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Tuesday, 16th April 2024
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How to manage the achievers in your business Back  
Eamon Kelly looks at the issues involved in managing the Achiever type of personality and asks whether they are the life-blood of financial services or the main cause of internal haemorrhaging for companies.
With the increasing pace of competitiveness and change at all levels of financial services, the need for individuals who can deliver precision at speed has never been more important. Even the most detached spotters of trends will have recognised how the patterns of markets are being reshaped by the dramatic confluence of increasingly powerful IT initiatives, emerging e-commerce solutions and new and ever-more demanding corporate and private client expectations.

In an age of focused performance-appraisal, the need for ‘winners’ who feel challenged and ‘in their element’ is paramount. And the personality-type which most-closely matches this profile is ‘The Achiever’.

Successful Achievers identify wholly with the market and see themselves as an integral and essential part of the game. Hugely-competitive, the creme-de-la-creme take mostly-successful stances and positions close to but not beyond the ‘edge’ of what is possible while staying ever-aware of the potential down-side and obsessively-protective of their ‘get-out’ options.

Without the right balance of Achievers and other personality types, no operation can hope to remain ‘focused’, competitive and ‘driven’. Without the right mix the company will not be driven by the will to outplay competitors and, if necessary, to forge the alliances which will help to gain or protect the integrity which stamps them with the image and identity of ‘winners’.

The problem with and for Achievers is that so often they represent trouble. This is because Achievers’ energy, drive and determination is powered by an internal distress, which if not properly managed and controlled, feeds negatively off itself and eventually sets up distress with and between team-mates and colleagues.

Highly critical of the shortcomings of others, Achievers identify closely with and even ‘hype up’ the importance of the task in which they are engaged. Detesting failure and with an inherent fear of being seen as ‘worthless’, they see problems and challenges as opportunities to demonstrate their skills and win the approval which they so desperately and urgently crave.

Achievers who have ‘made their mark’ are superb self-managers and possess an almost chameleon-like ability to shape and adapt their image and behaviour to fit the needs of the situation. But it is this very chameleon-like quality which, when it descends into deception and self-deception, can make Achievers difficult to manage and ‘pin down’.

The key to the successful motivation of these essential but elusive ‘operators’ is to understand and then to satisfy (and sometimes) threaten the needs which drive them.

The need for affiliation is low in the order of priorities for Achievers. Esteem and self-actualisation are the two factors which combine to make these people potentially intolerant of the weaknesses of others and extremely concerned that those weaknesses might in some way tarnish their own image and standing. Security, displayed ideally through assertion rather than aggression, is their dominant need. Ironically for so many in financial services, the physical need is the last to ‘kick-in’ in the minds and attitude of successful Achievers. Day-to-day money and the accumulation of wealth are seen merely as ways of ‘keeping the score’ in a game the real purpose of which is to help prove that they, their performance and the results they deliver deserve recognition
.
If you’re managing Achievers, the key is to win their loyalty. Achievers, while they find it difficult to admit it, work best under the direction and control of a role model that they admire and respect. Someone whom they know won’t let them away with double-dealing. While essentially deceptive and keen constantly to push the boundaries of what they can ‘get away with’; Achievers are attracted to and admire honesty. The person with the ability to provide honest, accurate and even brutal feedback about their performance is the one best equipped to create with them a bond which will not ‘crack’ under pressure.

Threatening and satisfying their sense of esteem and perfection by inviting them to ‘look to themselves’ before criticising others will force Achievers to accept the importance of working with and for the rest of the team. Arranging and shaping situations and arguments in ways that allow and encourage Achievers to stop and appreciate the efforts and contributions of everyone will leave them with no other viable option but to help create a genuinely positive, integrated and appropriately relaxed atmosphere or ‘culture’.

In managing Achievers, look on your job as being to understand and moderate their behaviour. Essentially this means ‘spotting’ and preventing the disintegration which is central to this personality. While Achievers possess huge potential, more than any other personality-type they possess the potential to implode or self-destruct with all the consequences which that potentially represents.

Finally, a word of warning: however good a manager you are, there will always be a little corner of each Achiever’s mind, attitude and outlook which you will never own or control. Indeed, it’s this desire to retain their own sense of individualism (even in the most positive team culture) which singles them out as critically important trouble-shooters. Or singles them out as highly-critical trouble-makers, unable and unwilling to accept that they have the capacity to be their ‘own worst enemies’? As a manager in the battleground of financial services, ultimately it’s your job to help Achievers play the ‘inner game’ rather than to set up situations in which they are habitually forced to play the role of ‘enemy within’. In the business of deal-making, treasury and asset management, these deal-makers are your greatest assets. Trust yourself to learn how really to treasure and protect them.

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