>Role Play? No thanks

>This week’s inaugural Q&A post was on the topic of role plays within training. The question I posed was this: “Often in training it’s necessary to practise the skills you are learning. But, is role play the best way to achieve this?”

There’s been some excellent comments from the following people: Rob Green, Wendy Jacob, Matthew Warrener, Sarah Durbridge, TheHRD, Doug Shaw and Mr AirMiles. Here’s a precis of their comments:

Rob talked about it being difficult to get into character for a role play as he’s not facing the person he’s likely to come across. Once he tries though, feedback can be useful.

Wendy was clear in stating “There is no realism in acting out a semi-scripted conversation” and “You can’t plan for every response and scenario and, while I see some merit in discussing on a practical level how a new skill might be used, I’ve yet to experience a role play which hasn’t been a painful experience for everybody.

Matthew made an excellent point when he said “…customers DO NOT HAVE SCRIPTS! We can discuss and debate customer/event scenarios but lets leave role playing to the cast of Fame!“. I couldn’t agree more!

Sarah thought about it from the trainer’s point of view too and talked about role play feeling unreal and embarrassing for the participants.

TheHRD made an interesting observation when he said “I’ve found that in our culture people like to use it…not because they find it real but because they find it helps to practice“.

Doug made a nice quip and said “I have scriptophobia, a fear of role play.

And Mr Airmiles provided a great comment, “There are other ways to practice and apply classroom learning – Micky Mouse Land role plays aren’t one of them…“.

There’s plenty in the comments you can read and learn from, and I’m grateful for the contributions. I have to add my tuppence though. For me, you just need to consider the purpose of using role play at all. If it’s a service based offering you have, create a duplicate environment, a simulation of sorts, where the person can not only practise what they’ve been taught, but become conscious of the environment they’re in, the people they have to interact with, and apply themselves naturally.

If it’s to practise a learned behavioural skill such as Assertiveness, or Feedback, this is much harder to control for in a training environment as the situations you create will never be true to life. You can’t account for emotions, reactions, beliefs, culture, that a person holds within them. In these places I’ve always found it more useful to encourage planning of conversations and discuss those as the preparation can raise awareness, you then have to trust they’ll actually ‘do’ it when they go back to work.

In the main, I don’t believe role plays have a place in training any more. There are better and more effective ways at embedding learning – skills practice, simulations, video feedback, are all  If you do choose to use them, just be very clear about the objective. They’ll work fine as thought starters, but won’t help to truly practise skills.

Thanks to all above for contributing this week.


>Role Play? I’m just not into that

>Seeing there are plentiful blogs to welcome you, get you kick started and provide ample advice on setting realistic resolutions for 2011, I’m going down a different track. I’m starting a weekly posting on something within the L&D world which would be interesting to open up to you all. In effect, I want you to write the blog.

The idea is simple enough. I pose a situation, you respond and I’ll try write a post to collect thoughts on (potentially) solving said situation. I’ll tweet it out once a day until Friday.

Often in training it’s necessary to practise the skills you are learning. But, is role play the best way to achieve this? I’ve never been a fan of role play. But before I get into it, let’s have a quick thought about why they’re used. Effectively they’re used to help people take a look at how they might use a learned skill and receive some feedback on it. That’s about it really. Like I said, I want your help in writing this, so let me know your thoughts, and on Friday, I’ll pull them together.

>Assertiveness is not trainable

>Yesterday I was doing some training in Assertiveness. It’s a topic I personally find really hard to connect with and deliver training on. The main reason for this is there is no way of knowing if the training has been effective or not. I have little doubt about the content I am covering, I have done all the expectation gathering at the beginning of the session, I’ve facilitated complete discussions, but I’m always left feeling flat because there’s no way of testing it.

And I don’t like doing role plays. Role plays have their place in training. I will use them when I think there is no other alternative. But you can’t role play being assertive. It just doesn’t work. You can display the behaviours you think you want your delegates to display, and you can get them to mirror you, but it’s just not the same.
With many other behavioural training, you can readily identify how far someone has come on their learning and understanding of the topic. But with assertiveness it’s really hard to tell. Why?
Because each person’s set of values determines when they think they have been ‘violated’, I can’t peer into your soul and identify ‘yes, you should have been assertive in said situation’. I can raise your awareness on the topic. I can help you identify your ‘bill of rights’. I can help you learn techniques about responding to challenging and difficult people. But I can’t know if you’ll do it.
Attending training on the topic will only ever serve as an awareness raiser. You will never know, without certain follow up activities, if the person has taken their learnings and used them effectively. Those certain follow up activities are dedicated and committed follow up training sessions, one to one coaching (either from line manager or from A N Other), reminder messages about the learnings and follow up discussions. That’s a lot of activity which the best willed L&Der in the world will want to do, but in reality won’t.
Also, being assertive is often part of other things a person wants to achieve. They have too high a workload. Unreasonable requests are put on them. They are a go to person for problems. They are seen to be highly effective at what they do. Yes, being assertive in part in these situations will help, but the skills needs to be used in conjunction with other activities – open discussions, time management, presentation skills, facilitation skills, delegation skills. As such, when talking with delegates about why they want to be assertive it’s because of something else they’re trying to achieve. This is just one piece of the puzzle.
I have tried time and again to come up with activities that can truly ‘test’ whether or not someone has learned the requisite skills and can then be assertive. I’ve not found an answer yet, and I’m still on the hunt.