Quit telling yourself you’ll accomplish your goals someday, and start learning the skills you need to become a high achiever today. In her practical guide for aspiring highfliers that is brimming with real-life anecdotes and examples, executive coach Ruth Gotian distills her valuable insights into the mind-set and behavioral patterns of high achievers. When you adopt the attitude of a high achiever, says Gotian, you nurture and sustain a greater sense of freedom, happiness and creativity.
- Mind-set is the factor that differentiates high achievers from everyone else.
- Organizations benefit from attracting and retaining teams of high achievers.
- To become a high achiever, connect with your intrinsic motivation to find your flow.
- Persevere during hard times, and develop a resilient mentality.
- Perfect the basics before becoming an expert.
- Commit to continuous learning and growth, and identify areas for development.
- Discover the work you love by conducting a “passion audit.”
- Seek out mentors to create your individual board of directors.
- Connect with a community that supports your learning and presents opportunities.
Mind-set is the factor that differentiates high achievers from everyone else.
Are you a dreamer who talks about what you wish you could do but never progress toward accomplishing your goals? Stop merely dreaming of success; commit to achieving your goals by adopting the mind-set of high achievers. High achievers identify the areas that best suit their natural talent or the niche subject on which they are known authorities, and they invest time and energy into continuously improving their skills and knowledge. Those who perform at the highest level share four characteristics: They are intrinsically motivated to excel; they have a strong work ethic and persevere even in the face of failure and rejection; they master the basics of their subject areas and never get complacent; and they embark on a path of lifelong learning. Moreover, high achievers relish being mentors to others.
When you rise to the top of your field by outworking and outperforming others, you gain control over the projects you focus on and the way in which you structure your time and career. Thus, as you transform into a high achiever, you become the master of your own destiny: You have more freedom and control over your life. When you enjoy the autonomy to be creative and direct your own career path, you tend to be more content at work.
“[High achievers] live for the challenge of finding a solution that has eluded everyone else. The more complex the problem, the more excited they get. The chase becomes almost as exciting as the win.”
You won’t excel if you can’t muster the confidence and courage to try something new. This requires self-efficacy, the individual belief in your capability to accomplish something you’ve never done before. High achievers don’t hang about waiting for someone else to solve a problem; they are driven to find solutions themselves. Yet while high achievers believe in their talent, they also practice humility. They don’t tether their sense of identity to their accomplishments. High achievers fear failing to try new things more than they fear failure.
Research shows that when individuals experience failure early on in their careers, they are more likely to be more successful than individuals who enjoyed early career successes. Glean valuable insights from failures to help you achieve your goals. Stop wondering whether you have the ability to achieve something new. Instead, ask how you’ll inevitably do so, acknowledging obstacles as part of your learning process.
Use the GROW model to tap into your potential and become a high achiever:
- Goals – Identify your short-term and long-term goals, reflecting on where you hope to be in the next year, three years and five years.
- Reality – Recognize your current situation and the context within which you operate.
- Options/Obstacles – Note the options you could leverage and any challenges you must overcome to actualize your goals.
- Will – Decide on your course of action and the steps you’ll take to achieve your objectives.
Organizations benefit from attracting and retaining teams of high achievers.
High achievers’ productivity levels are up to 400% higher than average employees. High achievers aren’t afraid to disrupt the status quo and push boundaries while driving innovation and change. When organizations give high achievers the freedom they need to be creative, high achievers experience increased job contentment and exhibit loyalty. They bring tremendous value to their companies.
“Every organization should be tripping over themselves to recruit these high achievers, and doing whatever is necessary to retain them.”
Two-thirds of executive leaders struggle to engage their employees, despite understanding the importance of engagement. To build a team of high achievers, offer them autonomy, formally recognize the value they add to your organization and give them visibility for their achievements, create opportunities for their further learning and development, and establish clear pathways for their career advancement. High achievers are desirable team members because they revel in searching for novel approaches to problems and performing tasks more efficiently and effectively.
To become a high achiever, connect with your intrinsic motivation to find your flow.
Reflect on whether you have intrinsic or extrinsic motivation. High achievers are intrinsically motivated. They perform to satisfy an inner desire, because they’re passionate about a subject that aligns with their values or piques their interest. By contrast, extrinsically motivated people perform in hopes of obtaining an external reward, such as financial gain or praise.
Feed your intrinsic motivation by spending time around people who are more intelligent than you. You shouldn’t be the smartest person in every room. Find work that aligns with your core values. Surround yourself with an inspiring community. Seek role models and people who view your uniqueness as positive, not threatening.
“When you are intrinsically motivated, you work tirelessly toward your goal. You get into a natural rhythm and just cannot stop. There is no beginning and no end. Everything blurs as you are laser-focused on your goal.”
When intrinsic motivation drives your work, you have more energy and ambition, as you enter a state of “flow.” Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined this term in 1975 to describe the phenomenon of full immersion in one’s work. When in a flow state, you may lose track of time as you focus on the task at hand, and easily tune out distractions. Achieve flow by choosing tasks that challenge you and that offer just enough complexity. Your work should be neither overly simple nor frustratingly difficult.
Persevere during hard times, and develop a resilient mentality.
The most successful people have an unbending ability to keep working toward their goals, even in the face of adversity. Perseverance can come from loving your work. You feel driven to pursue your area of interest for its own sake, in hopes of achieving mastery.
“Perseverance infused with motivation is a combustible combination in the most positive of ways. It makes you almost limitless in your pursuits.”
Persevere when you face external rejection by reframing a rejection as a “not yet.” Search for ways to pursue a different outcome rather than giving up. Maintain a flexible mind-set, approaching problems from different angles until you achieve the results you desire. High achievers don’t accept the status quo. They remain curious and ask questions about how a situation could be different.
Perfect the basics before becoming an expert.
Even legendary NBA basketball player Kobe Bryant practiced drills every morning. To excel, you must first create a strong foundation to ensure your success by constantly reinforcing the core skills and capabilities you need to perform your best. This may involve methodical preparation. For example, when attorney Neal Katyal goes before the US Supreme Court, he brings a binder in which he’s written an answer to every imaginable question he might receive from the justices.
“High achievers are always focused on their next goal. To make sure they are in top form and a contender to reach their next milestone, they constantly and repeatedly reinforce their foundational skills. If your base is not rock solid, the empire you build may crumble.”
Know your weaknesses, and pay extra attention to these areas when you practice. For example, a singer might focus on practicing particularly tricky vowel sounds or notes. Moreover, to excel, high achievers must develop the necessary skills to collaborate effectively. NASA understands the value of developing collaboration skills as it trains astronauts in teamwork, leadership, followership and team care. Teams must collaborate effectively and trust one another, which gives them added strength to solve issues when they arise.
Commit to continuous learning and growth, and identify areas for development.
High achievers admit when they don’t know something, because they fear a lack of knowledge more than an admission of ignorance. Map your learning development path, identify your areas of desired growth, and fill your knowledge gaps. Listen to TED Talks, read articles and books, or have conversations with interesting people from diverse perspectives and backgrounds.
“High achievers crave new knowledge, a new perspective, a new way of looking at a problem or finding a solution. Their quest for new information is an unquenched thirst, as they always look for additional opportunities to learn.”
Treat every conversation as a potential learning experience. Welcome feedback rather than viewing it as criticism. Learn from your everyday life by talking less and observing human interaction and social dynamics more. Embrace a growth mind-set and an attitude of continuous learning by searching for opportunities to learn and absorb new information.
Discover the work you love by conducting a “passion audit.”
Figure out what type of work inspires your passion by carrying out a passion audit. Make three columns on a piece of paper, listing tasks you’re good at, tasks you either don’t enjoy or lack skills for, and tasks you love so much that you would happily do them for free. Pay close attention to the factors that contribute to how much you enjoy tasks or how well you perform them. Ask people close to you to give you feedback on your list to help you gain a more objective sense of your gifts. Create statements that describe the activities you find fulfilling and engaging – for example, “I really enjoy working with people whom I know well and get excited about bringing ideas to fruition.”
“You know you are passionate about what you do when you are so motivated that you would do it for free if you could. Time stands still, and you are in a state of flow.”
Use your passion audit to identify your next career goal. This doesn’t have to be your ultimate goal, simply your next one. Perhaps, for example, you hope to make partner or become an associate professor. Manage your time and energy. Notice the time of day during which you achieve peak performance, and arrange your schedule to accommodate your natural work rhythm. Accept new responsibilities only if they align with your goals, embracing the mantra, “If it does not align, you must resign.”
Look for ways to bring more passion to your current job role, and spend 20% of your time doing the work you love so much that you’d do it for free. Perhaps you could join or create a committee to help you do more of the work you love. Use your audit to create more of the conditions in which you thrive. For example, perhaps you realize you need to work with less background noise. Remember that passions aren’t static; they evolve as you evolve. So repeat your audit as frequently as necessary.
Seek out mentors to create your individual “board of directors.”
High achievers solicit support from mentors and give back to their communities by mentoring others. High achievers take pride in helping others reach their full potential; they don’t view mentees’ success as a threat but as “a badge of honor.” Find dedicated mentors – you need several to create a supportive network – who can help you advance, while offering you the support you need to recognize your own professional worth. Mentors are well-positioned to provide valuable connections, as high achievers often feel isolated on their path toward peak performance. Mentors can help you access different perspectives and provide introductions to new networks.
“Mentors are looking for diamonds in the rough, those who have the raw talent and desire and want to learn more and take charge of their career.”
Seek mentors on three levels: people more senior than you, people more junior than you, and your peers. Your mentors could include senior leaders, retirees and people you meet at conferences. Consider reaching out to people you admire but haven’t met, such as authors, or approach professors or people from your personal life whom you respect.
Avoid mentors who have little time for you, take credit for your ideas, demand to see your work but give feedback too slowly, forget to follow up, will not vouch for you in public, or push you to be just like them. Don’t expect one mentor to meet all your needs. You’re building a personal board of directors – that is, a collection of people who can help you with various aspects of your career development.
Connect with a community that supports your learning and presents opportunities.
Connect with others from whom you can learn valuable insight, by, for example, engaging in hallway conversations and attending workshops. Don’t merely attend conferences: Engage people after their talks by making statements or asking questions that trigger more in-depth conversations; for example, “I related to what you said about…” Conversations are informal learning experiences, providing you with opportunities to exchange knowledge and feed your curiosity.
“Despite getting all of their awards and accolades, extreme high achievers continue to consume new knowledge.”
Given that organizations fill 80% of roles via professional and personal connections, expanding your community network increases your opportunities. Create a supportive community of friends who mentor one another, becoming “friendtors.” Look for “communities of practice” – professional associations of people who share professional commonalities. Form one yourself if none exists locally. You might, for example, form a group of young professionals who are new to your city. Being a high achiever doesn’t happen in a vacuum: It requires immersing yourself in a supportive, enriching community, where members inspire one another and help one another rise up.
About the Author
Ruth Gotian, the chief learning officer of anesthesiology at Weill Cornell Medicine, has mentored and coached top executives at successful global companies for more than 40 years.
Book Summary: “The Success Factor: Developing the Mindset and Skillset for Peak Business Performance” by Ruth Gotian is a comprehensive guide that explores the critical factors necessary for achieving peak performance in the business world. The author emphasizes the importance of developing both a strong mindset and skill set to excel in one’s professional endeavors. By combining practical strategies, insightful anecdotes, and scientific research, Gotian provides readers with valuable insights and actionable steps to enhance their performance and achieve success in their careers.
The book begins by highlighting the significance of mindset in shaping one’s approach to work and personal growth. Gotian delves into the concept of a growth mindset, which emphasizes the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication and effort. She emphasizes the need to cultivate a positive mindset, overcome self-limiting beliefs, and embrace continuous learning and improvement.
In the subsequent chapters, the author explores various skill sets that are crucial for peak performance in business. Gotian covers a wide range of skills, including effective communication, strategic thinking, decision-making, time management, networking, and leadership. Each skill is discussed in detail, with practical tips, techniques, and examples provided to help readers understand how to develop and apply these skills in their professional lives.
Gotian also emphasizes the importance of self-care and well-being in achieving long-term success. She highlights the significance of maintaining physical and mental health, managing stress, and cultivating a work-life balance. The author emphasizes that success is not just about achieving professional goals but also about leading a fulfilling and meaningful life.
The book concludes with a section on goal setting and maintaining motivation. Gotian provides a framework for setting achievable goals, creating action plans, and staying motivated throughout the journey. She emphasizes the importance of perseverance, resilience, and adaptability in overcoming challenges and setbacks.
Review: “The Success Factor” is an insightful and practical guide for individuals seeking to enhance their performance and achieve success in the business world. Ruth Gotian’s expertise and experience shine through in her writing, providing readers with a comprehensive roadmap for personal and professional growth.
One of the book’s strengths is its emphasis on both mindset and skill set. Gotian makes a compelling case for the importance of cultivating a growth mindset and provides actionable strategies to overcome self-limiting beliefs and develop a positive outlook. The inclusion of scientific research and real-life examples adds credibility and enhances the book’s practicality.
The exploration of various skills necessary for peak performance is another standout aspect of the book. Gotian covers a wide range of skills, offering practical tips and techniques that readers can apply immediately. The author’s ability to distill complex concepts into easily understandable explanations makes the book accessible to readers at all levels of their careers.
Furthermore, “The Success Factor” goes beyond the typical business advice and delves into the significance of self-care and well-being. Gotian’s emphasis on maintaining physical and mental health, managing stress, and finding work-life balance is a refreshing addition to the genre. This holistic approach recognizes that true success encompasses more than just professional achievements.
The book is well-organized, with each chapter focusing on a specific skill or aspect of personal development. Gotian’s writing style is engaging and relatable, making it easy for readers to stay engaged throughout the book. The inclusion of thought-provoking quotes and anecdotes adds depth and keeps the content engaging.
While “The Success Factor” offers a wealth of practical advice, some readers may find that certain sections could benefit from more in-depth exploration. Additionally, although the book covers a broad range of topics, readers looking for specialized guidance in specific areas may need to supplement their reading with more specialized resources.
Overall, “The Success Factor: Developing the Mindset and Skillset for Peak Business Performance” is a highly recommended read for anyone seeking to enhance their professional performance and achieve success in their careers. Ruth Gotian’s expertise, combined with her practical insights and actionable strategies, make this book valuable for individuals at all stages of their professional journeys.