Strength #4 – Achiever

by on Jun.17, 2010, under Personal

#4 – Achiever

From the book:

Your Achiever theme helps explain your drive.  Achiever describes a constant need for achievement.  You feel as if every day starts at zero.  By the end of the day you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself.  And by “every day” you mean every single day — workdays, weekends, vacations.  No matter how much you may feel you deserve a day of rest, if the day passes without some form of achievement, no matter how small, you will feel dissatisfied.  You have an internal fire burning inside you.  It pushes you to do more, to achieve more.  After each accomplishment is reached, the fire dwindles for a moment, but very soon it rekindles itself, forcing you toward the next accomplishment.  Your relentless need for achievement might not be logical.  It might not even be focused.  But it will always be with you.  As an Achiever you must learn to live with this whisper of discontent.  It does have its benefits.  It brings you the energy you need to work long hours without burning out.  It is the jolt you can always count on to get you started on new tasks, new challenges.  It is the power supply that causes you to set the pace and define the levels of productivity for your work group.  It is the theme that keeps you moving.

Wow, that’s a mouthful.  Despite the poor grammar, let’s break it down.

What does Achiever mean to me?

Well, at first being an “Achiever” sounds great.  I mean, who doesn’t want to be the person who HAS to get something done every day?  Think about it.  If you’re the boss, this is the employee you want, right?  The one that always has something to show for eight hours of work.  I think this is the trait that makes people “listers” — meaning I’m the type of person who likes to put on paper a “to-do” list with every little thing I need to do, and then check things off throughout the day.  The more things checked off, the better I feel about that day! 

Where does Achiever show evidence in my life?

As an example, take Memorial Day weekend.  Let me lay it out for you: Saturday – Mowed the lawn, Directed I-Mag at GCC, grabbed dinner with GCC friends after.  Sunday – More GCC I-Mag directing, lunch w/sis, picked up everything for my garden, went home & planted that garden as well as pulling out some of the old plant (Bye bye, two ugly trees!).  Monday – Relaxed at the beach w/friends, came home & took a nap, laid out the mulch in the garden, worked out (after the Hawks game of course!), also ran laundry all day.  Now, my point is not just to list out my weekend, my point is that about half my weekend was actually spent working in one form or another.  Garden, yard, church…  Why is this?  Why not just relax on the three-day weekend?  Well, it occurs to me that “Achiever” is why!  After learning about my “Achiever” trait, it is evident to me that if I have a day where I really do just relax (read, play video games, eat, sleep) then at the end of that day I’ll feel like I wasted part of my life.

This trait is also evident in my work life.  For example, if I spend an entire day working on fixing a bug and end up finding out that it was caused by something insignificant (like last Thursday morning, for example) then I feel like I wasted all of that time.  It doesn’t even matter to me that I learned about a quirk with whatever I was doing, but instead I feel gypped!  Another work example:  Spending all day in meetings!  I hardly ever feel like I’ve accomplished anything by attending a meeting.  Yes, yes, I know, it’s important to understand what’s going on throughout the business, but really can’t I get that in a newsletter email or something?  Do I really need to spend 3 hours hearing about how bad it is if we don’t follow the FDA’s rules.  I already know it’s bad!  You don’t need to waste half my day trying to scare me!

Ok, enough ranting!!!

How can I use Achiever to my advantage?

Well, last time we started with another excerpt from the book, so let’s go with that again.  Here we go, from page 177 on “How to Manage a Person Strong in Achiever”:

This person may well need less sleep and get up earlier than most.  Look to him when these conditions are required on the job.  Also, ask him questions such as “How late did you have to work to get this done?” or “When did you come in this morning?”  He will appreciate this kind of attention.

Establish a relationship with this person by working alongside him.  Working hard together is often a bonding experience for him.  And keep low producers away from him.  “Slackers” annoy him.

and one of my favorites:

Recognize that he likes to be busy.  Sitting in meetings is likely to be very boring for him.  So either let him get his work done or arrange to have him attend only those meetings where you really need him and he can be fully engaged.

That’s right, don’t put me in meetings all day!  I’ll go nuts AND I won’t get anything else done which will only further frustrate me!

What I really think is useful for me, regarding this trait, is to have tangible accomplishments at the end of the day.  Here’s an example:  Today, I built a small report which takes a change request as input, iterates through all of the parts it affects and checks each one for other open changes.  It then lists any other open changes in a nice, easy to read format with links for more info.  This is a unique, useful, yet simple tool which takes something that would have taken probably half an hour to do by hand and presents it to the user in seconds.  All told, it took me about 30 minutes of actual work to write this, but I feel now as if I’ve accomplished something today.  Something I can show off; something we can use and reuse in other places; something I can continue to tweak to improve.  I can’t begin to say how much better I feel on a day where I can turn out a piece of work like this in addition to my other duties.

So, here’s what I think will be most effective in helping me to exploit this theme:

  1. Break tasks into smaller, tangible/accomplishable units
  2. Stay out of meetings as much as possible, however when I have to attend one, perhaps I can make a goal out of the meetings — something like “I’m going to take 3 pages of notes per hour” or “Let’s see if we can get out of this meeting 20 minutes earlier than scheduled!”
  3. Try to build on momentum created by completing tasks & units of work.
  4. Keep track of accomplishments and remember them beyond the day-of.  NOT to be confused with bragging, this is intended as a personal reminder.

That concludes my analysis of Theme #4: Achiever.  I have to say, while this theme looks good on paper and will look good to prospective employers, it is definitely not one of my favorite themes.  Given my line of work, it seems like having a need for a lot of accomplishments can actually be a problem because we tend to see very long-running projects without a lot of intermediate goals to hit.


1 Comment for this entry

  • laura jo busch

    Hi Tom,

    An adaptable acheiver…doesn’t sound too bad to me. It would be good to allow yourself a percentage of R and R each day also. Enjoying yourself is time well spent. Filling your fun and belonging needs are important accomplishments too.

    I think I have some of that acheiver in me. I feel guilty if I don’t accomplish something each day.

    Thanks for sharing

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