Happy Under Achiever

One of the challenges when you have to turn around an underachieving department, is usually the team are unaware that there performance is actually not that great.

In fact, often they are quite happy with their performance, which means this puts them in the “happy under achiever” category.

We are all aware of groups that fall into that category, such as football team who are quite happy to finish mid table, neither over threatened with relegation, nor really challenging for success.

Whenever I raise the topic of happy under achiever, people tell me that its not strictly true, there isn’t really anything such as a happy under achiever, no one would be happy with under achievement.

And in fact they are right, because if people are unhappy with their under achievement  then they would do something about it, which would then start them on the journey to becoming achievers and possibly over achievers.

So this really does mean that under achievers are not really conscious of their situation.

Which means, if your job is to turn them around, the first thing you need to do is highlight their under achievement.

This is a tough job, because often the teams refuse to accept they are under performing/achieving, which means you need to show them, you need to hold up a mirror to them so that they can clearly see their performance.

The first result of this is that the team, as soon as they accept this becomes an unhappy underachiever. Possibly not to unhappy about their actual performance, but that you have now made them conscious of it.

The chart below shows the journey that a team takes on the path from being an happy under achiever to becoming a happy achiever.

It is practically impossible to not have the team drop from happy under achiever to unhappy under achiever, and to be honest we need that to happen. As it’s the unhappiness that will be part of the drive to lead us achievement.

As leaders we need to have a great deal of tact and diplomacy in how we do this, in order to have the best impact.

We need to talk about how we can do better, motivate towards a new goal, rather than focusing on how bad we are doing, which is more motivating away from approach.

As you can see from the curve as we start to move and even achieve improvements we are still in the unhappiness zones.

This is where the use of reward, and especially recognition come in. We need to encourage the improvements, get people feeling good about what they are doing and move them towards happiness.

As they say happy people are productive people, and also productive people are happy people, one we can create this situation it becomes self fulfilling prophesy which drives us onwards and upwards.

As leaders our goal is to convert happy under achievers into happy achievers.