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How to Manage Your High Achievers

Anthony | March 5, 2021


Do you have a team member who’s eager for responsibility, and can rely upon to get the job done?  then this person may be a high achiever.

Perhaps you have a team member who looks good on paper yet not fulfilling their full potential. Maybe their work is great, but they take on too much and find it difficult to delegate. There is a high probability that these team members are likely to be frustrated high achievers.

Without appropriate support, high achievers can struggle to realize their true potential.

Who Are Your High Achievers?

High achievers are ambitious, goal-focused, self-disciplined individuals, who are driven by a strong desire to accomplish meaningful, important goals.

There are three main motivators that determine who we are: the need for achievement, affiliation, and power.  With high achievers, the dominant driver is the need for achievement.

Here are some ways to spot the high achievers on your team:

  • They take charge easily and display natural leadership qualities – often helping fellow team members achieve their goals.
  • They have strong long-term focus self-discipline. High achievers like to set a goal, and then work persistently towards it until it has been completed.
  • High achievers frequently have an internal locus of control. They believe that they, and they alone, are responsible for where they’ll end up in life.
  • They like to be the “go-to” person in their team, company or industry and are willing to put in the effort needed to develop their expertise – often pursuing professional development on their own.

High achievers can worry that others will feel intimidated by their success, or have unrealistic expectations of what they can achieve.

As a result, these people can come to favor the routine and familiar over the challenge and personal growth, which can result in their career growth reaching a plateau.

Other high achievers may be intensely competitive however too much competition can cause stress and harm group morale.

Clarify Expectations

High achievers need to understand what you expect of them, and how their performance will be measured.

Management by Objectives to help your high achievers understand the organization’s goals, and then work with them to align their personal goals with those of the business.

Keep It Interesting

Keep your high achievers engaged with stimulating work activities especially if there are limited opportunities for advancement.

Start by getting them to perform a personal SWOT Analysis, to get a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. Assign tasks and projects that play to and develop their strengths, and work on minimizing their weaknesses with training that helps them manage these.

High achievers typically want to expand their skill sets, so cross-train them to work in other positions. As you work on minimizing weaknesses, find ways for your high achievers to earn quick wins to build their confidence and motivation.

Special Assignments

You can make sure that your high achievers don’t stagnate by coming up with hand-picked “special assignments” that show how much you value their skills while creating opportunities for them to take on extra responsibility and build new expertise.

Accept Honest Failure

In business, failure is generally seen as a bad thing. One of the primary reasons that high achievers plateau is fear of failure.

The more that others celebrate a high achiever’s successes, the more afraid they can become of making mistakes. This causes them to shy away from risky endeavors and new challenges, locking them into familiar routines and causing their career trajectory to level off, while their peers continue to rise.


High achievers need feedback.  They need constructive criticism to help them improve, although this isn’t true in all cases!

Start to give your high achievers regular feedback, and use a more in-depth approach for more thorough performance reviews.

Key Points

High achievers have a deep-seated need to achieve. They’re driven, natural leaders, and they have the persistence and self-discipline needed to accomplish long-term goals.

Here’s what you should do:

  • Keep work interesting – high achievers like a challenge
  • Clarify your expectations.
  • Give them a chance to shine through “special assignments” and participation in committees and task forces.
  • Assign tasks and projects that will stretch their skills, and put them in leadership roles whenever you can.
  • Embrace honest failure, and create an environment where high achievers won’t be afraid to try out new ideas and put new skills to the test.

Provide regular feedback, so that people know how to improve their performance.


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About the Author


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