How the Hyper-Achiever Hampers Achievement

Pros and Cons of Overachieving
What could possibly be bad about overachieving? Early last year, when I took the saboteur assessment as I was going through my positive intelligence bootcamp, I was actually a little bit proud that my top “saboteur” was called the hyper-achiever. I liked that it was easy for me to focus and get a lot of work done, and that I was driven to succeed. I told myself I had no problem with failing, because failures would be opportunities to learn what I need to improve upon to “pivot” my way to even greater success.

But as I learned more about this saboteur and the negative impact it can have, I realized how much it held me back from exactly what it promised. I discovered that I was embarrassed at the idea of not being seen as a success in the areas I had decided to pursue, and that was the core problem. While being good at focusing and making things happen can be a great strength, my embarrassment at the thought of being seen as “average” or “struggling” creates negative energy that is focused both inwards and outwards.

Inward & outward Negative Impacts
If struggling or showing up as mere “average” is embarrassing, then the resulting negative self-talk and inner conflict when things aren’t going well will overly drain your confidence. This then leads to procrastination and a decreased ability to think creatively or learn from mistakes.

The effect on others is also palpable. Leaders who are embarrassed to look bad in the eyes of their own bosses aren’t as trusted by their teams. Their team can sense that if they make mistakes, they’ll be thrown under the bus instead of protected. This causes employees to keep their heads down, avoid risk, and possibly even blame each other for things that aren’t working. The lack of trust overall erodes team performance, resulting in higher stress and turnover.

Additionally, those in leadership positions who are overly focused on being seen as a success can become masters at creating a polished and successful persona. They may look impeccable, show up as charming, and play their part with a practiced ease. While this persona is incredibly impressive, it also creates distance instead of authentic connections in relationships. People feel suspicious, like they aren’t connecting with the “real” you, and there’s a general sense of unease and possibly even intimidation when interacting. Fewer people want to work with you, as they feel they’ll be over-shadowed to make you look good instead of empowered and appreciated.

Growing More Effective
The inner journey for someone with a Hyper-Achiever Saboteur involves three core themes:

1. Self-Discovery – getting to know who the “real” you is underneath the bells and whistles, and embracing the inherent worth in your more flawed but authentic human self.

2. Self-Acceptance – getting over embarrassment by learning to laugh at and actually enjoy the goofy, quirky parts of yourself especially when you fail and struggle at things you feel you “should” be able to easily accomplish.

3. Authentic Connection – showing others the real you as opposed to the persona that will impress them, while also getting to know and appreciate their humanity as well.

Your initial reaction to these ideas may seem like “yuck” and “useless”, but you might be surprised to learn that those leaders who successfully do this work achieve far more than they could have otherwise. Here’s why:

1. More Confident Action – the more comfortable you get looking “like an idiot” or showing up as unpolished, the faster you dive into learning and practicing things you aren’t yet good at, which builds your skills and accelerates your progress across the board.

2. More Compelling Presence – showing others a little bit more of your humanity doesn’t take away from your impressive polish, however it adds an authentic vibrancy to it that is incredibly attractive to others. Instead of suspicion and distance, others want to work with you, collaborate with you, and learn from you. As a leader you get your pick of the talent and they work hard to emulate what you stand for.

3. Stronger Relationships – losing the persona allows others to relax and be themselves around you, trusting you more. This prompts people to show you more of themselves, revealing more of their own insecurities, asking more questions and taking more risks if they are on your team. As a leader, this shift in energy leads to a more trusting and higher performing team, and in your personal life relationships start getting deeper and more fulfilling.

If you are curious about your saboteurs, you can take the free saboteur assessment at the positive intelligence website here:

If you have a group you’d like to take through our Mental Fitness Bootcamp and up-level everyone’s effectiveness, please visit our Mental Fitness Bootcamp  page for more information.

Here is a short video I recorded from one of our recent live mental fitness classes, specifically on the Hyper-Achiever Saboteur. If you’d like to watch, it’s less than 18 minutes and might also give you a flavor for what it’s like to be in our program.



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