Mistaking Accomplishment For Achievment | Management Training

Yet a very common frustration is at the heart of this article. 

It is no secret that the influx of millennial employees into the workplace has created a few key challenges.

And a lot of "experts" speak and write about how important it is to accommodate these new entrants to the workforce.

Yet, this accommodation seems to be having a very real, and very expensive, consequence.

Sh*t isn't getting done...or, at least, isn't getting done as quickly as it should (when controlling for the more effective use of workflow technologies). 

And this is why... 

First, before I go any deeper into this subject, this topic is based on the anecdotal evidence and personal observation of us, our clients, and the many managers we speak with. So, if you don't agree because you have had a very different experience, congratulations. However, I ask that you demonstrate sufficient respect for the experiences of those who DO share this frustration and not post counter-comments aimed at blaming, insulting, or belittling them. Thank you. 


So...let's get into this.

What is the difference between accomplishment and achievement?

Let's look at each as they are commonly used in English.

Accomplishment is used to indicate the successful completion of something...

We accomplish a task

We accomplish a step in a process.

Achievement, however, has a very different use.

We achieve a goal

We achieve a dream.

Accomplishment is more about the completion of a process while achievement is focused on successfully arriving at the desired outcome

So, how does the differentiation between accomplishment and achievement relate to millennial employees?



Successful businesses, i.e. the ones that are profitable enough to survive over the long-term, result from achievement.

Achievement is a result of the frequent and repetitive accomplishment of processes and tasks.

This means that successful businesses rely on the accomplishments of their employees to survive and succeed.

However, while achievement requires accomplishment, accomplishment does not guarantee achievement.

And it is the gulf that exists between these two concepts where the problem can lie.

Millennials have been raised through the education system in a very different way from previous generations.

Where previous generations focused on individual success and achievement, millennials have progressed through a system based on teamwork, consensus, and cooperation

In this system, the outcome (i.e. the ultimate result of the output) has been made secondary to the effort put forth by the team.

Team participation in the process has been emphasized while individual effort has been muted into the team work background.

The system that has produced this new generation of employee has failed them because it has put far too much emphasis on accomplishment but failed to bridge the gap and connect accomplishment to achievement.

Without this connection, this incredible generation is failing to live up to its potential for a few key reasons.


When working directly with, and observing, teams of millennial employees, the first thing that I notice is the fantastic dialogue that occurs.

Ideas are voiced and suggestions are made all in (usually) a very respectful way.

On the surface, everything appears to be working spectacularly, until...

A half hour later, the group has failed to progress because ideas are still being voiced and suggestions still being made on what should have been committed to in writing already.

With their drive to participate and accomplish each task perfectly, it has become common for teams of millennial employees to lose sight of why they are doing the work in the first place. 

And, being raised in a system that zealously promotes the good of the team, consensus, and the group dynamic, it can be rare to find a single team member who is willing to assert a position and make the decision so that the work can proceed.

Instead, the discussion continues until a consensus is reached...which can blow strict deadlines out of the water before a project barely gets off the ground.

In trying so hard to accomplish their tasks, these teams can actually achieve very little.

To prevent this, managers need to neutralize the potential for stalemate by assigning a single member as "the decision-maker"...

The person ultimately responsible for deciding when the group discussion has yielded a sufficient answer so that the team can move on.


Millennial employees are no more impervious to the trappings of ego than any previous generation.

The difference is that their ego is far more veiled.

This is best illustrated by describing a situation I witnessed when a team of 6 millennial employees were faced with a substantial obstacle due to the mistake of one of its members.

In overlooking a critical detail, the error of one team member caused the progress of the entire team to halt, creating a substantial delay.

The individual who made the error only went so far as to suggest he "may have" had something to do with it.

This conditional and partial ownership over his actions caused the rest of the team great frustration.

They all thought they knew exactly what had happened and put great effort into pointing this out to their team-mate

While the frustration was understandable, their reaction was not.

The rest of the team delayed their own progress an extra day, unnecessarily, because they were so focused on getting the error-causing team-mate to admit he was wrong.

Rather than accept the mistake as a fact and then focus on the solution to get the project back on track, the rest of the team continued to dwell on the mistake, repeatedly pointing out how "dumb" the mistake had been...

In fact, what was happening was this:

The other members of the team wasted a ridiculous amount of time trying to get the one team member to take complete ownership over the mistake...

While at the same time, they were avoiding taking any ownership for the part they played in the continued delay

It was amazing how quickly the team turned on one of its own when facing a setback that might look poorly on them.

So, what can a manager do to prevent this from happening? 

Millennials, more than any previous generation, need to learn the true meaning (rather than the superficial one) of what it means to "own" your behaviour and actions.

Whether through a program such as our Personal Mastery Program or another training process, these new employees must learn how to own their mistakes, accept them, and then move on.


Despite what millennial employees may want others to think, they really are no different than any other new employee.

Like new employees of previous generations, they have limited experience and knowledge.

To expect them to be ideal employees without management's guidance and involvement is unrealistic and unlikely.

Their world consists of performing their tasks as well as they can and hoping they don't screw up to badly.

As their career evolves, so too will their desire to achieve rather than merely accomplish, but until then...

The final management tip is simple...managers must be the tip of the spear that leads their team.

Eventually, these teams of millennial employees will sufficiently mature and drive their own achievement...

But until then, managers much recognize and ACCEPT they must take this role with this new generation of worker...

And they must do this job well.

Building Bridges...

Millennial employees are the product of a system that has taught them that the process is more important than the result.

They are simply behaving consistently with what they have been taught.

Unfortunately, learning the importance of achievement over accomplishment takes time and in business, time costs money.

Therefore, it is up to managers and their leadership to guide these employees, helping them to better understand how their accomplishment is intertwined with the desired achievement.

Once again, I am sorry to say, the burden falls to management...so accept and achieve.

For more suggestions on making better management decisions and being a true leader, download: