Identify your high achievers and give them freedom to fly Managing

February 04, 1991|By Gerald Graham | Gerald Graham,Knight-Ridder

Most managers like to hire high-achieving employees, yet many managers do not effectively motivate their high achievers.

More than 40 years ago, David McClellan of Harvard University, identified high achievers as people who like to take personal responsibility for projects, set moderate achievement goals and desire tangible feedback.

Achievers perform well in tasks that require intellectual solutions; they do not do so well in jobs that merely require steady persistence.

Because achievers like to assume responsibility for their results, effective managers delegate complete tasks to achievers. Then managers get out of the achievers' way while they figure out how to best accomplish the tasks.

Achievers feel suppressed under rules, regulations and policies. They prefer freedom to work out alternatives that move them toward the goals.

Freedom to fail is necessary to achieve maximum results from achievers. Understanding managers allow achievers to experiment with their own methods, and they support their achievers when things do not turn out as expected. By contrast, managers who demand perfection and conformity tend to frustrate achievers.

Effective managers also allow achievers to set their own goals because they know achievers will set moderately high goals that they have a good chance of attaining. And when achievers attain the goals, they will set them a little higher.

"When I get comfortable at a level of performance, I like to stretch myself and try for a higher level," said one achiever.

Pinpointing high achievers

Answer "yes" or "no" to each of the following.

1. Do you like to set goals for yourself?

2. Is job satisfaction more important to you than job security?

3. Is tangible feedback important to you?

4. Are outcomes more important than processes?

5. Do you enjoy taking individual responsibility for projects?

6. Do rules and regulations tend to frustrate you?

7. Would others call you a moderate risk-taker?

8. Do you compete with yourself more than with others?

9. Does feedback energize you to work harder?

10. Do you have a strong need to finish what you start?

11. Do you like to constantly improve?

12. Do others call you a creative problem-solver?

Interpretation. Nine or more "yes" answers may suggest that you are a high achiever.

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