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Discover Your Top Performer Type: Are You One of These Four?

In my work, I get to spend time with leaders from a range of different industries, sizes, types and stages of maturity.

Often, high performers are put into my coaching programs or workshops.

What is always eye-opening for me is finally getting to work with an organisation that has been too busy to train their leaders. These are companies that have been in high-growth for years. Generating value and revenue that is above average.

When I finally get to work with these leaders, I get pretty excited. After all, many of them have been on a growth journey that few get to experience. I wonder about what wisdom they can share and which strategies have lead to their success.

But what I've learnt is that not all high performers are equal. Some learn from the experience at a deep level, others don't. 

Let me break down the four types of top performers that I see:

The Achievement Zone High Performer

This type of performer is rare. In fact, if you were to ask this type of high performer which type they are they would nominate the anxious high performer. They're humble. Even when they have achieved a new milestone, they are onto the next one. There is no time to celebrate their accomplishments.

What is striking about them is their hunger. They are hungry to learn, try new things and get results. 

And they are disciplined. Very disciplined.

There are two things that they do that set them apart from other high performers - they have a morning routine and they are voracious learners.

Their morning routine means they are often up early exercising or meditating. It also includes some type of learning whether that be reading a book, doing a course, listening to a podcast or reading the success stories of others. They don't just learn on the job.

They are also very mindful about keeping their high performance going. It's why they are dedicated to continual learning, so they have the inspiration they need to try new things.

During a leadership workshop, they stand out by their measured, well-thought out responses. They write a lot of notes and they do the homework. They are one of the few that take the time to reflect on their successes and failures. Their self-awareness is higher than most. But they will still beat themselves up for taking to much time off on the weekend or taking their eye off the ball. They are also more likely to ask me deep questions.

Achievement Zone performers tend to be calm and positive about the future. They hit the Achievement Zone when they believe in themselves and their people. Their excitement and ability to communicate a clear vision is inspiring to all.

Typically, they are founders, CEOs or on a fast track to being an executive.

The Anxious High Performer

The anxious high performer is the most common. They have been working hard for years - even before client demand accelerated. In fact, their constant worry about doing the right thing, considering the right options and working out the best way forward uses up a lot of their energy. 

When they finally get a break and attend a leadership workshop with me, I see their worried faces. It takes a while to get them to smile and relax. The first joke helps crack the veneer and by the second joke they let themselves open up and have a laugh.

They are attentive learners. They write lots of notes and think deeply about questions. I love seeing them talk to their peers about topics that normally don't get discussed. You can see the relief on their face as they realise they are not alone. They are visibly excited when they receive an insight or a new tool that helps them connect the dots on something that's been bothering them.

The anxious high performer is conscientious and works diligently to solve problems and get things done.

But they are often their own worst enemy. They know that what energises them is time alone to think. Yet, many of them haven't carved out alone time in months. And it shows. They often feel guilty about all the things they haven't done.

The Accidental High Performer

This would have to be the second most common high performer that I encounter. You could say they have been lucky to fall into a job that's in an industry that's booming. They love their job, the money they are making and they celebrate their success.

They spend years working at an accelerated pace busily trying to meet client demand. They learn quickly on the job. After all, there is no time (or desire) for them to improve their leadership capabilities in a more formal setting. Instead, they tend to learn from talking to their peers or customers. They rarely (if ever) spend time to reflect on their progress or take stock of what's working or not working.

So when they can finally have a breather and can spend time in a workshop with me, they stick out like a sore thumb. They struggle to write notes or answer questions. They are the first to finish an exercise and get on their phone and scroll.

For many of them, their self-identify is so wrapped up in their work, they don't know themselves. More importantly, they don't know what they like to do or what even brings them real happiness.

For some job roles, such as management consultants or lawyers, they can survive like this for years. In fact, some can spend their whole careers in this mode (which is why they have to leave at 60, because they are too burnt out to make it to 65).

But I see a lot of executives, who have received promotion after promotion in a fast growth company, to suddenly have to take stock when revenue drops or falls to a more normal growth level.

Accidental high performers then struggle. Their success streak is broken. They feel deflated and demotivated. They don't know what to do. All of a sudden what has worked in the past is no longer working. They lose motivation and flail about. Some long for the good old days, not knowing that's firmly in the past.

These are often what I call Abatement Zone leaders - their performance is declining, but they don't know it. Some manage to turn this around. While other fall into the next level of performance.

The Apathetic High Performer

This type of high achiever is the most rare (thankfully). After all, there is not much commercial demand for leaders who do little to keep growing and improving themselves. Typically, they are subject matter experts. The only learning they do is technical.

They are usually over fifty. Their value is in their ability to know and do stuff that the organisation still requires. They have clients that value their expertise, so they are still good revenue generators. But they no longer lead people. That's good for them and employees.

Sometimes they get dragged into a workshop I'm running. It's not fun for them or me. They are pretty grumpy and argumentative. Most times, they just want to be seen and noticed. They are only just holding onto their high performing status - and they know it. Their glory days are behind them.

The Trap of High Performance

Maintaining high performance can be a daunting and draining task. While high-growth companies are a rarity in the long term, it is crucial for high-performers to continuously enhance their leadership skills to prevent a loss of momentum. Without refining their leadership capabilities, the ability to sustain a fast pace becomes limited.

Many leaders face challenges not only in adapting to change but also in effectively guiding their teams through unpredictable circumstances. Successfully navigating through periods of declining revenue or shifts in direction demands leaders who are willing to embrace change and are dedicated to acquiring the essential leadership tools that may have been overlooked due to time constraints.

If you believe you are an Anxious High Performer or an  Achievement Zone High Performer who wants new people leading strategies to move forward, then come and join The Achievement Zone program. We have lots of weekly tips, community and group learning to get you back on the high performance track. Exclusive gifts available for a short time.

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