There is good acting and there is bad acting, and there is a whole lot in between.
The same goes for role-playing.
If you are reading this, you are probably considering using actors in a development or assessment exercise. Good choice.
What it offers is the opportunity to put relationship and communications into practice. Doing so enables people to build skills and confidence for when they have to do the real thing. It also helps to identify performance gaps in a safe and harmless environment.
This is particularly important as there is often a knowing/doing gap in the capabilities of workers; they know what they are supposed to do, but in the heat of the moment, when they are dealing with a difficult customer or are pressed for time, what they do might be something else altogether.
We also observe a gap between corporate performance language and how people interpret it. We have done a great deal of work bringing capability frameworks, or behavioural descriptions – such as those on the Human Synergistics Circumplex – to life. To get people to role-play a “Constructive” conversation is an effective way to assess whether people have got it, or not.
So in summary, role-playing can be clarifying, empowering and profoundly useful, but only when it is done well.
You may be considering the two main approaches to role-playing.
- An actor – ideally a skilled professional – plays a character and the learner/candidate engages this person in conversation; be it sales, consulting, negotiation, coaching, interviewing, etc
- Two or more learners, colleagues, are provided with a scenario and they engage in the conversation as if where real.
In the first case, the best outcomes are achieved when the scenario is clear and credible, and the actor playing the character has the skills to deftly steer the drama to provide the ideal level of stretch for the learner/candidate. They must be a very good actor. That is a given, but they should also be able to deliver a performance that serves the development or assessment process; not too challenging but not to easy either. The actor should also be skilled in debriefing their experience. They should be able to speak from the character’s perspective, and also, they should be able to speak from an objective position as well.
When the role-play is between two colleagues, the best outcomes are achieved when the scenario is not too complicated, and the construction ensures that the players have the opportunity to employ specific observable skills. In this case, facilitating the debrief is a critical part of the process.
In addition to providing the actors, we can also provide experienced trainers to debrief the role-plays, break down the moments in which skills were used well and clarify opportunities for improvement. In most cases, our actors have these skills.
Download the coup role-play brief to trigger some thinking on what you could share with us, to enable us to help deliver an outstanding live experience. Or use the form below to contact the Managing Director.