Leadership Solutions from Read Solutions Group: The Achievers

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Achievers

The last posting described the Expert Leader in the following way:

The Expert Leader is a strong, tactical problem-solver; someone you love to have
on your team. You can depend on them to get the job done day after day. Yet the
Expert Leader is often so focused on being seen as right that they forget to
look at the bigger picture, or to bring other people along with them.

The Achiever combines leadership with technical capabilities in order to play on a bigger field. Let’s follow Mary from the last newsletter, on her career path to Regional Sales Manager. A few months into the job, Mary feels as though she has never worked harder in her life. There seem to be challenges with every client, personnel issues that are not being addressed, and errors being with the customer accounts. She says that she has no problem with delegation, yet it seems as though nothing is ever quite good enough for her. She wants to have real team meetings, but can barely find the time to get the work done. While Mary has been promoted, at this stage, her leadership skills remain at the Expert level.

Believing in Mary’s potential, her boss hires an executive coach. In reflecting on her desires for her leadership style, Mary tells her coach that she wants to create an environment where her team is both challenged and motivated, and where she can work on broader issues. With the support of her coach, Mary begins to schedule biweekly team meetings with the agenda focused on the key projects she has identified that will support sales throughout the region. She is seeing opportunities to use her team’s initiatives to change the sales process for the division. Mary is disciplining herself to listen more, use more questions than answers, and to choose the times when she makes the decision. Mary is making the shift to Achiever Level Leadership.

At the Achiever Level, leaders spend an increasing time delivering organizational outcomes versus solving discrete problems. They see their priority as delivering on the mandates of senior leadership and other stakeholders. The Achiever motivates his team by focusing on the larger objectives, inviting discussion, creative and healthy debate. He shifts his emphasis from managing tasks to managing people. This latter shift requires the Achiever to become more skillful and comfortable engaging in crucial conversations.

Coaching at the Achiever Level

Build self-awareness and intent: Challenge the developing achiever to explore their experiences and strengths. Ask for reflections on personal growth – “How are you changing? How are you still the same as in earlier periods of your life?” Ask the Achiever to investigate how their actions reflect their values and beliefs. Inquire into the discrepancies between stated values and observable behaviors. Support the Achiever in building a coherent set of values and beliefs that will support their development as leaders.


Develop a breadth of perspective: The Achiever develops the ability to look at problems through an adjustable lens - zooming in and out on problems – looking forward and back, over short and long intervals. Invite the Achiever to envision a range of possibilities, to be open to “a right answer” rather than “the right answer”. Encourage the Achiever to analyze situations for patterns and to use this learning to find new ways to solve old problems. Notice that the Achiever, while aware of bias and error, will still depend heavily on their own sources of data and experience, and can become quickly closed to other perspectives.

Use your team: The Achiever focuses more energy around motivating others, rather than giving orders. Question the Achiever on how she is using team meetings. – are they being used to gain buy-in and test their own ideas, or is the Achiever using the meetings to cast a wide net for new ideas? Is the team truly supportive of the leader’s direction or are there concerns and opportunities being left unsaid?

Tackle the crucial conversations: Coach the Achiever to explore the areas where they are holding back. The authors of Crucial Conversations tell us that these are conversations where the stakes are high, emotions may be high and there is an expectation of opposing opinions. Learning and practicing skills, employing them with all stakeholders, and growing with each experience is key to developing through this level.

Achievers are the key to leadership at many organizations today. They are strong at outlining their vision for an organization, at rallying the troops and executing on outcomes. They explore the landscape for changes in strategy, let go of the day-to-day, and are motivated by the success of the organization. Focusing on the behaviors above will enhance the success of the Achiever.

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