We live in a culture of achievement. We want to be recognized for our work, rewarded for our efforts, and given opportunities for advancement says Paul Haarman. This is healthy ambition at its best. It fuels productivity, sparks innovation, leads to financial success and creates the American dream. But what happens when that drive turns into an attitude? What about those employees who are high achievers but don’t always put the company first? Do you love their drive but hate their attitude? How do you keep these high achievers motivated when they aren’t part of your “inner circle?”

Here are four tips from the world’s greatest basketball coach on how to manage high achievers:

1)  Take More Responsibility for Your Attitude than Theirs

Coach John Wooden said, “It isn’t what you are that holds you back, it’s what you think you are not.” Sometimes we become the limiting factor in the success of our employees because of our own thoughts. Some managers will take a highly productive and motivated employee and begin believing they aren’t good enough to keep up with them.

Another view is that this person has too much on their plate and needs help from another manager who can provide support for things like mentoring, training and development. The challenge here is determining where your role ends and theirs begins. You may need to adjust your expectations or modify their workload if they aren’t able to accomplish everything on their own. If that’s the case, these high achievers will feel like they aren’t successful.

2)  Confidence is an Inside Job

There are many managers who will give high achievers more responsibility to see what they can do. The assumption is that if they are driven and motivated enough, they will succeed at new challenges. This may be true of some people but not all. Some of us need to be developed before we can take on increased responsibilities explains Paul Haarman. One way you can tell is by looking at their level of confidence in their daily activities.

One important element of this observation process is that others recognize when a person lacks confidence in themselves as well as when it’s apparent to them, even when the person doesn’t know it themselves. As a leader, your role will be a key in helping high achievers recognize areas they need to strengthen and develop. Remember, these people are the ones everyone else goes to for advice and coaching on how to be successful. If you see it in them, chances are others will too.

3)  Be Wary of False Confidence

False confidence can be tricky because it looks like a high achievement but lacks follow-through. It’s the person who is excellent at what they do but has unrealistic expectations about being able to accomplish more than those around them without adequate support. They may have a strong desire to succeed but lack the abilities needed for new challenges or lack self-confidence as a leader so their team suffers from that as well.

This false confidence leads many managers who may have a high achiever on their team. To get rid of them because they get frustrate with the lack of results. In this case, the manager gets rid of the “problem employee” rather than taking time to help them grow and develop. This can be especially true when it comes to hiring senior leaders who will report into many other managers at your organization. They need to know what makes others successful so they can emulate those attributes in their own leadership style says Paul Haarman.

4)  Don’t Let One Bad Apple Spoil the Bunch

Every once in a while you will find yourself with a high achiever who may have some attitude problems or personality conflicts. The challenge is how you handle that situation without affecting everyone else like them on your team. If this person can become a better team player and learn to manage their frustrations. It will be the best result for everyone involve.

This situation is particularly important if you have managers at lower levels who report into this high achiever because they often follow their lead. There needs to be an environment of high achievement without having to put others down, for example, in order to get there. High achieving workers should feel safe enough within your culture that everyone on the team feels valued and supported no matter what level they are at.


High achievers are amazing assets to any workforce if managed right. They can be self-sufficient, motivated and driven to reach their goals which often surpass those around them says Paul Haarman. The key to managing them well is understanding what drives their success and helping them. Identify areas of improvement where they can be stronger for the good of everyone involve.