World's Best Coach
Ask for a volunteer to play the role of Coach. Everyone else will be athletes on a sports team.
If this is being done in person, the coach can take the stage while everyone else sits in the audience as if in a locker room. Alternatively, you might have all participants up on stage in a stage-picture of a locker room that you help orchestrate.
If this is being done on Zoom, have participants switch to gallery view.
Before the exercise begins, choose a sport for the team to play. If you like, you can get this sport as a suggestion from the class. Establish that this scene is happening in a locker room somewhere in the middle of a game that is going very poorly for them. In fact, they are being crushed! If it is Basketball or Football the scene can be during halftime. If it is Baseball it can be during the 7th Inning Stretch. If it is any other sport have the scene take place midway through the competition during whatever break in the game seems most plausible.
The Coach will start the exercise by addressing the team in an attempt to lift their spirits. The team should be instructed to recoil at this enthusiasm. They should be certain they are going to lose!
One at a time each teammate should take a turn offering the coach a reason they think they will lose. For example, "The other team is twice our size!" The coach should then take that observation and turn it on its head, using it as the unlikely reason they are actually bound for victory.
NOTE: The coach should not simply disagree with the players. If a player says "We don't believe in ourselves." the coach should not respond with, "Yes you do!" Instead, he should agree with the observation but twist it. Perhaps with something like, "Yes, I've never known athletes to have as little self-confidence as this team. I can tell it is unsettling the other team. They feel bad for you. We'll use that pity against them!"
As the coach offers his rationales, players should be instructed to be increasingly convinced until by the scene's end they are raring to go!
For more insight into improv's application to professional development, visit RA's corporate workshop page.
World's Best Coach is a simple scenic game often used towards the end of a workshop as a final exercise. It is particularly well suited for honing sales skills. This exercise can be used in workshops focused on:
Staying In The Moment
Number of Participants:
Minimum: 5 participants / Maximum: 8 participants
(Larger classes of 10-24 should be split into halves or thirds that take turns running this exercise)
Minimum: 10 minutes / Maximum: 15 minutes
None, but if you have a whistle or basketball you can give the coach as a prop, I think that would be fun.
Instructor Talking Points
World's Best Coach can be used to work on the ultimate sales skill: overcoming objections. Each complaint about the team's objections can be viewed as an "objection" the coach is overcoming as a "sales professional". In order to focus the exercise in this way, be sure to instruct the coach to directly address the concerns voiced by the team without ever contradicting them. Note strongly when the coach fully disagrees or ignores the objection raised. Examples below:
Objection: We are physically too small to compete against the other huge basketball team.
Bad Response: You're not as small as you think.
Good Response: Yes we're very small. I can understand why that would make it seem like we could never win a basketball game against that team of giants. But our lower size makes us much better ball handlers. The score tells one story, but the turnover rate tells another. If we go out into the second half and focus on stealing the ball from their sloppy dribblers, we'll put ourselves in a strong position to win the game!
Applied Mantra: Listen, Don't Invent
When a customer offers an objection they won't take kindly to being told they are wrong. Such an approach implies that the salesperson thinks they know more about the client's profession, business, or circumstances than they do. Instead, a sales professional can choose to "cushion" when they receive an objection.
"Cushioning" means to agree with the client. Praise them for the wisdom in identifying a reasonable concern. Once this is done it established a shared foundation from which the sales professional can build a new theory as to why their product or service is actually desirable after all. Note, this is done without creating an adversarial relationship.
Objection: All our equipment is cracked or scuffed. We look like a JV football team out there. How can we win when we present ourselves so poorly.
Bad Response: How we play will determine if we win or lose, the equipment is just window dressing.
Cushioned Response: I get it. Sports is 50% skill and ability, and 50% psychological. If we feel bad about ourselves we'll lose, and how we present ourselves can have an important impact on how we feel about ourselves. But the cracks in our helmets aren't embarrassments, they're badges of honor. The tears in our pads are a testament to our effort and perseverance. This team has been through it this year. We've faced adversity but overcome it, and each scuffed uniform, each broken piece of equipment, reminds us and our opponents how tough we are. Our broken down equipment isn't a liability, it's a battle flag!
Applied Mantra: Listen, Don't Invent
You can note creativity in this exercise if the coach (or players) ever take a long pause or seem to be out of ideas. Pauses in improv do not indicate a lack of ideas, but rather a lack of confidence in the ideas we have.
In order to be creative, we must agree that our ideas are worthwhile. We cannot self-edit or self-evaluate while engaged in the act of creation. Instruct your group to simply blurt out their ideas with less self-editing. Be sure to reward them with laughter and praise when they do. This should be done even if they fail at the other objectives of the exercise.
The first thing you need in any effort is full participation.
Applied Mantra: Don't Be Coy
Terry Withers, 1.30.21