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ATD Blog

What to Do About Doers

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

All sustainable enterprises have a cadre of self-motivated high achievers who do the right things the right way for the right reasons. These "go-to" employees, or “Doers,” are highly regarded by employers who recognize their performance and reward their contributions. When Doers and their employers blend high achievement with recognition, employees feel validated and business outcomes are positive.

Such is not the case, however, in organizations where taking initiative violates cultural norms. Stories of achievers who suffer as a result of accomplishing more than what was required of them are commonplace.

If you’re looking for a way to maximize business outcomes while encouraging high achievers to pursue their career goals, consider what these employees need to thrive within the workplace. Read the story below and the following tips for how to achieve this through the Doers Academy.

To Thrive or to Fail

Jim, the top sales rep for a large Chicago-based merchandizer, was hired by a California firm to promote its expanding product line. The new job was going well until he scheduled an out-of-town meeting with a prospective buyer on the day of the company’s annual charity golf tournament.

Although his meeting resulted in the biggest contract in the company’s history, Jim was fired. Missing the most important public relations event of the year was seen as evidence that he was “not a team player."

Jim was not unemployed for long. The company that had just placed the big order hired him to lead the launch of its new product line, and his regional sales records quickly exceeded their expectations. Delighted with his performance, the company offered Jim a promotion to national sales director, which came with a handsome salary and an executive suite at its Minneapolis headquarters.

Directing the actions of others, moving to a new location, and being restricted to a fixed income did not appeal to Jim. So, he turned down the position. Rather than respecting his decision and leaving him in his current role, the company fired him.

Jim needed to find a doer-friendly workplace where his achievements would be valued and rewarded.

Keep Your Doers Doing What They Do

Employing people like Jim is the key to long-term prosperity. High performers are, unfortunately, limited in number and attracting and retaining them is not easy. The best strategy is to establish a reputation as a place where they have a reason to stay. Openly declaring the value of what Doers have accomplished will increase the prospects for bringing in talent.

The first step toward becoming a doer-friendly organization is to accept that technological advances alone will not be sufficient. While most leadership development is aimed at management, there is a big gap in training support for Doers.


Recognizing and rewarding Doers, using them as peer mentors and internal coaches, and incorporating the talent-enhancing tools and techniques included in the Doers Academy curriculum will raise the overall productivity of any organization.

Doers Academy

The Doers Academy learning process is adult-to-adult (andragogy) supported by a skilled facilitator with substantial industry experience. Socratic question-and-answer time, small group sessions, and role-playing scenarios explore and practice the core behaviors in the Doers Profile: motivational; interpersonal; analytical; judgmental; organizational; and political.

The purpose of this open-learning model is to provide Doers and those who supervise or work alongside them with the ways and means to make the best use of their ability to overcome adversity, their eagerness to raise performance standards, and their desire to make a positive difference through their words and actions.

Doers Profile

As you scan your organization in search of candidates for the Doers Academy, keep an eye out for those who are known to:

  • Reach across departmental boundaries to build coalitions.
  • Motivate those 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.

Once the selections are made, use the profile below to help those attending the academy better understand which of their natural tendencies align with those of a Doer. It will guide them through the stages of learning by making them aware of the tendencies that will result in the most effective use of available resources.

Rate your level of identification with each of the behaviors listed below using a five-point scale, with five being high and one being low.


  • Use expertise, information, and goodwill as your personal power base.
  • Create internal, cross-functional communication channels.
  • Volunteer to solve problems and fix what’s broken in times of crisis.
  • Search for opportunities to grow personally and develop professionally.

Sub Score: ______


  • Inspire others by your desire to have fun and enjoy what you do.
  • Suffer complacent co-workers who resent your accomplishments.
  • Operate independently with little direction and limited supervision.
  • Lose relational effectiveness and personal influence when promoted.

Sub Score: ______


  • Work quickly and quietly without calling attention to your achievements.
  • Look for opportunities to do work that makes a meaningful difference.
  • Feel your accomplishments are often unrecognized and undervalued.
  • Possess a unique set of skills, abilities, and underutilized talents.

Sub Score: ______


  • Suggest an alternative strategy when you believe your way is better.
  • Set high performance goals and expect co-workers to do the same.
  • Network with friends and colleagues to stay current on job openings.
  • Become dissatisfied with the status quo and look for challenges elsewhere.

Sub Score: ______


  • Expand your sphere of influence through continuous improvement.
  • Willingly accept assignments that others cannot or will not do.
  • Reach across departmental barriers and boundaries to form coalitions.
  • Develop reliable external sources of accurate and timely information.

Sub Score: ______


  • Seek assurance that accuracy matters when you point out inconsistencies.
  • Question ambiguity and ask for clarification when faced with uncertainty.
  • Expect those above you to appreciate honest feedback and critical advice.
  • Trust a mistake can be corrected without fear of retaliation or retribution.

Sub Score: ______

Doers Deliver

Bringing Doers together in an academic forum empowers them to discuss, discover, and determine how to make the highest and best use of their collective talents. Motivated by their prospects, Doers will be 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.

The Doers Academy addresses the multiple challenges facing high achievers and the organizations that employ them. Attendees will come away from this participant-driven, interactive experience with a clearer picture of how their individual effectiveness and the success of their organization are intertwined.

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.

About the Author

Kenneth C. Pascal, Ph.D., was formerly dean of academic affairs at The Art Institute of Houston. He is the founder of CareerMentors based in Houston, with a mission to promote adult education and career planning. With extensive experience in higher education institutions, he also worked 10 years as a senior instructional developer at Hughes Training, Inc.; a hospital director of education, organization development and instructional design; and at a as training and HR director.

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Good stuff! I have a question for Tom. I am curious about the root cause of the two companies firing Jim in your story. I believe the two companies who fired Jim have clearly taken unethical actions. I'm a Doer and I've experienced behavior from management like this. It seems that the root cause is management wanting absolute control over employees' choices and career paths. When I've challenged this I've been told "we just have culture / style differences". Does your book address this?
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Superb Stuff!! Make the entire logic easier and more applicable today with!!
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