How to stage-manage your career

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WHAT do you do when you meet the chairman of your company in the lift? Do you use the time to study carefully the pattern on your shoes? Or do you engage him in a discussion of some aspect of the company's performance?

If the former, two London-based business consultants could have something for you. Kate Scott and Michael Bennett claim that acting and improvisation can bring great insights to management, writes Roger Trapp.

'This form of drama can involve conflict-handling, risk-taking, negotiation, creativity, innovation and communication - key management competences,' said Ms Scott, a management trainer with a leading British company.

She adds that both she and Mr Bennett, a management consultant, had found that being thrown into situations where they were forced to improvise their way through a scene had helped develop core management skills.

Ms Scott claims that the experience has helped her achieve 'excellent' ratings when running the 'seven-hour conflict situation' that is her employer's performance appraisal course for senior managers.

Mr Bennett, an engineer by training, says that attending an acting and improvisation course has made him more creative and ready to innovate. But he added: 'It also develops the essential 'status' required to talk confidently with board-level clients.'

Buoyed by their own success, they are planning to run 'Acting for Business People' courses from this month.

Working in groups with the guidance of an experienced drama teacher, pupils will be encouraged to act out business and social situations. The initial response has been encouraging, and the pair plan to organise courses tailored for individual companies, and also to branch out of London.

'It's the element of performance in front of an 'audience' formed by the other participants which encourages people to experiment and stretch their people skills to the limit. Week by week, you learn how to literally think on your feet,' Mr Bennett said.

The idea is that even if you cannot use that chance meeting with the chairman in the lift to promote yourself, you will at least be able to talk about the weather.

For details of 'Acting for Business People', contact Total Quality Communication, 51 Durham Road, London N2 9DR. Tel: 081-883 9903.