Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Career Pattern: Drivers with Brakes On

James Waldroop and Timothy Butler have written on the acrophobe/driver pattern where a person strives to move ahead but believes he or she shouldn't be advanced.

The acrophobe/driver will press on the gas pedal to get ahead and then slam on the brake when the feelings of unworthiness kick in.

In my coaching practice, I've noticed a surprising number of accomplished executives who suffer from this pattern. They differ from the individual who lacks drive and never seeks advancement. These people are in the race but tend to engage in self-defeating behavior once they near the finish line. In many cases they have had this pattern for years without noticing when it begins to surface. When they do achieve a goal, they quickly dismiss the accomplishment and instead of acknowledging that they earned it, they cite luck, charm, or some other feature as the real reason for their victory.

Part of the solution is for the person to keep careful watch for self-defeating behavior, such as not returning phone calls or missing deadlines, and to implement a plan to eliminate those negatives. The biggest step, of course, is to recognize that the pattern exists. We often assume that fear of failure is more common than fear of success. I'm not sure if that is true.


Anonymous said...

My problem in a nutshell. My career would be far more advanced than it is if I had not allowed myself to waiver when nearing the finish line. It seems that when that which I have strived for so long is near, I am beset by doubts of if I really want it. Twice (at least) in my life I have stopped just short and basically had to start all over again.

I have learned that's when it's most important to bear down and not let all of your previous efforts be in vain. You speak truly when you point out part of the solution in being self aware enough to know it is a problem.
Life is a constant struggle to:

Know thyself.
Improve thyself.
Re-learn thyself.

Michael Wade said...


It's extremely common. I can't tell you how often executives and managers have told me that they believe they "lucked into" their jobs. These are people who are seen by others as confident power brokers. Their ability is unquestionable.

One item: The most dangerous stage is when you are close to achieving your goal. That's when two things may occur: You may let down your guard and you may fall prey to the feelings of self-doubt.

Being aware of the problem is a major step. The odds of your avoiding the problem in the future have just increased.