Four SMARTER Tips for High Achievers

Four SMARTER Tips for High Achievers

In my first two blogs on high achievers, Why High Achievers Flounder and Comfort Zones of High Achievers I talked about how SMARTER workplaces create a culture and emotional climate that inspires high achievers to continually grow as professionals. In this blog, I will discuss the next four steps you or a high achiever you know can take to bring your humanity into the workplace.

The previous blog, Six Step Plan for High Achievers, I discussed the first two steps for high achievers to bring out the “greatness” of self and others.

Step one was to forget your past achievements – and failures – to concentrate on what’s needed next. Step two is to develop a support network of peers, mentors, and a coach and start asking for feedback.

When you hear recurrent themes, you know that either you’re doing something amiss, or you need to manage the perceptions people have of you. Either way, you can’t know without asking. Sometimes, however, you need to create trust before people will help you. One of Stephen R. Covey’s suggestions in his bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is to think “Win/Win.” Covey insists that trust is the essence of Win/Win, or what I refer to as the art of reciprocity. “Without trust we lack the credibility for open, mutual learning and communication… The Win/Win [high-trust approach] is the ideal springboard for tremendous synergy… It eliminates the negative energy normally focused on differences in personality and position and creates a positive cooperative energy” (1989, pp. 220-221). The third step is about reciprocity and trust.

  1. Become approachable in a high-achiever way: Learn to ask questions. Doing so doesn’t imply you’re ignorant, as long as you phrase them correctly. Let people know you’re trying to explore different perspectives and that you’d like to learn their opinions or thoughts.
    Share “idea or task try outs” with others. When you acknowledge uncertainty or own your mistakes, you’re showing your humanity. Others see you as approachable and trustworthy. When you open up to others, you become authentic- human. Others will reciprocate with their own stories, and the power of reciprocity is fueled.
  2. Focus on the long term, but concentrate on next steps: Long-term goals require a willingness to be vulnerable, often moving out of your comfort zone. Challenge your fear traps and be open to not knowing everything all the time. Embrace just learning. Be willing to leave your comfort zone to take the small steps to the bigger goal.. Most long-term goals will encounter minor setbacks. Keep your eye on the prize, and give yourself a few “mulligans” along the road to greatness.
  3. Adopt a positive mindset: Recent studies reveal that a happy, positive mindset is a prerequisite for success — not its byproduct. And a positive mindset requires emotional mastery. Start with an appreciative mindset when starting a new project, job or relationship. Focus first on what’s good about it, what you appreciate about this experience. In Smart2Smarter, I discuss the difference between the Survive Path which focuses first on problems and mounting a defense, and the Thrive Path that focuses first on possibilities and creating an offense. Try framing an assignment as a challenge instead of a problem, and you open up the emotional brain to think calmly and creatively. When your boss gives you extra work, you have two choices: feel put upon and overloaded, or take satisfaction in knowing he/she trusts you to get the job done.
  4. Embrace humility, practice and patience: To move your game to the next level or in a new direction, be willing to exhibit vulnerability and even humility. I think people often hesitate showing their humanity for fear people will see them as weak or incompetent. Au contraire, to not share mistakes and missteps means you may well risk coming across as an arrogant know-it-all. Professional growth takes practice and patience. Most of us need to move beyond our comfort zones to enjoy continued success.

For more about these steps, I suggest the book Flying without a Net: Turn Fear of Change into Fuel for Success, by Thomas J. Delong, Harvard Business Review Press, 2011. For more tips on reciprocity, emotional mastery and resilience I suggest the book Smart2Smarter: Coaching Guide for Smart People to Bring Humanity into the Workplace (2011) or visit My next blog will explore the power of character and wisdom in achieving greatness.

What other steps have worked for you when facing setbacks to achieve greatness? Would love to hear your ideas or feel free to contact me direct.

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