Peeling back the layers

  • Who are you? I’m Dana Byrd.
  • Tell me a bit about yourself. You may have noticed my name above under the title of this post – I write the blog for Performance Insight. I also handle survey, research, and assessment activities. I have a degree in I/O psychology and a passion for coaching.
  • What are some reasons you studied psychology and coaching? I like trying to understand complex topics, and people are fascinatingly complex. I also want to help people be more effective and happier at work and in life. 
  • What is it about understanding human complexity and helping people that is appealing to you? There is always something new to learn, some new vantage point that provides a different insight into our behavior. And when we learn better, we do better. I’m always optimistic about our capacity for growth and change.
  • What is important about learning and doing better? I can’t think of anything more important to do with our lives than to seek knowledge and to use it to help one another. I guess I’d say I really value wisdom and compassion.

Through purposeful questioning, you now know my name. You know my role at work. You have a sense of my interests. You even have an idea of what purpose I ascribe to what I do. But by persistently peeling back these layers, you ultimately arrived at my values. With this, you know a lot more about me than the average Joe.

To dig deep to someone’s values, you don’t have to pry, you don’t have to interrogate with relentless questions – you simply keep your curiosity high and open. What is important about that? Well, then what is important about that? If you keep looking, you will ultimately arrive at the most essential drivers of human behavior. You can even reveal values in the most innocuous, even humorous ways: What is your favorite  animal? Elephants, I just love elephants. What is it about elephants that you like? They have a strong community and take care of each other. Why just the other day I watched a video on the internet where all of the adult elephants joined together to rescue a calf. I just think that’s beautiful. What value might you guess is reflected here? Because values underpin our perceptual filters, our thoughts and feelings, and our reactions and actions – we can see them anywhere and everywhere, if we look. But we rarely do, choosing instead to focus only on the basics of what a person says and does.

Why does it matter to know a person’s values? Because through them we can gain insight into what really matters to them. With this information, we can better understand what motivates people, what demeans them, what situations/roles/jobs would be more suitable. In the absence of this alignment, we see stress, burnout, apathy, lackluster performance. We see people going through the motions. But, we can use insight into values to make better choices, as well as to reframe what we do to get more out of our days. Having alignment between our values and our actions is what allows us to construe meaning and purpose and gives vibrancy and joy to our actions. Whether you’re an average Joe, a manager or leader, or a parent or friend there is enormous benefit to exploring values.


“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” Roy Disney

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.”–Mahatma Gandhi

“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.” –Neil deGrasse Tyson