Coaching and Value Traps

Thursday 30 April 2015

This month we want to talk to you about a concept we call the ‘value trap’, something which occurs when we assume that someone will behave in a certain way in a given situation. The ‘value’ trap is sprung when the values of an individual lead them to behave in an unexpected way, negatively influencing the way others see our organization.

Recently I was staying with colleagues at a lovely hotel with lots of original artwork and their attentive and friendly staff made for a pleasant stay. Having just finished our lunch, a colleague went to use the coffee machine in the corner of the restaurant only to find that it was switched-off. On seeing their attempt to obtain a coffee, a member of staff rushed across the restaurant and explained, in very blunt terms, that the machine was only used at breakfast and that he must wait until the mid-afternoon break time for a coffee.

My colleague was frustrated by this encounter, not so much because coffee was unavailable, but by the attitude demonstrated by the hotel employee. He felt that he was treated like a child who had to been chastised.

As an onlooker, this felt like a ‘value trap, one of those unexpected situations which change a great experience into a mediocre one, it was the moment when my colleague went from ‘recommender’ to ‘detractor’ regarding how he felt about this hotel.

This hotel has clearly invested heavily in creating a pleasant environment, it probably spends a great deal on marketing to entice people to stay and then in an instant sees a lot of the investment wasted by failing to ensure that customer service values are projected at all times by all employees, leaving a customer feeling dissatisfied with their experience.

There are a number of actions that organizations can take if they want to minimize the risk of such ‘value trap’ behaviors undermining their efforts to obtain and retain customers.

However, firstly let us take a look at how our behavior is determined. The diagram below illustrates that our beliefs inform our values which determine our attitude which in turn shapes our behavior.


Training employees to operate in specific ways will influence some aspects of their behavior, however, if you want to influence deeper and realize a more consistent result, coaching is a powerful solution.

Coaching uses a complex set of complementary skills and mastery can take a lifetime but there are skills which can be learned and applied quickly which help every-day managers to identify and remedy the types of inconsistent behavior which cause these ‘value traps’.

1. Listening:

2. Asking effective questions:

3. Giving feedback

Don’t let unexpected responses spring traps for your customer’s experience.

Having frontline managers who are also skilled coaches puts you in a strong position to help your people align their values and attitudes with what is required and consistently demonstrate expected behaviors for an excellent customer experience.

I would love to hear your stories of coaching success and any feedback or comments on my blog. If you would like to discuss how coaching competence could improve the performance of your own sales and customer services teams, please get in touch.

This post was written by

Guy Sellwood

Managing Director and VP Americas