Incentive Magazine | Change of Scene

By Jeanie Casison

The year is 1415. You are Henry V, the newly crowned king of England, leading a diminutive army against the French. Your soldiers are malnourished and fatigued. Tomorrow, you expect them to conquer France, whose militia outnumbers your force five-to-one. Despite the obstacles, you must convince the troops that they actually have a chance to win the Battle of Agincourt. So you make an attempt at your first motivational speech which, according to William Shakespeare, ended with these famous lines:

"And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's Day."

Never in your wildest dreams would you imagine that more than 500 years later, your story, via the writings of the Bard, would be the source of inspiration for the executives of Lockheed Martin, a Bethesda, MD.-based aerospace engineering company.

The year is 2000. In the meeting room of the Marriott Suites Bethesda, 22 participants of the Lockheed Martin Leadership Institute are waiting to learn how the stories of Shakespeare are relevant to their own organization.

Standing before them are Carol and Ken Adelman, founders of the Arlington, VA.-based executive training company Movers and Shakespeares. Building on the material presented the evening before, Ken attempts to highlight the motivating merits of the pivotal Henry V speech.

"The St. Crispin's Day speech is an excellent example of how communication can motivate a group to embrace the vision of the organization. It is a projection of how the foot soldiers will look back on the battle as the greatest day of their lives," Ken Adelman tells the seminar attendees.

Soon, members of the Lockheed group are "on stage" themselves, dressed in period costume. Embracing the words of Shakespeare, they act out scenes from the talented scribe's greatest works. They explore, through performance, the relation between the wisdom of classical literature and the demands of the modern marketplace.

Straying from the classic didactic lecture, the Adelmans incorporate fun into the training process through the use of video clips, role playing and dramatic readings. More and more companies, from aerospace engineering firms to trade associations, are turning to inventive experiential modes of training similar to the Adelmans' creation. According to its founders, these innovative methods expose employees to a learning approach they are more likely to remember.

Role reversal
Diverse methods of training are evolving to meet the needs of corporations in search of new ways to increase employee performance and productivity. "Companies are always looking for the next big thing," says Robert Reiss, recent president of the American Society for Training and Development's (ASTD) New York chapter.

"In working with about 25 CEOs, I've learned that a major component of a CEO's function is isolating that next thing," he says. "For many years, academia was the source of that information. Now, the frontier is the world. Linking a program strategy to the exact element in the world that best demonstrates a concept, which of course is the core of inventive training, opens the door to a plethora of corporate solutions."

In order for any training program to be effective, it must link directly to one's corporate strategy. "When I look for a training facilitator, I look for someone who has information of value to our leadership. Their program has to be interesting, challenging and thought provoking," says Harold Manger, Ph.D., manager, Lockheed Martin Institutes. "In the last 18 years I have seen trainers place more emphasis on risk taking and experiential learning."

But there is an element of risk in experiential learning-that is the initial resistance some attendees may have to a new way of learning. One member of the Lockheed Martin audience was not exactly sure how the themes of Shakespeare would correspond to leadership. "Initially, I had reservations. I didn't know how the stories of Shakespeare would be productive or constructive," says Art Morrissey, vice president of business development for Lockheed Martin.

Morrissey not only found a new appreciation for Shakespeare, but he, along with two other Lockheed Martin executives, Linda Strine Shahan and Gary Brown, graciously volunteered to adapt a dramatis personae in front of their colleagues. Donning a king's crown and royal purple robe, Morrissey provided a witty Shakespearean spin to the modern-day concept of risk taking in mergers and acquisitions. Citing Pericles with fervor, Morrissey announced: "The great ones eat up the little ones."

"The experience put Shakespeare in whole new light for me. I could certainly link the communications example of Henry V to my own business experience. Effectively being able to present a point of view in a very inclusive discussion has attractive dimensions," says Morrissey. "Sometimes training can be stilted. But the Movers and Shakespeares session was filled with humor. I think humor is always a successful mechanism in learning and training," he says.

The dramatic themes of Shakespeare continue to resonate in the modern environment of business. Hostile takeovers have evolved in the form of mergers and acquisitions. Employees, like foot soldiers, must hone their skills to keep up with the competition. Henry V's motivational St. Crispin's Day speech exists in the modern form of a corporate mission statement.

"Corporate leaders understand that probing into human nature is what makes business succeed, more than technical or even economical skills. Any business can buy factories, the newest technology or office buildings, but understanding human nature is what makes a business successful. No one provides better case studies on human nature than William Shakespeare," says Ken Adelman.

The Movers and Shakespeares session was one component of the week-long Lockheed Martin Leadership Institute. The main objectives included giving participants a strategic overview of the corporation, refreshing basic leadership skills and exposing them to new concepts. "Segments on communication during the week dovetailed very nicely with the material covered by the Adelmans," says Manger.

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