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How to build confidence using ‘Real Play’

Hands up if you stifle a groan when someone suggests role playing? We have an alternative that we find much more likely to build confidence. We call it Real Play.

The case for role play

Despite its reputation for being cheesy and awkward, role playing to understand challenges and plan possible solutions is an effective way to build confidence. You may groan but by taking part you are increasing your chances of success because our brains are wired to recognise all experiences as ‘real’.

Therefore, by carrying out a conversation or working through a scenario, you effectively rewire your brain to believe it has already happened, increasing your chances of success in the actual situation exponentially.

Role playing is the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to creating successful outcomes.

But, yes, even with that knowledge, it is almost always likely to make us cringe.

At Transform Performance, we have an alternative that we find much more motivating. We call it Real Play and here’s how it works.

Real Play versus role play

Real Play is basically role play on steroids. It involves setting up a scenario (often the chance to pitch for business or presenting a business case to the Board) with full background research and experienced individuals paying the parts.

Take the practice sales pitch. We’ve worked with clients to deliver Real Play when the pitch they need to win is worth a transformational sum of money. When one of the Big Four accounting and consultancy firms wanted us to help them win a number of high-value accounts, we did the following:

  • Set up a Boardroom environment that could be available as and when they wanted to undertake Real Play;
  • Fully researched the target audience and potential scenarios
  • Brought our own leaders in to act as the Board

The important point of difference is that we have created a virtual replica of the real situation. Role playing is about people acting in parts but they are often not briefed in any detail so will tend to bring extremes of character and very black and white outcomes to the role plays.

In this case, our highly experienced senior directors were also furnished with full research on the targets, the expectations our client had of the pitches being practiced and the likely personalities involved in the real-life scenario. The room and atmosphere was fully replicated.

This was where the term Real Play came from: the experience was as real as it could possibly get.

In some cases, where our client was using this training as the basis for a long-term major account acquisition plan, the budget meant we could bring genuine experience on to our teams. So, if our client wanted to expand into the clinical sector, we would have authentic clinical buying experience on our panel.

Concept versus reality

Role playing is a sound strategy, it’s just the execution that often lets it down. There is too much opportunity to be embarrassed, for extremes of reaction or outcome to dominate and there will always be a lack of specific learning because everything comes down to the imaginations of the people in the room.

Real Play, on the other hand, is a strategic approach to role playing. It focuses on creating the most authentic scenario and experience possible. As a result, courage and confidence are enhanced as teams practice and become familiar with the experience, learning the pitfalls and understanding authentic, likely responses and outcomes.

It builds confidence in a natural way, therefore convincing the individuals involved of their capabilities. It is a visceral experience which the brain can assimilate and process as real.

Role play was originally designed to build the courage to address an issue but Real Play goes several steps further and builds confidence – the result of repeatedly being courageous and truly understanding how you can succeed in a challenging situation.

For advice on creating Real Play scenarios in your organisation, or to talk about how they fit into a wider change project or learning and development programme, do get in touch on +44 (0)1488 658686 or email [email protected].

Young businesswoman giving a flip chart presentation to a group of a colleagues in the seminar room of an office

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