He personally creates all the programs and conduct them with professional actors and munitions.

I recently did a radio/podcast interview in Russia about working and building a business there.

The interview sums up the work we do in that market (as well as others) and how the theatre and business training can intersect.

I listened to it again recently and noticed this amazing sentence describing my work in the supporting text…

“He personally creates all the programs and conduct them with professional actors and munitions”.

I love the fact that I use actors and weapons in my training!!!

Enjoy the interview…




PAUL’S BLOG Russia: Culture Clash at the Consulate!

Following on from our anti-bullying theatre project in Germany (see previous post) it reminds me of a classic scenario from May last year …

…running training for The British Consulate in St Petersburg, focussing on Bullying and Harassment in the workplace (how did I ever get here..?).

This is a serious issue for many companies and organisations (whether they know it or not..) but somehow it just makes me smile… Bullying and Harassment for the British Consulate..??!!

Staff surveys at The Consulate in Moscow and St Petersburg show there is an issue. This is not unusual nor surprising. And actually the fact they are addressing it is positive and unusual. When you dig a little the idea of harassment is not so much dignity based but more about workload and expectations placed upon each other and of course the dynamics of workplace culture.

Culture clashes are most interesting I find with organisations that work internationally. Bullying and harassment is very interesting when it comes to mixed cultures… what goes for acceptable in Italy is going to cause great angst in UAE… most cultures create a positive collision rather than a clash but it is always interesting. I found this working on projects in Romania, South Africa and Central Europe with international partners having very different expectations of behaviours, but the Russian/UK work cultures provide particularly challenging scenarios

Most staff working in The Consulate will be Russian. They will speak English of course, and most of their interaction will be with fellow Russians both in the workplace and with the public.

So as a theatre director coming in and not an expert in B & H I have to do my research …Particularly on the legal situation. The legal employment contracts in Consulate are Russian but influenced by British standards and thinking. Feedback during the session is that Russian employment law is lacking focus on areas such as Bullying and Harassment so the boundaries here are blurred. This is clearly part of the challenge. What are the rules and how are they interpreted (literally) and enforced?

My workshop time is limited to just under two hours. So all I can do in this short time is look at case studies, challenge thinking, and get some personal pledges in place. Mostly it is about un-blurring the edges of acceptability. It is a bit like “I can’t define it but I know it when I see it” (as in Potter Stewart The United States Supreme Court Justice on his definition of Pornography…)


However we have to create some firmer rules of ‘engagement’ as well as support a culture shift.

Most people can broadly define Bullying and Harassment but as you focus down into specifics then personalities and context get in the picture and definitions of acceptability become more challenging. One interesting area that came up was workload – was it bullying to get people to work late or ask them to come in on the weekend to complete work ? for some no, for others yes – it is about the amount of workload, how it is managed, how it is shared out and most of all expectations and communicating with each other.

For me this subject comes down to broad understanding for an organisation then specific context for individuals – it is about creating a culture where people have empathy and understanding and where perception is taken into consideration as well as rules.

It comes back to the core fundamentals of all organisations and people that work for them – can you bring to life two key dynamics;

  1. Have a great attitude
  2. Do the right thing

In the world of B and H the second dynamic is key…

I left with them inspired (I hope) to at least focus on the one thing they can control – look after themselves – and if they are bullies (real or perceived) to challenge their own behaviour…

I would tell you more – but then I’d have to kill you…


Back in the USSR… Ribbon and Tin for Mr Putin?

4th October Moscow

Another great airline announcement…

It must be my hearing, because I swear the steward on my Aeroflot flight back from Moscow just announced ..

ladies and gentlemen… if you fill in the customer survey form you get a chance to win 150,000 Aeroflot meals…


“How to be an Intelligence Officer” This is the headline in the Moscow Times this morning… you too can be like Mr Putin…Back the USSR???

Reading about Ukraine, Economic Sanctions and political posturing you’d think that was the way it is going…

Moscow is cold…

I am on a quick visit to discuss our production of Bloominauschwtiz with Meyerhold Theatre (hopefully will happen next year) and to deliver a corporate workshop.

The workshop is a launch programme for Stockholm School of Economics… 40 students about to enter SSE Corporate University…

A shame the workshop is in a hotel room – not very glamorous – feels like a slightly dodgy wedding is about to take place.

We – me and Ilya – turn the room upside-down after lunch…

Our brief is to launch the programme with a bang and give a bit of a push on communication and team.

My colleague is a drummer – Ilya – great guy – talented and positive – a great find. He is warm and friendly and funny – I guess (I couldn’t understand a word he was saying but every 30 seconds there was a burst of laughter so I guess he must be funny!).

His approach is about learning music – particularly drumming by getting the basics in place then building up improv skills alongside competency. Good teambuilding, fun and not too long, this was one of the best music sessions I have seen…


My work starts around this Darwin premise:

In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed…

We explore this idea…

And supported by Churchill’s quote:

I like the idea of learning… but I hate being taught!

I think some things got a bit lost in translation as some of the group think that Darwin, Churchill and Shakespeare were my examples of great leaders…

Maybe but, I just chose them because … well, they said some interesting things!

This confusion was confirmed when one of the participants harangued me during the coffee break as to why I hadn’t chosen Nelson or Wellington as examples – they are apparently much better leaders than Churchill?!

For ten minutes I was given a lecture on the strategies of these two men. I try to explain again that actually I just chose what I thought was an interesting quote from Churchill about learning, but my friend was having none of it.. first he tells me about Trafalgar then onto Waterloo…

I did however manage to gain some kudos as I closed the coffee break lecture by citing Napoleon on winning soldier’s minds by “offering them ribbon and tin..”

PB: laughter…

Sergey: (silence)

PB = “ Ribbon and tin…”

Sergey: (silence)

PB: “you know – for medals – for heroes.. Ribbon and tin!”

Sergey: “ah you mean Ribbon and Bronze…. Yes very good.. yes very funny”


Ok break over … and back to exercises

One exercise around a number counting sequence which is meant to demonstrate team instincts totally fails.

I kept trying and …failing. This was definitely lost in translation ..

ah well I came out with the classic trainer answer to why it had failed…

PB “That is the point! Is meant to fail!!”

Actually the game was interesting and made me think more and more around strategy being combined with instinct to create great team results. You get to know each other establish rules then engage..

The rest of the session runs itself, Ilya does drumming, questions are good, team is built.

Bar calls.

Moscow cold…

I find a drink and hear .. “and… now as for Napoleon…”

Oh God.. maybe a workshop on great military leaders next???

I wonder would Putin make it onto this list..?

Ribbon for Mr Putin?