It’s been about four years since we set up our business change consultancy The Speakers’ Gym.
Back then it was called JC Communicate. I was still an actor and my co-founder Chris Wickenden and I had a handful of clients.
At that stage, all our work was to do with communication and public speaking. But we were always far more interested in what made people tick, rather than what they looked like while 'ticking', if you know what I mean.
Our training and experience as actors working within, culturally, a very different industry has been fundamental to our success so far.
Both to work as an actor and to be an unemployed actor means you have to understand what dedication is.
You have to come to terms with rejection and criticism everyday, cutting through the noise to discover what is constructive and what is often deliberately destructive feedback on your life choices, personally and professionally.
This starts before you even qualify. To simply gain a place at drama school you are one of 6,000 applicants with a year size of 30.
If you are lucky enough (please note I don’t say ‘talented enough’) to gain a place, the odds only get worse after graduation.
Getting jobs is hard and, once you have those jobs, you must perform at the highest level consistently for months on end.
The lessons for success
What does one learn from this experience? You learn the value of community and support, pushing yourself to always improve and being forensic about discovering your blindspots.
But most importantly you learn the value in teamwork and uniting around a common goal or purpose.
You cannot put on a successful production of anything without being in service to something bigger than yourself.
We believe that this kind of leadership and connection to a purpose are the two most important factors to longevity, happiness and success within business.
It improves productivity, employee retention and profitability. Which is great for the business and the board, but also for your people.
They become connected to each other, curious, inspired, and willing to go that extra mile, and they become happier personally and professionally.
When you unlock the latent potential of everyone you work with, it's magic and carries your business to new, exciting destinations.
In the acting world, any actor worth their salt is fascinated in how and why people communicate or don’t communicate.
You learn how to truly listen to everything: the words that are said and unsaid, body language and the sound of the voice.
You learn how to prepare and you learn how to trust. Acting isn’t about showing off. With truly great acting you must be in the moment, which means 100 per cent giving to everyone else. There is no room for ego.
What we've seen
In our work, whether with FTSE 100 firms or start-ups and all those in between, we saw time and time again people not being listened to.
Some people talk too much, and some people don't talk at all. Wherever and whenever we saw this, the productivity of the team suffered and the culture of the team was terrible.
To us this felt like such a waste of potential.
To improve how we do business, we wrote the following philosophy:
Speak, Listen : Act.
Speak because you have a voice, and it should be heard.
Listen because you don’t know everything, and it's worth being curious and humble.
Act meaning be collaborative and aim high.
When a business embraces this philosophy it solves its own problems, in the short and long term.
It encourages and celebrates everyone’s contribution and gives them the space and confidence to unlock their potential.
This, in combination with a leadership that serves and a clearly defined and articulated purpose, changes businesses and changes lives.