What I Do

Executive Coaching

Jonathan Stokes drama based business training front shot

Executive Coaching & Mentoring

Executive Coaching is a purposeful and structured conversation between two people entirely for the benefit of the person being coached and their organisation.
It should be a shared enterprise in which both coach and “coachee” bear equal responsibility for making progress against a defined set of goals or objectives. The intention is always to help people bring out the best in themselves – and access their inner “genius” simply through guided questioning and listening without judgement.
A coachee should expect to be challenged – prompting new ideas and helping them do their best thinking around a topic. Sometimes the coach is just there to hold a mirror up to increase self-awareness and objectivity.
To find out more about how I work, take a look at my Coaching Profile.

Forum Theatre

Jonathan Stokes drama based business training front shotForum Theatre

In the mid-nineties, I worked for London Bubble Theatre Company, in a show directed by Adrian Jackson. Adrian was an associate at the Bubble, and headed up Cardboard Citizens, a theatre collective for people who had experienced homelessness. Alongside all this, he was also the English translator for several of the books of Augusto Boal, the Brazilian originator of the Forum Theatre technique. Through his connection, Adrian was able to bring Boal to the UK to run workshops. I was inspired by Boal’s technique – using theatre to create debate, and to challenge behaviours. At this early point, I had no idea that Boal’s work would form such a crucial element of my future work. Now a DBT mainstay, Forum Theatre is a tried-and-tested introduction to any practical session, which has the added benefit of being easy to apply to specific work-related contexts. Plus – done well, it’s lively, and fun!

Bespoke 1-2-1 Role-plays

Jonathan Stokes drama based business training front shotBespoke 1-2-1 Role-plays

I remember a friend telling me how embarrassed her husband had been when she walked into the kitchen and caught him… talking to himself while doing the washing-up! He explained that he had been thinking about a difficult conversation that he had coming up with his boss and had started to practice it in his head. He was imagining the kinds of arguments his boss might put forward and trying out different ways of responding to each of them. Many of us naturally do this – we anticipate challenging moments and try to prepare ourselves for them. Role play is just using an actor to help us do this more authentically. In the wrong hands, Role play exercises can feel artificial, or be embarrassing and awkward for participants, which gives Role play a bad name. Sometimes it gets rebranded “Real play” or “Practice Conversations” to avoid this negative association. My view is it doesn’t matter what you call it, the best way is to have sessions run properly by skilled and experienced practitioners, who understand that the focus should be on the personal development of participants.

Individual 1-2-1 Role-plays from a brief

Jonathan Stokes drama based business training front shot

Individual 1-2-1 Role-plays from a brief

The same thing applies when using generic scenarios based on example situations from the delegates working lives. If delegates feel nervous or unprepared for the exercise, it can create an interference which limits the developmental opportunity to them. Beginning with a group exercise like Forum Theatre can really help, and I also believe in taking the time to properly prepare delegates for the exercise by clearly setting expectations, and ensuring they feel completely in control of the process from beginning to end. The outcomes can be highly positive – with delegates reporting increased self-awareness, boosted confidence and new practical skills they can apply in their real working lives. A major contributor to this is always feedback received from peers – a multi-layered benefit of these sessions can be developing a culture where open and honest constructive feedback can be shared freely and received positively.

Assessment/Development Centres

Jonathan Stokes drama based business training front shot

Assessment/Development Centres

Many of us will have had some experience of a manager who talks a good game, but in practice can leave a trail of destruction in their wake, sowing discord and disharmony wherever they go. In any practical behavioural test – whether as part of a recruitment drive, or as a means of progressing people through an organisation – the key is consistency, to provide a fair test, and give every candidate an equal opportunity to demonstrate the required skills and behaviours. On the other side of the coin, potential candidates wishing to get themselves “match-fit” generally relish the chance to have a dry-run in a simulated interview, or other practice scenario.

Conferences & Events

Jonathan Stokes drama based business training front shot

Conferences & Events

A friend who works in the tech industry once returned from a company annual conference full of enthusiasm for the event. He was already engaged with many of the hot topics, and so had felt inspired by some of the more dynamic speakers – and had even managed to keep focussed during some of the lengthier, more turgid presentations. When I asked him a couple of weeks later to tell me what it had all been about, he started to explain and then faltered. With increasing agitation, he began to realise that although he remembered some of the technical innovations unveiled, and some of the detailed points, he was increasingly hazy on what, if any, the key messages were. I asked him what he felt was now required of him and his colleagues. He admitted he wasn’t sure and said he would probably just keep on doing things the same way.

Aside from being a bit of lively fun (being programmed during the post-lunch slump is an occupational hazard!), Dramatic content works best when it is aligned to core messages. With a bit of upfront consultation, and an engaged team there is the potential to weave in content from keynote speakers, elicit participation at crucial points, and embed core messages in a memorable way – planting seeds for future organisational change, or growth.

Design & Development

Jonathan Stokes drama based business training front shot

Design & Development

I’ve always been keen on a bit of creative writing, from early days writing short stories for school homework (Miss Smith would give us an opening line and leave the rest to our imaginations) to writing plays at college, and later professionally. Commissioned by an Arts Council funded theatre company to write a trilogy of plays about apples, the work toured the West Country – accompanied by a working apple press! Writing for BBC Radio 4’s topical comedy show “Weekending”, I had sketches broadcast concerning the news stories of the day, often featuring PM John Major, to set this in historical context.

These days I greatly enjoy consulting with clients on the design of training events, or larger conferences. I have developed and delivered pieces on Performance Management, Interview Skills, Behavioural Safety, Honest Conversations and Staff Engagement.

I recently designed a simulated HSE prosecution court case – a fascinating process, and thanks to some excellent consultation with legal professionals I was able to learn huge amounts about legal process, as well as it’s application to UK safety law. It was also compelling to witness a courtroom drama in full flow!

Business Acting