Leadership Articles: TALKING LEADERSHIP


A Feature Article from Gaynor Consulting Inc.
October 2012   |   By Dan Gaynor

Bookmark and Share

Has this article sparked some thinking?
Join our blog Talking Leadership here to share it with other readers.

Powerful Achievement

Achievement is a powerful motivator. We all take joy in doing something that has challenged us. We see evidence of this every week in our first grandchild Sawyer. Watching him, now ten months old, take such joy in reaching new milestones - sitting up, climbing a set of stairs (oh what joy he took in that one!) standing independently - reminds me of just how much we humans are motivated by achievement. But for a variety of reasons, as we age too many of us forget what it feels like to do something we are rightly proud of. Good leaders restore this feeling by making achievement a hallmark of their workplace cultures.

I have seen feelings of achievement transform the workplace experience for many people and it is uplifting. Make this a part of your culture and you will be rewarded with people who want more of it. There are steps you can take to foster an achievement orientation in the people you lead:

Work that is not challenging cannot lead to a feeling of achievement, so setting the right goals is important. Goals should be challenging and yet still within reach. Then make sure people get the support they need to be successful. If you challenge people to do the impossible or don't provide the coaching they need, you only teach them how to fail.

As they go about the work provide lots of feedback. Don't do the work for them but give them the support they need to do it well and learn from mistakes. When they face setbacks, encourage them. Finally, when achievement comes, celebrate it and attribute it to the achiever. Too many leaders have taken the glory for the work others did.

Like a good boxing trainer, set goals to build confidence. Don't send them in against the "heavyweight champ" before they are ready. Set goals that are within reach and then gradually move the level of difficulty up. Avoid confidence-destroying knockouts.

So an achievement orientation doesn't just happen, it is established through a cycle that starts with good goals, progresses through training and preparation and then through the actual performance, (which you support with feedback and encouragement), it concludes when you celebrate results - it's a virtuous cycle that builds confidence. Good leaders are active in each phase of the cycle. With each cycle confidence and performance grows. Give an individual an experience with achievement and he or she will come back for more. One person at a time the performance of the entire team will improve as achievement becomes a part of the culture.

Just as achievement builds confidence, failure destroys it, which in turn leads to more failure. Do not allow these demoralizing cycles to persist. Correct the problems that led to the failure and scale back goals in the short term to rebuild confidence. When this fails don't allow people to remain in roles where they continue to fail - these situations are very discouraging and do not serve anyone's interests.

I have worked with many people for whom a taste of achievement made a dramatic difference to the way they felt about work and the contributions they made. Don't leave achievement to chance.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What was your most recent experience with achievement and how did it make you feel?
  2. Where is the best situation for you to foster achievement, a team or an individual, and what goals will you set?
  3. How will you celebrate?

For more on building powerful culture call to arrange a 1/2 day workshop.

Bookmark and Share

A Feature Article from Gaynor Consulting Inc.
October 2012   |   By Dan Gaynor


Has this article sparked some thinking?
Join our blog Talking Leadership here to share it with other readers.


Please click below and sign up to receive a complimentary leadership article once a month.


Download our articles below:

Lead Like Scrooge, December 2017

Follow Well To Lead Well, October 2017

Fundamentals First, September 2017

Leadership from Supervisor to CEO, August 2017

Job Fit and Performance, May 2017

Thinking "Corporate", February 2017

Authenticity and Vulnerability?, November 2016

The Pain Problem, October 2016

The Big Question, September 2016

Risky Business, March 2016

Mentoring in the Moment, January 2016

Sacrificial Leadership, December 2015

5 Tactics For Better Meetings, November 2015

Leader as Follower, October 2015

Dynamic Balance, September 2015

Fearless Humility, August 2015

Fear and Accountability, July 2015

Building a Feedback Culture, June 2015

Fostering Accountability, May 2015

Confront or Avoid?, Apr. 2015

The Heart of Accountability, Mar. 2015

Powerful Ambition, Feb. 2015

Inspiring Possibilities, Jan. 2015

Ralphie and the Strategic Approach, Dec. 2014

Disagree Well, Nov. 2014

Culture and People, Oct. 2014


"I came across Dan Gaynor's coaching three years after I took the team leader role. Dan taught me how to lead and grow a team, how to develop talented employees and how to build a good communication network among leaders. My management skills are more solid and I am more confident leading my team."
– Iris Fung, Senior Estimator, Trico Connect.