcoming Practical resistance: What’s the plan?

The tool, the plan, the rules

Neo and his mentor from the MatrixEvery facilitator or speaker faces resistance. If you have done a good job of Painting a Picture of the Possibility , (Introduction), you can expect at least 5 types of resistance: personal, relational, practical, social and cosmic. Here we focus on the third kind: practical, also called contextual, resistance.

Apart from the personal and moral objections of that comes with the first kind of resistance and the doubts they may have about you as the mentor, the second kind, there is a very real practical resistance. How will I do what you ask? What are the steps \ the plan?  Can I see the path and see myself walking it?

Whatever your solution is: 3 steps to losing weight, 5 types of resistance and how to overcome them or 7 principles of effective leadership, your audience needs to know it will work for them.

Like Aslan in the Narnia series, Dumbledore for Harry Potter and Griet for Liewe Heksie, the guide in the hero’s story do three things to guide the hero so he or she can see the way forward… Read the reston the Playing Mantis blog and find out what Neo from The Matrix has to do with it.

Need a speaking coach? Contact Petro

Interested in a course in facilitation and coaching? Click here

Looking for a speaker or storyteller at your event? Contact Petro

Breaking through Personal Resistance


Call on the hero’s Character

Once the audience catches on to a new idea, a new way of viewing a problem reframed as a possibility (Introduction), they must be enrolled as the heroes who can make that possibility happen.

As soon as your audience starts dreaming about new possibilities their status quo is threatened. This automatically leads to at least five kinds of resistance. The first kind is personal resistance. You can also call it moral objection. Your audience is asking: Why me? How is this relevant to me?

The most effective strategy to overcome this kind of resistance is… read the rest on the Playing Mantis blog and find out what The Lord of the Rings had to do with it.

How to have a great chemistry session with a new coaching client

A Case study

When a new client really loves me, it makes me sweat, my teeth chatter and I very nearly wet my pants. I had a really great chemistry session this week with a new potential client. It terrified me

The background

This client is the HR Exec of a small but lucrative company in the insurance business. When she had been in the position for a short time, her boss told her in a feedback session that she should consider voice coaching. He thinks she can do with a stronger and more commanding presence and gave her a number for a coach that might help her. She did not want that coach, so she kept putting it off.

Then she saw a presentation of mine at an Organisation Development Conference and loved the energy I created. “This woman can help me”, she thought and immediately bought my book, Grow your Voice to Speak with Confidence, which was for sale at the conference, and emailed me for an appointment.

The appointment

Now we were having our chemistry session on the phone. We wanted to do it face to face, but there were labour issues at her company, so she could not leave the office. We wanted to skype, but we kept having breaks in our network signal, so she called on the company phone and we had our session on the phone. The fact that she did not cancel at any of these obstacles told me something of her commitment, so I wanted to know wherein the commitment lay.

After she told me her story, I asked: “What was it about the other coach that you did not like?”

“Oh, I don’t know, I never talked to him. There was just something in the way. I never made that first phone call.”

“ OK, I say, “What makes this different?”

“It was your talk, I really liked your energy and approach. I have to click with someone and trust them.”

“Thank you, I appreciate you saying that. What do you trust me to do?”

“I think you can tell me exactly what I need to work on and how to fix it.”

And that is where the terror hits me.

Immediately I am thinking: So, she was impressed with my ‘magic’ and she thinks I am going to wave a wand and fix her. Her commitment is to me, not to herself. This does not bode well.

“How do you think that will work?” I ask. She picks up on my fears: “Oh, I know I will have to put in the effort and do the work. I realise there is hard work involved, but I trust you to know what is wrong and help me fix it.”

My terror increases.

Now I am going to be held responsible when things go wrong. I begin to sweat.

“I have a feeling you already know what is wrong and what you need to do to fix it. Can we explore this possibility?”, I ask cautiously, clutching at straws. There is silence on the other end. My mouth is dry.

“You said earlier that breathing might be playing a role, but you don’t know.” I venture,  “And you have read my book and heard me talk about the importance of breathing for confident speaking. This may or may not be your issue and may or may not be a solution for you. You want me to tell you yes, it is one of your biggest problems, and here is how you fix it?”

“Can you?”

“I don’t know, “ I confess, “There is a story here that says: “Breathing is important for confident speaking. The question is, how does this ‘best practise’ story relate to your own personal issues or story regarding speaking? So, let’s find out. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in the kind of situation you described earlier where you typically lose your confidence. You mentioned speaking to large groups of strangers as being the worst kind of audience for you. There they are in front of you and you have to ‘be present and commanding’. You hear the boss’s expectation in your head, you look at the people. Now, what is your breathing doing?”

“It is fast and weak”.

“How do you want tit to be?”

“Deep and calm.”

“Can you deepen the breath now?”


“Can you slow it down?”


“Ok, you can try counting too. See if that works for you. Breathe in for four counts and out for four. Counting takes your brain out of the limbic system that makes you panic and into the rational part of your brain.” I give her a few moments and then ask: “How do you feel now?”

“Much calmer. Much more confident.”

“So, Is breathing an issue for you?”


“How do you fix it?”

“Oh breathe more deeply and slowly. I’ll have to play with the idea of counting, it is new to me”

“If it does not work for you, drop it. Did you know, ” I go on, “that some people’s breath stops altogether? Others report that their breathing comes out it big heavy sighs. Not all go fast and weak like yours.”


“Each person’s story is unique. Tell me, can you use what you discovered now in your real life story  the next time you speak?”


“So, we have just had a rehearsal for your own future. How does that feel?”

“Great, empowering.”

“Who decided what the problem was?”

“I did.”

“Who decided how it should be fixed?”

“I did.”

“So, can we keep on working this way?”

“Sure, but it will be hard work.”

“For whom?”

“For me”

“You’re right, but then, you knew that coming into this. You said you knew you would have to work hard.”

“So I did.” I hear a smile in her tone, “ Send me the coaching engagement letter. I’m ready.”

I sigh a deep sigh of relief.

This is going to be a walk in the park for me. The commitment is now in the right place. My client has committed to doing the work. That means she is also taking the responsibility and ownership. I am off the hook and she is in for real success.