Workhorse or Workaholic? If you have taken the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment, you have a Top 5 list. But is this list your Top 5 strengths or talents? What is the difference? Gallup–the organization that created the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment–defines both:
Talent: a natural way of thinking, feeling, or behaving Strength: the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance
Naturally, this raises the question from individuals and their managers alike: How can Achiever Strength be negative? How can you tell? The answer can be found in the results produced. People who are especially talented in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive. (Gallup) As a Strength, this results in a workhorse. This is an executing strength. It allows the person to get things done by producing an internal drive that provides:
  • Energy to work hard and long hours without frying
  • Motivation when starting new tasks or taking on new challenges
  • Desire to be the pacesetter of the group
  • A reason to get out of bed in the morning and keep moving throughout the day
As a Talent, this can result in a workaholic. Just as fire can be a powerful tool when it is controlled or a destructive force when it is not, the burning drive inside to get things done can lead a person away from a healthy balanced life and toward obsession. An undeveloped, uncontrolled talent can produce negative results like:
  • Dissatisfaction if there is no tangible evidence to show for the effort
  • Short-lived satisfaction
  • Accomplishments tied to self-worth
  • Difficulty in knowing appropriate quitting time
  • Impatience with meetings, brainstorming and strategy sessions
  • Annoyance with “loafers,” “slackers,” or “idlers”
Eventually if left unchecked, this potentially beneficial talent can warp into a raging fire of relentless need that is illogical and unfocused.  

How Do You Develop this Talent?

Keeping the following in mind can prove very beneficial in developing this talent into a strength that produces near-perfect performance.
  1. Focus on achieving in ALL parts of life. Life is a pentathlon, not a single event. Make sure you are setting goals in your personal growth, your career, your family, your volunteer efforts, and your community involvement. You can’t do well in only one area and still win overall.
  2. Develop specific measures of productivity for yourself. Attach time lines and measurements, definitions of progress and tangible outcomes to your goals. Measure your productivity yourself. Don’t wait for a pat on the back or recognition from others to tell you whether you’ve done enough. Measuring your own productivity will help you know when it’s quitting time.
  3. Take time to look back and celebrate. Men and women of action are often the worst about slowing down enough to appreciate the work that has been done. Make regular time–at the end of every day, every week, every month, every quarter, every year–to reflect on the progress that has been made and be thankful.
  4. Go into meetings with the objective in mind. If someone has called a meeting, it was not called just for the opportunity of frustrating you. It has a purpose. If possible, find out what the objective of the meeting is before you walk in the room. Use your ability to help the group accomplish the goal. Take notes on the objective. Keep your comments focused on the objective. Ask questions that further clarify the objective. And don’t assume that seemingly “off topic” conversation really is. Oftentimes, the person sees a connection that you don’t see. Their perspective can be incredibly beneficial to the overall goal.
  5. Partner with other hard workers. Don’t set yourself up for frustration. You are a high-gear person. Don’t knowingly put yourself in a group or organization of people who just want to do the minimum to get by. Find a group of people who like what they do and want to do it well. When you are working together with others, be sure to take time to articulate your goals with them and hear their goals as well. Then turn your skill loose to help the group accomplish the mission. And don’t skimp on the quality just to cross off a greater quantity of tasks.

What if I Manage Someone with Achiever?

First of all, appreciate him. He gets things done. And remember, it’s almost always better to ride a wild horse than beat a dead one! In addition to incorporating the list above into your training and management of the person, the following suggestions should prove helpful in building a strong working relationship:
  1. Work hard together. This is how he bonds with others, especially if he also has Relator in his top 5. If you want to get to know him, invite him to join you on a project or series of tasks. He respects other hard workers and other key pieces of his character are revealed as he is working.
  2. Consider whether he is actually needed in the meeting. If there is not a compelling reason to include him in the meeting, let him keep working instead. If it is important for him to attend, be sure to think through and communicate the objective of the meeting beforehand. This will help him focus, contribute and be patient with strategizing and brainstorming sessions.
  3. Give him unique praise. Accomplishing tasks and finishing projects is his bottom line. Though he appreciates gratitude from others, when it is just for fulfilling his basic responsibilities he may feel patronized rather than appreciated. What you may not know is that he has likely put in extra, early or late hours to complete the project. Ask him questions that will draw this out and thank him for the extra effort. This will be more meaningful praise.
The principal idea in development is the addition of knowledge, skill, and intentionality as you accomplish an activity. But don’t just stop with strengths.