27 October 2016Last updated

Features | People

Ask the expert: my boss says I’m a starter, not a finisher!

There may be a couple of reasons why you behave like this

Russell Hemmings.
17 Jun 2016 | 12:00 am

I’m well educated and currently work for a large corporate. Recently, during my appraisal, my manager suggested that although he thought I had some very creative ideas, he was disappointed by the fact that I am a starter not a finisher. It came as a shock to me. How can I change this?

I’m sure we all encounter this butterfly behaviour from time to time, but it has clearly shocked you that your manager has raised it as an issue. What is refreshing about what you say is that you have, after giving it some thought, accepted the criticism as constructive and want to do something about it. I sense you want to move up the corporate ladder and you’re ambitious. Doing something about this now could really make a difference to your career and will also show that you can step up when you know you need to.

There may be a couple of reasons why you behave like this. Firstly, you mention your boss described you as a creative. This quality is highly prized by companies, but it can come with a lack of structure. Perhaps your ideas come tumbling out and you have so many of them that you don’t know where to start.

Some people actually thrive on that buzz of initial ideas – they are natural starters – but get bored to see a project through. On the flip side, some people find coming up with initial ideas difficult, but love the day-to-day routine and have the staying power to see a project through to the end. They are natural finishers.

You could identify a finisher who works in the same department as you and work with them more frequently. You could even suggest this to your manager as a solution that would be beneficial to all concerned.

In my line of work, I meet many starters, often people who’ve started a fad diet, but find it hard to stay the course. Their initial enthusiasm wanes as they find the restriction too hard to bear over time. This is because they need to change the way they think before they change the way they behave.

Although the context is different, you are pretty much in the same situation. One of the areas I focus on with them is realistic goal-setting and stepping-stone achievement. You could do this too. Once you come up with the idea for a new project, identify the goal, and break it down into a series of mini-goals that need to be achieved to get there.

Then, dig even deeper and break them down into three achievable steps. Each day, write down a realistic list of the things you need to do, focusing on the priority first and then tick them off as you go. This way you keep yourself on track and motivated.

This is all about working smart and making sure you’ve forged a clear achievement path to follow. Try these simple strategies and I’m sure your manager will be impressed with your new, efficient start-to-finish approach.

Got a problem?

Email your queries to

Russell Hemmings.

Russell Hemmings

Life coach, and clinical and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist. More info: / 04 4273627 / 055 2867275.