6 Step Plan for High Achievers

In my previous two blogs, Why High Achievers Flounder and Comfort Zones of High Achievers talked about how SMARTER workplaces create a culture and emotional climate that inspires high achievers to continually grow as professionals. I encounter high-achievers frequently in my coaching work and when training future coaches. This blog will discuss a six step plan for high achievers to bring out the “greatness” of self and other.

The very strengths that led you to the fast track can steer you toward poor performance. This is a paradox that can be perplexing to high-achievers. Quite frankly, I don’t see how anyone can overcome this strong pull without working with a trusted coach or mentor.

If you’ve fallen into a high-potential career stall, you’ll need to start working on a plan to get back on track for professional success. More than that, I recommend you strive to develop your SMARTER skills.

When designing a professional development plan, review these six steps which will start freeing yourself from traps:

1. Forget the past: How much are you basing your career decisions on past experiences, either good or bad? Most of us make irrational comparisons between a past bad experience and a current situation. We are notoriously poor predictors of our future emotional states.

Most of what we surmise about our past failures is circumstantial. Look at the past with a different perspective — one that takes into account randomness or luck. We are never in control of situations as much we think, and blaming — or crediting ourselves — is often irrational and inappropriate. Sure, we’ve accomplished a lot, and we’ve made mistakes. That was then; this is now. What counts is stepping up to learn new tasks and skills. An open mind — one that is willing to admit limitations, as well as strengths — means you’re available for new challenges. Too much reliance on the past will stifle your courage to “fail upward” and use missteps as learning opportunities for growth.

2. Develop and use your support network: When you pride yourself on being an independent self-starter, it’s difficult to ask for help. You tell yourself you don’t want to bother people unnecessarily. You may fear feedback because you just don’t want to hear, or the information does not align with “how you see yourself”. You may discount colleagues who do not “stroke an overinflated ego, or will not tell you what you want to hear. If so, you’re hurting your chances of stretching and growing. Instead, challenge yourself to ask respected individuals for regular feedback, even if it’s uncomfortable to hear. Ask these four questions:

  • a. What do I do that annoys you or others?
  • b. When does my behavior stall or block your greatness?
  • c. What one tip would you give me to inspire you to reach higher?
  • d. What’s been your experience getting good feedback to improve your performance? I’d love to hear from you.

In my article, Coaching Leaders to Change, I discuss Marshall Goldsmith’s model for behavioral coaching outlines a reliable process to help leaders achieve positive, measurable changes in themselves, their staff and their teams. Marshall’s Feed Forward tool is to provide you with suggestions for the future and to help you achieve a positive change in the behaviors selected by you. The Feed Forward Tool is especially suited to successful people. Successful people like getting ideas that are aimed at helping them achieve their goals.

My next SMARTER Workplace blog will detail the next four steps.

What has been your experience with giving feedback to high achievers? What other suggestions can you provide?

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How Do Emotions Regulate Life? New Emotions as Information Model

The idea that emotions regulate social interaction is noted in the book Smart2Smarter (2011) in the competencies of Tolerance and Reciprocity. But exactly how do emotions do this? The article “How Emotions Regulate Social Life – The Emotions as Social Information (EASI) Model“, by Gerben A. Van Kleef, shares the latest research with implications for workplaces, parents and even the political arena. For information about social and emotional, career, coaching, leadership or workplace training programs, contact Cynthia. Certified Social and Emotional Intelligence Coach program offered via Workplace Coach Institute.

Permanent link to this article: http://smart2smarter.com/how-do-emotions-regulate-life/

Comfort Zones of High Achievers

“Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions.”
– Cynthia Kivland

In my previous blog, Why High Achievers Flounder, I talked about how SMARTER workplaces create a culture and emotional climate that inspires high achievers to continually grow as professionals. I encounter high-achievers frequently in my coaching work and when training future coaches.

You may recognize yourself as a high achiever. Or, perhaps you started out that way but have let yourself fade into the background. You play it safe, maybe even telling yourself that since you are “above the norm” you do not need to learn or risk more?
I understand that completely. When you’re used to having things come easily to you, it’s only natural to shy away from assignments that stretch your comfort zone and increase your personal vulnerability.

When you have a successful self-image to protect, you find yourself avoiding risk. Instead, many high achievers like yourself hunker down and lock themselves into routines at the expense of professional growth.

Trust me on this, it is possible to break this cycle and get back on track for career success. In fact, it’s not only possible — it’s essential if you want to flourish in top leadership roles. Understand that social intelligence is a key to career success and significance.

First, take a hard look at yourself. Identify any of the eight traps into which you’ve fallen. Which traps escalate your anxieties and cause you to engage in unproductive behaviors?

Next, adopt new practices that give you the courage to step out of your comfort zone. This isn’t easy, and it won’t happen overnight. Assess your Career Health, and then work with a coach, peer or trusted colleague to develop an action plan of behavioral change.

It’s a hard truth, but the talent and skills that got you “here” won’t take you “there.” Your best thinking may not be enough. As intelligent as you may be, you simply cannot know what you don’t know.

What do you think about comfort zones and high achievers in your workplace?

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SMARTER Workplaces: Why High Achievers Flounder

“Many high performers would rather do the wrong things well
than do the right thing poorly.”

– Thomas J. DeLong and Sara DeLong, “The Paradox of Excellence,”
Harvard Business Review, June 2011

Leaders are high achievers who continually grow as professionals. But in many organizations, there are high achievers who are floundering. They’re smart, ambitious professionals who aren’t as productive or satisfied as they could be. Many ascend to leadership positions and reach a plateau in their professional growth. I encounter high-achievers frequently in the workplaces I do coaching. It’s one of the driving reasons people come in for private coaching. (Read SMARTER Workplaces Have a Heart). Throughout their careers, they’ve been told they’re high potentials. They should be flourishing, but what I see is that they often let anxiety about their performance compromise their ability to learn and grow.

They have a big fear of revealing their limitations and this may cause high achievers to undermine their careers and hamper their leadership abilities. In my book Smart2Smarter, How Emotional and Social Connections Bring Humanity into the Workplace, 2011, I discuss the skill of reciprocity – the ability to give and receive, lead and be led, teach and be taught. Many of my coaching clients know they can perform better, and are often referred to a coach due to high employee turnover and low employee engagement. These very smart leaders resist asking for help, unless it’s in private sessions with a coach. It is the skill of reciprocity, that is taught in Workplace Coach Institute’s Social and Emotional Intelligence Workplace Coach Certifications, that give leaders and coaches tools to understand why and how social reciprocity is a must have skill that global employers want – especially from high achievers!

If you’re a high achiever, then you’re used to winning and accustomed to turning out remarkable performance. But what happens when you’re in over your head or on an accelerating treadmill that’s going nowhere fast? For example, when challenged by new technologies or strategic game changes, you’re probably unwilling to admit it and often refuse to ask others for help.

Paradoxically, the very strengths that led you to the fast track can steer you toward poor performance. There was a recent article on this in Harvard Business Review. High performers exhibit eight typical behaviors, according to authors Thomas J. and Sara DeLong in “The Paradox of Excellence” (HBR, June 2011):

  1. Driven to achieve results: Achievers don’t let anything get in the way of goal completion. But they can become so caught up in tasks that colleagues get pushed aside. Transparency or helping others feels like a waste of valuable time.
  2. Doers: Because nobody can do it as well or as quickly as they can, they drift into poor delegation or micromanagement.
  3. Highly motivated: Achievers take their work seriously, but they fail to see the difference between the urgent and the merely important—a potential path to burnout.
  4. Addicted to positive feedback: Achievers care how others perceive them and their work, but they tend to ignore positive feedback and obsess over criticism.
  5. Competitive: Achievers go overboard in their competitive drive; they obsessively compare themselves to others. This leads to a chronic sense of insufficiency, false calibrations and career missteps.
  6. Passionate about work: Achievers feed on the highs of successful work but are subject to crippling lows. They tend to devote more attention to what’s lacking (the negative), rather than what’s right (the positive).
  7. Safe risk takers: Because they are so passionate about success, they shy away from risk and the unknown. They won’t stray far from their comfort zone.
  8. Guilt-ridden: No matter how much they accomplish, achievers believe it’s never enough. They want more. When they do complete a milestone, they don’t take the time to savor the moment. They expect to be successful, so they deny themselves the chance to fully appreciate the joy of achievement.

What do you think about these traps? Recognize yourself in any of them? I’d love to hear your comments.

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Cynthia Kivland, Author Smart2Smarter; www.smart2smarter.com and President of Workplace Coach Institute, Inc. Leadership and coaching solutions for global talent!

“Our mission is to bring humanity back into the workplace”

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