I am sure you recognize the title of this post as one of the most famous lines of Shakespeare. “But what does this have to do with IMD MBA”, you might wonder. If anything, you might expect a business school to have very little to do with acting or theatre, let alone the Great Shakespeare. Up until today I thought the same, but everything changed when I entered the class this morning and was greeted by the presence of this unassuming gentleman. At first sight there wasn’t anything particularly remarkable about him. If anything he was calm, quiet and in no way tried to assert his presence. The class was titled “Communications” and so I settled in my chair waiting for him to introduce himself as a speaking skills coach or so.
“Hi, I am Richard and I am a theatre actor”. “A what?” I couldn’t help but exclaim. I wasnt sure if my ears were ringing and so I looked at Carlos my neighbour, and he confirmed what I had heard. Incredulous as I was, I kept waiting for Richard to give his real introduction but it didn’t take Richard long to demonstrate that not only was he a theatre actor but a fine one at that.
Yes this was happening – I was going to learn about communicating from a theatre actor here at IMD Business School. If ever I had run out of reasons to congratulate myself on joining IMD then here were 100 of those packaged nicely in one session.
As the day zipped by, it dawned on me that indeed who better to learn the art of communication from, than an actor. Actors are pursuasive, convincing, credible and moving- what else does great communication look like? Actors transfer us into a parallel reality and show us what they see and make us feel how they feel- how else should great leaders share their vision?
Sometimes the obvious is not so obvious and what should feel like a natural connection seems a bit misplaced in the beginning – like a theatre actor running an MBA class.
Richard conducted the class of 90 like a master conductor. His orchestra hit all the notes – in one moment he had us reflecting deeply on a thought and in the other he made us burst into peels of laughter. Here we were watching our classmates go from inhibited, shy speakers to confident, pursuasive communicators in a matter of minutes and there we were bustling with energy to go onto the stage ourselves. What he taught us were not merely tricks but deep rooted principles. For instance I learnt that in most communications a lot is being said but not a lot is being heard. I learnt how to make the stage my own but be there to serve the audience. I learnt how to capture people’s imagination before I pursue them with logic.
Like a master, he appealed to the best in us, helped us discover our confidence and elevated us to the next level. He made us feel like leaders and gave us a profound message – one that resonated with Shakespeare some 500 years ago – “All the world’s a stage”.
What an apt message from someone who loves the stage to those who aspire to make a difference on the world stage!
Thank you Richard!