ATD Blog

Attracting Doers to Your Organization

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Companies that rely solely on the CEO to navigate the uncharted waters of global competition are floundering. The validity of this bold assertion is supported by three bestselling business books based on the findings of a Stanford University research team headed by professor and author Jim Collins:

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap compared 1,400 companies once listed on the Fortune 500 to find only 11 that met the criteria necessary to qualify as “great.” How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In asked, Amid the desolate landscape of fallen great companies, can decline be detected early and avoided? How can companies reverse course? In Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck; Why Some Thrive Despite Them All, Collins examined a nine-year study that analyzed 20,400 companies and identified only seven that have what it takes to flourish in tumultuous times.

These revealing discoveries provide ample evidence it is time to consider a new way of getting results that fully utilizes what doers bring to the workplace. Positioning them as problem solvers, peer coaches, and change agents will ensure a prosperous future for the organization savvy enough to do so.

Doers are the driving force for innovative ideas, those disruptive game-changers envied and feared by competitors. They supply the initiative for new directions and the positive energy behind better outcomes. When provided with unfettered opportunities, doers will deliver amazing things.

The survivability of a competitive enterprise hinges upon its ability to harness the power of doers. Deployed strategically, doers can halt decline and restore prosperity.

Doers hold the key to sustainable success in today’s workplace. Regrettably, however, these highly desirable people are in short supply and are also hard to recognize. As you sort through the pile of applicants for your next job opening, keep an eye out for prospects who are known to:

  • Reach across departmental boundaries to build coalitions and create alliances.
  • Motivate others by their propensity to enjoy what they do and have fun doing it.
  • Operate independently with little direction and limited supervision.
  • Accept difficult assignments that others cannot or will not do.
  • Seek opportunities to grow personally and develop professionally.

Those charged with executing the corporate vision need to hear the truth from those directly involved in the production of goods and services. Doers are in the best position to recognize performance, productivity, and process problems and to recommend pragmatic solutions to those with the authority to take corrective action.

Hiring Doers Requires Special Effort

Using traditional interview panels whereby those candidates who make the best impression get hired is not likely to bring many doers to the surface.

LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, author of The Alliance, believes employers put too much weight on interviews and too little weight on references. “References actually tell you how people work, what their work ethic is. That is a critical piece of data that cannot be put aside or done casually.”


In Work Rules, a new book disclosing Google’s hiring successes, Laszlo Bock promotes a peer-guided selection process that digs deeper into behavioral patterns, work history, personal accomplishments, and growth potential to find the most suitable candidates.

Finding good people and keeping them requires that you are known in their network as a place where doers flourish—they spread the word to other doers. Enduring workplace attractions are opportunities to grow in their profession, to make a noticeable difference that matters, and to accomplish something within your company that they could not achieve where they are.

Doers seek assurance that honesty counts and that they can speak truth to authority without fear of retribution. They trust a mistake can be corrected without the fear it will be held against them. Bringing doers on board may sound positive, but there are costs attached that the organization must take into account. Each of these tendencies has the potential to be problematic:

  • Doers confront authority, question ambiguity, and expose inconsistency. They challenge directives whenever they believe their way is better. Such behavior may seem irreverent and disrespectful until you consider the benefit of receiving honest feedback from those fully vested in the outcome.
  • Doers risk losing personal influence and peer support when promoted. Moving them up the career ladder may jeopardize the respect, admiration, and cooperation they receive from coworkers. Creating reward systems for doers based on their accomplishments rather than on their position can minimize the negative effects of advancement.
  • Doers may seek opportunities elsewhere when dissatisfied with the lack of enjoyable assignments. This is the most critical factor in keeping doers from jumping ship. Doers network to stay current on job openings. Lacking the potential for personal growth and professional development, doers are known to seek such opportunities elsewhere.

Be prepared; attracting doers is not going to be easy. It is a job seeker’s market. The best candidates will check out your track record before they agree to interview. The challenge is to establish a reputation as a place where they are eager to come and have reason to stay. Publicly recognizing the value of what doers have to offer will increase the prospects for bringing in high-impact talent.

About the Author

Tom Jones has studied organizations and the people they employ long enough to have a keen sense of what it takes for both to prosper. He writes and speaks about those leadership challenges and management perplexities that ultimately determine the success or failure of today’s customer-sensitive workplace.

In his new book, Doers: The Vital Few Who Get Things Done, Tom shows employers how to create a workplace where doers flourish. He also shows doers how to seek out an organization where their eagerness to succeed is recognized and rewarded.

Tom holds a doctoral degree in organization and leadership from the University of San Francisco. He has lectured at six universities and currently teaches Principles of Management for the College of Business at California State University, Monterey Bay.

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