Five Ways to Find and Tap Potential
Leaders fail when they think too much about things they want and too little about things others want. Immature vision-driven leaders flounder when they believe it’s all about their vision.
Think of leadership as helping others win. But, what is helping and what is winning?
Leader as helper:
The first step toward winning is defining it.
Describing wins always comes before achieving wins.
Successful leaders help others define their wins. They awaken others. Sleep-walkers haven’t defined winning they just walk around doing stuff. Leaders provide new definitions of winning that awaken possibilities and align with potential.
Leaders help people paint themselves into pictures of what’s around the corner in the universe of “not yet”.
Potential is always untapped. That’s why it’s called potential.
Potential is in them not you.
Winning in leadership:
Winning in leadership is helping others do things they aren’t doing yet; things they define as winning. Leaders clarify and align pictures of winning.
Potential moves toward reality
when separate pictures of winning align.
In order to help people win, align their picture of winning with organizational wins.
Passion ignites when people see their potential in new pictures they help paint.
Leaders awaken potential.
- Keep them talking when their eyes light up. Then find alignment.
- Avoid locking people in. Help them see themselves in new ways.
- Push through resistance with them. Every significant change faces resistance.
- Explain organizational wins in terms that align with their wins.
- Call them to step up and make a difference.
How can leaders help others paint themselves into new pictures?
ahhh….”keep them talking when their eyes light up.” Indeed… that may be my favorite thing to do in this world. I love that look.
I’m with you Karin. I’m always looking for that. Sometimes, I’m so excited about my vision that I miss theirs… everyone loses when that happens.
Dan if, “Potential is always untapped. That’s why it’s called potential,” then it is a useless concept.
Potential is more related to what is in the mind of the person who assigns the term “potential” to an employee. For some reason managers think they know enough about their direct reports to know which ones will become really good performers yet how many direct reports with potential every exhibit that potential? Maybe 20% which means it is more a random event than a predicted outcome.
Yes, potential is unwieldy for sure. ONce we tap into potential it’s not potential anymore.
You are so right… we think WE know what another’s potential is…when in reality they have to see it. I’m convinced we can help the process along by believing in someone but nothing happens till they pick up the brush and start painting their own picture.
In my business — I am an educator — much time and money is devoted to developing potential, or capacity, that can be leveraged in the name of our humanitarian (corporate) vision. We believe there is an art and a science to both developing and realizing potential in both our human resources and our measured corporate outcomes. And we know we still have much to learn and hone in our efforts to do this proficiently.
Hopefully, individuals at any level considering their personal potential would be framing it in terms of the corporate vision. Otherwise, they need to consider jumping to another ship where their personal development can better align with that of their employer.
I really like ‘keep them talking when their eyes light up’. I suggest another point Dan, to add to your great list – applaud small steps.
Nice add Cinnie. Thanks
To tap their dormant potential, look inside to discover who they are. What are their values? Once you see the sparkle in their eye, do whatever you can to keep the passion burning. Then do the most important thing. Stay out of their way!
I love your idea of keeping the fire burning…leaders stoke fires! and then get out of the way… Let things go. Great!
I agree that when leaders think too much about what they want. This could be because ” Want” itself is self centric. There is no end to want. So, between want and effort, we need to see what is in our hand. I think, effort is in our hand, and we should maximize that. Want has lot of limitation that can be controlled by understanding boundaries. Leaders should see big picture and align potential to achieve that picture.
Leaders should align others with purpose. They should help others to achieve what they want. Leaders have common goal. And common goal need common effort. Leaders engage common effort in one direction. This might lead to achieving ” Want”. But too much focus on achieving ” Want” put pressure on mind, which may deviate our effort to achieve our goal.
Love the repetition of “common” in your comment. Kouzes and Posner called it shared. REal leaders inspire SHARED vision.
The sharing part is most challenging.
Hi Dan, “potential is unwieldy for sure,” then we need something that is not unwieldy. I suggest we use talent which is easily measurable.
“Once we tap into potential it’s not potential anymore.”
Like I said, potential is a useless concept.
How many times have you heard a manager say something like, “John had such great potential but he has failed to live up to that potential?”
The problem isn’t with John but rather with the person who gave John the moniker “Potential.”
“we think WE know what another’s potential is…when in reality they have to see it.”
But we can help them see it by using the concept of talent.
“I’m convinced we can help the process along by believing in someone but nothing happens till they pick up the brush and start painting their own picture.”
Believing in someone doesn’t change their talent.
If we hire someone who doesn’t have the talent for their job and then we believe that they can do the job, we are creating failure and future resentment.
What is in our mind is more often than not unrelated to what is in the mind of another.
I wonder if talent can be developed. Is there potential talent or are we born with it?
By definition, talent is something we are born with not a behavior we learn. I take it you believe leaders are born not made. (just wondering)
Sorry to use the term “potential” 🙂
I also wonder if the five suggestions in this post apply if we substitute talent for potential.
BTW, thanks for poking the box.
Hi Dan, “I wonder if talent can be developed.”
No, we bring our talent to the job.
“Is there potential talent or are we born with it?”
It doesn’t matter since 22 year olds have been developing and honing their talent for 128,480 hours (16 hours a day for 22 years). Managers need to be extremely optimistic to think that such programming or habits or behaviors can be changed easily or quickly or lastingly.
“By definition, talent is something we are born with not a behavior we learn. I take it you believe leaders are born not made. (just wondering)”
Both and in various degrees depending on the individual.
“Sorry to use the term “potential””
It is good term if we know how to measure it before we hire it.
“I also wonder if the five suggestions in this post apply if we substitute talent for potential.”
My comments below to the five items presumes that employees are managed effectively.
“1. Keep them talking when their eyes light up. Then find alignment.”
If we hire for talent, their eyes will be lit up.
“2. Avoid locking people in. Help them see themselves in new ways.”
If we hire for talent, we don’t need them to see themselves in new ways, their old ways are just fine.”
“3. Push through resistance with them. Every significant change faces resistance.”
When people have the talent for their job there is no resistance unless the manager is less than effective and doing the wrong things.
“4. Explain organizational wins in terms that align with their wins.”
Employees find job success when they are competent and have the talent for job success, they don’t need to be persuaded to be successful.
“5. Call them to step up and make a difference.”
Employees who are competent and have the talent for job success make a difference which is why they are hired.
“BTW, thanks for poking the box.”
You’re welcome and it is my pleasure.
Employee success has been my business since 1992.
Hi Robert, Your comments intrigue me. I’m thankful for your perspective.
I like the term potential when it comes to individuals who could do more than they are. They have something in them that’s holding them back. Perhaps it’s attitudes, lack of awareness, fear, lack of experience, etc.
Once the thing that’s holding them back is removed potential turns into reality.
I don’t think potential excludes the idea of talent. Talent and potential aren’t mutually exclusive.
I appreciate that you don’t like the term potential. If I understand your comments, talent seems more observable and measurable.
Do you adhere to the strength based leadership movement?
Hello Dan, I’m taking a few minutes off from watching my 11 year old great niece and her 6 year brother. My wife is doing a good job of helping them be quiet.
“Your comments intrigue me.”
Thanks, I appreciate that .
“I’m thankful for your perspective.”
I share what I can when I can.
“I like the term potential when it comes to individuals who could do more than they are. They have something in them that’s holding them back. Perhaps it’s attitudes, lack of awareness, fear, lack of experience, etc.”
We all have talent but we don’t always have the talent demanded by the jobs we are hired to perform. Employers that hire without regard to new hires’ talent are making a huge mistake that impacts the employer, the new employees, the new employees coworkers, etc.
“Once the thing that’s holding them back is removed potential turns into reality.”
Unfortunately for most employees what is holding them back is the manager who hired them for a job in which they do not find job success.
“I don’t think potential excludes the idea of talent. Talent and potential aren’t mutually exclusive.”
I can measure talent but I can’t measure potential. For most managers potential is another way of saying, “I think they’ll be a good employee in time, I hope.”
“I appreciate that you don’t like the term potential. If I understand your comments, talent seems more observable and measurable.”
Yes, no one knows how to effectively measure potential but we all can guess at it and use our gut feelings which is unfair to the employees who were and were not selected as high potentials and it is unfair to ourselves and our employer.
“Do you adhere to the strength based leadership movement?”
A personal strength can be a job weakness and a personal weakness can be a job strength. Does that fit within the strength based leadership movement?
Thanks for an interesting exchange.
I like it. Definately sage advice for where I am right now in leadership.
Leadership is bringing the best out of a person who can’t see within themselves. It takes a lot more courage to sometimes tell the truth and being honest about it. Everyone has talents and potentials. To be able to open the minds of others and be able to convince them that they have untapped talents and guide them along the way, that is an honour