What is the difference between authentic leadership and the regular kind?

Join me and other coaches and facilitators as we discuss this and other questions at the


With distinguished guest Dr. Mark Rittenberg

Presented bu Drama for Life at Wits University

 Opening workshop:

Discover your Authentic Leadership through a unique combination of Communication, Coaching and Leadership. Most leaders have learned the essential analytical tools, however few are skilled at motivating, inspiring, and developing employees as a way to unleash their potential and to maximize their performance.

This three hour interactive workshop utilizes powerful theater techniques and cultural anthropology to acquire public speaking, communication and coaching skills. Learn how to engage in effective interpersonal exchanges, develop presenting and communication skills that make a powerful impression on your audience, and forge more productive relationships with co-workers.

Dr Mark Rittenberg, Professor of Leadership Communications, Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, and his team create an interactive environment that challenges and trains participants to hone their leadership skills to create a high performance team.

 Provocations and conversations:

We invite delegates to present a 7 min provocation for conversation around the theme of leadership, business and the arts. The intention is to continue an interdisciplinary conversation that challenges current constructs around the relationship between business and the arts and to explore new possibilities, metaphors and language for how arts, particularly the applied arts,  and business can serve each other.

 Date:     18 March 2016


9:30-10:00Tea/coffee and registration

10:00-13:00 workshop

13:00-13:30  Q and A over lunch

14:00-16:00 Provocations and conversations.

Investment: R250

Venue: 17th floor University corner building

Dress: Comfortable clothes you can stretch and move in

RSVP: by  Mon 14 March to petro.jansevanvuuren@wits.ac.za

Please indicate in your email if you would like to present a 7 min provocation. A provocation should present a dilemma, a quandary or a question for discussion around the theme of leadership, business and the arts. The programme makes room for 5 provocations.

 About Mark Rittenberg

For over twenty years, Dr. Mark Rittenberg has helped organizations create communities of excellence among their people and empowered individuals to become true leaders with the ability to actualize a vision — all through the power of communication. Dr. Rittenberg believes that important personal, social, and business problems can be effectively addressed using the Active Communicating methodology he developed — which draws upon the actor’s discipline of engaging, creative and effective communication.

Dr. Rittenberg’s experience extends around the globe, across cultures and across industries. In Israel in the 1970’s and 1980’s, he was able to use theatrical activities to build cultural bridges and develop mutual respect among the Israeli and Palestinian students in his workshops. In South Africa, he served as Professor of Education specializing in teacher training workshops in arts based education as an interventionist working with at-risk youths in disadvantaged situations. Based upon this work, Dr. Rittenberg was awarded the J. William Fulbright Senior Scholar Award and traveled to post-apartheid South Africa in an attempt to rebuild the self esteem and confidence that had been shattered in Black communities during years of segregation. In 1999, he was asked to return to Israel and apply his cultural conflict resolution experience in Middle East peace initiatives with the Young Leaders Network. Dr. Rittenberg served as both a mediator and communication specialist for the UNESCO Middle East Peace Process forum. He worked with leaders from Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Egypt on peaceful solutions to the Middle East conflict. Rittenberg led a special interest group symposium on arts- based programs for disadvantaged youth for use in community centers in the four countries.

Dr. Rittenberg is on the business and leadership communications faculty at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business where he was awarded the The Earl F. Cheit Award For Excellence In Teaching . Additionally he currently teaches expressive communication and presentation in Executive Education Programs at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley, the University of San Francisco, the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, and the Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Rittenberg holds a Doctorate in International and Multicultural Education from the University of San Francisco. He also holds a Masters of Arts Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies in Education from San Francisco State and a Bachelor of Arts degree from University of California at Berkeley where he double majored in Education and Social Welfare.


Pig Catching on 4 Dec: Moving people part 2


Topic:    Moving People

Date:     4 December 2015

Time:    7am for 7:15 to 10am Pig Catching

10:30-12:30 Research conversation (for all who are  interested in Strategic Narrative Embodiment)

NOTE: We will start at 7:15 sharp to make the most of our time.

Facilitator: Hamish Neill (from Drama for Life)

Cost: R250 (Includes a write-up of the session)

Venue: 305 Long Ave Ferndale

Dress: Comfortable clothes you can stretch and move in

Coffee, tea, muffins and fruit on arrival.

RSVP: by 1 December.

More on the topic:

What is this shift in leadership and Organisation Development that everyone is talking about?

Some call it a change from Command and Control to Sensing and Responding

Others say it is Autocratic to Participative Leadership

Some try to explain it by using metaphors for the kinds of Organisations we want e.g. no more machine like organisations, rather organic ones, or ones that work like the human brain. Still others say an organisation should be looked at as  a work of art…

There are also those that talk of a Vision and Values based culture versus a virtuoso culture, or a profit focussed organisation versus one that aims for a triple bottom line i.e. people planet and profit.

Whatever the shift is that our new changing world is asking for, we are the ones that support the transformation.

In this session, we will continue our foray into the symbols, metaphors and images that make up our understanding of this shift with Hamish from Dram for Life. In doing so you will also get insight into the tool called Image Theatre as a means for extracting and eliciting stories from participants.

Read my reflections on our previous session here: Can Image Theatre help us change organisational life in South Africa?

About Pig Catching:

Pig catching is what coaches and facilitators do when we chase the moment of insight that brings shift and transformation in our clients.

Please note: No pigs get harmed, our pigs are purely metaphorical and they have wings.

Bring your curiosity, your open minds and your questions.

Join us on Friday if you dare…

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

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

A case study of Story-Strategy in action: Customer Service Training

The Beginning

Here is a real life example of how we structured the beginning of a Customer Service Training workshop. The customer service training was part of a change intervention of a large-scale South African wine farm providing a variety of tourism and hospitality services. The intervention was planned as consisting of training in three half-day modules: (1) customer service training, (2) knowledge training and (3) sales training. By the end of the planning stage all three modules were integrated into a single Story-Strategy, even though we were only responcible for the customer service section of the training. Here I will sketch how we outlined the beginning part of the training.

Story Strategy was chosen as a methodology to underpin the  design of the workshop so that participants could journey from customer conflict to customer connection, from seeing the contradictions between themselves and their customers to seeing themselves as partners to their customers.

The first stages of Story-Strategy is especially focussed on captivating Attention by drawing participants into the ‘story in the room’. In our case serving customers. A story does that in three specific stages:

1. Sketching a picture of the current reality (Once upon a time there was someone in a certain fix)

2. Issuing a Call to Adventure  (then one day something unusual happened)

3. Making room for debate and doubts (But there are obstacles and questions)

What we have illustrated, though, is that  there are two cycles of these steps because there is a ‘double journey’ at stake. First people must be drawn from outside the room to inside: not just physically, but also with their attention and emotion. Secondly, once willing to be ‘here’ they must be drawn from their current understanding of the issue in the room (customer service) to a new understanding.

At Spier Wine Farm we did it as follows:

1.  We did a presenceing exercise to help people bring their attention inside the room –a pair discussion relating to what is in the front of their minds right now? (current reality)

We also organised that the knowledge segment of the training precede the customer service section. This meant  that staff members had a heightened understanding of their current reality i.e. the Wine Farm they work for. This took the form of a knowledge quest where they were taken on a tour through the entire farm and given information by various managers on all the features and offerings.

Our presencing question was therefore:  What about the knowledge quest is in the forefront of your mind right now?

2. Next we explain how the training will work and in what way it will be unusual and different from other trainings. We also give the programme for the day. (Call to Adventure)

3.  Finally, we allow  a conversation about doubts and reservations along with easy first exercises to build confidence (Debate and doubts))

The ‘easy’ exercises consist mostly of continuum, not related to customer service, though. Rather these continuums relate to who you are and how you fit into the group e.g. Who traveled the furthest to get here vs. who traveled the shortest distance and everything in between. When is your birthday?Arrange yourselves from Jan to Dec. etc. These bring an immediate illustration of what we mean by participation, as well as help people to relate to each other.This is because to succeed, people must move their bodies and talk to each other.

Now they are present and attentive to the training space. Next we repeat the cycle with the customer service story:

1. We have  them introduce themselves and share: What are your current customer service challenges? (current reality) This was especially important for us because the staff were from many different departments in the company and needed to connect with one another on what they share and how their experiences differ. They also needed to introduce themselves to ehlp with relatedness.

Building on this we explore the consequences of bad service to customers, the organisation, staff and their families and the wider South Africa. This is done through theatrical tableaux where participants show scenes from lived experiences using their bodies to build statues. (Click here for more detail on the exercise.)

2. To help create the gap between this painful picture and new possibilities, we let them share in pairs stories of success where they had experienced delivering good service in the past and they list the skills they employed to achieve the success. We then ask: How would you like to repeat this success more often? (Call to adventure)

3. We do an example exercise to illustrate how we intend to teach these sckills and have them reflect on its workability. (Debate and doubt) We repeat this for every exercise that introduces a new idea even as we ease into the actual body, or journey of the workshop.

Watch this space for a continuation of this case study.

Exercises for overcoming resistance in your audience

A Couple of weeks ago I was MC at the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa’s Chapter meeting in Johannesburg. There were two speaking slots lined up.

The first speaker was knowledgeable and interactive, but was missing the mark with the audience. While certain individuals seemed to gain from it the overall feeling was of frustration and disappointment.

How did I know this? Because I know the value of voiced experience, I also asked for direct feedback during the tea break.

I knew that these feelings will cloud their experience of the second session and probably of the association in general. So, as the break ended and people settled back into the room (some displaying obvious body language of scepticism), I asked them to tear off a page from their note books and evaluate the speaker the just presented. They could write comments and make suggestions if they choose and it can be anonymous.

I also asked them to volunteer as speakers for future meetings on a separate piece of paper.

At the end of the second session (which was received far more positively) I asked them to comment on their experience of the evening with one word.

Among comments relating to the content of the second session, there were also comments like: I experienced ‘community’. ‘validation’ and ‘see you again’. Overall ratings showed that the meeting was a success in spite of the first speaker missing the mark.

Poles and pie charts

Allowing the audience to evaluate their experience using a pole or simple 5 point scale is a very effective way to let them voice mixed feelings. If you can make the pole or survey public, it  is even more effective. This is because the individual can immediately see where his or her experience fits in with everyone else’s. It is always useful: those who are in the majority feel validated, and thos in the minority can see their experience is different from the others which helps to relativise it. This is only true, of course, if the feedback is anonymous, else people feel put on the spot – this can hurt your message greatly.

But you do not necessary have to poll obvious positives or negatives. It is just as interesting and perhaps more fun to poll things that are neutral and related to your topic: : how many hours do you spend on social media, How many meetings do you attend in one week? Whatever you poll, it is always important to let people comment on where they place themselves, should they choose to. This brings out interesting mixed  feeling responses healthy for the audience and filled with things you can build your message on.

There are a number of great apps that allow people to poll there and then using their cell-phones. An experiential method is to let people create a physical continuum in the room by drawing a line through the centre of the room and asking people to stand on the continuum where they position themselves. Remember to ask if anyone would like to comment on their position. If the poll is really open ended, this creates much connection and debate.

Community Conversation

Peter Block, writer of Flawless Consulting and Community the Structure of Belonging, writes that one of the essential conversations (there are six of them) is the Dissent conversation about doubts and reservations. He explains that the mere question: What doubts and reservations arise for you around this issue? IS enough to help people overcome their doubts. Just like talking about what things in a consulting relationship may cause distrust can build  trust.

“ If you can’t say no, your yes has no meaning.” Peter Block

Give people a chance to express their doubts and reservations, as a way of clarifying their roles, needs and yearnings within the vision and mission. Genuine commitment begins with doubt, and no is an expression of people finding their space and role in the strategy. Again, this is more effective if you can let them share in small groups or pairs before feeding back to big audience.

An Applied Improvisation  Exercise

A fun and very successful exercise is one we call ‘The Rant’.

Ask participants to pair up and sit in chairs facing each other. Tell them to think of something that really irritates them. Each participant then gets a chance to rant about this frustration for 2 minutes while their partner just listens. Tell them to fill the whole 2 minutes with their ranting. The listener’s task is to listen past the frustration for the underlying value that is really important to the speaker. After the 2 minutes are done the listener responds with the words “I hear you really care about…” The value that the listener listens for must be something positive. For example if the speaker rants about how she hates it when people are late, the listener shouldn’t say “I hear you really care about people not being late”. The right response could be “I hear you really care about respecting someone else’s time”.

For debriefing questions go to http://www.playingmantis.net/the-rant/

Allow people to air their missed feelings about the ideas you propose and you build trust, connection and enthusiasm for your message.

How do I ensure participation when I design a workshop?

How do I ensure participation when I design a workshop?

Claire Pillay  took a deep breath.

My head is spinning. I have to begin before I begin and I have to begin twice because people have to first come into the room and second  into the learning material. With all this beginning, when does the workshop actually start? Won’t I lose the people along the way?

I can see why you get confused, but it is simpler than you think. Tell me how do you usually begin a training programme or conference?

Aside from the room set up and materials etc? Because you said that is part of it.

Yes, those are part of beginning before you begin, we will covered that, but you can go ahead and tell me what you do once the people are in the room.

Well, the convener will welcome them, do a few logistics including an overview of the programme,  and then introduce the speaker. We give a short bio and then the speaker takes over. If I run the workshop myself, I will introduce myself and tell them what to expect from the session before launching into the topic.

That introduction you just described, together with the room set-up and the materials and the ‘begin before you begin’ BBYB exercise that we introduced , forms the first three steps of the Story-Strategy that gets people from their life outside the learning (kids, partners, traffic etc) into the learning space:

1. Sketching a picture of the current reality (Once upon a time there was someone, somewhere in a certain fix).

The most obvious way this is introduced is by giving people name tags that tell each other who they are and often also their companies and job titles. These name tags say: We acknowledge your current reality outside of this learning space. Usually there is tea served before the time so that people can ask each other: who are you and what do you do? Where do you come from and why did you come to this conference or workshop?  Speakers and facilitators usually also make it their business to find out as much as they can about their prospective audience even before the learning event.

Then the  BBYB exercise take this further and say: we acknowledge that you have current opinions about the learning we are presenting.. Your introduction of the speaker then establishes the speaker’s current reality: name and position and back story i.e. what brought them here.

2. Issuing a Call to Adventure that opens up new possibilities   (then one day something unusual happens).

The conference pack or learning material, the room set up and pictures on the walls all have their purpose in the second step of the Story-strategy. They set the scene for something new and unusual, novel and interesting. It captures the brain’s attention and focuses energy. Introducing the speaker and their topic takes this even further opening new possibilities around the subject. Going through the logistics and the agenda for the day helps participants to feel safer  building certainty. This is especially important if you did a BBYB exercise which could have made them a little uneasy because it was unexpected.

If you do use participation or dialogue, it is very important to also let people introduce themselves to each other, this brings in a sense of relatedness and helps people relax into the learning space and each others’ company. You can even combine this with the next step.

3. Making room for debate and doubts (But there are obstacles and questions)

If you really put out an attractive invitation, people will have mixed feelings of both excitement and anxiety. They may even wonder if what you are saying isn’t too good to be true. At this point you may want to ask participants to comment on their experience of the BBYB exercise, the room set-up, the conference pack or the agenda you are proposing.  In this way you acknowledge their mixed feelings.

This step is especially important if you are using participative methods like Applied Improvisation, creative drawing, World Cafe or Community Conversations. We will elaborate on this further in the next post.

Claire smiled  wryly:

We seldom do things risky, so we just ask people if they have any questions about the programme or whatever. Does that count?

Sure that counts, but people who are trapped in mixed emotions will seldom speak up. You need to address the emotions directly, else it blocks further engagement.  However, if you take them through this cycle, you greatly increase the potential for participation and shift.





Examples of exercises for making a strong beginning

Since we now know that the brain really likes it when you begin before you begin:

Here are some practical examples you can use for your workshop, conference or training course:

1. Presencing

Presence is essential when people participate, so a great way to get them from their life outside the room to be present and aware to the story in the room is a simple presencing exercise.  In pairs let them complete the sentence: ‘What I need to say to be fully present is…”. One participant completes the sentence and the other mirrors it back exactly, then they swop. When done ask them to share what was interesting about the exercise.  We often get answers like: ‘Hmmm, I think I am here now” or “ I thought I was the only one still distracted by my life outside”.

This exercise is an Improvsense exercise. Presence and awareness is a key aspect of Applied Improvisation and the ability to be innovative as a group. We use this very effectively even when simply starting any old meeting.

2. Word clouds

If you do not have picture posters like Ross Kidd, simply write key concepts that relate to your material on news print: one concept per page. As people enter the room give them a marker and ask them to write words that they associate with the first word on the page. Let them create word clouds. When finished ask them to discuss what they notice about the words and if they pick up any patterns. This can be shared in pairs first, then fours and then the whole group.

We use this very effectively in management training asking people to create word clouds around the concepts of ‘manage’, ‘supervise’ and ‘lead’. The last time I used this exercise one of the participants remarked: “Look, there does not seem to be a very big difference between managers and supervisors according to our clouds, but look at how different leaders are.” This became a key concept in our two day training which was titled: “How to turn managers and supervisors into extraordinary leaders”. When people discover something for themselves, it is far more effective than when they hear someone telling it to them.

3. Metaphors

In setting up the space before hand, set up 3 to 5 different tables with different kinds of objects on them such as plastic animals, post card size pictures, photo’s of well known public figures, popular song titles or an assortment of kitchen utencils. Make a sign for each table that is clearly visible from the entrance. As people come in ask them to choose a station. Once there they must pick one of the objects from the table that will help them complete the sentence: “As an organisation (replace with leader/team/any other role or entity applicable to your theme) we are like…”

When they have made their selection, they are asked to find three other people in the room (you can set up the chairs in small groups of four) and share with them what they chose and how their organisation (or whatever else fits the theme) is like the object you chose. WE have used this strategy with great effect in OD (organisation Development) interventions.

“Okay, so I begin before I begin, how now do I really begin?Claire asked. And please explain the double journey thing, I still battle to get my head around it.

Read the next post.