The Success Orientations Model

What are success orientations?



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The Goal Orientation

Goal oriented people can see the outcomes they are trying to achieve clearly and vividly in their minds. Sometimes the goal is so vivid in their minds that they think they can even feel, taste, hear, and sense the emotions of their success when they achieve their goal - before they achieve it. The people and processes around a goal oriented person are just resources for achieving the goal. The process of getting there and the people who help along the way are useful, but ultimately not important if they are not necessary to achieving the goal.

Some general factors that describe goal oriented people:

  • When faced with a challenge, the goal oriented person assesses the attractiveness of the goal and seeks the easiest and most direct path to that goal. An extremely goal oriented person can have chameleon-like behavior patterns, taking on and dropping process and/or relationship orientations at will in order to further their ambitions.

  • Goal oriented people feel most comfortable when there is a goal to accomplish and they can work independently and competitively to achieve this goal with the outcome visualized as themselves as the winner. Highly organized structures frustrate the goal oriented person. Long winded conversations and emotional bonding with no deliverable outcome drives the goal oriented person crazy.

  • Weekends for this person are best organized around a number of challenges to achieve: Get the gardening done, read 5 chapters of a text book, finish a project, run 10km on Sunday, etc. Preferably in a competitive arena or with small team of equally capable or better partners. Goal oriented people prefer “partners” to “team mates” as they are “partnering” in order to accomplish something, rather than just having social team mates.

  • Meetings are best run with specific goals to be accomplished at every meeting. A short, to the point, efficient meeting is best. A sense that everything is decided, finished, and achieved leaves the goal oriented person happy. Social chit-chat and careful adherence to protocols irritates this person. A meeting where relationships were enhanced and/or process followed but few solid outcomes achieved leaves the goal oriented person bitter and angry: “That meeting was a waste of time!”

  • Recreational activities are exciting to the goal oriented person because there are myriad opportunities for individual goal setting and achievement in a variety of challenging, difficult modes. Mountain bike racing, kayaking around an island in a day, cycling 50km, or hiking to the top of a mountain are all wonderful activities for this person. Anything that is highly structured or with a primarily social focus is avoided by this person.

  • Goal oriented people will only support rankings, titles and hierarchies if they are the ones who can achieve the top position. Otherwise they despise such irritations. They are generally low-power distance individuals, caring only with meeting and learning from other goal oriented people. Having lunch is a competitive or accomplishment-oriented affair. Going out for a lunch with an interesting goal oriented person or someone who can help their career is a lunch worth having. Group lunches and free-flowing social environments are good as they provide an opportunity to find new people who can help them achieve their goal or help them learn how to do so themselves.

  • Bluntness, directness, and intensity are hallmarks of a goal oriented person’s communication style. They don’t care for verbal protocol and most often only seek clarity in communication when the definition of the goal is in question.

  • Goal oriented people are often loners. They are attracted to others of their kinds for partnerships and to learn from but can be equally comfortable alone as with others. Relationship are goals in themselves. To meet someone for an intimate relationship is to do so for sexual gratification, marriage and/or children. It is not for the sole sake of friendship. Power over others is often wielded flippantly and joyfully by this person often without respect for protocol or the emotional impact on others.

  • Goal oriented people can be the most self aware of their own success orientation as they often see the paths to goals more clearly than others. They are also made most aware of their style by the people of the other two styles who dislike or envy the freedom the goal oriented person espouses. Goal oriented individuals can see relationship oriented people as “lazy talkers” and process oriented people as “bureaucrats who never achieve anything and hide behind rules and regulations to cover their own incompetence”.

  • Homework or studying is done alone and with goals in mind rather than just for the sake of learning. The highest grade, top of the class honor, a scholarship, and/or entrance to the best program at the best university are examples of goals this person sets their mind to achieving. They are the most likely of the orientations to latch onto a charismatic teacher or leader and emulate this person.

  • Individual assessments where goals are accomplished are the best type of assessment for the goal oriented person. They resonate with any learning or assessment process that is practical and has a deliverable. Solving a case study problem is a wonderful challenge for a goal oriented person. So are constructive projects with clear, visible results.

Things you will hear a highly goal oriented person say:

  • What’s the fastest way there?!”

  • “I plan to be able to run 10km in 11 minutes by July 1st. And then place in the top 10 runners in the marathon in August.”

  • “Skiing? Sure! I want to beat the double black diamond run this year. I never could do it. Do you want to race the long blue run with me? Let’s see who is faster!”

  • “I can’t go for lunch with you today. I am meeting with Jim for lunch. We are going over our plan for meeting our sales target.”

  • “There is Susan. Let’s sit with her. I have to talk to her about getting me a new computer for my office.”

  • “I will have the project done by noon tomorrow.”

  • “Professor, my partner and I will finish the project by Friday. It will be an A+ project, you wait and see!”

  • “I will read the case and do the exam in 3 hours tomorrow. I don’t need it ahead of time. I am busy tonight finishing another project.”

  • “Professor, can you tell me right now what comprises an A+ grade on the project?”

  • A goal oriented primary school teacher: “That child gets all her work done so quickly and so well! What a good child!”

Spaces a goal oriented person will like to be in:

  • Restaurants that have great food - the goal being to have a great tasting meal. Also, restaurants that are linked to success and achievement: “If we win tonight, we are going to XYZ restaurant to celebrate!” Celebrations that mark successful outcomes are joyous occasions for goal oriented people.

  • Bars that are linked with goals, such as going for a drink after the conclusion of a successful sales deal. Or to celebrate a victory. Or to pick up a date for the night.

  • Coffee shops for buying coffee. Not for sitting and chatting.

  • Fitness clubs with success ladders, peers to compare to and gain tips from, tougher role models to aspire after, and a competitive atmosphere. The goal oriented person is not generally there to meet new people or follow a process, but to accomplish something.

  • Open spaces where they can physically see goals in the distance (mountain tops to climb, lakes to cross) and where they can be physically independent to challenge themselves (open running trails, open water).

  • Shopping malls that are easy to get in, get things done and get out of. Shopping for the sake of shopping is a waste of time. Better to order things online and avoid the hassle and waste of time of a shopping mall.

  • Classroom experiences with:
    - A clear focus on accomplishment of constructive projects or solving of specific, real problems.
    - Activities that have little structure but are focused on achievement of an outcome.
    - Non-social, loosely structured activities that are for individuals or partners to work on.
    - Accomplishment of the learning required as soon as possible. Once done, moving on to new challenges.
    - Achievement of the clearly stated goal as 100% of assessment value. No “wishy-washy” grades for process or how nicely you did the work. “The end justifies the means” for the extremely goal oriented person, so process (rules, regulations) that were used (or ignored) and people who were used on the way to the goal are not important.
    - Recognition for superior performance and achievement. Release from structure and awarding of credentials as soon as goals are reached.

Careers that attract goal oriented people

Leadership in general is attractive to a goal oriented person. This is in contrast to “management” which might be a word best used by a relationship oriented person or “administration” by a process oriented person. Leadership implies that there are goals that someone has achieved and that are worth achieving - someone to look up to and strive to be equal to or better than. Someone who stands out of the crowd as an individual example of excellence and strength. Some typical careers goal oriented people prefer:

  • Olympic athletics and athletics in general.

  • Leadership in business.

  • Leadership the arts - music, dancing, acting, etc.

  • Sales of big ticket items that require one individual to take a lead and make the deal happen.

  • Lawyer - a grandstanding litigator as opposed to a person who “dots their i’s and crosses their t’s”.

  • Engineering - building big and cool things.

  • Architecture - designing big and cool buildings.

  • Science - mysteries to unravel and scientific goals to achieve.

  • Medicine - particularly doctors and researchers.

  • Pharmaceuticals - particularly research and leadership.

  • Military - specialist roles like general or special forces.

Learn more about the process orientation by exploring your own ways of doing things. There is no one right way of doing things in life - but there seems to be some fairly common groupings of ways people go about doing them.

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Goal Orientation Extreme!

Check out this really excellent book on personal and professional effectiveness by a true Goal Oriented archetype, author Timothy Ferriss:

In "The 4-Hour Workweek" he gives us such beautiful statements as:

"...expect that some time wasters [read: relationship oriented people] will be offended the first few times their advances are rejected."


"I am not here to make friends. I have been hired to build a sales team and sell product, and that's what I intend to do. Thanks." (re-quoted in the book as an example of a focused goal oriented VP)

A highly recommended read! Not only can you cut your wasted work time down by tons of hours, but you can read how to be more goal oriented at the same time, achieving more of what you want to do...



"Goal oriented people often 'burn' their relationships with friends."

- A guidance counselor reflecting on his experiences with some goal oriented people.



Important Note:

"YUCK! I thought I was goal oriented but I disagree with this description because I am not like some of the attributes (though I match many of them, I agree)"

There are very few people who are dramatically and extremely goal oriented - some salespeople, athletes, and politicians, surely, but other than them, very few.

The profile of a goal oriented person noted here can seem very harsh and unattractive and most people would look at this and say "Yuck! I am not like that and I don't want to be like that!"

Fear not! Most people who have a strong goal orientation are more "balanced" than the extremes noted here as an archetype.

"Having a secondary Relationship Orientation softens my Goal Orientation."

- A goal oriented person with a secondary relationship orientation.


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