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  • Writer's pictureTerry Dockery


If you’re a betting person, here’s a good bet with great odds: bet that people stay the same more than they change. Most people have developed enduring behavior patterns (“personality” and “values”) based on a lifetime of experiences—especially those early experiences that often profoundly shape who we decide to be. Why, then, would someone jettison those patterns without a compelling reason to do so?

Past behavior is the very best predictor of future behavior, and that’s why investigating employment history is such a valuable tool in evaluating potential new employees. Do people change? Of course they do, but when?

Most people change for one of two main reasons. The most common reason: the pain of changing becomes less than the pain of staying the same. Example: A generally successful salesperson discovers that his habit of trying to “win” disagreements with potential clients is hurting his sales performance and personal income (the financial pain of staying the same), so he pays a sales coach to help him learn a better approach (the financial pain of changing).

The second reason is less common: People who have enjoyed success through innovation in the past continue to innovate because they expect more success in the future. These people can be very valuable additions to your team—especially if your leadership style and organizational culture support innovation.

Leaders often throw coaching and training at all their subordinates anytime performance isn’t what it should be. But when do you get a good Return On Investment for this coaching and training, and when are you wasting your time and money?

Jack Welch, the former leader of General Electric, was reportedly fond of using a values/results grid when evaluating employees. The “values” dimension is how well the employees’ values match those of the company (e.g., integrity, ability to work well with others, etc.), and the “results” dimension is how well employees are able to meet or exceed production standards in their jobs (e.g., sales goals).

Employees/associates fall into one of four categories:

  • High values match, high results in the job. These are your top performers; let the know you appreciate them and keep them happy.

  • High values match, low results in the job. These people will likely benefit from coaching because they need only skills training. Spend money on coaching and training these folks; they will take you to the next level. Example: A moderately successful salesperson who needs help with “closing techniques” to improve his performance.

  • Low values match, high results in the job. These are the most dangerous people in your organization; get your checkbook ready for the coming lawsuit. They are not likely to respond to coaching because they are already “successful.” Besides, you need to change their personality and values—good luck. Save your money and begin your preparations to show these folks the door. Example: A salesperson who uses dishonest tactics to make sales.

  • Low values match, low results in the job. These people are bad hires and shouldn’t have been brought into your organization in the first place. Where did you go wrong in your selection process?


Technique #1: In your selection process, screen for people that have similar values to those of your organization.

Technique #2: In your selection process, screen for people who are likely to embrace change and innovation.

Technique #3: For a good Return On Investment, spend your coaching and training dollars on those who need skills training, and not on those who need personality and values transplants.

Copyright Terry "Doc" Dockery, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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