High Achievers

by Ron Potter

photo-1447185891480-252d7554aa8bDo you know those individuals or see those teams that you would label “high achievers?”  My guess is that at least a few people and teams come to mind when I ask that question and I also believe that it’s likely that you fall into that category as well.  But do you know why you and they get labeled as high achievers.

One of the most interesting research studies that I came across several years ago indicated that it was about setting proper goals.  As it turns out, those individuals and teams that gain that desirable label set “publicly stated goals” they believe are about 75% achievable.  Now that may initially sound like a slam dunk but if you think that there is a 25% chance of failure, it seems like a reasonably high goal.

Publicly stated is a concept that must be explored for a minute.  And individual may say to their boss or team, I will accomplish this much in this amount of time.  That’s a publicly stated goal.  A boss may say to a direct report or the team, you will accomplish this much in this amount of time.  That’s also a publicly stated goal.  It makes no difference who the source of the goal setting is, once it has been made public, that’s the goal.

Back to our high achievers, once their publicly stated goal has been set, they then set out towards a level of achievement that feels like they have about a 50-50 chance of accomplishing.  This effort is taken on privately and they believe it will be accomplished by hard work, thinking smart, collaborating with their team mates.  In the end, results usually fall between that 75% chance and the private 50% target and once they do this on a consistent basis, other people begin to seen them and label them as high achievers.

But here’s the interesting part to me.  When a publicly stated goal gets set that the participants believe they have less than a 50-50 chance of accomplishing, that’s demotivating.  They give up.  They’ve lost hope.  Leaders need to be very careful in setting targets and goals for their team.  But, I’ve also seen teams set their own goals that fall into this category.  A team may have many initiatives and projects slated for the coming year.  If I ask the team to evaluate each of the initiatives, they’ll often fall in that 75-50% range.  But when I ask them to take all of the initiatives as a whole, what do they believe their chances to be?  They often fall below the 50-50 threshold.  Beware, even self-inflicted goals can fall outside the high achieving margins.


Hope is the real subject of this blog.  Research indicates that people who have a higher level of hope; sleep and exercise more, eat healthier foods, have fewer colds, less hypertension and diabetes, are more likely to survive cancer and have less depression.  Wow, if a pharmaceutical company could bottle that they’d have the biggest blockbuster drug of all time.

According to Anthony Scioli, a professor of psychology at Keene State College in Keene, N.H., hope is made up of four components:

Attachment is a sense of continued trust and connection to another person. This is why it takes a team.

Mastery, or empowerment, is a feeling of being strong and capable—and of having people you admire and people who validate your strengths. Development and Encouragement.

Survival has two features

A belief that you aren’t trapped in a bad situation and have a way out

An ability to hold on to positive thoughts and feelings even while processing something negative. Spirituality is a belief in something larger than yourself.

Be very careful about goal setting, both set by yourself and those set for you.  Your hope (and health) depend upon it.

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