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?