TD Magazine | Carol and Ken Adelman

"To many people-even the well-educated-the plays of William Shakespeare are dense and obtuse, which would seem to make them an odd choice as business-topic teaching tools. But buried in the complex stories and challenging language of the Bard are potent lessons on leadership, crisis management, ethics, diversity, and other key business issues, say Carol and Ken Adelman.

Ken, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and U.S. arms control director for President Reagan, and Carol, who headed major overseas programs for the U.S. Agency for International Development, have channeled their love of Shakespeare and an understanding of complex organizations to create Movers & Shakespeares. Through their executive training company, the Adelmans bring business lessons to life-often with participants donning capes and crowns-for large and small audiences.

Timeless Lessons
"Enduring, timeless lessons come from Shakespeare," says Carol Adelman, the company president. "Shakespeare had the greatest insights into people. And to be a good manager, leader, or director, you have to understand people. You must know how to rally them around you and how to bring out the best in them."

Whether it's the famous St. Crispin's Day speech from "Henry V" (leadership) or admonitions from Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice" (diversity), the Adelmans have a scene from Shakespeare that speaks to key business challenges.

In front of groups from organizations as diverse as Northrop Grumman, the American Red Cross, and The U.S. Air Force, the Adelmans create an interactive environment that's customized to meet the learning need of the client. "We break down Shakespeare into bite-sized pieces," explains Ken Adelman. "The apprehension of a chief learning officer often is,'Oh my gosh, none of my people are going to understand this.'"

But at some point, usually about 20 minutes into the session, the participants become accustomed to the words and they begin to get it. "The confidence of the participants grows when they realize that they have just finished a scene on strategic decision making, and they actually understood what was incomprehensible to them before," explains Carol Adelman.

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