Riding on the high of achievements early last week, I sat at my desk one morning to catch up on email. An email came in with reviews from workshops that I facilitated recently. Good news! High scores. Nine positive comments! Oops, a negative comment. For the next couple of hours, I obsessed over the criticism, took it personal, and became immobilized. Ignoring the positive feedback, I plummeted to a crippling low. I focused on what was negative rather than what was positive.
Then my “AHA” moment hit. How prophetic! I have been blogging about high-achiever behaviours that lead to traps and I had fallen into two very real traps myself. Fortunately, I had a call scheduled with my coach and an opportunity to release the traps.
The following feature article begins our review of the 6-step plan for helping high-achievers avoid the behaviours that become traps.
Releasing the Traps – One Step at a Time!
The very strengths that lead high-achievers to the fast track can steer them toward poor performance. This paradox can be perplexing to high-achievers. Working through the strong pull of this contradiction is where a trusted professional coach is necessary.
High-achievers who have fallen into a high-potential career stall need and will appreciate a plan to get back on track for career success. A plan that includes strengthening personal foundation will work two-fold, personally and professionally. Working with a professional coach and integrating their overall development plan will expedite the process and fortify sustainable results. The following elements will serve as a springboard to creating Star Performers.
That Was Then; This is Now
Forget the past: In general, 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.
Several of the typical behaviours of high-achievers are breading grounds for comparing and measuring today based on yesterday. Bringing light to how much the high-achiever is basing his/her career decisions on past experiences, either good or bad, and the effects is an important part of the coaching process. The high-achiever is challenged to 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. Blaming — or crediting ourselves — is often irrational and inappropriate. Sure, we’ve accomplished great things 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 — is a mind available for new challenges.
Coaching around conquering the fear of making new, and inevitable, mistakes will mobilize the high-achiever. Too much reliance on the past will stifle the courage needed to “fail upward” and use missteps as learning opportunities for growth.
No Need to Do It Alone
Develop and use a support network: High-achievers who pride themselves on being independent self-starters have difficulty asking for help for several reasons.
They rationalize with self-talk such as “I don’t want to bother people unnecessarily”.
They may fear feedback because they don’t want to risk hearing that their work is not up to par. They may even choose to consult a colleague who they know will tell them what they want to hear. If so, they are hurting their chances of stretching and growing.
Challenging the high-achiever to ask respected individuals for regular feedback, even if it’s painful at first, will expand his/her comfort zone. Having a structured feedback process with a supportive network of people who are respectful and honest will make feedback easier to accept and process.
Additional support from an experienced mentor who is familiar with the high-achiever’s work can provide valuable feedback and input to the following questions posed by the high-achiever:
a. What do I need to stop doing?
b. What do I need to continue doing?
c. What do I need to start doing?
Questions to Ponder:
- What has been your experience getting good feedback to improve your performance?
- What worked?
- What hindered your progress?
Call to Action:
- How can you create an environment that supports your quiet high-achievers in releasing the fear of “failing up”?
- What additional support can you provide to make feedback easier to receive and more effective?
While mentoring young women in a leadership and social action program over the past year, I observed several high-achievers transform into Star Performers. They were the quiet ones….just waiting for someone to recognize their potential and for the opportunity to shine.
Quiet high-achievers have so much to contribute. However, often anxiety about their performance keeps them small and invisible. Identifying these high-achievers, understanding the traps that hold them back, and then implementing personal development and leadership plans are keys to developing them into Star Performers.
Bringing Star Performers to Centre-stage
The Girls for Safer Communities program empowered this group of young women to challenge the traps that often hold high-achievers back. Over the year, through self-assessment, purpose-driven team action, and mentoring, they gained confidence in their personal power and strengthened their voice within their community. I was inspired and grateful for the opportunity to watch them as they ventured onto centre-stage.
Similarly, when working with business owners and executives, I notice the quiet high-achievers. Many have the potential to become Star Performers and yet are being held back by behaviours that become traps. I am inspired when a high-achiever commits to a personal development and leadership plan that acknowledges the strengths and helps address the traps of high-achievers. I receive an enormous source of satisfaction when these quiet high-achievers take their rightful place as Star Performers at centre-stage.
Investing in Developing Star Performers
More and more clients acknowledge that on-going investment in developing Star Performers delivers significant returns to their top-line business growth and reflects (quietly) on their bottom-line profit. Do you have Star Performers ready to step out to centre-stage? A development and leadership plan that includes Emotional Intelligence is a wise investment. 80% of workplace success is attributed to Emotional Intelligence (“Star Performer Study” by Hay/McBer).
8 Typical Behaviours of High-achievers - Watch for the Traps
Your high-achievers may exhibit several or all of the following eight typical behaviours that can spur personal and professional growth, but can also be traps that hold them back.
- Driven: Think of employees who are driven to achieve their own personal and professional goals and your organization’s goals. Nothing gets in the way of their goals. The trap is that they become so caught up in goals that relationships get pushed aside and they miss the opportunities to contribute to what is most important in the present.
- Doers: They do it well; they do it quickly. However, because nobody can do it as well or as quickly as they can, they may appear bossy, alienate co-workers, or drift into poor delegation, micromanagement, and solitary overwhelm.
- Highly motivated: They take goals and achievement seriously. The trap is that they fail to see the difference between urgency and importance. They overlook what’s really important about the experience – personal development, relationships, and other elements that give them a source of satisfaction at work. This can lead to burnout and dropout.
- Crave positive feedback: They are, simply, addicted. They care how others perceive them and their accomplishments. However, they tend to obsess over criticism, take it personal, and become immobilized. They often ignore positive feedback and hence, miss opportunities to build on their strengths.
- Competitive: They may not appear to be competitive at all. They possess a quiet competitive nature that contributes to growth if they are encouraged by effective leader to compete in a healthy, productive way. The dark side of the high-achiever competitive style is that they obsessively compare themselves to others leading to a chronic sense of not being good enough and acute unhappiness.
- Passionate about their successes: They feed on the highs of their successes – but, again, quietly. Their passion is often bubbling up with high highs and crippling lows. Subjected to crippling lows, they fall into the trap of giving more attention to what’s lacking (the negative), rather than what’s right (the positive).
- Safe risk-takers: They won’t cause you to go grey with the risks they take. However, because they are so passionate about success, they shy away from risk. They won’t stray far from their comfort zone in order to grow which really puts a damper on what they could achieve if risk was reframed.
- Conscientious: They won’t let you down. On the flip side, they are guilt-ridden. No matter how much they accomplish, they believe it’s never enough. Their need to have and do more is insatiable. This need will drain their energy. As they complete one milestone, they are onto the next. No pause to fully appreciate the joy of achievement.
Questions to Ponder:
- Do you recognize the quiet high-achievers in your organization who could venture out to centre-stage?
- How are these traps showing up and holding them back?
- What could these high-achievers contribute to your organization if you empowered them to step out and leave their comfort zone?
Call to Action:
- How you can provide opportunities for your quiet high-achievers and empower them to become Star Performers or even Rock Stars. They would certainly make you look good and they would enjoy their work much more.
8 Behaviours of high-achievers based on “The Paradox of Excellence” (HBR, June 2011) by Thomas J. DeLong and his daughter, Sara DeLong.
The Girls for Safer Communities (GFSC) is a program activity which aims to increase awareness about safety concerns of girls and women while mobilizing girls to become leaders in their communities. Pathfinders and Rangers receive leadership and safety training that prepares them to lead their peers or younger Units or community members on group safety audit walks to identify safety concerns in their communities. Girls go on to work with members of the community to make recommendations and create action plans that will improve safety.
I love my office technology! My colleagues, family, and friends consider me to be a “high-achiever” when it comes to setting up and trouble-shooting my own techno tools and toys. In fact, I have been known to thrive on the challenge.
Meet My Nemesis
Last week I met my match – a wireless all-in-one printer/scanner/copier – an evolution of the complicated Gestetner Duplicating Machine shown here. The instructions were just as complicated and in tiny print as seen here.
I spent a lovely afternoon coaxing this new printer to say hello to my network. I finally threw up my hands and prepared myself for packing up the printer and returning it the next morning. I retreated to a technology time-out in order to cope with my resistance to being defeated – by a printer!
Releasing the Need to Do It Alone
Resistance persisted the next morning with one major shift. “One more try.”, I coaxed myself as I reached out to telephone support and finally asked for help. Within 30 minutes, the printer and scanner were humming and happy to be introduced to my network. Needless to say, I was happy too.
Why did I continue to struggle on my own? Read on to learn how my experience is a good example of how the behaviours of high-achievers can hold them back.
Are Your High Achievers Losing It?
What’s happening when your high-achievers begin to feel like they are losing their spark? What you can do as a leader to help them break the cycle and revel in their brilliance again.
You may recognize those high achievers on your team who started out brilliant and are now fading into the background. No, they aren’t losing it, but they are beginning to play it safe and maybe even telling themselves that average performance is above the norm — so why risk more?
The Crippling Lows
Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. Sometimes BIG shoes to fill that can also be crippling.
When you’re used to being recognized for high achievement and now you are feeling overwhelmed by the barrage of rapid and constant change, it’s only natural to shrink away from assignments that test you and require you to learn new skills. You lament for the time when you were eager for challenge. Alas, you feel like the spark is gone. It’s a crippling low.
There’s an Image to Protect
When your high-achievers have a successful self-image to protect and healthy self-regard to maintain, you may find them avoiding risk. You may be surprised to learn that they are in good company. It’s not uncommon for high-achievers to hunker down and lock themselves into routines at the expense of professional growth.
Break the Cycle and Get Back on Track
Trust me, it is possible to break the cycle that has your high-achievers questioning their talent and skills. You can help them get back on track for professional (and personal) success. In fact, it’s not only possible — it’s essential if you want them to flourish, be engaged employees, and continue to contribute to the bottom line of your business.
Identifying the Traps
First, work with them to become more aware of the behaviours that once contributed to their success and may now be traps that hold them back. Which traps escalate their anxieties and cause them to engage in unproductive behaviours?
Stepping Out in the Spotlight Again
Next, work with them to adopt new practices that give them the courage to step out of their comfort zone – again. This isn’t easy and it won’t happen overnight but remind them that they have done it before, they have been Star Performers, and you are there to support them.
What Got Them Here, Won’t Get Them There
Help them to understand the hard truth – the talent and skills that made them Star Performers in the past must be assessed for relevance in the current environment. Help them understand that their best thinking may not be enough. As intelligent as they may be (IQ), they simply cannot know what they don’t know in an ever-changing environment. An introduction to emotional intelligence (EQ) will add to their perspective.
Releasing the Need to Do It Alone – How to Help
Encourage them to ask for help from a trusted peer, mentor or coach. Provide the appropriate resources to support them. If they are smart and ambitious, they are worth the investment. They will make you look good!
In 2008, I blogged about work/life balance in response to the topic being wildly covered in the press with tips and strategies claiming to help us achieve balance. The topic has evolved with many of my coaching colleagues addressing the myth. Here is a reposting of my 2008 blog explaining my take on this myth; offering an alternative view of “integration”; and explaining the distinction between balance and integration.
How often do you hear about people trying desperately to achieve balance in their lives?
The topic of work/life balance is covered in the press almost daily: radio; television; newspapers; magazines; and last but not least, e-newsletters and blogs. Because of the timing and overwhelming focus on this topic, most of us have bought into the notion that a “balanced life” is actually attainable.
Experience and observation has taught me that a “balanced life” simply is not attainable. Just think about this for a moment. Balance in any context is delicate. Anything that is balanced (think of a scale) can become unbalanced with the slightest pressure from any direction at anytime. An enormous amount of energy is exerted and depleted trying to keep something in balance – including your life. Can you see how incessant focus on achieving a balanced life affects the quality of your life? The effort is actually counter-productive. I have come to appreciate how “integration” rather than “balance” can be the key to maintaining quality of life and actually thriving. Understanding this distinction has a profound effect on sustaining your quality of life and basically, staying sane. Here is my interpretation of the distinction between integration and balance.
“Integration” implies acceptance, assimilation, and sense of continuous flowing energy. As something is added, it is embraced but it does not take over. When something is deleted, the gap is filled in just the right proportion without losing sight or appreciation for what was removed or lost. Wholeness is maintained. Our sense of being whole gives us strength to flow through the transition. We attract the best. We go with the flow.
“Balance” on the other hand implies struggle to achieve and maintain. Any addition or deletion from the equation causes upset or feeling of being “off balance”. Again, think about the scales. When something is added or deleted, there is a compensating reaction. Under or overcompensation fuels the imbalance. We feel fragmented along with a gamut of other feelings and fears that tear at our sense of being whole and compromise our strength. We focus on the hurdles, we trip, and we lose the flow.
Here is my call to action. Stop the Balancing Act:
- Examine your distinction between integration and balance.
- List what is most important to you at this very moment. Be as detailed as you feel is meaningful for you to benefit from this exercise.
- Use my distinction and/or your own regarding “balance” to determine how well (or not so well) you are currently “balancing” or “juggling” what is most important to you. How do you feel when “A” gets more attention than “B”? Or, when you add “C” which forces you to eliminate “B”? What is this “balancing act” costing you?
- Now explore the shift to “integration”. Can this shift allow you to give the appropriate amount of attention to “A” and “B”? Can you accept and assimilate “C” without total exclusion of “B”? If the unexpected comes along, will you be able to accept it with ease and maintain the flow?
I would love to read about your experience in stopping the balancing act. Please post your feedback.
Customers for Life – Making the Investment
Customers are the people who put their hands in their pockets to pay the dealership and in turn pay YOU! Customers are our source of revenue and therefore, it pays to think of them an investment. Investing with the intention of return – a good return – requires planning, measuring, and nurturing growth over the long term. Adopting the ‘customers for life’ and ‘investment’ mindset can cause you to make better decisions in the moment and to care for your investments (customers) as you would your own money.
Focus on the lifetime value of the customer to you. Adopt an investment mentality.
Create Customers for Life!
4 ways to treat your customers as investments
- Focus on the lifetime value of the customer to you. If you treat customers on the basis of their last purchase or their service history value, you will inevitably make poor decisions about how much time, effort, and money you spend to attract and acquire customers, and how much you invest in the on-going relationships to keep them. No doubt, the initial cost of attracting and acquiring customers is important. However, we also need to consider the long-term potential of each and every customer. That is, what we can expect from them on an ongoing basis, not just their first purchase.
- Create your plan for customer retention. On the dealership level, great effort and expense goes into generating traffic to the dealership in order to generate new business. Statistics support the wisdom of complementing new business generation with strategies for keeping the customers that we have. Loyal customers are a wise investment for several reasons that contribute to business growth. They return for regular service, purchase more vehicles, spend more, and are typically more fun. They are a critical part of our outreach to new customers through their word-of-mouth efforts. Loyal customers promote the dealership and promote you personally. They are basically free advertising and an effective part of our sales team. Hence, it makes sense that each department and each employee takes the opportunity to develop a customer retention plan.
- Track your investment in customer retention over time. Investments mature over time. Just like an investment in your personal life, you will only see the full value of your investment in customer retention over a long term. Not only will you see gains in loyalty and revenues from loyal customers, but if you’re getting it right, you’ll see the results of them telling others about you and becoming advocates of the dealership and of you. Maybe they’ll write a testimonial or post a positive review on the Internet.
- Pay attention to the Customer Promoter Score ( aka CSI) to monitor the success of your customer retention plan. You wouldn’t make a major investment in the stock market and then not check on its performance for a year. The Customer Promoter Score monitors customer loyalty and refer- ability. A single poor experience can be enough to damage a relationship and the only way you’ll know how your customers feel and how well your customer retention plan is working is to monitor and respond effectively to customer feedback. Remember that 90% of customers don’t complain – they simply walk away.
Adopt an investment mentality. Create Customers for Life!
Earning Customer Love by Providing Happy Moments and Extraordinary Experiences
What’s the difference between Promoter and Passive Customer?
Customer love is more than the warm and fuzzies.
1. Customer love is earned – Love isn’t bought and paid for. You can’t go out and buy a customer-love campaign — this is something you earn. It’s about happy moments and extraordinary experiences. It’s about putting your customers first and blowing their minds.
2. New love makes us talk – Nobody talks more than a teenager in love, a child with a new bike, OR a person with a new car. This moment of new love is a powerful EXPERIENCE. The moment of TRUTH. This is the moment when a little word of mouth marketing can scale it, extend it, expand it, and get everyone talking about you.
3. Love breaks the relationship between marketing and money – If you want people to talk about you, you have two choices: You can pay them (media and advertising), or you can inspire them. When you buy ads, you pay every time, forever. But when you make a fan fall in love, the relationship is sustainable, renewable, and it grows with use instead of getting used up.
Based on Word of Mouth.org article written by Andy Sernovitz. www.wordofmouth.org
Making the Shift to Providing Total and Positive Customer Experience Across All Departments
This does not mean great or improved customer service. It’s about a major shift in the way we interact with customers from pre-sale queries to post-sale support, service, and more.
Total positive customer experience starts with a great product or service (Chrysler Soars to No. 1 in Canada. http://www.windsorstar.com/cars/Chrysler+soars+Canada/6235949/story.html)
It continues with easy transactions for the customer. And—most importantly—it is made satisfying by personalized interactions with dealership sales and service representatives, and other knowledge workers across the departments.
These three things—a great product, easy transactions, and valuable interactions—add up to the total positive customer experience.
Love Your Customers, Treat Them Well, Develop Partnerships
“Customers admire the beloved companies for how they are treated, not for how they are handled. And they love these companies because of how they feel when they come into contact with them.” (Janine Bliss)
Check out the YouTube video “Customer Love Movie” www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wu5Twqo71os
Patricia Muir is interviewed by Shannon Skinner of ExtraordinaryWomenTV.
Creating Your Plan for Customer Retention and Your Business Reputation
When a customer is not confident in our knowledge of our own product and options or when we take too much time to deliver their product or service, the customer is likely to feel that we are “hard to deal with”. When the feeling is perpetuated by their perception of negative treatment and poor quality of work, they are likely to take their business elsewhere.
This affects the future sales and service. It is reasonable to expect that these customers will not refer business to your either. In fact, they may spread negative word-of-mouth and post negative reviews on the Internet affecting the dealership’s reputation.
Most likely, great effort and expense goes into generating traffic to your business in order to generate new business. Your business’ good reputation is priceless in and beyond the immediate community. Because loyal customers cost less and spend more, there is good reason to have strategies for providing an exceptional sales and service experience to keep them coming back.
Loyal customers are a critical part of our outreach to new customers through positive word-of-mouth. They promote your business and promote you personally. They are basically free advertising! Hence, it makes sense for each department and each employee to develop a customer retention plan.
What’s your plan?
How are your plan and actions aligned with the business’ overall plan for customer retention and business reputation?