Employee Development Are you responsible for employee development in your organization? Have you ever wondered if there is a common, measurable process people go through when they are learning a new approach or behavior? There is! And it’s simpler than you may have thought. If behavior comes from our perspective and values, then it stands to reason that the way to change behavior (ours or someone else’s) is to reshape the driving perspective or value. But how is that done? This sometimes-nebulous concept has been boiled down into 7 distinct stages known as the Value Shaping Paradigm. Take a look! Everyone does what makes sense to them–what makes sense in the context of their perspective on the situation and the way they rank the values involved. This is such a natural dynamic that most people tend to be unaware of why they are doing what they are doing. And that’s where it always starts…being unaware that there is any other choice.

Step 1: Unaware

This is the easiest step, obviously. Just do what comes naturally. So much of our behavior comes from perspectives and values that we aren’t even aware of until we run into someone who acts on a different value than the one we currently hold. At that point, we move from unaware to aware a new value exists.

Step 2: Aware

Once we are aware of this new value, we have the opportunity to hold it side by side with the old value. Most of the population (those with extroverted iNtuition) can hold on to competing or conflicting values for quite some time. For a small percentage of us (those with introverted iNtuition), this stage cannot be allowed to drag on. We must choose one or the other and move forward. Either way, the path forward is found through focused attention.

Step 3: Focused Attention

This is a basic evaluation phase:
  • What the new value is or is not
  • What it looks like in action
  • What are the pros and cons of the new value
  • How do you use it
  • When do you use it
  • …on and on…details…details…details…
The more thorough this step is, the more likely a long-lasting decision will be made in favor of or against adopting the new value in question.

Step 4: Choose

If the new value survives the microscope of focused attention, you come to the point of choosing to act on it. It is always a very intentional, mindful choice. And it is usually chosen with a lot of skepticism and maybe even anxiety, but for whatever reason the potential benefit of the new value has been determined to be worth the risk. This choosing phase will repeat itself over and over until it is either abandoned (because of enough negative experiential data gathered), or it becomes preferred.

Step 5: Prefer

If the new value passes the scrutiny of the previous 4 steps, it stays around awhile longer as preferred. It has become the new normal. The fruit from this tree has been deemed nutritious, beneficial…yummy. But then an interesting question inevitably surfaces: Do I want to eat this new fruit…for the rest of my life? And that very question ushers in the next phase–sorting.

Step 6: Sort

Sorting often looks like backsliding or slipping back into old behaviors. For concerned friends, family or mentors looking on it can be a very anxious time. But it is a very important stage to work through. Now that we have spent some extended time trying out this new value, we can effectively compare it to the old one. This “apples to apples” comparison allows us to make an informed, intentional decision about how we are going to live our lives. So, we revert back to the old approach. We remind ourselves of the taste of that fruit. And we evaluate for ourselves. Which do we want to finally adopt?

Step 7: Characterization

Here’s where this particular journey ends. We have learned about a different value; we have tried it out and practiced it. We have evaluated the effectiveness of it compared to the one we previously utilized. And we have made our decision. Either we have chosen to be characterized by the new value—the new way of doing things—or we have chosen to reinforce our character by sticking with the old, previously-held value. When you understand these 7 basic stages people move through in the process of change, you are able to more effectively measure your employee development efforts. The Value Shaping Paradigm allows you to evaluate where each employee is on each new change you have challenged them to embrace. Being able to see the baby steps of progress in our team members helps us have upbeat endurance as we go about a very difficult job. And recognizing when a person has rejected the new value, when they have abandoned the exploration of change, prevents us from a long and exhausting struggle and spinning of wheels.   So what about you? Where have you seen this paradigm in action? Do you recognize this path from personal experience? This process could be framed in or explained many ways. How does seeing it boiled down to the 7 basic steps help you as you train, mentor or develop others? Let us know in the comment section below!