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Employees Take Center Stage With Theatre of Commerce

Eigenworks recently had the privilege of taking part in a workshop with Charles McFarland’s Theatre of Commerce - two days of role-play, laughter, and learning to understand ourselves. At Eigenworks we promote win/loss analysis and churn analysis as vital tools for understanding buyers. We use the Buyer-As-Hero™ model to hold richer conversations with buyers and provide deeper insights into buyer journeys. Theatre of Commerce sees the world in a similar way with their 3 Circles of Creativity™ model, namely that heroism and the hero's journey are ideal mechanisms for understanding not only others but also yourself. What came out of the meeting of minds was truly something special - for the first time we realized how Buyer-As-Hero™ can be more than just an abstract way of looking at buyer relationships. By recasting our hero narratives as literal performances and performing them for our colleagues, we gained insights not only into our own processes but also those of our clients. Working with Charles was an enlightening experience and we want to share it with you - it may be just the thing you need to grow your awareness of your business, your clients, and your team.

Employees experience the Theatre of Commerce

The Workshop Begins

Charles, as lead facilitator, together with professional actor David Coomber, cut right to the chase in getting our team to loosen up with a few quick exercises - quite literally. Using stretches and a series of silly, fast-paced games, the team was encouraged to let go of rigidity - to be as flexible in body as we ought to be in mind, and make ourselves open to new ideas. In getting silly, we were equally encouraged to let go of being too self-conscious - of being afraid to voice an opinion because we might be afraid to expose ourselves to ridicule. You cannot easily mock a colleague’s ideas for being ridiculous if you just spent five minutes pointing at them with your finger in a game of ‘zip, zap, zop!’ The exercises helped our team relax, and got us into the mindset of doing something unique and outside our ordinary day-to-day activities (and remind us to get enthusiastic about spending a day away from our desks). Some activities were also designed to help us learn more about one another - in one activity, a team member stood in the middle of a circle of their colleagues, and wasn’t allowed to leave the center until they had correctly guessed an interest they and another colleague shared - such as ‘we both have an interest in mystery novels.’ Relaxed yet energized, we were ready and enthused to move on to the meat of the workshop - finding our own journeys. 

The ‘Pixar’ Outline

Our team divided into small groups to chart our journeys in bringing value to our company. We used individual worksheets as our aid. Theatre of Commerce favors the ‘Pixar Pitch’ outline of storytelling: a simple series of fill-in-the-blanks to help team members think about and map stories of their own successes in providing solutions and transformations to their clients’ obstacles:

  1. Once upon a time there was _____________________________.
  2. Every day, ___________________________________________.
  3. One day _________________. Because of that, ________________.
  4. Then, because of that, _______________________. Until finally _________________________.  

Each team member was tasked with individually filling in the blanks with a story from their own experience, choosing a client ‘protagonist’ and inserting themselves into the story as the solution’s hero  in the narrative. 

Something like this:

ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WAS a client who failed to understand the value of Company A’s Win/Loss analysis.

EVERY DAY their profits dropped because they did not comprehend why they won sales any more than why they lost.

ONE DAY I paid an on-site visit to help the client better understand what win/loss analysis could offer them.

And so on.

The example has been genericized to protect the innocent; in practice, our individual stories showcased how vital we were in the execution of our jobs. Having written the outlines, we  shared our results with one another and worked together to refine our personal stories - clarifying the real obstacles that were overcome, helping the more self-effacing members of the group emphasize their own talents and heroism.

Setting the stage with Theatre of Commerce

Skit Time

With the outlines polished to a shine, each group selected their favorite one and used the outline to help create a little skit. Essentially, each team member role-played the heroic story, creating a showcase for each group’s analysis and conclusions to show to the other groups. In sharing our stories with one another, the team exchanged and debated views about our company’s core achievements. Together, our skits showed how well we were aligned with what our company is capable of achieving. Through exchanging our ideas about what we thought our company’s strengths were, we learned that we all thought the same way, even if we didn’t always call those strengths by the same names. We knew what our strengths and our common values were - and how to employ them in the right ways.

The skits also helped us further come out of our shells with one another, in the sense that few of us are very good actors. We had to be creative with one another, and yet forgiving of one another’s stage presence. For some, it was a case of extreme comfort-zone violation. For others, it was just a fun ride. Either way, the dynamics of the team in the skit meant a solid team-building activity that directly related to our business.

Understanding One Another with DISC Profiles

Our last act in the workshop was to discuss our DISC profiles as a team. DISC is a study of personal behaviors and motivations designed by Walter Clark, derived from the theories of William Marston (fun fact: Marston is most-remembered today as the inventor of Wonder Woman). DISC breaks personalities into four broad types - Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance – each of which are contained within every person to one degree or another. Some people rank strongly in one category over the others, while other people are more evenly balanced. No one personality type is better or worse than any other, and, whatever your ‘balance’ in your DISC assessment is, there are no good or bad behaviourable profiles.  They, as observable behaviours, just “are”. 

Many companies use DISC as a way of understanding and communicating better with their employees. Someone who is strong in compliance and weak in steadiness communicates, and should be communicated with, differently than someone with the opposite traits. DISC is an excellent tool for managers and staff who want to learn how work more harmoniously and efficiently with one another.

Serious Business with Theatre of Commerce

Our team members really valued the DISC profiles. Long before the workshop even began, we were reading our profiles to one another, laughing and joking about whose results seemed eerily accurate for a ranked quiz and an algorithm. DISC profiles are about 90% accurate and we found a lot of commonalities among our profiles. By and large, our company employs people who rank closely together on the DISC spectrum - it’s not that surprising, given that we’re mostly a bunch of analysts. The insights DISC taught us - both in our informal pre-workshop sessions and in the 45-minute overview that ended the workshop - showed us why we work so well together, and how to improve on that in the future. It also showed us where we might want to build up ‘bench strength’ in some of the areas not currently represented in the team. The workshop was two weeks ago, and we’re still bringing up DISC every single day.

The Theatre of Commerce workshop was a great way for our team to get more comfortable being open with one-another and breaking free of rigid, self-conscious approaches to sharing our ideas. It was also an excellent learning opportunity for how we communicate with one another: How do we effectively give, receive, and retain information on a person-to-person basis? What forms of communication work best for us, and what forms are counterproductive? How should we modify our tone and behavior to make sure that we are engaging them in the best possible way? How do we acknowledge and use our company ‘culture’ in an iterative, evolving organizational model? The workshop gave us a window into understanding our personal importance to our business: How do we as individuals fit in the culture of our company? How are the company’s values our values, how are their goals our goals? How have our actions made the company a better place, and more successful? It got us asking the important questions: why does the way we work matter, and how does who we are impact our work, our team, and our business?  And what might be the ROI on growing our company and our workplace on these principles?

Since the workshop ended we’ve had the opportunity to use our workshop experience ‘in the field.’ We presented one of our skits to our client to gauge their reaction. Seeing themselves through our eyes was a revelation - and we think the results will surprise you. Tune in next time when we dig-in to real-world reactions to Buyer-As-Hero™, and how Theatre of Commerce took an ordinary customer success story and reforged it into a tool for self-reflection, insight, and improved relationships.

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