Recently Wits Business School, one of the leading providers of management education in South Africa, asked us to provide a Leader’s Voice® for a special programme they were offering for the transport sector. There were a “couple of requests” that we would need to consider. First, the programme would need to accommodate 24 participants (our normal maximum was 8) in one go; secondly, they would only be able to allocate 2 days for the programme; and thirdly, could we run the programme at their Leadership Centre, using their lecture room and a set of syndicate rooms? So here we were, faced with three times our regular number of participants, only two days to work with and no access to a professional sound studio. Impossible! So, of course, we said yes.
Firstly, we contacted our friends at Sound and Motion Studios in Johannesburg who got excited by the challenge and said, yes, they would support us and provide the sound and recording engineering. Secondly, we took a close look at the Leadership Centre facility. What we found was an excellent lecture room with good sound isolation and a contiguous set of 5 very well designed syndicate rooms with reasonable sound isolation. Then, it came down to designing a programme that would fit. To cover 24 participants, we decided to incorporate learning sets as a foundation element of the programme. This would mean that rather than Ken working with each individual on all aspects of voice, Ken would demonstrate the coaching process, in the main lecture room, with at least one person from each set. They would then move to their syndicate rooms to coach each other following Ken’s model. This of course, required setting up a studio grade recording and playback facility in each room. We did this by using new monitoring technology, with Sound and Motion setting things up so that one participant in each set could use their laptop as the recording and playback interface.
Marion and Ken knew they would be “exceptionally” busy covering the five learning sets, keeping them on track in providing the feedback, challenge and focus so critical to the programme’s success. Without the intense focus and unique feedback required for each element of the programme, it couldn’t succeed. We discussed this with Alison Foote, manager of development programmes at the Leadership Centre, and Sonia Newton our programme manager, indicating we were running a complex process for the first time, not to mention the most complex technical set up we’ve done thus far, hoping for at least a “good” session.
So, how did it go? After a late start due to a technology failure on a piece of equipment that was tested and working on the weekend…we commenced. All 24 got up to the mic, individually to share the piece they were working with. From there it was “pedal to the metal” for two very full days. The experiment with the learning sets worked exceptionally well and, in addition, both Marion and Ken ended the programme more fit from all of the running between syndicate rooms to provide support!
The shifts made by the participants were remarkable and their feedback rated the programme at the highest marks, across all 24. The Wits team was great and their support made a significant difference. They understood the risk in the process and did everything they could to support us in making the programme a success. The Sound and Motion team were unshakable…no problem took them off the rails and they responded to pressure with absolute competence and professionalism. All in all, a great experience and another lesson in pushing the boundaries beyond the comfort zone.