FROM DIVISION TO SYNERGY

Emma Vallin, Leadership Consultant & Coach

One of my favorite assignments last year was a Team Effectiveness Project for a consumer goods company.

THE CHALLENGE
The head of the Consumer Insights team approached me since his team struggled with collaboration. The team was divided between seasoned members and newcomers, leading to low engagement scores and a reluctance from other departments to collaborate.

OUR APPROACH
When interviewing team members, it became clear that they didn’t have common goals, nor did they play by the same rules. We used Team Pro, a structured and well researched method for team development. With an online assessment and a series of workshops we worked on strengthening:

1.      Transitional Processes: The interactions that occur before and after work processes where the team plans and evaluates. (To use a sports analogy: before and after the game)
2.      Action Processes: The interactions in the team where they perform their work duties to achieve their goals. (During the game)
3.      Interpersonal Processes: Activities addressing the team’s emotional climate. (Around the game)

During exercises and simulations, my co-facilitator and I observed the team and gave them feedback on their behaviors. The team then developed an action plan for what they wanted to improve and how.

THE RESULTS
–         8-percentage-point increase in employee engagement score.
–         27% uptick in internal net promoter score.
–         The team was recognized as a good place to work, with more internal applications for vacancies.

A key reason for the results was the team leader’s willingness to invest in team development over time. This year we are doing another Team Pro check-in with the team 😊.

Interested in how your team can work better together? Let’s talk

Is there room for candor in your team?

Photo: Janine Laag
Emma Vallin, leadership consultant, coach

Open Conversations

First up in my series of blog posts on psychological safety is the dimension of open conversations and dialogue.

Defined as:

‘the degree to which difficult and sensitive topics can be discussed openly’ –

open conversations help your team take advantage of opportunities. It gives you invaluable insights into each other and can help you move past challenges. Quality dialogue is necessary for the team to learn and stay engaged.

In contrast, if the quality of the conversation is low it can stop you from speaking up about risks or challenges. As an organization you might lose out on business-critical information and miss opportunities. One of the symptoms can be that your meetings are very short or often rescheduled.

“The quality of your conversations will determine the quality of your outcomes” – Amy C. Edmondson

Here are some tips for encouraging open conversations:
    • Share your learnings or take-aways from conversations
    • Ask twice as many questions as you tell. Replace “I think” statements with “what if” statements to invite voice and limit self-promotion
    • Make yourself available and listen with curiosity & empathy
    • What meetings do you reschedule regularly? What is causing that change and what is the impact on the team?

Next up: Attitude Towards Risk & Failure
Photo: Janine Laag

Building Psychologically Safe Teams

Have you ever been on a team where:

    • you spoke openly about difficult topics
    • you viewed mistakes as a chance to learn
    • colleagues went the extra mile for each other, and
    • you capitalized on everyone’s differences?

Then you’ve probably experiences the potency of psychological safety.

Defined by Amy C. Edmondson as “a belief that the context is safe for interpersonal risk-taking – that speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes will be welcomed and valued”, Psychological safety is a critical ingredient for groups to be engaged, to learn and to succeed.

Why psych. safety matters more than ever

Today the work many of us do is highly cognitive. It requires us to solve complex problems and find creative solutions to new challenges. Collaboration and the ability to get the best out of a diverse group is one of the biggest leadership challenges we face. In this uncertain and fast paced world, everyone’s voice could be business critical. Leaders who fail to create a climate where that voice can be raised freely, without fear of the consequences, risk missing out on opportunities and disengage the organization’s best people.

Employees who are not engaged or who are actively disengaged cost the world $7.8 trillion in lost productivity, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report. That’s equal to 11% of global GDP.

On this flipside companies that report high psychological safety experience:

    •  76% more engagement
    • 50% more productivity
    • 74% less stress
    • 57% workers more likely to collaborate

 “No one comes up with a good idea when being chased by a tiger”

How to build Psychological Safety in a team

Psychological Safety is gained over time through intentional actions. It is something that is built in drops but lost in buckets.

I work with vastly different teams who want to improve their collaboration – from leadership teams to startups and global HR teams. In my experience, teams can significantly improve their level of psychological safety in just a few months by making it a priority.

I’m certified in the Fearless Organization tool – a method for measuring and developing psychological safety, based on over 30 years of research.

The work I do with teams usually follows these 4 steps:

1.   1-1 meeting with the team leader

2.   Team completes the online Fearless Organization Scan

3.   Debrief workshop when we look at specific areas for improvement and develop an action plan. The team then works intentionally with the identified behaviors.

4.   A follow up online scan after 2-4 months followed by a new workshop to discuss and learn. Regular measurement, support and dialog.

“Start with the common goal. Then make psychological safety a common project.” Amy C. Edmondson

In the coming weeks I’ll post about the 4 dimensions of psychological safety, highlighted in the Fearless Organization book by Amy Edmondson, and tools to improve them:

    1.  Open Conversation
    2. Attitude Towards Risk & Failure
    3. Willingness to Help
    4. Inclusion & Diversity

I hope you’ll join me in discussing ways we can build open, engaged and effective teams.

First up next week is: Open Conversations

What Ross Geller can teach us about Self-Leadership.

Who can forget the Friends episode when Ross asks Rachel and Chandler to help him get a sofa up the stairs?

According to the Oxford Dictionary the word Pivot means to turn or balance on a central point.

I’m sure it wasn’t Ross’ intention, but he has definitely inspired my framework for effective self-leadership. In the workshops or trainings I do with clients we often work with these 3 elements:

      1. Self-awareness
      2. Direction
      3. Tools & habits

Self-awareness:

To lead ourselves effectively we need to know what we’re good at, what our vulnerabilities are, what we value. In other words, we need a central point to start from, to come back to. To pivot from.

Direction:

Understanding our ‘why’, being clear about where we’re heading and what we would like to achieve is critical to self-leadership.

As JFK said ‘Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.’

As goals change, our circumstances change, we need to be adaptable and use regular reflection to be open to new goals and ways to get there.

Tools and habits:

It’s not enough to have a range of tools and positive habits. Effective self-leaders also have high levels of psychological flexibility – the ability to use different instruments and draw upon different strengths depending on the situation.

So when you’re stuck, when circumstances change, as you evolve – remember to pivot.
        • Stay firmly grounded in who you are, your central point.
        • Keep your eyes on your ‘why’, the horizon.
        • And turn, try new ways, gain new perspectives, learn.

Back to Ross in Friends, I’m sure we can agree there is some room for improvement when it comes to his collaboration- and leadership abilities. And things didn’t turn out well for the sofa (see episode clip here). But at least he gave us the Pivot!

If you or your team are interested in Self-Leadership initiatives, feel free to reach out.

Year-End Reflection – where do you do your best thinking?

This is the time of the year when many of us stop to reflect on the year that’s gone, personally and professionally. It might be hard to fit in personal time between work projects and Christmas shopping, but hopefully the holiday period will give us some an opportunity for quality thinking.

As with all positive habits, we need to make it as easy as possible for ourselves. Therefore, ask yourself where and how you do your best thinking?

We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” – John Dewey

I’ve always find writing the best way for me to reflect and plan. And some of my best thinking is usually done in very specific places.

First of all, I do my big thinking around things like how I want to live my life, during flights (and long train journeys). But of course, I haven’t done much of that in the past 18 months.

My second favorite place to think is in cafés, writing on napkins. That’s where I do my best career and business planning. The napkin helps because it makes it spontaneous and removes the pressure. I also love that there is limited space on the napkin – as if my ideas are too many and too big to fit on the piece of paper

Recently I’ve discovered a third place – when I’m out walking. It’s when I’m most creative and come up with good (and bad) business ideas. Until recently I always listened to a podcast or music, which is great to inspiration. But I was surprising to find how the ideas started flowing when there was silence.

Where and how do you do your best thinking?

Making it easy for ourselves and exploring where and how we get our best insights and ideas can help us make reflection into a positive habit.

Writing this made me think that perhaps I’m a Lone Wolf who doesn’t need others to reflect and come up with ideas? I definitely think the pandemic has made me more self-reliant when it comes to inspiration. But I get a lot of energy from sparring and discussing with smart, fun, and open-minded people.

And come to think about it, one of the most rewarding activities I’ve done this year is started group Walkflections here in Stockholm.

So, as I close the books for 2021, my conclusion is that I’d like to spend more time bouncing off ideas and discussing plans with some of the interesting and talented people in my network. Consider yourselves warned!

With that I would like to wish you all a restful holiday with time for reflection and interesting discussions.

This is the time of the year when many of us stop to reflect on the year that’s gone, personally and professionally. It might be hard to fit in personal time between work projects and Christmas shopping, but hopefully the holiday period will give us some an opportunity for quality thinking.

As with all positive habits, we need to make it as easy as possible for ourselves. Therefore, ask yourself where and how you do your best thinking?

We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” – John Dewey

I’ve always find writing the best way for me to reflect and plan. And some of my best thinking is usually done in very specific places.

First of all, I do my big thinking around things like how I want to live my life, during flights (and long train journeys). But of course, I haven’t done much of that in the past 18 months.

My second favorite place to think is in cafés, writing on napkins. That’s where I do my best career and business planning. The napkin helps because it makes it spontaneous and removes the pressure. I also love that there is limited space on the napkin – as if my ideas are too many and too big to fit on the piece of paper

Recently I’ve discovered a third place – when I’m out walking. It’s when I’m most creative and come up with good (and bad) business ideas. Until recently I always listened to a podcast or music, which is great to inspiration. But I was surprising to find how the ideas started flowing when there was silence.

Where and how do you do your best thinking?

Making it easy for ourselves and exploring where and how we get our best insights and ideas can help us make reflection into a positive habit.

Writing this made me think that perhaps I’m a Lone Wolf who doesn’t need others to reflect and come up with ideas? I definitely think the pandemic has made me more self-reliant when it comes to inspiration. But I get a lot of energy from sparring and discussing with smart, fun, and open-minded people.

And come to think about it, one of the most rewarding activities I’ve done this year is started group Walkflections here in Stockholm.

So, as I close the books for 2021, my conclusion is that I’d like to spend more time bouncing off ideas and discussing plans with some of the interesting and talented people in my network. Consider yourselves warned!

With that I would like to wish you all a restful holiday with time for reflection and interesting discussions.

 

Common toxic life-rules and how to break them

So, you’ve come a long way in your personal development. Your self-leadership skills are well developed, you’ve made friends with your values and know your overdeveloped strengths. You know what drains you and what makes your dopamine flow.

Suddenly the growth stops.

Your coping strategies become ineffective, the stress management techniques useless and you fall back into negative habits.

Behavioral scientists call them dysfunctional core beliefs, the often-toxic life-rules that cause negative stress and stand in the way of your development. They are deep-rooted principles telling you what you ‘must’ and ‘should’ do to be successful, loved, or happy. These beliefs are often inherited or formed early on in life. They are central to your self-image and breaking them can be both painful and necessary to continue your personal growth.

Some common dysfunctional life-rules

      • If I don’t succeed, I have not put in enough effort
      • If I express my needs, I am selfish
      • I must be strong, whatever it takes
      • If I have a lot going on, I am successful
      • If I say no, people will not trust me again
      • If I fail, they won’t respect me

I can certainly relate to many of these. Throughout my career in fast-paced consumer goods organizations, I was convinced that if I only worked harder and showed up stronger, I would climb faster than everyone else.

It worked well. Until I crashed spectacularly.

Today I am an Executive Coach, speaker and leadership consultant specialized in helping high performing individuals and teams find a more sustainable way to perform.  Many of my clients call themselves achievement addicts and want to learn how to be successful on their terms, go the distance and become more effective leaders. Without burning out in the process.

We start by taking a long, hard, and honest look at their life-rules.

Most life-rules are useful and help us make daily decisions without too much thought. However, when your core beliefs dictate your behaviors without flexibility, they are dysfunctional and can limit your growth and well-being.

The worst thing with toxic life-rules is that they appear to be truths – it’s just how the world works, right? Therefore, we are often not fully aware of them.

5 steps to challenge your life-rules

      1. Decide to challenge a life-rule in a small way. For example, choose to go for a walk instead of answering work emails tonight (Rule: If I don’t succeed, I will be criticized)
      2. If the feeling of discomfort creeps in, remind yourself that it is not bad or dangerous to feel uncomfortable, on the contrary, it means that you are challenging a rigid rule.
      3. Breathe, observe what is happening without judging (and keep your hands off those emails!). When the stress reaction goes away, you can focus on enjoying the walk.
      4. Write down: when does this life-rule serve you and when are you’re better off overruling it?
      5. Be thankful for the work you just did to build flexibility and resilience.

In short, dysfunctional life-rules can hinder your personal development, they are difficult to notice and can be unpleasant to break. These core beliefs are the root cause of many dysfunctional behaviors. By being aware of them, challenging them and analyzing your reaction, you can increase your resilience and grow into a better version of yourself.

Happy overruling!

Case Study – Executive Coaching

Mairi is the Head of Leadership Development at the Karolinska University Hospital and has recently completed the Executive Coaching Program. It’s a six-month intensive coaching program for leaders based around the EQ-i 2.0 Emotional Intelligence Framework. The coaching sessions took place on Zoom, and we met approximately every third week.

I sat down with Mairi to ask her a couple of questions about her experience working with me as a coach.

Emma: Hi Mairi, what made you apply for the Executive Coaching Program?

Mairi: I had been recently appointed as the Head of Leadership Development at the Karolinska University Hospital. Given the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on staff and managers and the unique culture of our organization, a coaching program that builds on Emotional Intelligence resonated well with my perceived needs for personal and professional development.

Emma: What has the coaching given you?

Mairi: The coaching has primarily given me two things – increased self-awareness and space for self-reflection. While these two things are the essence of what I work with to create for others, the gift of time and support from Emma to have that space for myself, has been invaluable.

Emma:  What did you learn during the coaching program?

Mairi:  The EQ assessment was very comprehensive and shed light on capabilities that I need to get better at in order to become a more effective leader and leadership developer. I also learned how the different components are interdependent and realized how some of my strengths actually become a hinder for my performance when overused. Last but not least, it was an important reminder that regardless of one’s level of experience or stage of development, it is hugely beneficial to have periods in one’s life that are supported by a coach.

Emma: What elements of the program had the greatest impact on you?

Mairi: The greatest impact came from the combination of the EQ assessment and the coaching. The EQ assessment was eye opening and combined with coaching, its effects will be long lasting. Improved self-awareness means that I pay close attention in every situation where my capabilities are challenged. Attention is really what changes a mere experience into deliberate practice and can thus contribute to continual learning. The assessment alone would be simply information in form of a report. The coaching without the assessment would risk lacking intentionality and direction. So it’s the combination that makes it a winning concept.

Emma: Who do you think would benefit from Executive Coaching?

Mairi: Anyone with a growth mindset, i.e. anyone with a will, curiosity, openness and vulnerability to become better versions of themselves.

Emma: How would you describe me as a coach?

Mairi: Emma has a great ability to listen, to really listen. To pay close attention to what her client needs the moment they start their session. She masters the art of asking great questions and doesn’t hesitate to challenge the deeply held beliefs her client might hold about their situation, performance and learning. I’m deeply grateful for her generosity to support me in my growth and help me lead from my purpose.

Thank you Mairi for taking the time to reflect on this. As a coach I always learn something new with each client. It was an honor to work with Mairi and to follow her progress. I learned a great deal from her deep understanding of leadership and her willingness to challenge her perceptions.

If you or your organization are interested in Executive Coaching, please get in touch and I’m happy to tell you more.

The Comparer – final (over)achievement archetype

We’ve come the end in our series Achievement patterns and strategies with the Comparer.

The Comparer lives by the words: ‘The grass is always greener… ’.

Comparison is nothing new. In 1954 Festinger came up with the social comparison theory. At the core of his theory is the idea that people come to know about themselves—their own abilities, successes, and personality—by comparing themselves with others. It’s central to our need for acceptance and belonging.

But the Comparer archetype takes this behaviour to the extremes. Comparers have a clear view of what life should be like and constantly compare themselves to others. They make sure their Instagram feeds are perfectly color coded and are at risk of being addicted to social media.

As a Comparer you also want to be perfect IRL and try to say clever things, be helpful and serve the right food at dinner parties. If people around you are unwell you risk missing the signs and often don’t observe your own signals of stress either.

Drivers and Fears:
      • Low self-esteem
      • Fear of being abandoned
      • Fear of rejection
How to overcome:
      1. Do a Social media detox – really! Here are a few tips:
          1. a)    Give your digital devices a bedtime.b)    Start a new morning habit.c)    Delete your social media apps.

            d)    Replace social media time with a new hobby or activity.

            e)    Break the habit of reaching for your phone.

            f)      Use technology for reasons other than scrolling social media.

            g)    Pay attention to the media you consume.

            h)    Spend more time observing the world around you.

            i)      Track your progress.

            j)      Set yourself reminders to not check social media.

      1. 2. Learn to spot the bottom of the iceberg. When you find yourself comparing, turn the tables around and ask yourself what the other person might admire in you. We can never really understand someone else’s reality, struggles and insecurities just as they might not have all your strengths in sight.3. Practice Meditation

 

Ok, so those were the 6 (over)achievement archetypes.

I use this model a lot in my coaching practice and it’s central to the Achievement Detox program. Often clients tell me that they can relate to several archetypes but when looking into the driver and fears it often becomes clear which overachievement strategy they use the most.

And that’s where we focus in with behavioural experiments.

Because as with all behavioural change, we need to work through the 3As:

      1. First we need to be AWARE of our behaviours and cognitions
      2. Then we need to ACCEPT the situation
      3. But nothing will change unless we ACT – we need to try and evaluate new strategies and slowly build new behaviours.

I hope you have enjoyed the series. If you would like more information or would like to work with me as a coach, please Get in touch

The Competitor – 5th (over)achievement archetype

Motto: ‘winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing’.

Competitors see life as a race and always try to be just that little bit better than everyone else.

If you identify as a Competitor achievement archetype you often ignore your own basic needs such as sleep and food.

You sometimes come across as judgmental and go to extreme lengths to hide your own failures and shortcomings. You often step on people’s toes.

There is a lot of shame involved in this achievement strategy and the competitor risks ending up a lonely person. If a person hinges all their value on winning, who are they when they lose or cannot even compete anymore?

Drivers and Fears:
      • The belief that the one who is best gets all the rewards
      • Fear of feeling worthless
      • The belief that you are only loved and accepted when you win
How to overcome:
      1. Understand your insecurities. Our insecurities fuel competitive, jealous feelings. These insecurities may have developed in our younger years because of experiences that made us feel unworthy. Reflect on or speak to a therapist about what your family motto was growing up and which events shaped you.
      1. Do a cost /benefit analysis. What is this behaviour costing you in productivity, creativity? What is it costing the people you hurt? How is your lack of vulnerability effecting your leadership?
      1. Define your own success and standards. Instead of using others’ accomplishments as benchmarks for success, get clear on what success means to you, what your goals are and, critically, how you would like to get there? (read how many toes you are willing to step on).

Where do you draw the line between healthy ambition and unhealthy competitiveness?

Final piece in our series of (over)achievement archetypes: The Comparer. (yes, it will mention social media detox)

Ⓒ Vallin 2021. All rights reserved

The Constant Achiever – (over)achievement archetype 4

This is probably the achiever archetype I identify the most with. People who are Constant Achievers (and I at times) live by the motto:

You can rest when you’re dead’.

The constant achiever is a multi-tasker who always juggles several big projects. If you identify as a constant achiever work is always on your mind and you are likely checking emails around the clock.

In your spare time, you renovate your apartment, take a language course or prepare for a marathon (yep, yep and yep)

Everything you do has a purpose and a goal. Your to-do list is your comfort blanket and you likely to most things in life very quickly. As a consequence the constant achiever is rarely in the moment and at high risk of burnout.

Drivers and Fears:
      • Achievement as a safe zone.
      • Addiction to the ‘high’ of achievement.
      • It is uncomfortable to take it easy, laziness is frowned upon.
      • Fear of stopping development.
How to overcome:
    • Get clear on the negative consequences of constantly achieving. List what it does to your health, relationships, and results.
    • Practice self compassion. Start with: Avoid saying and thinking judgmental things about yourself, spend time doing things you enjoy, Letting go of external validation.
    • Behavioral Experiments: This part was central to the ‘achievement detox’ I did a few years ago to limit the damage my achievement addiction. I embarked on a 1 year experiment during which I took on a very junior role at work and banned all achievement focus from my life. It was an eyeopener but also a very painful experience. In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy we instead recommend smaller experiments such as:
      • Post on LinkedIn and stop yourself from checking the results for 24 hours 😉.
      • Have a dinner party without meticulously preparing the food.
      • Swim on the slowest lane and allow yourself to be overtaken by everyone

Yep, have tried all three and for a Constant Achiever, it’s hard work and something we need to keep practicing.

Next up: The Competitor

 

 

 

‘Walkflection’ – Last Thursday every month @8:30am, Djurgården, Stockholm

Most of us know which activities keep us healthy and protect us from negative stress. Yet, we so often neglect them:

    • Meaningful conversations
    • Exercise
    • Reflection
    • Nature

Introducing ‘Walkflections’ = Walk + Reflection

As Margaret Wheatley said:

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.”

We meet on the last Thursday of each month at 8:30 am at Blå Porten by  Djurgårdsbron for one hour of walking, reflection and meaningful conversations.

New dates for autumn 2021: 26 August, 30 September

I will share a model or piece of research on the topic of self leadership, we set off on a walk on Djurgården in pairs or groups of three (at a safe distance from each other). We stop halfway and share our reflections; I might pose a new questions and we switch walking partners.

We are back at 9:30 at Djurgårdsbron so you can get to work or cycle home filled with:

    • New perspectives and insights
    • Energy and inspiration
    • New connections
    • Actions for the coming month

Participation is free but to ensure we limit the group size, please reserve our spot below or let me know on: kontakt@emmavallin.se, 070919534. Maximum 10 people.

We speak both Swedish and English 🙂

Reserve your spot

The Perfectionist – (Over)achiever archetype 1

Motto: ‘Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing’.

This achievement strategy is about doing everything to perfection, keeping your promise and never ever handing anything in half-baked. Perfectionists often respond to emails immediately so no one has to wait and tend to compensate for the shortcomings of others.

These overachievers scan the reactions of others to pick up any signs of irritation or disappointment so they can figure out a way to correct it. They have a clear view of what life should be like and how we should behave as individuals.

Just like their overachiever cousins – the Comparison Junkies – the Perfectionists keep track of everyone on social media and compare themselves all the time. On a bad day they can spend 60 minutes writing and rewriting a two-sentence email. Chronic procrastination could be the result of perfectionism.

Drivers and Fears:
      • Fear of failure
      • Fear others upsetting others
      • If I make a mistake, it will lead to a catastrophe
      • I am the reason others feel bad
      • If I do everything right I am accepted/loved
How to overcome it?
      1. Practice realistic thinking. Because perfectionists are often very critical of themselves, one of the most effective ways to overcome perfectionism is to replace self-critical thoughts with more realistic and helpful statements. Some examples of positive realistic statements: Everyone makes mistakes! Nobody is perfect!, All I can do is my best!
      2. Changing perspective: Perfectionists tend to have a hard time seeing things from another person’s point of view. Start by asking yourself: How might someone else (e.g. a close friend) view this situation? What might I tell a close friend who was having similar thoughts?
      3. Exposure: Having a problem with perfectionism is a lot like having a “phobia” of making mistakes or being imperfect – you get paralyzed by the thought of making mistakes. Exposure is an effective method to overcome your perfectionism, here are some examples of simple exposure practice:
        • Show up for an appointment 15 minutes late.
        • Tell people when you are tired (or other feelings that you consider a weakness).
        • Wear a piece of clothing that has a visible stain on it.
        • Lose your train of thought during a presentation.
        • Try a new restaurant without first researching how good it is.

If your perfectionism or other overachiever strategies hold you back and you would like to develop heathier behaviors and strategies – book a free consultation with me and we’ll take it from there.

PS: My own exposure practice while writing this post was to only read through once before publishing 🙂

Next up on the series of overachiever archetypes: The Controller.

Overachievement Archetypes. © 2021 Emma Vallin. All rights reserved.

The Controller – (Over)achiever archetype 2

Motto: ‘If you want a thing done well, do it yourself’

Achievement by control is about keeping a close eye on everything and everyone around you. If you identify with the Controller archetype you probably know exactly what will happen on Tuesday in 3 weeks and love writing lists and plans.

You prefer to take care of most things yourself and delegation and collaboration could be a challenge for you. The Controller can have a hard time dealing with unexpected events.

Due to their challenge with collaboration and delegation, Controllers risk losing valuable input and inspiration from people around them. In extreme cases they could end up alienating colleagues and friends.

Drivers and Fears:
      • Fear of losing control
      • Fear of uncertainty
      • Will to succeed
How to overcome:
      1. Educate yourself about anxiety and control. Rather than falling back on control as a defense against uncertainty, learn all you can about the fear that is driving you to micromanage. Read books or see a therapist.

2. Ask yourself how effective controlling really is. For example, is asking your teenage son whether he’s brushed his teeth every morning an effective way to make him take responsibility for his dental care? If not, stop and rethink your approach.

3. Ban control-oriented language from your vocabulary. For example, unsolicited advice or criticizing someone’s perspective. Altering your language takes courage, and you must commend yourself for learning how to let go of control.

What advise would you give a Controller? If you identify as one, how do you overcome your need to control?

Next up: The worrying problem solver

Overachievement Archetypes. © 2021 Emma Vallin. All rights reserved.

The Worrying Problem Solver – (Over)achiever archetype 3

‘Spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions’

This achievement strategy is about never leaving anything unresolved. If you identify as worrying problem solver you often experience anxiety and negative stress when facing a challenging problem.

On top of the anxiety the issue with this approach is that it’s very ineffective. When the brain’s threat system is switched on you are unlikely to find constructive solutions.

The result is a behavior that is motivated by getting rid of discomfort. In the short term, it feels better to dwell on the problem than to leave it.

Drivers and Fears:
      • The dopamine kick of solving things.
      • Inability to deal with the discomfort of disappointment.
      • A tendency to catastrophize.
      • Fear of failure.
How to overcome:

1.Recognize the difference between worrying and productive problem solving. Here are some signs that you might be worrying:

      • You dismiss all your solutions as ineffective.
      • You are tense, distressed, and upset.
      • You spend a lot of time focusing on how things could go terribly wrong.

2. To get out of worrying-mode. Try taking some slow breaths from your diaphragm and relax. If that doesn’t help, take a break (go for a run, Clean the toilet). Come back to the problem when you’ve had a chance to settle down.

3. Put negative thoughts into a drawer. If you still find yourself slipping into negative thinking. Let the thoughts come, then mentally put them into a drawer, lock it and tell yourself you can open the draw again in an hour. In the meanwhile focus on positive ways to solve the problem.

Have you experienced periods of worrying and anxiety? What tips would you give to someone who is a worrying problem solver?

Next up: The Constant Achiever

6 (Over)Achievement Archetypes

Overachievers can accomplish great things but always need to do more. As they constantly raise the bar, the cost for reaching their goals eventually outweigh the rewards. Although overachievers tend to do well early on in their careers, at some point they start questioning the value of their constant hustle. In addition, research shows that achievement-orientation significantly increases the risk of burnout*.

Learning how to achieve sustainably is not only critical to our performance and well-being but affects the people we work with as well.

Overachievement Archetypes. © 2021 Emma Vallin. All rights reserved.

In a series of posts, I will discuss six achievement archetypes or patterns, identified through years of coaching high achievers and from my own ‘achievement detox’.

Which archetype (if any) do you most identify with?
      • THE COMPARISON JUNKIE. Lives by the motto: ‘Grass is always greener…’
      • THE CONTROLLER. ‘If you want a thing done well, do it yourself’
      • THE PERFECTIONST.  ‘Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing’
      • THE COMPETITOR. ‘Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing’
      • THE CONTANT ACHIEVER. ‘I will rest when I’m dead’
      • THE WORRYING PROBLEMSOLVER. ‘Spend 55 min worrying about the problem and 5 min thinking about solutions’

I will share the drivers and fears behind each archetypes and would love to discuss what strategies you use to balancing them out.

I would love to have your input and hear your reflections on this topic!

Importantly, it’s NOT about giving up on being a high achiever, it’s about developing a dimmer to your superpower so that you can achieve sustainably, on your terms.

I use this framework a lot in my Achievement Detox Coaching Program and  when coaching business leaders. I find it very useful for identifying underlying fears and drivers and changing negative behaviors.

Happy reading!

*Canadian Journal of Nursing 2019, Vulnerability and Stressors for Burnout