In this activity, Larry Libauer presents a clever role play exercise in which trust is the operative word. His characters , Ida Wantaworry and Don Decide, take trainees into situations that cry out for better communication and connection. Trainees use minicase studies in this exercise to experience the decision-making and negotiation techniques that parallel real-life problems. Larry's background in engineering and law provides a particular perspective to both the problems and the solutions that are designed into this exercise.


  • Communications

  • Supervision/management

  • Conflict resolution

  • Win-win negotiations

  • Delegation

  • Motivation


By engaging in this exercise, trainees develop empathy by understanding negotiating positions and underlying interests of TOS (The Other Side). Trainees learn to "mirror" The Other Side's (TOS's) communication style to counteract resistance, elicit a sense of trust, and attain "buy-in" supported by a mutually agreeable action plan.


  • To enhance listening and other communications skills

  • To improve supervisory / managerial techniques

  • To develop a creative approach to conflict resolution

  • To achieve a win-win negotiation mindset

  • To learn "partnering" to establish a climate of mutual trust

  • To instill self-confidence

  • To realize the advantages of delegation

  • To foster an environment conducive to employee motivation


Handout A, Department Manager, I da W antaworry , for every Partner A

Handout B, Supervisor, D on D ecide , for every Partner B

Handouts A and B for all Observers


Arrange chairs in triads, each of which consists of Partner A, Partner B, and an Observer


Approximately 45 minutes including preparation, role play, feedback, and seminar leader's debrief. Additional time is required if members of triads take turns role-playing each part.


Prepare copies of Handout A, the role of Ida Wantaworry; and Handout B, the role of Don Decide. Make enough copies for one-third of the trainees to get Handout A; One-third of the trainees to get Handout B; and one-third of the trainees to get both Handout A and Handout B.


  1. Organize trainees into groups of three. Designate the triads:

    Partner A plays the role of department manager ( Ida Wantaworry ).

    Partner B plays the role of supervisor ( Don Decide ), Ida's Direct Report.

    The third partner of the triad is the observer, whose job is to take notes during the role play and discussion and to provide feedback regarding the interview planning process, the manner in which the interview was conducted , resistance counteracted, mutual understanding achieved, and "buy-in" attained and supported by a jointly developed Action Plan.

  2. Distribute copies of the respective role in the case study to Partner A and to Partner B. Distribute copies of both roles to the Observer.

  3. Instruct trainees to read the role-play case studies silently to themselves , paying particular attention to the note at the end of the handout. Give them a few minutes to collect their thoughts and then give a signal for Partner A in each triad to begin.

    Option: Triad participants may switch roles, with each having the opportunity to serve as Partner A (using a different "Communications/Supervisory Style"), Partner B (Using a different "Communications Style"), and Observer. Note: Use of a different "style" by Partner A and Partner B changes the entire context of the Direct Report's challenge and Supervisor's response, notwithstanding the fact that different triad participants role-play the same case.

  4. After approximately 15 minutes of role play, encourage participants to share their observations with the others in their triad. Then prepare to debrief the role play.


The seminar leader should ask volunteers to share what they did, how it succeeded or fell short, and what they learned from Observers that would prompt them to act differently in the future.

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Information available only to: DEPARTMENT MANAGER, Ida Wantaworry (whose Direct Report is SUPERVISOR, Don Decide)

I, I da W antaworry , am a Department Manager employed by Decisive Delivery Corporation. One of the Supervisors who reports to me, D on D ecide , seems to lack the self-confidence necessary to make decisions. At times I feel that Don tries to get me to take back many of the tasks that I delegate to him. I might as well do it myself if I have to answer question after question from him as to what to do in this event or that event or how to go about doing each assignment. I would think that, at this point in time (after nearly 2 years on the job), he would be selfconfident and self-sufficient.

I can understand that Don may have some questions about the assignment, but I don't want the buck passed to me so often. In addition, Don doesn't seem to check his work thoroughly enough or try to figure out the solution by himself. I believe that with a little more thought or effort, he could find the solution or answer his own questions. He seems inclined to take the easy way out and give up too soon. Maybe he is just afraid of making a decision.

I don't know the answer, but I guess it's my job to ask the right questions, find out what he's thinking and, where his explanation is not on-target, encourage him to reconsider what he should do. I recall attending an AMA Seminar, during which I learned that it would be a good idea for me to inform my subordinate of the advantage to him if we are able to work this out.

I asked Don to meet with me in my office to discuss "gaining confidence in decision-making and becoming more self-sufficient". Although I already reminded Don of the advantage to him if we discussed and resolved this issue, it won't hurt if I reinforce this point when we meet. I suspect that Don is not looking forward to this meeting. I have to figure out a rationale so that I can deal with Don in a way that gets him to buy-in.

He is at my door now. I motion to him and say, "Come on in Don".

NOTE: You decide what Normal "Primary Communication/Supervisory Style" you want to portray in responding to Don Decide and what "Communication/ Supervisory Style" you want to shift to if Don Decide puts you " under pressure " by his frustrating resistance to your expectations of fulfilling his decision-making responsibility.

Your challenge is to "mirror" Don Decide's "Communication Style" to "connect" with him and achieve a win-win resolution. By doing so, you realize that you have a "better shot" at resolving the problem.

For Seminar Leader debriefing purposes following the role-play activity, please note how the "Communication/Supervisory Styles" clashed or connected.

end sidebar
start sidebar

Information available only to: SUPERVISOR, Don Decide (who reports to DEPARTMENT MANAGER, Ida Wantaworry)

I, D on D ecide , am a Supervisor employed by Decisive Delivery Corporation. My boss, I da W antaworry , is Department Manager. I have held this job for less than 2 years. I believe that my boss (Ida) resents the fact that I ask her questions about work assignments and other day-to-day issues. What's wrong with her? Does she want me to give her the wrong answer? She has more supervisory and technical experience than I do. I admit that. So, why should I waste my time and be embarrassed by giving her an answer with which she will ultimately disagree and then overrule me? On top of that, I expect that she will probably criticize me for making what she considers a bad decision. It seems to me that I've been burned a couple of times doing that. A brick doesn't have to fall on my head for me to get the message. Getting overruled is demoralizing and de-motivating. How can I learn unless I make mistakes when I make decisions? In fact, how do I know that they really are mistakes? Just because she says they are mistakes, does that, in fact, make them mistakes? I went to "the School of Hard Knocks". So, what I've learned is to ask Ida before I take any action. In that way, I can avoid being criticized for making what she deems the wrong decision.

This problem is a "catch 22". Why doesn't Ida want me to ask her questions? That's her job. If I try to make a decision without understanding Ida's thinking, she will probably "hit me on the head". I can't win. If only Ida would give me clear directions from the start, maybe I could understand "where she is coming from" without the need to bother her with questions. But Noooo! Ida wouldn't do that! She wants to be in a position to be the Monday morning quarterback. Why should I even try to figure out the answer when I expect Ida to overrule me anyway?

Ida asked to meet with me in her office to discuss "gaining confidence in decision-making and becoming more self-sufficient". She even explained why discussing it would be an advantage to me. It sounds good in theory, but not in practice. I am not looking forward to this meeting. I feel that Ida expects too much of me. Of course, she is still my boss. I can't just refuse her outright . I have to figure out a rationale that she can understand without insulting her. In the end, I may have to do what she says. But I am not going to give up without trying to explain my reasoning.

I am at the door to her office. Ida just motioned to me and said, "Come on in, Don".

NOTE: You decide what N ormal "Primary Communication Style" you want to portray, and what "Communication Style" you want to shift to when Ida Wantaworry puts you " under pressure ", as your boss, in wanting things her way.

For Seminar Leader debriefing purposes following the role-play activity, please note how Ida Wantaworry responded to changes in your "Communication Style".

end sidebar
start example

Name :

Lawrence N. Libauer




7928 West Davis Street


Morton Grove, IL 60053






end example

DR. LAWRENCE N. LIBAUER is President of a consulting firm specializing in Management Training, Organization Development, Labor Relations, Employment Discrimination, and Human Resources. Previously, he was Vice President of Human Resources for a multifacility manufacturer of hand tools, Executive Director of Human Resources for a nationwide network of 14 analytical laboratories, Vice President of a human resources consulting firm, and Director of Human Resources and Development for a financial services firm. He has served as Vice President of Human Resources with a leading consumer products manufacturer, where he was responsible for supporting up to 4,000 employees in 25 facilities throughout the United States, Canada, and Latin America. There, he participated in a Leveraged Buy Out of this organization, continuing as Vice President of Human Resources and serving on its Executive Committee.

Simultaneous with his professional career, Lawrence Libauer has been a member of the faculty of several universities for a total of 38 years. These include Illinois Institute of Technology, Loyola University Graduate School of Organizational Development, and Northwestern University, where he has been honored as a Commencement Speaker and recipient of the Annual Distinguished Teaching Award. He serves University of Chicago Graduate Business School as a candidate interviewer and evaluator . He is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) from the Society for Human Resource Management, and has been a consultant in instructional design and leader of both on-site and public seminars for the American Management Association. He holds a BS in Industrial Management, an MBA in Personnel Management and Industrial Relations, and a JD.

Larry Libauer has taught these AMA seminars:


Mastering Organizational Politics, Influence, and Alliances: The Winning Formula for Experience Managers


Confronting the Tough Stuff: Advanced Management Skills for Supervisors


The Resilient Manager: How to Bounce Back in Times of Change


Performance Development: A Managers Plan for Action


Management Skills for New Managers


Moving from an Operational Manager to a Strategic Thinker


Making the Transition from Staff Member to Supervisor


Management Skills for New Supervisors


Successfully Managing People


Negotiating to Win


Managing Emotions in the Workplace


Recruiting, Interviewing, and Selecting Employees


Fundamentals of Human Resources Management

The AMA Trainers Activity Book. A Selection of the Best Learning Exercises from the Worlds Premiere Training Organization
The AMA Trainers Activity Book: A Selection of the Best Learning Exercises from the Worlds Premiere Training Organization
ISBN: 0814408141
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 61

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