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CliftonStrengths Achiever Theme: Teams and Managers

CliftonStrengths Achiever Theme: Teams and Managers

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Theme Thursday Webcast Series
  • Season 6, Achiever
  • "Strong themes, stronger teams": Learn how your team can own its Achiever talents and become stronger, resulting in improved performance, organic growth and better wellbeing.
  • Interested in learning more on this topic? Read more about how to improve teamwork in the workplace.

We discover how the Achiever talent theme relates to your manager and your team in this Season 6 episode of Theme Thursday. When we improve teams through owning our CliftonStrengths, we improve performance. When we improve performance, that's how we get to the kind of organic growth that allows us to have stronger economies, a stronger world and better wellbeing. And great managers hold the key: As they move from boss to coach, they help team members understand who they are already and hold them accountable for being even better, maximizing the team's engagement and impact. You might even be a manager in ways you never thought of! So join Jim Collison and Maika Leibbrandt for Season 6, as we focus on teams and managers -- including a new talent-mindfulness challenge at the end of each webcast. Strong themes, stronger teams.

Below is a full transcript of the conversation, including time stamps. Full audio and video are posted above.

We've created the ultimate guide to improving teamwork in the workplace!

Jim Collison 0:00

I am Jim Collison, and live from the Gallup Studios here in Omaha, Nebraska, this is Gallup's Theme Thursday, Season 6, recorded on January 23, 2020.

Jim Collison 0:21

Theme Thursday is a Gallup webcast series that dives deep into the CliftonStrengths themes, one theme at a time, and this season, based on developing teams and managers with CliftonStrengths. Today, we are looking at Achiever. If you're listening live, love to have you join us in the chat room. It's available in a link -- if you're on the live page, there's a link to our YouTube instance and there's a chat room there. If you have questions after the fact, you can send us an email: And don't forget to subscribe on your favorite podcast app or there on YouTube -- little subscription button is right below the video window. Click that notification bell. That way you get notified every time we post a new video or we go live. Maika Leibbrandt is our host today. She's a workplace consultant here at Gallup with me. Maika, always great to see you on Theme Thursdays. Welcome back.

Maika Leibbrandt 1:03

Thanks, Jim. I'm excited to finally get into a theme with Season 6. This has been a good lead-up. But now we really get to get to the meat of it.

Jim Collison 1:10

Yeah, it has kind of taken us a couple weeks to get in and start digging in. But with this season, we're going to kind of follow a format that you just might want to take some notes around. And I think this is going to be really good. So, as you think about that, we'll have some consistent formatting going along, and Maika, why don't you lead us out on that.

Maika Leibbrandt 1:28

Yeah, this season, we're exploring every theme through the lens of a team. So we know from our studies in leadership that strong teams have 5 things going for them. And we're going to use those 5 truths as a jumping point to get into the detail of every CliftonStrengths theme, domain by domain. So today, we're talking about the most frequently recurring dominant theme in our entire database, and that is Achiever. Chances are if you don't have this yourself in one, in -- as one of your Top 10, then you care about someone who does. So let's dive right in.

Maika Leibbrandt 1:58

The short theme description of Achiever is that you work hard and possess a great deal of stamina. You take immense satisfaction in being busy and productive. By the way, that's the exact same short definition as you'll find in the CliftonStrengths Quick Reference Guide. And just sort of that quick, I think, Twitter version of a whole lot more talent, there's a lot more to unpack. As I mentioned, we're looking at the 5 truths of strong teams. If you want to read more about the background on that, you'll find it in Strengths Based Leadership. The first truth of a strong team is, "Conflict doesn't destroy them because strong teams focus on results."

Jim Collison 2:34

Maika, I think we really want to dig in -- what does it mean, like, that focus on results, what does that mean for Achiever?

Maika Leibbrandt 2:42

Achiever is driven to complete; it really is less about just working hard and more about working toward a completion of a goal. So when somebody with Achiever is going to consider results, chances are they're thinking about how close or how far they are from finishing. And this can be great when it comes to tasks that have a real start and a stop to them, but not all of our lives work that way. And not all of our roles have that kind of just daily start and stop. For bigger, more longitudinal challenges, this can mean that Achiever on your team is the one who can define those milestones along the way.

Maika Leibbrandt 3:17

I'm reminded of working with a principal in a school who said, You know what, I can use my Achiever pretty well to take a look at an entire semester and break that down for our teaching teams and talk about, you know, what does this mean? How far do we need to be quarter by quarter? How far do we need to be week by week in order to get to where we want to go at the end of the semester?

Jim Collison 3:35

It's the beginning of the year and we spent a lot of time setting goals and oftentimes, you know, and SMART goal-setting, we're talking about tracking progress, right? What type of results might matter most to an Achiever?

Maika Leibbrandt 3:47

Look for clear definition of completion; really that objective, shared understanding of what does "Done" look like? It's going to be important for anybody but especially for Achievers. Think about bullet points, tasks. Something interesting and unique about Achiever is they tend to start every day out at zero, and they count up. So without Achiever, you might look at, What do I need to do? and then chip away at it. With Achiever, it's more about, Where am I starting today? And every single time you, you complete something, you get that kind of boost of energy, the ability to check it up and -- check it off -- and then continue to count up. I think with Achiever, another thing when you're thinking about how do you help stretch those goals? Their own personal record is probably going to matter more to them than the championship. It's not so much that desire to sort of look around and say, am I beating someone? As it is to say, How did I do previously? And how am I going to outsmart my own self?

Jim Collison 4:47

What about No. 2?

Maika Leibbrandt 4:48

Yeah, so the second truth of a strong team is, "Strong teams prioritize what's best for the organization, and then they move forward."

Jim Collison 4:56

Maika, I often think, you know, the -- with strengths, it's the next level, so to speak, or the maturity in this is when we think about it outside of ourselves, like -- when it just doesn't become about us, but how am I using this to benefit others? -- I just think it becomes really, really powerful, and why it's important in the context of team. So how does someone with Achiever focus on a larger goal or a purpose other than their own?

Maika Leibbrandt 5:21

For Achiever, it's going to be important for them to know the organization's goals, as described through those milestones we talked about or through indicators of success. I think they, the more clear that you can make, how close or far they are in their progress from that bigger organizational goal, the more likely they're going to be able to quickly jump onto that idea of, Let me focus on what's best for the organization and then move forward.

Maika Leibbrandt 5:47

So that might be, instead of saying, "Our goal is to be the provider of choice," maybe you talk a little bit more about, "We need to serve 10% more of the available customers in this market." Or instead of, "Let's be everyone's favorite airline," you say, "Let's reduce the time that a passenger waits for their checked luggage." So it's about, I think, holding both of those things in your head -- really clarity around what is our purpose and where are we going? And the descriptors of what are the indicators of how we're getting there?

Jim Collison 6:18

And what inspires someone with Achiever to take action? What are those components?

Maika Leibbrandt 6:23

Give them something objective that they can track their progress toward, so that they're, they can measure their effort, and so they can objectively celebrate. They're not somebody with some of those, it -- well, Achiever is not an Influencing theme. It's not a Relationship Building theme. It's not a Strategic Thinking theme. It's one that looks at what has been done and what is, you know, what, what do we still have left to do? So if you want to get to that kind of celebration and the catharsis and the contagious enthusiasm that happens when they have a win, make it objective to determine when those wins are happening; really make it easier for them to quantify without having to qualify.

Jim Collison 7:01

Yeah. And know when it's done, right?

Maika Leibbrandt 7:03


Jim Collison 7:03

Just that fact of knowing it's done. How about No. 3?

Maika Leibbrandt 7:05

No. 3 is that "Members of strong teams are as committed to their personal lives as they are to their work."

Jim Collison 7:12

And how does Achiever show up in someone's personal life?

Maika Leibbrandt 7:16

Don't you love, first of all, that we're even asking this? I have coached so many people who say, you know, Is this me at work? Or is this me at home? Or so many managers who say, OK, I know this about them at work, like, is that going to change? Or is it OK for me to ask about those things? And I just, I think we can really revel in the research-based fact that we have found this story to be strong and true and consistent -- that it's not just about work, or that work is personal. We know that the majority of our work is emotional, that we're not rational beings. And so we don't just shut off our personal life for 8 or 12 hours a day. So if -- just a little aside there, I'm pretty pumped about this this season.

Maika Leibbrandt 7:59

Your question was how does Achiever show up outside work? It might be kind of black and white; it might look like they either rest or they don't rest. Or maybe they even make rest a specific deliverable so they can really do it fully. They might be busy; even their relaxation might look like it includes milestones or accomplishments or, or track of progress. Don't mistake their busyness for being a lack of human connection. I -- to be totally honest, what I'm thinking about is a relationship that I've had previously where I got really frustrated with the way that somebody in my life was talking to me. I'd say, "How was your day?" and they would just rattle off all the things that they had done. And I thought, well, we're not really talking. Don't make that same mistake that I made. Now that I know a lot more about talent, I realized that's not them hiding in accomplishment. That's them connecting through accomplishment.

Jim Collison 8:54

Maika, Kat in the chat room puts -- like, almost like we paid her to say this: "I used to call my Achiever husband a 'workaholic.' I apologized once I found it was in his Top 5. Really helped our marriage," right? And I think I've had a similar experience in mine and understanding Sarah's Top 5. Who wouldn't want an energizer bunny in their life to help them out, right? Recognizing that in their in their relationship?

Maika Leibbrandt 9:16

You know, it's, it's just recognizing what are they constantly tuned in to. And when they're sharing that with you, it's like inviting you into that radar that says, This is what I'm picking up from the universe. This is how I'm translating it. This is how I want to connect with you.

Jim Collison 9:28

Yeah, it was, and it was actually important in understanding some of my coworkers is to understand those relationships in my family. And so, some of my family taught me how to deal with some of that at work. So I love that we're kind of focusing on that this season, as we think about those not being separate but kind of blending together. And so what questions, as we think about coming back to work, though, what questions could a manager ask to tap into the personal side of an Achiever?

Maika Leibbrandt 9:53

Well, remember that "personal" doesn't have to mean "out of work." You know, I think we are probably missing the, the most mature way to look at this. If we think about your personal life being your family and your community, and your work life being your coworkers, there's a lot of personal life that happens with your coworkers. So if you're a manager, and you're looking for great questions to ask an Achiever, just to tap into that emotional, less rational side of things, say, Hey, what's on your plate this weekend? What did you do with your family? What's your family or your kids or your friend or your partner really into? Understanding that they might describe that in terms of accomplishments or tasks. Or even just say, Hey, what accomplishment are you currently planning for? Or what, what goal are you most excited about right now?

Jim Collison 10:38

Yeah, those are some great questions to ask. Indeed, what about No. 4?

Maika Leibbrandt 10:42

The fourth truth of a strong team is that "They embrace diversity." And to go into this a little bit more, we know that having a team of people who look at issues from similar places (that might mean because they've been the product of, you know, similar comparable backgrounds; if they have experiences with similar track records; or similar approaches, similar ways to solving problems) is simply not a sound basis for success. That you get a whole lot more when you've got people who are bringing diverse issues to the table.

Maika Leibbrandt 11:12

Diversity is a much bigger conversation than just thinking about diversity of CliftonStrengths themes. But again, we're just using this for a jumping-off point to talk about what's different that Achiever brings that maybe the rest of them wouldn't naturally bring.

Jim Collison 11:27

Maika, so then how can we see someone who's got this Achiever talent, kind of, rather than through the descriptors, how they naturally bring this to a team?

Maika Leibbrandt 11:37

Yeah, so I think a lot of it is how do you describe somebody through their talent? Instead of other ways that we might describe this person. You might talk about an Achiever as being somebody who drives energy toward a goal; who is internally motivated. They, they can and will set a much faster pace than other people around them. And they're always tracking what's been completed.

Jim Collison 12:02

What about the -- what what kind of unique perspective does this bring to a team?

Maika Leibbrandt 12:07

Yeah, so how does that translate? Why does that matter? How does that bring something different than other people are going to easily and naturally bring? Achiever is going to see the team's challenges through a lens of what the doable solutions might be; thinking about what can we roll up our sleeves and just get started on? How much effort is going to be required? Maybe even thinking about the, the people components of it -- your Achiever on your team might be asking, Who can we lean on when we need that final push across the finish line? They're probably also thinking about challenges in reference to how much of a lift is going to need to happen in order to solve those challenges?

Jim Collison 12:43

This No. 5 I just love -- why don't you -- what is, what is No. 5?

Maika Leibbrandt 12:47

I do too -- I love -- I think it's the like most that's the cheekiestly written sentence. It is that "Strong teams are magnets for talent." Another way to spot a strong team is to look for the one that everyone wants to be on.

Jim Collison 13:02

Yeah, here at Gallup, that's actually really common, by the way. Something will be going on, a team will be high performing, and all of a sudden, everybody kind of starts moving towards it, right? You've seen that happen in organizations. And it's pretty amazing. What else? How else would, how else would we describe it?

Maika Leibbrandt 13:19

Yeah. So what attracts people to Achiever specifically on your team is they are a doer; in a very honorable way, I'm going to use the word "workhorse." I came from a place where we actually used horses to work. So that's a good thing. They're someone who gets excited about Executing toward something. And that kind of excitement can be contagious. It can be inviting. I think it can even be disarming, you know, to show up to a team and realize, Wow, they're not intimidated by how much effort it's going to take to do this. Maybe I shouldn't be either. Your Achievers on your team are going to appear to be having the most fun and energy when they're working alongside other hard workers. So again, thinking about what's magnetic about Achiever? It's certainly wrapped up in that execution piece.

Jim Collison 14:03

So those that have this, this gift -- Achiever -- how might they bring this to a team where others would want more of it?

Maika Leibbrandt 14:11

I think others are always going to ask your Achiever just to share the joy that they bring to the job of doing. They're going to notice that they're having fun when they're working really hard. How can they bring it? I think it's about, Don't be afraid to ask an Achiever something that seems really challenging or daunting. You may tamper down the challenge you're going to offer to somebody because it feels too big. For an Achiever, it's probably not, and if it is, they'll break it down into milestones.

Maika Leibbrandt 14:40

Also think about offering the kind of two-way conversation around what kind of goals you're setting; why they matter to the bigger goals of the organization. Heather Wright is on my team. She may have taught you in a class if you're listening to this and this week, we were in a team meeting where she mentioned, you know, really great goals -- you can think of them as having a three-legged stool: 1) Is it important for me? 2) Is it important for our organization? and 3) Is it important for our client or our customer? So thinking about that from an Achiever lens, it can be a really huge stool! As long as it hits those three.

Maika Leibbrandt 15:10

I think other, you know, gifts that Achiever brings to a team that other people are always going to want more of, is that excellence that they bring when working alongside others. This also means that they've got a stake in the progress of other people so that they can cheer them on, and they can share in that kind of meaningful celebration toward the end. If your manager has Achiever, that means that there's a focus on results and a magnet for shared success. Another great thing about Achievers: They really can be left alone to just do the job and they're not going to need constant push or motivation.

Jim Collison 15:43

I try to surround myself with Achievers -- that's just for, for me, that's kind of my favorite environment is just to be around people. And it actually, it pushes my talent level up. It challenges me. I used to be intimidated by it. And as I learned to embrace it, they begin to pull me up. So on teams, I think, too, they can also drive teams forward that may be stuck. And it's just great. If you see a team that's stuck, add a few Achievers to it. You might, you might -- it might be interesting to see where that goes. OK, so let's summarize these 5 again.

Maika Leibbrandt 16:13

So 1) Results, not conflict; 2) Do what's best for the organization, then move forward; 3) Work plus personal lives are important; 4) Embrace diversity; 5) Magnets for talent. Knowing those 5, imagine how you might evaluate your own team through those truths. What -- which of those 5 is your team currently doing really great? If I was going to walk in and host a session with your team, I might even just use that question. Maybe you've got them doing a -- using those CliftonStrengths picture cards and sorting through, you know, which one of these really describes one of these that we're great at? Which one of these may be describes one where we're stumbling? What is it that we really want to focus on if -- you know that we feel maybe is especially within our control? And most importantly, how are we going to honor the talents that are already within our team in order to solve that challenge that we're, that we're bringing up?

Jim Collison 17:05

No, it's a great point. And if you missed those -- by the way, it's all recorded, you can just go back! Write those down. We're going to -- this season, we're going to spend some time actually summarizing each of these domains. And so we're going to, we're going to tell you what we're going to do; we're going to do it; and then we're going to tell you what we did. And so I'm really excited about that, Maika. There'll be a recap of this as well and kind of the, the domain at the end of the domain, when we get done here.

Jim Collison 17:28

We last year launched this idea, talent-mindfulness, and it became very, very popular in what we've done. We've brought it back for this year. The -- we spent some time with one last week, so you -- if you haven't listened to the Executing Domain, go back and listen to it. Maika, talk a little bit about what we're going to do here as we think about this talent-mindfulness idea.

Maika Leibbrandt 17:48

Yeah, we thought about bringing it back in a different way; we thought about bringing away that would drive you toward manager specifically. I still think this entire season really is about the importance of a great manager or a leader of a team. So if you want to learn more about that, please check out -- where I where I found the 5 truths was in the book Strengths Based Leadership. But I also highly recommend you check out our It's the Manager book and the courses around that that are involved. You can always go to

Maika Leibbrandt 18:13

But the reason we brought back talent-mindfulness quite honestly was twofold: 1) You, as listeners, overwhelmed us with a desire to have more. And 2) Jim and I both last season got huge growth out of it. And so we're our own best test case and realizing that what this is, is it's meant to just be practice; to be separate from what we've talked about for the previous 20 minutes and separate from what we're going to talk about in the next 20. But just that 3- to 5-minute buffer throughout your day to say, Get strengths out of your head and into your own experience.

Maika Leibbrandt 18:52

So it's designed for you. You don't have to have Achiever; it's not about learning or naming a talent. It really is about that awareness of your own talent. Sometimes it might be a visualization; sometimes, like today, it's going to be just a great breathing exercise plus some questions. And if you haven't tried this or if it weirds you out, try it once and see how it goes.

Maika Leibbrandt 19:14

If this isn't something that's for you, and it might not be, it's OK, we're at the end of our, of our podcast and we will be just closing this with some call to action at the end. You can click the 30-second "speed ahead" button if this isn't for you. But I highly encourage you just to embrace this as an opportunity to admit that you're not just an observer of talent, you have some yourself and you need to practice it and own it and get great at it.

Maika Leibbrandt 19:39

So let's take the next 3 to 5 minutes. I'm going to ask you to breathe. Breathe in through your nose and really, at the peak of inhale, just hold it for a couple extra seconds. Now exhale, get rid of all that breath. When you think you're done, exhale just a little bit more. Breathe in, sit up just one inch taller than you were before and hold that breath at the top. ...

Maika Leibbrandt 20:16

I'd like you to exhale, but keep a hold of the height you just found. As you continue to breathe normally, let's ground our reflection today in accomplishment. This practice, as I mentioned before, really is for you to focus intentionally on your own talent, whether or not you're a natural doer; whether or not you have Achiever. But the reality is, we all have things we need to do. So today, let's focus very simply, on going about those things from just a recentering of our own strongest, most naturally recurring patterns of thought feeling and behavior.

Maika Leibbrandt 20:56

Today is a reflection exercise. So I'll take you backwards in time. I want you to think about your real life. So if it helps, you might want to close your eyes. You can always come back later with pen and paper and take some notes. But for now, just think. What is a meaningful compliment someone has given you in the past 3 months? A time when someone called out something that you had done or said or not said; a way you behaved; a choice you made; and their acknowledgment of that made you feel good. ...

Maika Leibbrandt 21:47

Let's really shine a light on that. Again, what is a meaningful compliment someone gave you in the past 3 months? Think about the person who said it or wrote it. What does their voice sound like? Or what does their picture look like? Got it? Stay here with this meaningful compliment just a few more seconds.

Maika Leibbrandt 22:34

Now let's focus less on the person who gave you this compliment and more on yourself. What is it you did? Yes, we are blessed and, maybe in some circumstances, even lucky, but right now, I want you to consider that this meaningful compliment was earned -- by you. What did you do? ... What did it take for you to do that? Maybe it took a tool, a resource, a relationship, time, space, place. ...

Maika Leibbrandt 23:25

Just stay in this moment a while longer with me while we recap. What was the meaningful compliment?What did you do that led to it? What did it take for you to do that?

Maika Leibbrandt 23:48

Now let's seal this reflection with one more deep breath in through your nose; and exhale through your mouth. As you come back into a more normal rhythm that you'll carry with you throughout the rest of the day, I want to challenge you a bit more practically. You should now have at least some clues to how you might describe a gift that you bring to a team, to a partnership, or to even just directly to a customer or a client; something that makes a difference for others and for yourself. You're also getting closer to this journey of evaluating in real time what it takes for you to offer up that gift.

Maika Leibbrandt 24:38

So before the day is over today, write down an idea you have for how you could do more of what you did. And try to make that magic happen just one more time than you normally would before the end of the week. This is taking control of your natural talent. It's offering it up on purpose; answering that call to acknowledge that you are powerful; and harnessing that power in a real and planned and meaningful way. That's your talent-mindfulness for today.

Jim Collison 25:15

Maika, as you were mentioning those who've given you have recognition or, you know -- I forgot how you phrased that early on -- in that mindfulness exercise. Sorry, I was -- I got into it; I'm having trouble getting out! It was -- what I was struck by, was that in the last -- I didn't have to think back very far. I think in the last 2 or 3 days, I've had three meaningful (you being one of them, and two others that I can think of right off the top of my head), and how fortunate I am to be in a situation where I get that fairly regularly and fairly often. And, and how that changes the engagement equation with me, and just thinking like, Yeah, no, I don't have to think far back to that. So, it -- I'm truly blessed in a lot of ways to be able to have coworkers and friends that -- and new friends. One of those, I got this great compliment from a brand-new friend; had known in less than 24 hours. And so, super cool. And I really do look forward to these -- this season of talent-mindfulness exercises.

Jim Collison 26:20

With that, we want to remind everyone to take full advantages of all the resources we have available now on Gallup Access, just go to -- for our strengths folks go to That'll take you right to the Strengths Dashboard when you sign in. We post the full transcripts with streaming audio and video plus all the past episodes are available there as well -- again, While you're there, sign up for the CliftonStrengths community newsletter; brand new newsletter we're doing on a monthly basis. Just helps to stay up-to-date. Another way of doing that, if you like those kinds of things, you can also search for "CliftonStrengths" on YouTube, follow us and subscribe while you are there. If you're a podcast listener, you can search "Gallup Webcasts" and find Theme Thursday and a bunch of other podcasts that we have available for you as well at any podcast player. Subscribe to those so you never miss an episode. If your organization is struggling to implement anything we kind of talked about here, when looking forward to being a strengths-based organization. Or if you have questions, you can reach out to us: You can also see a complete list of all our courses; and this is going to be an amazing learning year here at Gallup. If you're interested in doing that, you can head out to Also check out the summit that's coming up: the Gallup at Work Summit is coming up June 1, 2 and 3 here in Omaha. Love to have you come out and join us. There are courses around that as well, and they're a discount if you come to the summit and take the courses. All that information is available: Follow us on Eventbrite. If you're joining us here for the first time -- and chances are, there are a few of you are; I see 65 of you out there in the chat room, which is awesome -- we'd love to have you just know when we do this. Follow us on Eventbrite: And then, the strongest call to action of all, I do not know why, but many of you find your way over to Facebook: I know it's a long link but you find it somehow. If you want to -- if you're not a Facebooker, and you want to join us on LinkedIn, you can join us on LinkedIn. Jut search CliftonStrengths, one word, CliftonStrengths Trained Coaches. We have a group; you don't have to be a trained group -- a trained coach -- to be in there, by the way, and we'll -- I'll let anybody in. We'll do that on LinkedIn as well. I want to thank you for joining us today. If you're listening live, stay around for a little bit of mid-show as we have another one of these to do. If you're, if you're listening as a podcast or on YouTube, just stay around. There's probably one right behind it. With that we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

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