According to “The Big Shift,” a worldwide research study published by Deloitte University Press, “The success of the modern organization will depend upon its ability to create an environment that cultivates learning and accelerated performance improvement.”

In his best-seller “The Purpose Driven Life,” Rick Warren provides a parallel conclusion: “The world needs contribution. We don’t just need communication, compassion, and consideration. We need people of action and a bias for achievement.”

Unfortunately, employees who do the right things the right way for the right reasons are limited in number, which explains why noted management theorist and business consultant Joseph Juran referred to them as “the vital few.” In an expanding economy, people with a bias for achievement are even harder to find – and to keep, if your company is not prepared to meet their expectations. This two-pronged dilemma has become a training manager’s nightmare. It is common knowledge that employing top-notch people is the key to sustainable success. These highly prized employees are better known as doers.

Discovering Doers

Doers are the backbone of every successful enterprise. These self-directed high achievers assimilate the key elements of training and apply them immediately and accurately. They expand their sphere of influence by creating cross-functional communication networks that are reliable sources of accurate information. Results-oriented, they work diligently without attracting attention.

These future-focused game-changers provide the initiative for new ideas and the energy that drives productivity. Doers are the “go-to” people you count on to get things done. Armed with the authority to act, doers can do amazing things.

The findings from an American Management Association survey of 800 executives revealed, “The emphasis over the past years has been on high tech skills like math and science for workers, but what’s missing is the ability to collaborate and make key decisions at lower levels.” When formally authorized, doers can perform these functions and multiply their impact as internal coaches and peer mentors. As you scan your organization in search of people to fill these critical roles, keep an eye out for employees who are known to:

  • Reach across departmental boundaries to build coalitions
  • Motivate the people around them by their determination to succeed
  • Operate intuitively with little direction and limited supervision
  • Accept challenging assignments that others cannot or will not do
  • Expand their sphere of influence by sharing information and expertise
  • Search for opportunities to grow personally and professionally

The Doers Dilemma

Empowering doers as internal coaches and peer mentors may sound positive, but there are several potential pitfalls to take into account. Each of these doer tendencies has the potential to be problematic:

  • Doers confront authority, question ambiguity and expose inconsistency.
  • Doers risk losing personal influence and peer approval when promoted.
  • Doers seek opportunities elsewhere when dissatisfied with the status quo.

Also, regrettably, doers can become so focused on innovation and improvement that they are blindsided by hostility from resentful co-workers and complacent supervisors who are adverse to change and prefer to leave things as they are.

Bringing doers together in a sponsored forum empowers them to discuss, discover and determine how to resolve performance challenges and productivity problems. Then, they can recommend pragmatic training to learning leaders.

The Doers Profile

This profile will help people selected as internal coaches and peer mentors better understand which of their natural tendencies, when applied judiciously, will result in the most effective use of available training resources.

Doers Deliver

Doers are in the best position to recognize performance, productivity and process problems and to recommend pragmatic solutions. They are willing to point out what is not working and why, but they must first be assured that they are not at risk of retaliation or wasting their time voicing their concerns.

The following examples demonstrate how organizations have applied the collective learning of a doers forum to achieve positive results in three challenging situations:

  • A Midwest manufacturer converted $800,000 in weekly product waste into an equivalent amount in new sales by forming doer-directed process improvement teams in all departments. Their recommended changes in the production and engineering processes resulted in a significant improvement to the bottom line.
  • A public-sector family support division formed doers into performance management teams to develop a peer-based training program. Results raised their previous ranking of 52nd in productivity among 53 competing agencies to first. Their astonishing 491 percent improvement won national recognition.
  • The largest medical imaging center in the nation successfully downsized three times over three years without damaging its world-class reputation for diagnostic excellence. Management formed a transition monitoring team of doers from each department to advise the board of directors on the reduction in force.

In each of these examples, participants in the doers forum came away from their interactive training experience with a clearer picture of how their individual success and the sustainability of their sponsoring organization are intertwined.