Can I Turn My Employee Into Something More?

The Sales Blog mailbag always brings interesting questions. One from someone in management and leadership reads: “Do you think I could turn an old, pure farmer into a new-era hunter?”

One of the fastest ways to eliminate much of the frustration and disappointment in your life is to accept the fact that you can’t change people.

You can need someone to believe something different. You can need them to behave differently and take different actions. You can beg and plead with them to change. You can even explain the cost of their not changing and show them all that they will lose.

But you can’t want something for someone that they don’t want for themselves; it doesn’t work.

People change only when they want to. They don’t change because you want them to, need them to, or ask them to. You simply can’t demand it from them. This is why you hire for beliefs and train for skills. If you need a pure hunter, hiring someone that doesn’t have the beliefs that that outcome requires is a mistake.

You can’t change people, and in many cases, it’s unfair to try.

That said, people are capable of breath-taking and truly miraculous change when they want to. And there are a few things that you can do to help them.


For my money, there isn’t anything more powerful than coaching, especially non-directive coaching. Coaching helps the coachee identify and remove the big obstacles that are preventing them from succeeding.

The reason coaching is so effective is it helps the person being coached decide for themselves to change. When people decide for themselves that it is time to change, and when they are held accountable to the changes that they commit to making, they produce better results faster.

But they make the decision to change.


Some people struggle in certain areas because they don’t have the right skills. Their beliefs are really a defense mechanism to protect them from the feelings they get from failing at a task.

This is one reason some people have such an aversion to cold calling. They have never been taught, they have never been trained, and they don’t have the planned dialogues, all of which would give them greater confidence. They don’t know how to do well, so they fail. Those failures breed negative feelings about what they are being asked to do, and so they try to avoid it.

You can’t turn a pure farmer into a pure hunter. But your pure farmer can certainly learn to hunt—when and if they decide that they want to change their beliefs and take new actions. Until they decide, nothing. You can, however, try to help them get there faster through coaching, training, and development. You can pick up your end of the stick, but ultimately, they have to pick up their end of the stick themselves.


Can you turn an employee into something that they aren’t?

Do you want someone to try to turn you into something that you aren’t?

How easy is it for you to change and grow when you decide to and when you really want to?

How does coaching help you see your blind spots?

How does training help you build new competencies? How does it enable change?

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