Earlier this year, Alex Kapila, an Actor/Facilitator with RPfT, travelled to Zug in Switzerland, to help deliver a Leadership Programme. This involved practice sessions for a team of people managers, across different areas of the company. The sessions focussed on how to have difficult conversations with team members.
This often begins with suggestions on how to prepare and finding a good beginning point, as well as looking at how to handle possible emotional responses and how to close. Through drama-based simulation participants are able to practice in a safe environment and are offered immediate and practical feedback that includes pointers on how to adjust their style based on the behaviours and personality types they may be faced with.
I felt like I’d wandered into a fairytale when I first arrived in Zug. With its cobbled streets, beautiful views across Lake Zug and striking historic buildings, including the 13th century Zytturm Clock Tower, you might very well wonder if you’d travelled back in time, or onto a film set. As I spent my evening walking around the town, I soon realised that this was, of course, a real place in 2023, where people work and live, and was soon appreciating how sympathetically the town had combined the needs and amenities of modern living with its historic heritage.
I hadn’t been to Switzerland before or worked with a Swiss team. Would it be very different from working with teams in the UK, and if so, how? Well, I learnt that unlike the British, the Swiss don’t tend to talk about the weather – there’s no need to! Like Swiss public transport, their seasons seem to run like clockwork. So, some stereotypes are true! But there was so much more that we did have in common, and that became clear as we started the skills session.
We practiced a couple of scenarios where a manager had to raise, or respond to, a difficult issue with a member of their team. I loved the way in which the participants worked together. They supported and encouraged each other by giving positive and constructive feedback and sharing their own ideas and experiences. This was particularly valuable in this session, as the participants had very different personality types, which led to a fascinating discussion about the positives and pitfalls of being more introverted/extroverted, and direct/reflective.
As I headed back to Zurich station that evening, I thought about the value of having diverse personality types in a skills practice session. It really does open your perspective and increase your knowledge. Communication isn’t one size fits all. We all need a box containing a variety of communication tools to talk with different people and navigate the various situations that we encounter, no matter where we live. The best thing was, that I left the session knowing that it wasn’t the end of the conversation. From their enthusiasm, I knew the participants would continue to talk and work together to keep adding to their communication tool boxes, and I’d learned a few new ideas from them too!
My visit to Switzerland was all too short, and I would love to go back again and see more of this beautiful country. It truly is picturesque, and it’s the sort of place where you can just walk around without an itinerary and know that you’ll experience wonderful views and architecture. As I touched down at a blustery Birmingham airport, I realised, in fact, that I must go back – I didn’t eat any chocolate! And going to Switzerland and not eating chocolate is like coming to England and not being rained on – it must be done or you haven’t truly been there… See you again soon Zug!