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Managing / Leading - 07-04-2023 - Beverley Acton - 0 comments
How to manage High Achievers (and yourself if you are one)

Are you a High Achiever? Curious to know if you might be?

Do you have high potential but feel unfocused in your day-to-day activities or career direction?

Perhaps you have High Achievers on your team and want to know how to develop them, or maybe you're feeling a bit jealous or intimidated by them, and these feelings and reactions are bringing out the worst in you.

Maybe you're a High Achiever experiencing burnout and in need of a reset.

This blog has something for all of you... read it all or use the headings to navigate to the information that's most relevant to you ...


4 mindsets and behaviours

The information I am sharing here has been inspired and informed by the work of Ruth Gotian, author of The Success Factor, my high-achieving clients, and the managers/leaders who have worked with me to develop themselves and their teams.

Ruth's research reveals that High Achievers are 400% more productive than an average employee. She has studied and interviewed Nobel Prize winners, astronauts, Olympic gold medalists, top physicians, and others who have achieved remarkable outcomes. Identifying 4 mindsets and behaviours that all high achievers share:

  1. Intrinsic motivation - they are driven by their own burning curiosity, desire to learn, and passion more than external rewards. They have found a fulfilling career path.
  2. Love learning and Innovation - they actively and regularly seek to gain new knowledge and use a variety of sources to do that. They act on what they are learning right away and innovate.
  3. Are comfortable with failure - they see failing and feedback as an opportunity for enhancement. They fear "not trying" more than they fear failing or succeeding.
  4. Reinforce their foundation - they don't rest on their laurels. They practice, seek constant improvement, and go above and beyond average expectations to enhance their performance. Despite having completed something several times, they will continue to work on the basic skills that are the foundation of their success.


If you are a High Achiever you are at your best when you...

  • Understand and feel connected to what ignites your intrinsic motivation.
  • Have people and resources around you that enable you to learn.
  • You have an appropriate level of autonomy and the opportunity to take risks.
  • Know your limits, set clear boundaries, and remain focused.
  • Understand your energy levels and organise your tasks & activities appropriately. E.g. if you
  • are at your most focused first thing in the morning, don't waste this energy on passive tasks like checking emails. You will become much more productive if you reserve this time for more cerebral activities.
  • Have someone close to you who can help you recognise when you've achieved your goal. It can be difficult for High Achievers to see their own success, so they keep going, sometimes beyond the point of what is needed or the most efficient use of their time and energy.
  • Some people will never understand your degree of curiosity and drive, stay true to yourself, and don't allow anyone to make that wrong.


You are unlikely to reach your potential if you...

  • Are going through the motions in a career that doesn't feel meaningful, and your impact is unclear.
  • Haven't got space or permission to do your thing.
  • Don't do the inner work required to understand yourself and work with your strengths.
  • Frequently drop into hyper-achieving mode, sabotaging your efforts.


It's important to be aware of the dark side and Hyper-Achieving. If your natural strengths and characteristics become unhealthy, you might recognise the following...

  • You have become dependent on performance and achievement for self-respect and self-validation.
  • You have become highly focused on external success, leading to unsustainable workaholic tendencies.
  • You have lost touch with deeper emotional and relationship needs.
  • You regularly experience cycles of burnout and feel exhausted.


If you're a manager/leader, here's what you can do to support and bring out the best in the High Achievers on your team...

  • Find out what they are curious about and help them to identify the questions they have, so they feel inspired to go and find the answers. They will do the rest.
  • Be mindful when setting objectives that your High Achievers are not simply being asked to reach an 'average benchmark". Discuss with them to find out what is going to inspire them. There is no exact science here, but good communication is key. Lots of High Achievers have a 'pressure sweet spot' that fires them up - you want to work out what that is together. If you only ever expect average from a High Achiever they will get bored and feel out of place.
  • Remember that High Achievers also have a life outside of work and there are times they will need to step back a bit. This will be painful for a High Achiever. This is where, as a manager, you can offer very valuable support.
  • High Achievers who are early in their careers are likely to say yes to everything, so keep an eye on them to make sure they are putting boundaries in place and not setting themselves up for burnout time and time again.
  • Taking a holiday and not working can create stress for a High Achiever, if you notice they are working 24/7 help them to see what is essential and what can wait.

Bottom line. If you don't do the right thing by your High Achievers they will leave. If you do, they will not only succeed they are likely to attract/introduce other high achievers to the business. There's a business case for knowing this stuff and how to act on it.


If you're a manager who's feeling jealous of a High Achiever don't beat yourself up. It happens, but this is something you need to address within yourself so that you can fulfil your role to the best of your ability. If you don't it's your career that will suffer, not theirs. Take a deep breath and a long hard look at your behaviours and choices...

  • When you made the transition from an operational role to a management/leadership position, did you receive support or coaching to understand and adopt the necessary mindset shifts that will allow you to thrive in this role?
  • If you are extrinsically motivated (by praise, money, rewards, to avoid punishment, etc.) spend some time thinking about what inspires you personally, why is your work important and how can you have the best possible impact on people and the planet in your role?
  • Do you still love what you do? Feel motivated in your career? Want to be the best possible manager? Or would you rather be somewhere else?
  • Notice if you have strong feelings of self-doubt, or excessive worry. If so, that's a sign you need to do your inner work to ensure your inner critic doesn't start acting up and sabotaging the success of your team.
  • Get out of their way and connect High Achievers to people and information that will help them, they will love you for it and you will succeed together.


This piece of writing has focused specifically on high achievers, but the intention is not to communicate that everyone has to be one. We need more than one type of person to make up a well-rounded team.

What I do believe, is that every single one of us can become better, happier, and more productive through greater self-awareness, finding a fulfilling career path, and working in a way that suits our natural energy patterns. something as simple as making sure you are using your 'deep focusing time' wisely can be a complete game changer. Let me know if you try it.


If you'd like to find out about 1-to-1 career change & development programmes, or coaching for your team/organisation get in touch or click here to book a call. 


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