Acting Up's CEO Emma Currie discusses her work in 2016 and the exciting new projects in-motion for 2017
Last year got off to a great start with a series of highly energised sessions for Diageo at Cameronbridge in Fife. They were a really tight knit bunch who spent much of their time actually trying to prevent the massive entity that is ‘corporate’ from affecting the great culture that the people at the coal face have created. I had Paul Samson working with me and he’s a bit of a celebrity in Scotland as he was in River City for 12 years, so there was a real buzz about the sessions.
The next wonderful thing that happened was that I was invited to form a team with John Dillon of Ryder Marsh Sharman and Nigel Girling of the Centre for strategic leadership, to develop a road show for XPO. What a HOOT! We went on a ten day tour of XPO Logistic’s sites around the UK and we really got to know loads of amazing people in our quest to build organisational leadership skills. The red shoes monologue was a real hit. I was commissioned to write a new performance for them, called 'The Lift' by their Global Safety Tzar, Ian Broad - a two-hander where the actress playing Gail is stuck in a lift with a cynical supervisor. I was made to feel like a celebrity because our road show had been filmed and shown to 20,000 people at XPO. Apparently at Halloween people were coming dressed as Gail and also a giant red shoe was made in one of the carparks at the ASOS warehouse. Brilliant!
Another real highlight was at the end of the year, running a series with UK Power Networks with Lucy Innes. I love doing series of sessions, where you work closely with the client. You really get to know the company. Building organisational intimacy requires multiple micro interactions and basically we are there giving everyone a chance to speak about their culture in a way that they wouldn’t normally.
Lastly, the Acting Up World E-Learning platform is now ready, making using of our unusual films and stories; we’re looking for channel partners to get this amazing material out there.
I think the main change has been expanding our offering. The sessions are closer to coaching than performance now. The process is designed to bring the workforce into a place where they can have a conversation about their safety culture in a safe space and not be telling tales out of school; I’ve had lots of opportunities to hone it and I have also built the AU team’s competencies, by working closely with Paul Samson and Suzanne Robertson but also by developing the home-team at AU HQ. Initially the marketing side was run by Clare & Emmanuelle. Now they have both moved on and for the last six months we’ve had Matt in charge with Rob working beneath him. Between them that have been working to spread the word about AU.
There’s a great vibe in the office and we work well together. I love Matt’s visual language; it's a wonderful way to portray AU messages on social media and in the newsletter. And Rob, an animation graduate, has animated our new piece developed for P2BS all about sentencing guidelines.
I notice that there is a real philosophy emerging which is to do with listening to the frontline and using that knowledge to create organisational efficiencies. When you consult with the frontline people feel valued, engaged. That’s good for mental wellbeing and for bringing purpose. I’m speaking to my clients about this simple philosophy and encouraging them to take longer running programmes, to keep the organisational intimacy going and improve communications. I am delighted to say that AFI Uplift will be running a two year programme with Acting Up, which begins in April and which involves a roadshow of conversations with their people. 4 sessions per month for the first year followed by a year of e-learning.
I have also been working closely with SSE already this year and hope to remain involved there. We have also been CPD accredited now so we can award Professional Development points. And I am particularly excited to be partnering with Jason Anker’s company P2BS (Proud to be safe). Jason has been hunting for interesting people to collaborate with for a long time now and he’s pulled together a whole array of products an speakers. I am so pleased to be part of that offering. I love working with good people!
Because I have been getting pretty hooked on the simple but effective use of stories to generate great conversations with the frontline, I’m writing a handbook to help site foremen, supervisors and managers run sessions in-house with their teams, using basic story telling and story gathering as the back bone of the type of conversations that will help make good use of the knowledge the workforce have. The book is going to be a really easy quirky read and full of pictures; the sort of book you could read in an hour. Matt is in charge of the visuals and I want it to inspire people who hate running sessions to make them more interesting and engaging. The book is called 'The Philosophy of the Red Shoes’. I will write about why this approach works as well as giving actual session plans and train the trainer tips.
I have felt very present in the work this year. I’m getting good at really listening and hearing the themes emerging in our workshops. I’m inspired by the relevance of the work and I am adding to my philosophy all the time. There are lots of inspiring people working with CEOs and the like, one of which, Keith McCambridge, has filled me with all sorts of ideas for the future. I also find that when I’m invited to deliver a session at a conference, and I stay and listen to the other speakers, I’m gathering new cutting-edge ideas and aligning my own approach to the world’s best thought leaders. I’d love to do some executive coaching but I love that I bring the same chance to develop engagement with the workforce too. It’s that personal input that will change culture and with it, the bottom line.
Thanks for reading!