Role play is a love-it-or-hate-it workplace technique. For the wannabe thespians among your tribe, it provides a fantastic opportunity for them to practice their dramatic prowess, giving it their all as they assume the role of a character in a fictitious setting that mimics real-life.
But for those who didn’t dig drama lessons at school – and may be a little shy in the office – role play can be nothing short of a living hell.
Understanding the benefits
If you know there are certain members of your tribe who fear role play, make sure you explain the benefits and help them understand why you’re getting them to do it (i.e., you’re not doing it to make them look or feel silly!).
One main advantages or role play is that is allows your tribe to learn through doing, aka, experiential learning. Read a book and they might not absorb the info, listen to a presentation and they could drift off (we’ve all done it!). But, if place them right at the heart of the action and they’re more likely to pay attention, continue paying attention and learn some valuable lessons.
Role play enables your tribe to sharpen skills related to leadership, listening, problem-solving and more. It provides a safe environment where they can encounter possible scenarios for the first time (whether it’s dealing with a problematic client or a customer requiring first aid) so they can get it right – and do it well – when and if it happens in reality.
Role play also offers a chance for self-reflection. By acting out a certain scenario, your tribe (and you, as their leader) will able to identify their strengths and perhaps more importantly, their weaknesses, so they can be addressed before they find themselves in the situation for real.
Using role play
Coax the coyest members from their shells by organising some pre-role play ice-breakers – some fun activities that’ll raise your tribe’s spirits! Then…
Identify the situation. Explain the issue and encourage an open discussion about it before the role play begins. This will allow your tribe to start planning their approach.
Set the scene. Set up a scenario, adding as many elements (where, when who, what, why) as you can so that it feels real. Make sure everyone’s clear about what you want to accomplish by the end of the session.
Assign roles. It’s casting time! Who plays the employee? Who plays the disgruntled customer? Tell your tribe to use their imaginations and really get into the minds of the person they’re playing – their feelings, goals and motivations.
Do it! Lights, camera, action! Act out the scene, testing out different approaches if necessary. If you can, build up the tension; the disgruntled customers shouldn’t jump in guns blazing straight away, as that’s unlikely to happen in real life.
Talk about it. As soon as the session is finished, chat about it. Talk about both individual and group strengths and weaknesses. Then, go around the room asking each person what they’ve learnt – this will give you a good idea of whether your role play workshop was a resounding success!