Strengths Coaching Blog

Monday, January 23, 2017

Mastery Monday: Understanding Achiever

By Albert L. Winseman, D.Min


Get it done. Get it off my plate. Check it off my list. If you have strong Achiever talents, these phrases very likely not only resonate with you, they energize you. Achiever is the number one occurring theme in our Clifton Strengths database of over 15 million individuals worldwide – both among men and women. People high in Achiever not only possess the stamina to work hard and be productive, they are driven to work hard and be productive—it’s a need that must be fulfilled every day. Achiever is a productivity theme, and Achievers are restless until something – anything – is accomplished each and every day.

In this installment of Compare and Contrast, I look at the similarities and differences between Achiever and Responsibility, Activator, and Focus. In action and in terms of outcomes, these themes can look a lot like achiever. But there are differences is motivation that are important to understand.

Achiever and Responsibility

Individuals high in Achiever and those high in Responsibility both tend to be very productive; they get things done, and work tirelessly until the task is completed. They look a lot alike, but there is a significant difference in the motivation to accomplish tasks. Achiever is an internally motivated theme: it feels so good to get so much done. Responsibility is an externally motivated theme: it feels so good to keep my commitments – if I told you I would do it, my word is my bond and you can count on me to do it. Both Achiever and Responsibility likes to be known as reliable, but that reliability drive comes from a different place. For Achiever, the reliability results from feeling good about accomplishing a lot and being known as a hard worker who can be counted on to get things done. For Responsibility, the reliability results from feeling good about being someone others can count on to keep their word and fulfill their commitments. For those with both Achiever and Responsibility in their Top Five (which happens a lot as Achiever is number one and Responsibility is number two in our database), the temptation is to take on too much and overcommit – due to the both the internal push and external pull to be productive that characterizes these super-busy individuals. If you find yourself in this boat, you may need a partner who can help you push the pause button every now and then.

Achiever and Activator

Both Achiever and Activator tend to be “high energy” themes. But again, that energy comes from a different motivational source. Achiever is driven to get things done; Activator is driven to get things started. Achiever wants to finish the list, Activator wants to start the list. Achiever says “I will get it done,” and Activator says “Let’s get going.” A subtle – but important – distinction is in the pronoun:  I vs. we.  Achiever is an executing theme; it helps an individual be productive and complete tasks. Activator is an influencing theme, and there is typically an “other” component to Activator; Activators move others to take action and not just sit around talking about what might happen. In such a meeting, Achiever will make the list of the things he will do, while Activator will use her influence to get the group moving and commit to getting started.

Achiever and Focus

There is a commonality of accomplishing and finishing between Achiever and Focus that make them look very similar in terms of their behaviors.  But while Achiever can sometimes be characterized by a flurry of activity, Focus is most often characterized by prioritization of activity in relation to accomplishing a goal.  Achiever is the language of “checking it off the list,” while Focus is the language of “reaching my goals.” Activity for Focus only feels good if it adds to the accomplishing of goals. Achiever tends to be more short-term (daily list, attacking the inbox, etc.), while Focus tends to be longer term (monthly priorities, annual goal-setting with daily actions).  Achiever asks, “What needs to be done now?” Focus asks, “What is the most important thing that needs to be done?”


Albert L. Winseman, D.Min., is a Senior Learning and Development Consultant at Gallup. Al brings deep expertise in employee and customer engagement, executive leadership and organizational dynamics to his consulting work with Gallup’s clients. He consults with senior leaders, executives and front-line managers to improve employee and customer engagement and to implement strategic initiatives that drive business growth.


Al's top 5 strengths are: Ideation | Futuristic | Maximizer | Strategic | Command



Be sure to catch up on Season One and Season Two of Theme Thursday-Achiever to learn more!

Register now for the 2017 CliftonStrengths Summit to take advantage of early bird pricing!

3 comments :

Jeanie C. said...

Excellent article! It gave me great new insights. And I love your writing style! Thanks so much for taking the time to put it all into a logical writeup!

Don Hosick said...

Oh boy !!! That I am afraid hits the nail on the head. I thought I got those traits from my father but I must get something crossed off my list every day and if I give you my word, it is as good as gold !!! I would rather jump off a building than go back on my word ... Thanks for the insightful article.

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for providing insights into the subtle differences - I have more clarity now!

Search This Blog for Coaching Topics