Dramatic Conversations

By Dedu Ajith-John November 24, 2017
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Can you get lessons in HR through drama? At the SHRM India Annual Conference and Exposition 2017 in New Delhi, Ashish Vidyarthi and Abhijit Bhaduri wowed the audience with a new form of theatre. Their joint session called 'Dramatic Conversations,' was inter-woven with a story and laced with the tenets of HR function.

The duo chose drama as a tool to connect with HR professionals because they believe it explores and expresses human feelings better than any other medium across all cultures.

They delivered the message, 'Creating a Winning Mindset,' through a riveting storytelling performance told through three main characters: Gagan, Gagan's father and Mr. Chawla. They explained that each story, regardless of its genre, has five distinct stages: once upon a time, everyday, one day, because of that, and until finally. Every person's personal and professional story goes through similar stages. Only the time and event change.

Once Upon a Time...

Gagan's father is proudly discussing his son Gagan's achievements with his friend, Mr. Chawla. Gagan is pursuing the dreams that his father wanted to achieve for himself – become an engineer, embark on official trips to foreign lands and settle abroad. Gagan belongs to today's generation who is passionate about what they do and works hard to achieve their professional and personal aspirations. So when Gagan's CEO invites him and other management trainees for a dinner in a 5-star hotel, his father is elated. After Gagan returns from dinner, he shares his experience with his father. He says that 5-star food is very expensive and can't beat the simple home-made food in taste.

Gagan also narrates an important management lesson he learned when he addressed his CEO as 'Sir' – there is no hierarchy in organizations, only merit matters.  Ironically, Gagan doesn't imbibe this lesson in his real life. He wants to attach a tag of 'Executive' in his job title because an 'Officer' is not such an elite position.

Everyday.....

Well, the time flies and Gagan becomes a successful executive. He charges ahead of his peers at the workplace through 'First Mover Advantage' and 'Exploiting Every Opportunity' he gets. As his father had dreamt, he settles in the U.S. for a high-flying career. He even marries an American and fathers a son.

One Day.....

Gagan's father is looking forward to meeting his son, daughter-in-law and grandson during their visit to India. Apparently, he hasn't met Gagan's family before and is quite apprehensive. To his father's disappointment, Gagan comes alone to meet him. When his father questions him, he makes excuses. On further probing by his father, Gagan breaks down.

Because of That....

Gagan reveals that he and his wife are divorced. He admits that he is not living the life he or his father had dreamed of. He is working to earn more money, exotic vacations, bigger homes and more mortgages. He feels lost and doesn't know who he was. If old age is lonely, leading a highly successful life is even lonelier. Gagan's father realizes that in a bid to impose his own unfulfilled dreams on his son, this situation has occurred. He then motivates Gagan to take up his childhood dream of becoming a chef because dreams don't have an expiration date. That night, both father and son spoke heart-to-heart for the first time in their lives.

Until Finally.....

Gagan opens a successful restaurant named 'A Winner's Mindset'. He gives his dishes unique names – Belief paranthas, First Mover salad, Evolve curry, Fire Manchurian, Resilience ki kheer and Collaboration biryani.

Ashish and Abhijit explain that every person can savour these dishes at work and all other areas of life. These dishes are akin to six HR tenets – Belief, First Mover, Evolve, Fire, Resilience and Collaboration. When you get out of your comfort zone and apply these tenets to work-life, you get what is called a winner's mindset. Just the way Ashish, an actor stepped out of his acting zone to become a leadership coach and Abhijit, an HR professional, became a storyteller-writer-actor.

Every person hails from a unique background and body of experience. It is only when they bring their background, experience, passion, innovation, beliefs and attitudes instead of only skills to their work, they can move towards their goals with their 'full-self'.

Ashish and Abhijit have touched upon key workplace concerns with their dramatic conversation:

  • Most people don't follow their desired professional dreams. Their life's basic needs and demanding workplace expectations leave hardly any scope for chasing these dreams. If organizations can enhance workplace experiences and encourage 'out-of-box' or entrepreneurial way of thinking, the employees can dream once again.
  • While most organizations promote the importance of merit over hierarchy, the truth is that it is the other way around. As a result, ground-level innovations and feedback never make it to the top. It is crucial to have an open and honest culture across the organization so that every employee's voice, opinion and ideas are heard.
     
  • Organizations demand performance from employees, but rarely focus on mentoring or coaching them. The appraisals are one-to-one, never heart-to-heart because of the fear of authority and one-way feedback. In order to enable employees to perform optimally, it is necessary to guide them at every step and address their apprehensions.

The story narrated in the session also subtly reinforced the importance of core HR doctrines that are necessary to promote a winning culture in the organizations:

  • Belief: The right intentions, actions and decisions can make a remarkable positive difference to employees' behaviour and performance. 
  • First Mover: HR needs to take smart and calculated risks and develop risk-taking ability in their employees to leverage first-mover advantage in the industry.
     
  • Evolve: The only constant is change and only the fittest will survive. Organizations need to embrace changes continuously.
     
  • Fire: The organizations need to keep the fire of passion burning in their employees. Only then will winning become second nature to employees. A Deloitte article titled 'Passion at Work' highlights that by cultivating the traits of worker passion in their workforce, organizations can make sustained performance gains and develop the resilience they need to withstand continuous market challenges and disruptions.
  • Resilience: In the ever-changing, dynamic business world, organizations and employees have to show resilience- they need to be alert, agile and adaptable.
     
  • Collaboration: In order to attract and retain best talent, leverage new-age technology, promote a diverse and inclusive culture, and enhance employer value proposition, workplace collaboration is must.

Who could have imagined that dramatic conversations can entwine HR concepts with such a depth!


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