Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Anxieties of Superior Performers

How to Keep A PLAYERS Productive.
By: Berglas, Steven,
Harvard Business Review,
Sep2006, Vol. 84, Issue 9

A players are the people with the "right stuff." They are the most fiercely ambitious, wildly capable, and intelligent people in any organization. Yet despite their veneer of self-satisfaction, smugness, and even bluster, a significant number of your spectacular performers suffer from a lack of confidence.

The psychologist Alfred Adler, the man who brought inferiority and superiority complexes into our everyday language, offered an explanation almost 100 years ago. Adler argued that the most fundamental human need is for superiority, a need that arises from universal feelings of inferiority experienced by us all in early childhood when we are helpless and dependent on others. If we manage these feelings appropriately, we go on to lead well-adjusted lives. But if powerful authority figures thwart our efforts to overcome these feelings, then complexes develop, causing narcissistic grandiosity that can linger for the rest of our lives.

Adler asserted that if a person suffers either from an inferiority or a superiority complex (which for Adler were opposite sides of the same coin), then whatever he achieves it will never be enough. As I once heard it put: "Some people go through life feeling superior; others go through life feeling like worms. Narcissists go through life feeling like superior worms."

One might assume that A players' feelings of superiority are a tremendous boon to them since, among other things, these feelings help them to communicate enormous self-confidence to others. But the plight of the overachiever who feels like a superior worm is that he must live with the constant anxiety that he might in fact be inferior to others. Only when you can help your stars address their inflated senses of superiority can they begin to deal with underlying issues of poor self-worth.

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