The Coaching Effect Blog

The Coaching Effect Blog

    Leadership Lessons from Pop Culture:  The Impact of Role Play

    by Sarah Wirth / July 1, 2019

    Photo by Hattie Kingsley Photography

    Last month we began our series on how leadership is portrayed in popular films and TV shows to see if those tropes work in the real world. For example, do managers who do things like give a motivational speech or a tough assignment really help their teams perform better? Our first blog looked at managers who were rated as good motivators by their teams and found that they led teams that sold nearly half a million more a year than other teams. So yes, the popular movie trope of the motivational manager seems to actually work in the real world.

    In this second part of the series we’re going to look at the impact of managers that do regular role plays with their teams. If you’ve ever done a role play with your team members, you know how much they complain about this activity. Maybe it’s because role plays are often done poorly, like this one from The Office



    Of course most leaders do a role play better than Michael Scott, but do managers who consistently have their team members role play actually lead teams that sell more? According to our research, the answer is yes.

    We asked over 1,000 sales people whether their manager has them do role plays to improve their skills. Then we looked at the sales results of those leaders whose salespeople said their leaders do regular role plays versus leaders that do not. Our data indicates that leaders who do role plays with their salespeople lead teams that sell an average of $772,000 more a year than leaders who don’t do role plays. Simply put, there is definitely a relationship between doing regular role plays and increased sales.

    So how do you ensure that you’re not doing a role play like Michael Scott, but rather one that actually helps your team improve their skills so they can sell more? Here are three quick tips to improve the quality of your role plays:

    Execute the Role Play One-on-One

    Many leaders think of role plays as group exercises done at team meetings, but they can also be done one-on-one with just you and your team member before an important call or meeting. Be sure to actually play out the call with you in the role of the customer or prospect so you can see how your team member responds to questions, handles objections and describes your products or services.

    Use Peer Coaching for Role Plays

    If you’re going to role play as a team activity, have people partner up to role play rather than having just one person at the front of the room role playing in front of the whole team. This not only uses the time more effectively, but it also simulates a more realistic scenario, as sales people or team members are not typically watched by an audience when trying to sell.

    Debrief the Role Play

    This is the most important step in an effective role play. Make sure you or the two partners talk about how the team member performed during the role play. And make sure the focus of the debrief is on learning, not criticizing. The best way to do this is to ask them questions.

    - What do they feel they did best?

    - What would they do differently next time?

    - What do they want to learn to perform better?

    This helps the team member self-diagnose how they want to improve. By identifying themselves how they want to get better, they are more likely to take action to improve.

    Just like in the movies, you can use role plays to help your team improve their skills. While it may feel a little awkward when they’re participating in them, most team members find a well-done role play to be helpful. This is because role plays help them improve their skills at the point of sale and nothing is more critical to helping them sell more.

    previous post 10 Takeaways from the "Trillion Dollar Coach"
    Next Post 3 Behaviors Leaders Need to Effectively Coach Through Change
    Sarah Wirth

    Sarah Wirth

    Sarah Wirth is the president of Ecsell Institute and has over 20 years of experience in employee assessment, leadership development, sales executive coaching, and customer service. She has presented to executives from across the globe with organizations such as Mercedes Benz, Estee Lauder, Ritz Carlton, Cheesecake Factory and many more.