It’s amazing what you can read in those magazines in the seat backs on airplanes. On Monday of last week I had more time than I had expected to read everything I could find. I was due to fly to Chicago (11:55am from Heathrow) and we didn’t end up leaving until 4:30pm. And I spent that whole time on the plane reading…working…watching TV and even – and I seldom venture into this space – talking to the person sitting next to me!
According to the in flight magazine, it was Bette Davies who said: ‘You will never be happier than you expect. To change your happiness, change your expectation.” I tried changing my expectation for departure several times…
I was in the USA for a number of meetings…some were one-to-one but the major focus was a couple of days working with my team. One topic that came up several times during my week was the balance between individual and team achievement. I am good with focus on both. In fact I would go so far as to say that a team can only achieve truly outstanding delivery with both – great team work but also great individual performance.
And both need to be encouraged and recognised. For example, too much focus on team delivery and not enough on individual contributions can sometimes result in a performance dip for a team after a significant achievement. With a more balanced focus between team and individuals, then once a team delivers, there will still be desire and ambition for individuals to do, deliver and achieve more.
This concept is especially important in teams made up of ‘High Achievers’ – those colleagues who are highly motivated by achievement and who assign high personal value to achievement.
This combination of ‘value and motive’ for achievement is of interest, especially in the context of teams who have to come together to solve problems and to deliver impact…together. The challenge can be that ‘high achievers’ are strongly driven to solve their own problems – an achievement that satisfies both values and motives.
A close second for a high achiever is to solve someone else’s problem for them. Not quite as good as resolving our own challenges…but still right up there.
And a long (long) way distant is when someone else solves problems for a high achiever. High achievers dislike this. High achievers really dislike this. Someone else solving a problem denies ‘value’ and undermines ‘motive’. High achievers can even work hard unwittingly, to avoid anyone else solving their problems for them.
If this theory is correct – then it would presumably limit communal problem solving activities. It would discourage cross unit support. Indeed, in an organization replete with high achievers, such behaviour could even impact on both the extent – and quality – of interaction and supervision!
But all is not lost. This same analysis suggests its own solution – or at least a way forward. When working with high achievers leaders have to be crystal clear about how achievement will be assessed. For example, if a leader defines ‘achievement’ as the number of times a colleague asks for advice on their work, then presumably this is what a high achiever will strive to do?
Similarly if success (or achievement) is defined as helping colleagues succeed in a way whereby those colleagues feel empowered and learn new skills, then again we would make a significant impact.
Of course reality may not be as simple as this, but we certainly know that most organizations pride themselves on delivering whatever goals are set… whether those goals are individual, project or departmental….and whether they are numerical, delivery or behavioural.