Seminar Leader Barbara L. Schwietert shares with us an introspective exercise that goes to the heart of influence, compromise, and problem solving through focus on emotional response. It can be a management skills exercise, a communications exercise, and an effective alternative to the many logical and efficiencyoriented guidelines often put forth in leadership training programs. It is equally appropriate for those in leadership roles and those in other positions who are looking for a tool to make organizational life better both inside and outside of the workplace.

Barbara has used Forced Choice Values Clarification in seminars and workshops in Coaching and Counseling , Leadership, Managing People, and in People Skills Development.


  • Self-assessment

  • Coaching and counseling

  • Listening

  • Establishing priorities


Trainees are "forced" to choose among specified values of their own determination , which are most important to them at the present time. Barbara reports that one participant exclaimed, "For years I have been lamenting that I value ˜free time more than anything else and I never have enough of it! Now, I see that ˜free time is near the bottom of my list. Now, I am more willing to spend time on those team projects!" Participants have a hands on experience of not only clarifying their top values, but also seeing that others may have a different set of values and a different hierarchy. They can see how their own values and values hierarchy are often projected onto those around them and recognize the origin of some of their frustration in dealing with people. Values related to generation, gender, culture, and so on may surface and participants benefit from practicing nonjudgmental listening.


  • To isolate and clarify one's primary values

  • To be more encompassing of others' values and their values hierarchy

  • To learn the difficulty, necessity, and application of nonjudgmental listening


Index cards, 10 per person.

Flipchart or overhead slide upon which to write "( Name ) If you could only have one of these and never have the other, which would it be V alue or V alue ?" Place the question where everyone can read it while doing the exercise.

Each trainee must have a writing implement.


Two participants sit face to face, with no table or barrier between them


45 minutes, including general discussion


  1. Explain that we are about to do an exercise in choosing values and values clarification. "Many values lists exist from which participants can select. However, to ensure that these are YOUR values and not ones selected from a standardized list you are to think of ten values. Mix your work life with your life outside of work. You have thousands of values, you are to chose ten which are mutually exclusive (explain term ) and specific (e.g., don't just say I value Life). Give personal examples to get them started. Caution them to be aware of their internal critic, which will say "this isn't worthy enough to value". "These are YOUR values at this moment of time".

  2. Give each person 10 index cards. Instruct them to write one value on each card. During this time they cannot talk to each other.

  3. When they are through listing their 10 values, then announce, "Now you are to rank your values 1 to10, with 1 having the most value and 10 having the least value. You value all of these and thousands of others ”yet when there is a lot of stress and change in our lives, our values tend to form in hierarchal position and at times we must make choices. You are to choose and place the rank number on the face of the card with the value written on it".

  4. Allow some time to make sure all have completed their lists of 10 values and rankings. "Now select a partner who must be someone you do not know and sit face to face with your partner and exchange cards with your partner". Each partner will act as coach for the other.

  5. Ask for a volunteer who will not mind if his or her first 3 or 4 cards are read to demonstrate . Before reading off the cards state "I will explain why we are doing this after we complete the exercise ”not before".

  6. ( Note: For clarity in specifying the procedure, we use the fictional trainee, "John", as an example.) Holding the cards, state "I am about to ask you a question and it is to be responded to from the emotion ”not the intellect. Using the person's name, read off the first two cards saying, ˜John, if you could only have one of these and never have the other what would it be, (value) or (value)? "

  7. John selects and, if he has chosen value 2 over value 1, puts the new ranking on the cards and compare card 2 to card 3, and so on through the deck. It is essential that the phrase "I f you could only have one of these and never have the other, which would it be (value) or (value)? " be repeated before each round. If the participant is truly doing this exercise from the emotion and not the intellect, he or she will forget the question and give a more accurate ranking.

  8. The coaching partner is not to comment on the choice and is to tune into his or her own values ranking as choices are made. There is to be no discussion on the choices until after the participant has finished all ten cards. Discussion follows and then he or she takes the partner's cards and helps the partner to make choices.

  9. Upon completion, a full discussion takes place. Nearly everyone re-ranks the cards when faced with the question. Say to the group , "Of course, we have all of these values and have them at the same time. Yet, when we are faced with making tough decisions such as our health over our career, we must decide". Give appropriate examples from your own life.

  10. During this entire process the person taking the role of coach must tune into his or her own values hierarchy and the pull to want his or her partner to make one choice over another. The coaching partner must tune into his or her partner's body language and voice intonation as choices they would not make are made. As seminar leader, watch trainees carefully for these emotional signals. Facilitate discussion on how they see values and conflict over values reflect in the workplace and outside of the workplace.

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Barbara L. Schwietert


21402 Andover Road


Kildeer, IL 60047







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Since 1978, BARBARA L. SCHWIETERT has been an On-Site Development Specialist and Seminar Leader for the American Management Association. Barbara has also been a program facilitator for the Presidents Association of AMA.

She was among the first to recognize the need for and develop a comprehensive Stress Management Training Program for managers. Included among the clients who have profited from Barbara's presentations are the Chicago Tribune, Pella Windows, Harris Bank, Philips Medical Systems, Ashland Inc., Navastar, St. Rita's Medical Center, Domino's Pizza, Arthur Andersen, Accenture, and Motorola.

For nine years, Barbara was on the faculty of Lake Forest Graduate School of Management and taught in the Executive MBA program. She also taught for DePaul University's School for New Learning Master's Program and facilitated programs for Northwestern University's Executive Master's Program. Barbara recently completed two terms as mayor of her town and now serves on the Board of Directors of Crow Canyon Archeological Center.

She received her MBA from Washington University, St. Louis.

Barbara Schwietert has taught these AMA seminars:


Assertiveness Training for Managers


Interpersonal Skills


Successfully Managing People


Coaching and Counseling for Outstanding Job Performance

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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