Emotional Agility for Leaders and Teams

Working with mentors to young women in Community Media Trust's Gifts program in Pietermaritzburg - we're doing a slow motion race - last person wins!

Working with mentors to young women in Community Media Trust’s Gifts program in Pietermaritzburg – we’re doing a slow motion race – last person wins!

It came as a surprise.

She said yes.

I was stunned.

Really? Me? Why? Are you sure?

Because of the great work we’ve done together, she said. Some of the best in my life, she even said. (And I agreed, even ‘though I was in a kind of deep inner blush at this point.) And so, TakeAway Interactive – our new venture – was born.

Working together, we’ve noticed that people are starved for human connection, and immensely grateful when they receive it. Some colleagues haven’t seen each other laugh before – stress and other distractions means they have almost ceased to become human to each other.

However, when people share things they see each other in different ways, and cannot fail to be changed. Take a quick look at our short flyer, explaining the unique things my colleague Heather Schiff and I do with applied theatre and improvisation to help people restore their own sense of dignity and purpose, rediscover hopes and ambitions, and re-ignite their self-belief and find community and support, both internally and externally. To become happier, healthier, more dynamic and resilient teams, that effect your bottom line.

We achieve this by using a carefully designed sequence of exercises and activities, including music, movement, games and other processes to yield embodied learning. No notes, no clunky manuals, just profound shifts in attitude, self-respect and teamwork, with massive enjoyment. It is rare, unique and essential, which is why it is so fulfilling.

Our next gig for Sanlam is on Emotional Agility for Leaders and Teams. Read about this unique workshop here. It’s work that makes us happy – like the ‘How to have a Great Performance Management Conversation‘ sessions we did for Woolworths Financial Services, the Employee Engagement Sessions we’re currently doing for Permoseal (that’s Bostick/Alcolin to you, and yep, they’re called ‘Bonding Sessions,’ how did you guess?)

Saying yes unleashes so many things, creates so many possibilities.

I thank my colleague for saying yes to me. Together, we recently taught MBA students at UCT’s Graduate School of Business how to say ‘yes, and’ – an improvisation principle – and discover what it achieves. What a blast we had! What a privilege.

Thanks for reading, until next time, all the best –


PPS: The Death Cafe is also thriving. Here’s all the info for our next (non-profit) event on 5 June. If you’re interested, check out www.deathcafe.com

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Death Cafe and the 11th Hour


If it wasn’t for the 11th hour, nothing would ever get done. I mean, why do now what you can put off until tomorrow, right?

The eleventh hour approacheth. By the time Santa drops his filthy boots down the chimney, today will be a blur. People everywhere are feeling all sorts of pressure, myself included. It’s as if towards the end of the year, time is pushed into a cone, towards a narrowing opening at the tip. Things get tighter and tighter, we pass through the aperture, and find release at Yuletide. Then in the New Year, we’ll pick up the pieces of what has been a truly, truly, TRULY remarkable year. Twenty-sixteen. Yoh! Yes, we were here. Do I want the T-shirt? Is the Pope a woman!? Nah!

But… can any of us say we’ll even be here next year? Or tomorrow morning? One thing we have in common, one thing is certain – in this life, no-one gets out alive. We’re all going to die, even if we continue to live as if we’re immortal. Why is it taboo to speak about death, when it so often shapes our lives?

Jon Underwood started conducting Death Cafés in London, in around 2012, to create spaces for people to discuss their own mortality, and make the most of the life that remains. I had the privilege of chatting with him via Skype the other day. My friend Antonia and I are hosting a Death Café in Cape Town next month, on Mortal Monday, the 5th of December at my friend Karen Dudley’s amazing The Dining Room. It starts at 7:30pm. The invite is below. You’re invited. Space is limited and pre-booking is required. It’s not for profit, and a small voluntary donation is suggested.

To date, there have been over 4000 Death Cafés held in 40 countries all over the world, in workplaces, community halls, campuses, living rooms, coffeeshops, pubs – anywhere people can gather in a safe, contained space, discuss death, and eat cake. For that is one of the rules of Death Café. Cake.

That, and that people who come must be willing to engage about death. Which is a great filtering tool – the people in the room want to be there. It seems that talking about death can make life better.

Death Café is NOT a grief, trauma-sharing or group therapy session. There are no speeches or pamphlets, no attempt to lead people to any conclusion or outcome. It’s open-ended, open-source intellectual capital that anyone can use – even you, in your workplace. Check out www.deathcafe.com if the idea strikes a chord. (Some eejits write ‘cord.’ It’s chord, for fluff’s sake!)

Do it. Life is short. Our invite is here and the link to our facebook page is here. What’s stopping you? If you can’t make it, or are not ready, we’ll hold one every month next year. If we’re here.

Would be so good to see you.

Peace and love, and thanks for reading –

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So, 2016 started with a whimper as we stared down the barrel of a recession, and is ending with a bang, as Santa’s saggy Y-fronts loom into view. How’s yours been? There’s barely enough time left to go shoplifting for Christmas!

However, there IS time to book an DISINFECTION SESSION for World Aids Day or in fact, any other day, for your team or organization. A great way to end the year.

The undisputed highlight of my year (so far) has been working inside the I&J factory. This almighty gig is slowly coming to an end, after three months of workshops. Colleagues who’ve been working alongside each other for many years in a high-pressure environment feel increased respect (including self-respect) and a deeper understanding of each other, which makes them happier, more effective teams. This has been one of the most validating experiences of my career.

















Then, what about our show for Ackermans 100th Year Conference Celebration? The responsibility was huge. This is what their what their MD had to say the next morning:

Dear Sean

Well if you guys did a great job a few years ago at our Ops conferences , then the only way to describe yesterday was that you and your team ABSOLUTELY NAILED IT!!!!!

Thank you for all of the incredible research you did and the way you wove the story together was just brilliant. It set the tone for what was our best conference ever and you got high praise from Pieter Erasmus, our Group CEO.
Please pass on our huge thanks to the team.

Sean Cardinaal
Managing Director

It was a total pleasure! What a jol! If you feel like watching something silly, here’s a clip (you”ll need a password, which is Biscuit. Just until this time next week.)

Next time – TakeAway’s End of Year Awards: Best Client of the Year (both individual and organisation), Photograph of the Year, Worst Client of the Year, etecetera…

Thanks for reading.

All the best-


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International Joke Day. And a very short story.

Once upon a time…

a woman sat on a train in Cape Town, next to a total stranger, going home from work. The stranger told the woman about something remarkable she’d experienced at work that day. It was a show by us, TakeAwayTheatre – and she’d remembered our name. Isn’t that great!

The woman duly googled us and phoned, and we went and worked in the factory she was part of – for several years. All because of that stranger on a train, and the story she shared. (This was about ten years ago, before strangers used their phones as shields, instead of saying hello.)

Much has been written about the attention economy, and the way information distracts us. In a nutshell, with so much information around, our limited attention is competed for by advertisers, spammers and the like (as well as pesky children). ‘Information designers’ try and create ‘attention traps.’

When we are privileged to perform for an audience, we understand that we’re competing with other information that loudly calls, at the back of the mind: What’s for supper? Why is my back sore? How am I going to explain that my work is unfinished? Will I get home in time to see my children before they go to sleep?

We would be fools to expect people to pay us attention just because their bosses told ell them to. So, to earn and sustain attention requires us to tell the audience’s truth – or better still, create a space for the audience to tell it in their own voices. Only then can something happen, which helps to shift people’s understanding of the challenges they’re faced with.

So, how do you get attention? The real currency here is REPUTATION. (Um, here’s a link to some dodgy  80’s song on YouTube about that. (So what else you busy doing? Pretending to work?!) And while you’re at it, here’s the link to Michelle Obama’s carpool karaoke. Which is simply massively awesome. Life’s too short not to watch this stuff!)

What are we, besides the stories told about us – and the stories we tell? The myths we carry are much more than powerful predictors of behaviour, but steer towards our very understanding of the meaning of life, and why we are here…

OK that’s enough serious stuff. It was International Joke Day the other day (I mean month), but if you missed it, never fear.

What did the scarf say to the hat?
– You go on ahead, and I’ll hang around.

(I know, I’m sorry. I just can’t shake that one.)

It’s also International Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) Day TODAY – the ninth day of the ninth month. Our show on the subject, Die Liefdeskind, celebrates a decade or performances. We’re working with our partners, the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR) in the Renosterburg part of the Northern Cape next week. Break a leg!

And thanks for reading! See below for what we’re up to right now…

Hasta la Pasta!


ij-logoThe cool people (they have big fridges) at I&J have entrusted us to work on a deep level with staff, delving into personal histories and sharing stories in a series of workshops…which has been amazing. Factory workers lead each other in dance, and leave the room with profound respect for each other. More about this next time…

wcgThe cool people at the W. Cape Dept. of the Premier (yup, they’re pretty on the ball) have entrusted us to work with them on embedding their corporate values in a dynamic short workout we’ve designed for 160 people (at once) at the Dept. of Agriculture next week. Viva!

ackermans-logoThe cool people at Ackermans (they have an enviable high-performance culture and a real sense of purpose) have entrusted us to help celebrate their upcoming centenary… deadlines loom, scripts zoom back and forth, rehearsals beckon. Exciting times!

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A quick little game to help you listen better, forever

Winter days. Quietness prevails. Then it rains, and the sun is gone for days. The world I live in is in hibernation mode, growth slowed, roots and branches in a state of rest and anticipation for the call to life in Spring.   
We’re totally stoked to be headlining Ackermans 100th Anniversary Conference at the CTICC in October – that’s just after Spring, right? Before that, we celebrate our own milestone, again at the CTICC, at FARR‘s annual conference – it’s almost been a freakin’ decade since we launched our community show about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome – ‘Die Liefdeskind’ which will tour the Renosterburg part of the Northern Cape later this year. Shows 543, 544 and 545.But what the hey hey. The sun is out today. So here’s a cool little game we played in our workshops on How to Have a Great Talent Management Conversation (yes, it’s not an oxymoron) for Woolworth’s Financial Services recently. Once you’ve played it once, you can use it anytime, at the back of your mind…as a reminder: just listen, dammit.

One person says something, and the other starts their response using the last word the first person used. For example:

Sergei: Oh shyzen! I have run out of ze bubble bath!
       Monica: Bath! I wish you would! How long has it been since you last had a wash?
       Sergei: Wash that you say? 
       Monica: Say? Have you been on the vodka again?
       Sergei: Again and again… what can I do. It’s one of my favourite things.
       Monica: Things are hard, I know that my darling. Maybe the local elections will change things for us?
       Sergei: Us? Well, anything can happen when there is love, my darling….
       Monica: Darling! I love you, even though you are smelly.

And so on. Try it with a friend – or even better, a foe. Most delegates in our workshops had that ‘aha’ moment, realizing that they habitually interrupt others, complete their sentences for them, and have a premeditated script running in their heads, determining what they’re going to say next. Play it in your next smoke break.

In a recent long-distance conversation with my ex-wife about what to do about the burst sewer outside her house (she’s away for a month, and me a single parent over the holidays and looking after her house) she finally said: “If I could just get a word in edgeways!” (Well, she wasn’t on the scene, unexposed to the trauma, maybe I was going a bit bezerk) and then I realised! Listen to the end of the sentence. The conversation flowed then. Unlike the drains, which were blocked.

And on that lovely note – thanks for reading.

Until next time- hasta la pasta!


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How to have a great Performance Management conversation

A great performance management conversation? Surely that’s some sort of joke?Nope. Nothing funny here. There is typically so much resistance to conducting these encounters that they’re as appealing as attending a session of Parliament. And that’s not funny either. (OK, scroll down there’s a lame joke at the end.)

Who said it had to be funny anyway? Enjoyable, at least? How do you make performance management rewarding to the people involved and the business? How do you have conversations that make everyone  feel good – recognised, heard and understood?

We’re proud to be working with Woolworths Financial Services (WFS) in the coming weeks, helping managers to put the Performance Management matrix aside and have the conversation itself. This means ensuring that the socio-cognitive needs of the people in the room are met – finding ways that enable rich engagement to happen (a so-called ‘listening’ conversation), and use the PM tools to do exactly what they’re meant for – develop and retain talent.

In this v. cool article, “From Performance Management to Performance Conversations” (nice pdf download just for you, compadre) the authors kick off by noting that most executives feel their current performance management approach drives neither employee engagement nor high performance.” (Deloitte’s, in Harvard Business Review, April 2015), and provide a nifty template for your organization to get ‘people-obsessed, instead of process-obsessed’, as they put it. (WFS is certainly on the right track in this regard.)

Hang on – did I just say Harvard Business Review? Oooooooh! The same peeps who developed the whole difficult conversations thing? No, that was the Harvard Negotiation Project, who published a great book if you can find it – as useful in your own kitchen as the company boardroom. Fact is, we have been using, and learning from, these very principles in our improvisation, dramatherapy and applied theatre work in organizations and communities for many years now.

So, if you want help with handling any cumbersome box-ticking stuff, you know who to call. We do a two-hour (minimum) session with a group of people, and have a total jol at the same time. Cos WE said it has to be fun, that’s who. At least the learning part, that is.

Because no-one likes to be put in a box. Unless there’s something special in the box. Like Scarlet Johannsen.

Until next time, thanks for reading-

Oh… the joke: What has a bottom on top? A leg, of course. Silly!

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Teambuild Screambuild

You’ve got a packet of mouldy carrots as your budget and your team needs boost. Here are some ideas that won’t cost a cent (well, more than a cent.)

Instead of banging on about our differences, why not celebrate our similarities with a mass fancy dress? You could opt for a superhero theme (the world record is 547 Batmen by a Canadian insurance company)  – or you could go for something more Neanderthal, perhaps?

The great people of Greenpop host company planting days –  they use volunteers (you) to plant trees at hospitals, creches, schools and other places. As they put it, urban greening improves the economics of an area and socially uplifts a place. And you have fun doing it. They’ve already planted around 60 000.

You know Themba in Finance who can pole dance? And Germaine in Marketing who plays the electric tuba? How about getting them together? The rest of you can use Monty Python scripts to put on a warm-up act. You could call it something catchy like, “Internal Audit’s Got Talent” or “HR Idols.”

Visit For Good for something local and appropriate. For example: Help READ to RISE cover new story books in plastic with 20 volunteers for 1-4 hours for Grade 2 and 3 learners in Mitchells Plain. [But don’t worry, you do don’t actually have to go to Mitchell’s Plain, because] the event can take place in your office. It’s a fun, teambuilding session for a great cause! Number of people and sessions can be discussed.

Many elderly people are good at cards but some have failing eyesight which makes it easier to beat them. If anyone in your team needs this kind of boost, try getting hold of the admirable people at NOAH who invite you to assist by running craft, games & exercise groups at the homes they lease for elderly people to live in.

What’s YOUR treasure? No, not the skills, resources and attitudes that make your team great, that they need reminding of on an annual basis (we can do other teambuilds for that), but what is the art and design stuff that decorates your office? What’s it worth? And is it safe? Is there a catalogue for it, that your could design and publish? And then you could pretend to work as a guard in an art museum and sit in a chair next to it.

When did you last visit this wonderful sanctuary? Perennial streams and mature indigenous trees provide shade and hypnotic water sounds effects, an awesome backdrop for a picnic. You don’t even have to walk that far, and there’s plenty of secure parking. Even the smokers will survive, but please ask them to pick up their butts.

Yes, but whose garden? Once you’ve decided where, get your team to gather tools, bags, clippings from their own gardens, suncream, gloves, a ghettoblaster and flasks of lemonade. Then converge for a few hours and bring some greenery into someone’s life. Or you could support a community garden? Several in Cape Town are massively inspiring. This is a longer term project that has the potential to transform a community, or indeed, create one. There’s an abandoned bowling green at a nearby old age home that’s begging for this kind of action… You could get the pensioners pruning things in no time.

Help eradicate alien plants that threaten our biodiversity and limit water catchment, with scope for all sorts of skills and abilities, from chainsaw wielding to panga samurai action and wheelbarrow tossing. Use CapeNature to find a reserve in your area, or simply join up with your colleagues to get rid of the black wattle growing on the other side of the carpark.

Love animals more than humans? Then perhaps assisting at the SPCA is something for your team. Dogwalkers, kennel cleaners and poopscoopers welcome, and there’s often a need for a new bit of infrastructure too. You could also consider the excellent Emma Animal Rescue (Tears) or Darg.

The Friends of the Liesbeeck are a visionary bunch who have totally transformed the stretch of the river between the N2 highway and the River Club in Observatory, via urban landscaping and monthly cleanups of the river. It used to be a sprawling, overgrown hideout for Valkenberg escapees and ex-investment bankers, now its a beautiful community space. You can also make donations to the cause.


A quick straw poll at the watercooler will reveal that many of your colleagues haven’t ascended this natural wonder of the world. The ones that have will be eager to don their boots and headbuffs, so its a win win. Bank on 3-4 hours, and catch the cable car down, or just base-jump.

Thanks for reading!


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Rocking the Foundations

Now, you might be wondering… what exactly is being celebrated here, and by whom? Well, client confidentiality precludes that, I’m afraid. Perhaps the bank that employed TakeAway to produce a Quiz Night (including a DJ, nogal) for their Induction Programme doesn’t want you to know how much fun their people have. Because people who work in banks are meant to be serious, aren’t they – I mean, it’s your cash they’re looking after.

Laughter and humour have always been integral to our work. In the workspace, it needs a place. Imagine a wild cackle coming from somewhere in the cube farm (that’s an office, and you are probably what we refer to as a meerkat – someone who stands up and peers over cubicle walls to check for prey/the boss). A disembodied laugh is disturbing, it betrays a lack of attention, a lack of focus – after all, laughter belongs to the madman.And as for dancing… I mean, really!

Years ago we did some comedy sessions for a petrochemical company, and someone said afterwards – “I’d forgotten I could laugh in this building.” The other day we did some comedy to launch something with another bank – the audience were practically weeing in their seats – and one chap said that he’d worked next to someone for seven years and never seen him smile – “But today I did. I saw him laugh.”

Laughter transforms us. It makes things possible between people.






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less power, more point

In Switzerland, the Anti- PowerPoint party is to contest the October parliamentary elections. According the Guardian newspaper, the party claims that “€350bn could be saved globally each year by ditching the scourge of public speaking, [and that] the software takes people away from their work and teaches them little.”

Ya, we know! Ppt. pretends to be kind, but is actually so, so cruel. It forces us to read – a dumbed down-version, always – and in doing so, treats us like idiots (is this why does the speaker often lacks all conviction in front of the screen?) It’s hard to listen and read at the same time – they call it cognitive overload. The Anti- PowerPoint Party recommends flipcharts. We recommend… TakeAwayTheatre!  Which has had a busy couple of months.

BoE Private ClientsGuiding Principles Series (GPS): A unique series of interventions that bring the business’s values to life, giving people a space to engage and debate what they mean. Exploiting the talents of a carefully selected assortment of world-class speakers over the next eighteen months – yesterday we enjoyed Lewis Pugh, aka ‘The Human Polar Bear’, on Pushing Beyond Boundaries. Amazing tales of how to achieve self-belief. Tied in with an online nomination for the GPS Award for people in the business who push beyond boundaries.

DB SchenkerDinner Theatre: Our favourite (hilarious) show, Body Language, all about non-verbal communication, scripted and performed in Port Elizabeth by Gaetan Schmidt for the MD’s guests, after she’d seen it in Slaapstad. 50 minutes. With an optional Handshake Workshop afterwards…  Chef’s recommendation: Christmas parties, anyone? We’re open for bookings...

Nedgroup Investments Induction Programme: Our third time running the induction programme, tailored to each group of inductees. The programme allows people to engage and connect around issues that affect them and the business, with an emphasis on fun, dialogue, movement and surprise, and creating a sense of common purpose. Plus grilled calamari tubes.  Chef’s recommendation: ban PowerPoint!

Nedgroup Investments  Teambuild: Besides the fantastic four-course meal we made together from scratch and enjoyed with an array of fantastic wines… – we did (some) work. Fruitful discussions for the marketing team included How do we stay sharp? What are our special ingredients? How do we best serve our clients? … and other matters culinary and corporate. A great way to come together and share. If you’re keen on a teambuild – we have other  very unique offeringsas well.

FOSKOR  – Industrial Theatre:  Our third year in a row at the plant in Richard’s Bay, doing theatre on the issue of sustainability and the environment. Using a storytelling approach, our show was about the popular son of a local chief, who brought prosperity to the village by plundering the local natural resources… until… Riveting stuff.

Old Mutual Transformation Project: Coming up in a few days time, we’ll be exploiting the talents of Nik Rabinowitz, one of SA’s best-loved comedians and longtime TakeAway collaborator to examine, explore, skewer and celebrate issues diverse and otherwise. Sure to get people talking, and bums on seats… Chef’s notes: Laughter in the workplace. What could be better?

CSIR  – Ambush Theatre: Our celebrated ‘live heart transplant’ eviscerated workplace gender issues and kept the audience in stitches for a Women’s Day event. Major interaction and madness in the operating theatre… Chef’s notes: This is the perfect short intervention for getting change management issues out in the open. We’ve done this gig for SAB, Johnson and Johnson, De Beers Marine, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), and several goverenment departments. It’s good value, and a total jol.    

Department of Social Services, Northern Cape –  Radio Inserts: A groundbreaking series of locally produced interviews with farmworkers, ghetto dwellers, street children and others on their personal stories around substance abuse. To be played on a local radio station soon… 

Until next time – if you’ve read this far! – peace, respect and love…





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Louder Than Words

This man has just told a lie…

Book here now on the KBT homepage, and see audience comments… For a recent interview with Gaetan, listen here.

Gaetan Schmid’s show at the Kalk Bay Theatre is a short blast of physical storytelling that compels from start to finish. Playful and imaginative, with real warmth and off-the-cuff jokery, Body Language now has – courtesy of TakeAway Theatre – a dedicated workshop run by this master of interactive movement and gesture, along with humble co-facilitator, Sean O’Connor.

So if you don’t see it (hey, it’s a good night out) TakeAway will bring the show to your business or organisation, along with a terrific application that makes ultimate sense for the workplace: a workshop where non-verbal communication is scrutinised, turned inside-out, and reconfigured, with humour and understanding. (Yes and it’s naturally aligned to workplace objectives and values, and all that scorecard stuff.)

Body Language is rooted in the science of observation, in biology, in sociology and psychology, in the primal stuff that makes us human. You can even learn a technique to extract secrets, just by… well… that would be giving it away.

A little more about the show? Taking the moment of greeting as his starting point, Gaetan exploits a dizzy array of skills (mime, verbal pyrotechnics, physical comedy) to expose what we’re up to, the stuff that we communicate without even speaking. And there’s lots of it. Our bodies never shut up.

Gaetan’s premise is that better communication makes better communities. After watching an early version of the show, I also think that laughter creates better communities. A bonding experience for the audience: we all have unconscious gestures and behaviours, which here we see, gently dissected, vigorously re-animated, and and intelligently sequenced into a compelling spectacle, and a humane lesson. The climax is… well. You know what climaxes are like.

A perfect teambuild that advances communication and laughter. What more could you want?

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