Podcast Transcripts

Judy Ditchfield, Corporate Roleplay Actor, on Empathy and Business Growth



Colin Hunter 0:08 (intro 1)

Hi folks, and welcome to another episode of the Leadership Tales Podcast. Delighted to be joined by Judy Ditchfield today. Judy is a good friend; colleague. I worked with her and her team from South Africa in a performance role play capacity for a number of years now, but I wanted to share her story, or get her to share her story with you. Because there’s a depth of learning and there’s a lifelong learner to Judy. And she has been involved with TV stage, performance role play, but she’s moved into a facilitator role now. But she’s also been doing that in the environment of South Africa, working with the challenges of that. We’ll talk, and we’ll hear today about the apartheid times where she was in one of the first theatre companies that was interracial. There’s a number of things that just come out of the conversation today. But if you listen behind it, there’s also somebody who comes from a very humble place and has learned to grow and develop and I’m grateful for our friendship. I’m grateful for the work she does for us. But I’m also grateful to be able to share her story, to inspire others about what is possible. So welcome to Judy. And I’m hoping you enjoy the conversation as much as I did.


Colin Hunter 1:25 (intro 2)

Hi folks, and welcome to another episode of the Leadership Tales Podcast. I am delighted. This is not a work day. This is a pleasure day. I’ve got Judy Ditchfield with me today. Judy is a good friend; colleague. Lives in South Africa. We’ve worked together for a number of years on different projects. She runs an amazing business of using actors, performance role play, training, facilitating. She’s on a journey. But she’s also just got one of those journeys that I’d love to talk about, particularly when you’re working with a client and you’re walking into a canteen full of employees who recognise her off the TV, and you feel in that moment a bit like the guest of Judy Ditchfield. So, on that note, we’re just going to go into the background of Judy’s story, and you’ll love it as much as I love it, I’m sure. Judy, welcome.


Judy Ditchfield 2:15 

Thanks, Colin. But I don’t think I’ve ever been more famous than you. Let me tell you. And it’s South Africa’s version of famous which is a minute one compared to everywhere else.


Colin Hunter 2:27 

Oh, if we could just talk about our imposter syndromes for the next hour. So, Judy just give people a bit of a background – because your family, your husband; your background is just amazing. Maybe just give a potted history. I know you could talk for ages, and I’ve read your draft book that you’re writing at the moment, which is amazing. But just tell us a bit about yourself. Yeah.


Judy Ditchfield 2:54 

We come from a crazy family. Colin, you know quite a few of them now, I think. Over the years getting to know me, you’ve had to be introduced to my family. So, we come from quite a theatrical family, mum is 95. But she started at 16 as a resident pianist for a theatre company. I think it’s in our Irish blood, because we’ve got a lot of Irish ancestry. And we worked out last night that there are eight of us, full time actors and doing other things in one family, which I think is quite amazing. But my husband’s an actor, my son’s an actor, the other one should be an actor, but he’s in business and is sensible.


Colin Hunter 3:34 

He’s a brilliant guy.


Judy Ditchfield 3:37 

They’re all wonderful. So, we have quite an out-there family, quite a brave family. We’re still exceptionally close. We love being together. We love our times together and probably a bit insular if you ask me.


Colin Hunter 3:51 

Interesting. We’ll tap into that later on. So, take me back. Because obviously the 95-year-old mum, who looks amazing, for 95, is incredible. And she’s got a story. So, what was your journey? Talk to me about that. What did you do?


Judy Ditchfield 4:05 

I studied drama and psychology. I loved psychology by the end more than the drama, but I was too busy dancing around – but I didn’t get enough marks to go into psychology. I’m grateful because I got into a theatre company, which was in those years when I was still young and fit, a physical theatre company. And it was, interestingly enough, one of the first multiracial companies in this country. Now, as you know, I’m from South Africa, with the whole apartheid history. So those multiracial companies, there weren’t many around. And it was officially the first multiracial company in the country. So, 13 of us and we had a wonderful time. So, I did that, freelance for a few years, moved up to Joburg when I met Paul, my husband, who have been married to for, since 1988. That is a long time.


Colin Hunter 5:01 

To be married at all? Or is it just a long time to be married? Only joking.


Judy Ditchfield 5:06 

He’s had to put up with me for those years. So yeah. So carried on acting. And then funnily enough, it was you that started me on my journey into something new. And many, many years after I started acting, I got a request to come and role play. And I did not know what that was, you can imagine the connotations that you think of when you first hear coming to role play. And then I discovered it was business simulation. And I came in, I think it was still with Hunter Roberts then…


Colin Hunter 5:40 

Roberts. Yeah, there’s a blast from the past. Yeah.


Judy Ditchfield 5:45 

There it is. And you guys turned up the team here. And I came in and went off all over Africa. And that was my sort of start up in business simulation, which I still love very much.


Colin Hunter 6:00 

And it’s a journey for you – because of the acting, and I’m interested to go back. So, was this in apartheid times or after apartheid, when you went into the first multiracial?


Judy Ditchfield 6:11 

It was very much in. So, when I was at school, it’s really hard to imagine, even me thinking back on it. It’s hard to even work out how it existed. But when I went to school, it was all white schools. And there were schools for Indian children, there were schools for African children, which was completely segregated. And I think there were one or two Catholic schools in the country that had mixed, diverse groups. But other than that, it was purely white faced for my schooling. And then we went into university, but I’m talking about in an entire university, there maybe were a handful of African people at the university, because even that was separate. So big changes came in our time, we were still watched a lot by the apartheid government. So, you got involved in politics and political activities, or even part of the students representative Council at varsity. And even just being part of that we were watched, because that was seen to be political. So right through university, it was very much segregated. When I started in the theatre company that was still frowned upon, you know, people were still being prosecuted for marrying someone of a different race. It was that bad, you know, and as we all know, and then slowly, but surely, it started to change to the South Africa we’ve got today, which is still in the throes of shifting in terms of diversity, we like to think it’s okay. It’s still not. It’s still not a balanced environment. Yeah.


Colin Hunter 7:57 

You’re not alone with that – with the rest of the world. Now. I mean, you went through some really horrible times, but actually, you look at what’s going on in the rest of the world and actually, that’s our new project this year is to go off and, you know, try increase equity in society, but it’s just, you know, right across from skin colour, right the way through to neurodiversity. So even if you’re talking about skin colour, and then you talk about two people who have the same skin colour, you’re still talking about two very different people, different backgrounds. It’s yeah, it’s massive, but I’m interested in the theatre, because one of the rich things that I love going in and working with your team down there is the richness of those different backgrounds and cultures. So, when you’re in that first multiracial, how did how did it shift your mindset? Going into that? Because that must have been different for you to work in that space?


Judy Ditchfield 8:45 

It was different Colin, but I think, I don’t know. You know, I think my mother’s generation was so ingrained in it. I don’t know. Because whether it was because we were in our 20s we were young, we were just being brave. That in a way very quickly, we became a unified front. However, we weren’t very equitable in terms of how we lived, people in the company, we had to drive miles to take them home. They lived on the outskirts of town, where we lived within the town environment. That eventually changed. But I must say, I’ve always just seen people for people. So, for me, in a way and I remember speaking very many years later to one of the actors in the company with me; wonderful filmmaker called [inaudible]. And [inaudible] said to me, you know, you didn’t realise what you were like in those days. And I said, what does that mean? You said, you used to walk down the street holding my hand, but you said you are unaware of the reactions around you. You said, we used to get looks of hatred. Looking at disgust at us, but you never seemed to realise it, which is probably quite insensitive of me at the time, but he was my friend. So, I wasn’t looking for that. Whereas as an African man in this country, who had been so marginalised, for him, it was a serious threat to him. So, and I think the acting industry in this country that has been one area, and it’s not totally equitable, there’s no question about it, we still have a long way to go in this country in so many ways. But it’s been the one area in the country where we have mixed naturally. We just worked together. We don’t see it. It’s not, of course, but in this country, it was so.


Colin Hunter 10:46 

Yeah. And I think that sometimes; isn’t it the history? You know, you look at what’s gone on and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and you’d look at Sidney Poitier, who’s passed away, you look at the legacy of that: what a great movie, what a great actor, but there is almost the music in the theatre. And I want to take this into the immersion, into the role play, because you made a comment before, which was, you naturally fit it into it. But I also wanted to link it to your comment about I only see the human, because there is something about “take everything away”. The one-on-one human dimension that we’ve got when we’re in the acting space is massive. Yeah. And we don’t see anything else. We don’t see the auditor; we don’t see the finance person. It’s that human being and the connection they are making with us. And the dance that we do in that emotion is massive. But how did it feel coming in to be an actor? Because you write in the book about, you know, learning about business, and suddenly having to be this character. And I remember our first few times together where you were still learning, but that must have been a big leap? I think it’s less of a leap now for people, but it must have been a big leap in those days?


Judy Ditchfield 11:58 

Massive for me, so don’t think I’m a stupid person. However, I was ignorant in terms of the business environment. I hadn’t done a lot with it, and in South Africa, and now it’s a bit different. But when we were growing up as actors, business wasn’t there, you just knew we’re probably going to be unemployed at some point or other. So that was as far as you thought. Our business experience was limited. My father was always in business. He was in the bank system for 42 years. So, I’d had an experience of that, but I didn’t have a knowledge of it. So, talk about impostor syndrome! Here, I’m being pushed into an environment where I’m suddenly hearing about things that I’ve never heard of, literally never heard of. When you talk about KPIs that to me was foreign. I didn’t know what a KPI was. I didn’t know what a stakeholder was. So it was that terror, I knew I could engage with the person in front of me. I knew as an actor, everyone thinks we are all about acting, but it’s really about reacting. So, I knew that I was in touch with the person in front of me. That’s why I never wanted to do theatre on my own. I never wanted to do a solo show, because I love working with what’s in front of me. That’s what drives me. It makes me excited. But I didn’t know and I thought I was going to be caught up for not having enough knowledge. But you guys were so brilliant. You gave us so much information. It took me weeks. But with that said, I still, if I look back now, I think boy, what did I know about business? You absorb, actors are like sponges. So, they want to learn. So, I learned and I’m still learning. I think when I’m 90, I’ll still be learning. So that’s the excitement of it. I think.


Colin Hunter 13:59 

I agree. And I do think what is interesting, because the imposter syndrome comes across, even for me and I talk a lot about this, which is – have I led a big organisation like HSBC? Can I coach somebody senior in those places? But somebody in a tech company once said you got to realise we have technical expertise, but you understand the human being and you know how to talk to them and you know how to engage, we struggle with that and that’s where we need you to help and I think the acting side, that’s exactly the moment where you’re in that one-on-one with somebody. And for the first time, they’re firstly in a safe space to work with. They’ve got that interaction but what I loved is what you were describing, as we used to call it the pinch and the ouch. The participant is coming in and they are giving the actor a pinch. And whatever that pinch is they get a proportionate ouch back from the actor and a reaction, but that’s a real skill and in some cases, people always think actors, musicals – the lovey as we call it in the UK, but you actually had to get back to being the human being playing a role. Yeah. So just going into that for a second, because you have your own company, you work with South African businesses, you work with African businesses. So, what’s your experience at the moment with everything going on about how that’s working? And how you are working now in the market with COVID? And everything? What’s your opinion, your experience?


Judy Ditchfield 15:26 

Yeah, look, it set us all back. And I think it took us such a long time to get by and for role play. So, what we found over the years in South Africa, when you guys came in from Britain, you almost had extra weight to it, and people bought it more…


Colin Hunter 15:47 

Thanks for that. What are we talking – about extra weight? Yeah, you know…


Judy Ditchfield 15:52 

Don’t even go there Colin. Very sensitive myself. So, when COVID happens once again, they go, oh, no, no, no, we had just managed to sell them on the idea that it is so valuable. But what they loved about it was the face to face, the connecting with the person sitting in front of you. And in South Africa, we do it slightly differently most of the time, so when you guys come in, you facilitate the role play. So, we come in, we give them the experience in the immersion, we give them the ouch, the pinch and all that stuff. And we give them the feedback that you require. However, in South Africa, we run the sessions ourselves. So, we give them feedback all the time. And so, they get immediate feedback from us. So, when COVID happened, they literally shut it down, and are now starting to open up again, but I must tell you that, as we know, and why we struggled for so long to get it going in this country is we know the impact of business simulation in the training room. We know how powerful it is. And the feedback we get generally from it. And I’m not saying this, because it’s our company, I would say worldwide, it’s probably the same thing. It’s in the role play, where everything integrates, and where people can really feel shifts. And that’s what makes us do what we do. Because it’s one thing be a facilitator but, two, I can teach you what to do, I can work with you. I can give you an immersive experience. But only when you experience the shift yourself do you really start changing the behaviour.


Colin Hunter 17:39 

And I love that because people visually won’t be able to see that. But the way you went to your gut there, is, you know, the feeling of the gut is so important in that room. And we always talk about the fact that – as you say it’s so powerful, but it might not be the first role play it might be the third role play, it might be when we were running those workshops with, you know, the larger organisations of four or five days, it might be in the fourth day, that they suddenly just get that aha moment and suddenly yea this is what I need to change. It’s amazing. How do you train people to do that? Because that’s what you’ve been very good at. When I work with your team there’s always such a high standard, you know, you’ve got the owners of the business. Such a high standard. So how do you do that?


Judy Ditchfield 18:28 

I think I was trained by person called Colin Hunter. So, it was my first experience of it. I am a task master; I am tough on my team. I think we can never not deliver; we can never not deliver. And yeah, we go wrong sometimes. Yes, we don’t get it perfectly every time however, we are giving 200%. So, I require everyone in the team and I’m just one of three owners of the company – we expect them to deliver. And if somebody has not done it, I’m like you I will give immediate feedback and say this is not okay. But also, because we’re very, very particular about who we choose. And I know you are like that to. If you don’t think I’m right for something, you’re straight up. And that that’s the same with us. So, when we’ve had our workshops, which you’ve run some of them anyway for us. But when we’ve done that, we’ve always been very specific about the people we’ve chosen to come on. But also, if we don’t believe somebody’s right for it, we haven’t kept them going. Because there’s no point, we want the best people to do it because it’s all of our clients. That is everything to us. I don’t know if that answered your question?


Colin Hunter 19:51 

It does answer the question and it comes to something in here about standards of running a business. Yeah, and you running a business because there’s some learning for you over the last 2,3,4 years about running the business versus being – and you and I are very similar. We love the work. So, we love being in the room, we love doing the acting, the facilitating. And you know, when I’m in there, I’m up, I’m probably at my happiest working with clients. And then there’s the running of the business, which seems a bit of an irritation in the background. But it’s something that you are incredibly good at. But that’s a journey you’ve been on, isn’t it?


Judy Ditchfield 20:27 

Oh, Colin, has it been a journey? So, thanks for saying that I am… It’s a tough thing to do. And over the years, because we are the three of us that started the company, by the way, we now talk about equity. With the [inaudible] coming into South Africa, we now have shareholders in the company as well. But the three of us that run it, we all are active…


Colin Hunter 20:50 

We need to give them a shout out.


Judy Ditchfield 21:26 

Myself, Charlotte Butler and Jocelyn Broderick are the three; we started the company many years ago and Charlotte was one of the first three role players in this country. So, she started even before me, she coached me into it. And then we’ve got four amazing shareholders. So, we’ve got a great team that we work with and the three of us our actors. We had to learn on the fly. And it’s been tough Colin, I have to say you are brilliant at it. And you’re less of a people pleaser. You once told me I was a people pleaser. And I was so upset with you, so grumpy. I’m not a people pleaser. And I only realised much later I’m seriously a people pleaser, which I’ve worked on a lot. But in our trying to please everybody, I don’t think we were as great in the company. Because we had to learn to say it’s not going to work. And this is not personal. It’s just not going to work. So, we are still learning. The company’s grown enormously. We’ve got 42 actors that work with us. And we’ve got some really, really good clients over the years. 90% word of mouth, but now I’ve tried sales, Colin, Oh, my heavens, sales. Oh, my heavens, but I’ve just got a really, really big new client. I’m really excited.


Colin Hunter 23:11 

Yeah. And I think this interesting, because there are different people who are going to be listening to this – some of them potential actors who want to think, so how do I get in and do what you do? And there’s a lot of people who do that. And there’s some really good lessons. But there’s also other people who run businesses who know, and we’re part of an organisation that we go to every year in Scottsdale, Arizona, and you’ve got some of the really, really top organisations, which is where I get impostor syndrome when I’m sitting down next to Ken Blanchard or other people and going oh, yeah, okay. Yeah, what’s, what’s my story here? Can I make something up just to make me sound better? But the principle in there that we get every year is the key issues that organisations have in this space is sales, marketing, branding. Yeah. And also, people. Because no matter how much we go out and say we are a people business, and we train other people to do people businesses, there’s a difference between training people and doing it yourself. And that’s a tough one. Yeah. So, sales. Kudos to you. I think there’s great learnings from that. We could do a whole podcast on about how you’ve done that and how you’ve kept the relationships with key clients as well.


Judy Ditchfield 24:23 

Yeah, I think critical to me, always, is build good relationships with our clients. I think we’ve got to learn to say no a bit more. Because we also, you know, if you’re starting your own business, you want it to work so badly that you work extremely hard. I was working 16 hours a day to the point that I eventually wasn’t well. I got ill for a couple of months. And I know it was burnout, because I couldn’t say no. So that’s been a lesson for me as well. How do you manage client’s expectations? But also, I always say you teach people how to treat you. It’s not my thought. But it’s everybody’s thought. But how do you then start shifting the parameters to still deliver, but also be clear on expectations. So that’s been a lesson for us to learn, which we’re still learning.


Colin Hunter 25:17 

And you’ve done some amazing things over the COVID period, because it’s been tough for all actors, all business role player companies, and I’ve had a passion over that time to say, look, what can we do to grow the amount of income that actors can earn? Because it is a feast or famine for a lot of what you do. But you did something beautifully in there, you started to do some mental health work as well? Crafting that. You want to say a bit about that?


Judy Ditchfield 25:41 

I’m a bit of a social media junkie. So, I find the medium powerful, and what I observed over the months of COVID, and, you know, we literally lost a year’s work overnight, like many, many companies around the world, but what I started observing was a level of anxiety, around business, around working. And not just from actors, or not just from people who didn’t have jobs, but from people within the organisations, who are now having to do things so differently, that there were high levels of anxiety starting to happen. So, I read, I can’t give you who said this, you’re very good at that. But women are doing 15% more work than men, during COVID. Because there’s also a lot more of the mother in the load. And I’m being a bit sexist saying that, but I saw women getting highly anxious. I saw people saying, I’m not a teacher, how am I teaching here? I don’t know how to teach my kids. Having children running in, we all quite like it. But having kids running in behind in a meeting, or husbands never seeing their wives, because now we are suddenly working longer hours. So, I went to the girls. And I said to them, I think there’s a problem here, I think we’re going to have a crisis on our hands. If we stop looking at mental health, I think we’re going to be in trouble. And we started creating these videos around issues that people were dealing with. So, for example, a mother who’s working from home, but also being a parent, and wife and a worker. Looking at people in financial difficulties, because I don’t know, worldwide it’s happened, but in South Africa the poverty gap has always been large, it is now astronomical, people are literally in trouble. So that was a massive thing. We’ve got a thing in this country called black tax, they talk about black tax, where a member of a family suddenly is responsible, not just for the immediate family, but now is looking after extended families. So, sisters, brothers, mothers, parents, and maybe on a sometimes-miniscule salary, are now trying to provide and being expected to provide because maybe it’s the only person with the degree, maybe it’s an only person in a permanent job to provide for families. So, we created these as conversation points. Because I know psychological safety is coming in more and more. I’m so excited about it. Because I think one of the biggest issues is that we’re not talking about stuff enough. We talk about them in business, on a level that is safe not to go there. But I think we need to start talking about other stuff. And we worked with an amazing woman, who did some testing on companies and found out that the levels of stress in South Africa, and she’s also been working worldwide. Now she did an app where they could test levels of anxiety. And we were in crisis. And she kept on saying there is going to be what she called pre-traumatic stress syndrome. It’s not a psychological thing yet, but it’s not been registered as that but they’re calling it pre-traumatic stress. And what pre-traumatic stress starts doing to people is its pretty obviously pre-post-traumatic stress. But when people are in pre-traumatic stress and high levels are happening now, they start making mistakes, they start taking chances, two things that they would normally not do, purely because they’re under so much stress. For example, insurance companies started seeing an increase in claims because people were having more accidents even though there was hardly anyone on the roads. There were more accidents. So that work became very interesting to us. And then recently we’ve just done a video for a mental health company in Ireland.


Colin Hunter 30:06 

Nice. So, what I love about what you’ve done there, because one it’s paying it forward. Then there’s something about me when I look at hospitality industry over the COVID period, I look at the acting community, and what everybody’s done from those sectors to help others even when they’re probably the hardest, some of the hardest hit areas, says something about the type of people that are in there, and I love that. But the second thing for me is that when we get into the concepts like social theatre, which I’m learning more about now, I’m learning that the terms the Theatre of the Oppressed is part of it, or the Theatre of the Oppressor that’s coming in there. So, there’s two angles to it. But firstly, it’s helping people to understand that it’s okay that they feel stressed and under pressure when they’re in those circumstances. And for me, what’s opened up is my privilege of what living in the UK versus somebody in India who lives in her car overnight, and then comes in the office looking amazing. But when I was looking to get to hotels, she cleared out the back of the car where she sleeps and took me to the hotel, and then went back to sleep in her car overnight and then came in looking, you know, immaculate the next day. So, it’s when you understand what’s going on in those lives that you start to realise that firstly, it’s a different world. But secondly, from their understanding, it’s okay to feel like that because it’s amazing what you’re going through, and now you’re struggling with this. So, the oppressed and the oppressor, but that’s the power of theatre, isn’t it? That’s the power of acting?


Judy Ditchfield 31:45 

Yeah, I think it’s always been so powerful. Colin, I think it’s always been a voice where people wouldn’t normally talk about, acting has given it a voice. And I think theatre and even film/ television… and you’re right, you know, you were saying that it was probably the most hit area – South Africa was particularly hard hit – the acting industry and theatres are only starting to open after two years. So, I literally had people asking me for food parcels in the acting industry because they couldn’t eat. And there was very little subsidy from the government around actors. But I do think it’s also… what was important about the work that we were doing, and going back to those videos, was for people to realise that other people were experiencing the same anxiety, but maybe in very different environments. Probably one of the most moving things I’ve ever seen in my life. And this is hard for other people to understand but you’ve been in India, I think you would have picked it up to, is I was doing a TV series watched in South Africa by about 4.6 million a day, which was quite big here in South Africa; we only have 60 million people. And every day, I had to drive through town, to go to the TV series past the banking centre, all the big banks, some of the banks you’ve worked with. And one day I watched a lady get out of the box. It was a wooden box on the side of the road, and she got out of the box meticulously attired, and walked up the road to the bank. It broke my heart. Because I’ll tell you now 90% of the people who work with her don’t know, it was so moving.


Colin Hunter 33:35 

And I think for me this is – the more that global business happens, the more that leaders listen to this around the world, sitting in the US and I think some of the US does this, the immigration comes in, you’ve got more people who understand where they’ve come from. But the increasing thing is that we almost become immune to some of this. We don’t see it. And I love, the phrase “I see you”, seen and heard. There is something that, you know, even with a charity called the CEO sleep out here, to get people to experience what it is like to be cold. So, theatre has a part to play. But going forward, where are you going with your theatre with your company? Where are you taking it?


Judy Ditchfield 34:26 

Where are we taking it in terms of theatre? I think companies are more towards the business side of it. But we will always be looking for where the gaps are. So, at the moment, we are still sort of behind and Africa is sort of still behind in terms of the role play side of it. So, we are still pushing that a lot. We still believe it’s got major legs, especially throughout Africa. We love working in Africa, throughout Africa. So, we’re going to still work hard on that. If I talk personally now of what Judy loves doing, I see myself now as a conversation starter. So, a lot of the work that I’m doing personally and it’s hard to, because I talk too much. Don’t smile at me Colin. But because what I’ve really learned to do is to give people the space to open up, and to feel safe enough to do it. And I think that brings me meaningful change. And it’s going back to what you said, in the work that I’m doing with teams, I’m starting to see how people within a team that know each other because they work together every day, actually know so little about each other. And in the conversations we have, in their sessions that I’m doing with them, we’re starting to see the people underneath it all. And to me if we can put people at the centre again, which I think COVID has brought about. And I think I’m so grateful for that. We’ve got to put people back into business. And we’ve got to give people voices to be more authentic to be more vulnerable. And it’s not popular to be vulnerable, it’s not being safe to be vulnerable. That’s where I would like to take us; that we start having more conversations and put people at the centre of business again.


Colin Hunter 36:25 

I love that. I heard a term the other day, an organisation called the Human Library, where you can reach out and talk to a human being who will be able to tell you about what they’ve gone through; what their experience is. So rather than reading a book, or Wikipedia or anything else, you’re talking live to somebody who can tell you that the acting you’re doing is so powerful. It’s starting those conversations. But also, some people’s idea of what is powerful in that conversation, it’s just when they tell the story and you go, wow, what about that, that bit, that’s nothing no, no, that is something because that’s what I go through, you know; tell me more about how that became nothing to you. I love that concept. And so, I want to go back to the human for you Judy, because if you want to go to the two or three things that have defined you, and I was reading in the book about Cairo, and that trip, that was a massive thing for you. Tell us why it was such a big thing for you.


Judy Ditchfield 37:29 

Okay, so that was the first experience I had at roleplay. So, by 40, when I turned 40. And I’m very happy to say my age, I’m not one of those prissy people who can’t say their age out loud. But when I was turning 40, I’d never been overseas, I’d never been outside South Africa. So, I got into do role play for your company. And my first trip was to Kenya. And it was very exciting. But I was with people so I felt safe. And then the next one I got was a trip to Cairo. Now Cairo seems a long way away, in a funny way we almost don’t think of it as part of Africa because it feels to North for us. But anyway, so just before I was leaving, I got a phone call from one of the role players to say, Jude, listen, you’re going to have to go on your own, because I have to go a day earlier. So, hell anxiety jumped in, I think, I’ve got to travel somewhere like this on my own. Anyway, because I was really not a seasoned traveller. I think I’ve done a bit more now. But I get onto the plane terrified later. And I know I’m going to arrive late at night, in Cairo. So, on the plane, they give you this little thing, which most people who travel know that little thing to fill out, what you’re coming to do, where you’re going, where you’re staying, all that stuff, which is fine now, but at the time, I am going say the wrong thing. It’s Arabic on the one and English on the other and fill it in and that’s my security. I’ve got to get off the plane. I was still Judy Broderick, then as I get off the plane, there’s somebody, a very tall man with a little sign saying, Judy Broderick, and I think Oh, thank heavens. Somebody’s there for me. Get to him, say hi. And he goes, hello. Okay, so this might not be a long conversation, and I think okay, so I started running with my case behind him. And he says, give it to me, give it to me give. What do I give to you? So, oh, maybe it’s this little form. So, I hand him the form, and he looks at it. And he goes, no, this is wrong. And he tears it up. I’m in Cairo at 11 o’clock at night. And he’s torn up my form. And he grabs another one off the customs thing. Am I taking too long with the story?


Colin Hunter 39:49 

No, I love this story. And because I’ve been there myself, and it is that moment where, and these people are paid to get you through immigration, so they want to rush you, but they don’t stand on ceremony do they? Yeah.


Judy Ditchfield 40:05 

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, not even a vague smile from him. Anyway, so now he has torn it up and he grabs another form off the custom booth. And he starts writing in Arabic. So, in my head, it’s quite embarrassing to say this, Colin, thanks for making me say it aloud. I think he’s written Judy Broderick, occupation. He could have said sex worker, prostitute. He could have said, female slave. I am petrified. And I’m trying to remember role play in this, but that’s gone out the window. And anyway, he gets me through. And I think oh, thank heavens, I’m through that. And then he walks out the front door and he looks at a taxi. Now I think he’s going to take me to the hotel. No, no, no, no, no. He looks at a random taxi and says, and I hear him say Hyatt. Okay, that’s my hotel. Okay, that’s good. That’s good. Puts the case in the boot. We get into the car; we drive out the airport. And as we get out the airport, there’s a police blockade. Now I come from South Africa. I’m used to that, but not in Cairo. There are guns looking in the car, looking in the back, open the back, open my case. Then they drive like they drive in Cairo. Have you ever driven in Cairo? They don’t slow down, they hoot. And cars get out the way, they don’t slow down. So, for 45 minutes to the hotel, I thought I was going to die. Anyway, long story short, I got to Cairo and I did some amazing work in role play. And it taught me it’s okay. I have to be a bit braver, and I am so grateful for the experience. But I must say it was terrifying.


Colin Hunter 42:07 

What I love about that, and I want to end on this because for people who don’t know you, there’s a real courage in what you do and the rest of the team. There’s a real courage to take on, in a difficult environment, to take on the role of growing a business taking on acting, taking on the business world, taking on facilitation. And for those who are listening, who are actors who do business role play plus facilitation. That’s a tough gig, you’re playing two characters. But I think that you all have had your hurdles, like us, that you go through. And being a woman in Cairo, late at night, all of those things, in some ways that it adds to the value and the person that is Judy when you come to your work. Yeah.


Judy Ditchfield 42:50 

Colin, I think every single thing that’s happened in my life, and I’ve had a fairly easy life, as I say, I’ve got to be close family. Yeah, I have one or two hard experiences in my life. But everything that I do, I’m grateful for. And I know that sounds very cliched, but I am hugely grateful for. I think I’ve learned amazing lessons, I can say thank you to you, because I know you don’t officially, you’re not officially my mentor. But I’ve always looked to you to guide me. And I think you’ve been tough on me. And I’d be grateful for that too. And sometimes I haven’t liked you much…


Colin Hunter 43:27 

It’s a common theme.


Judy Ditchfield 43:31 

But I’m so grateful for the lessons. And sometimes when you say I don’t think that’s right for you, I usually listen to you. But sometimes I think, I think you’re wrong. I’m going to get it done, I’m going to do it, I will do it. And I think that’s what I’ve learned over the years. I don’t love change. But I have been pushed into it so much, that now, even if I know it’s coming, and I don’t want it, I’m going to go there. And I’m going to be brave. And I think if anybody starting businesses, if anyone wants to get into different avenues now, be brave, and then be authentic in it. Because that, to me, is everything.


Colin Hunter 44:11 

I think, you know, [INAUDIBLE] is a person I’ve come to recently and she talks about the arena and it’s one of my favourite expressions, which is, you know, come into the arena, if you want to work with me come into the arena, but don’t fire shots from the outside come into work with me and, and start to be there and, and do the tough things. And I think, to summarise your career, you’ve done the tough things, you say you’ve had an easier upbringing. What you do is amazing, and what the team do is amazing. So, thank you, Judy Ditchfield for being here. Love to all the family and everybody else. But where can people find out about you the company if they’re listening, they want to find out a bit more about you?


Judy Ditchfield 44:50 

Yeah. Thanks, Colin. And really, thanks for inviting me. I did have that impostor syndrome thinking why does he want to talk to me, but I’m very grateful you did. But you can go onto www.roleplay.co.za. So that’s our company, performance role play training, you can find us there, you can find out what we do. We do lots of things. But you can find us there. And we’ve got a great team, we’d always love to engage with you even just to check and find out what you do. We always learn from people. We love conversations. So, thank you.


Colin Hunter 45:25 

Pleasure, we talk about amplifying the human and you definitely do that in your life. So brilliant, thank you, Judy Ditchfield


Judy Ditchfield 45:30 

Take care, Colin.


Colin Hunter 45:37 

I love that conversation, just to hear the growth, the development of Judy’s character, her business, the nature of the work she does. And I’m a big believer that the role of the actor and the actor facilitator, as we grow into the moments where we need to increase development, particularly in a virtual world, but face to face as well, will be critical. The immersion of the actors really is a powerful route and a method to get people to shift behaviours. And looking forward to thinking with a different mindset, so delighted she could tell her story. Look forward to welcoming you back on another episode Leadership Tales Podcast soon.