Role playing is a useful tool for team building in social learning situations. It requires a minimum of two people, which makes it suitable for small groups. This type of team building exercise allows team members to examine situations from different points of view and prepare for different situations that they will face in the real world.
People typically love or hate role playing activities. The purpose of role playing is to encourage the team to engage with the topic, prepare for different scenarios, and see different points of view. Providing examples will help team members engage and learn in the role playing activities. Once role playing is acted out, the team should debrief and discuss what they learned from the scenarios. When done correctly, role playing is an effective social learning tool.
Related: Types of Team Building Exercises
Identify Work Related Scenarios
The first step to effective role play is identifying work related scenarios. Scenarios will vary according to each team. Identifying the scenarios requires the topics to be researched and written well. Make use of scripts and take your time making decisions.
When choosing work related scenarios, try using open discussion. Brainstorm problems and situations that the team will face. Make a list of these, and determine which ones will make effective role playing scenarios.
- Addressing inappropriate behavior
- Helping customers
- Improving listening skills
- Handling dangerous situations
Variables are situations that change from one scenario to the next. These are what makes it possible to create different role playing scenarios for each problem. Things that change include the number and nature of the characters and the settings. As these details change, the role playing will change. For example, a role play scenario with a customer can vary. Variables include phone communication, returns, irate customers, etc. Each variable alters the dynamics of the role play and determines that appropriate response from the participants. When choosing variables, identify the ones that target your team’s needs.
The details of the role play must be clear. They include the setting, number of participants needed, the role of each participant, and the nature of the problem. The next step is to assign the roles to each person participating. The roles playing scenarios should be short. The goal is for each participant to play each role, which is why role playing between two people works well. Playing the different roles allows the participants to see things from multiple perspectives. It also helps everyone engage with the scenario completely.
Before engaging in role playing, it is a good idea to provide the players with a little guidance. Role play is not an excuse to act out. A few ground rules will help keep the role playing activities in line. You need to address appropriate behavior during role playing activities and how to stay focused.
Examples of Ground Rules:
- Profane language is not allowed.
- Sexual innuendo is not allowed.
- Stay on the topic outlined in the scenario.
Act It Out
Role playing requires people to act out different scenarios. This can be difficult to for some team members if they are shy or uncomfortable. This is why it is important to create a comfortable atmosphere and begin with a demonstration. Remind participants that they are acting out a role, and encourage them to have fun with the situation. You may want to lead them in breathing techniques or visualization techniques to help improve their mindset before the team building activity.
After completing the role playing exercises, groups should debrief. This allows participants to share their observations and what they learned. There are many different ways to debrief. For example, you may choose to have people write short explanations, lead a discussion, or a combination of both. The method of debriefing you choose will depend on the size and dynamics of the team. Regardless of the way you debrief, you should end the session by reviewing the main conclusions that the team made on the subject.
Mirror Good Examples
Demonstrating role play ahead of time will make team members more comfortable with the idea. It will also increase participation and provide an example that will guide them as they perform their own role play scenarios. Examples for people to mirror may be done in different ways. You may ask two volunteers to perform in front of the class, or you may perform a role play with another leader or a participant. When providing an example for people to mirror, it is a good idea to start with a prewritten script. This will prevent any awkward pauses or confusion.
General Role Playing Tips
Every role playing team building exercise and setting is unique and should be treated like it is. Individualizing role play will increase its effectiveness. Team leaders have different options that will improve role play for each team. Making sure that participants are comfortable is the single most effective tip for improving role play.
- Ask for feedback after the demonstration.
- Do not force people to perform demonstrations.
- Pair the role play with a game to make it more interesting.
- Try to use small groups so you can better observe them.
The size and dynamics of the group will determine how the role play should be done.