8 Points About People’s Potential

v for vendetta mojo leadership potential

People power organizations. Not products. People. Prudence posits that if we peer into the pates of professionals, there are a plethora of properties particular to each person. These properties, in the presence of positive pressure, progress as people are pushed to pursue their potential. Psychologists propose that each person possesses the power to be part of propelling organizations forward. Organizations participate in this process by perpetually pondering how to put people first. So it seems proper in this post to present postulations aplenty of propitious practices for the propulsion of people toward their potential.

My apologies. Every once in a while, like in the preceding paragraph (dang it — did it again) I try the most random — and some might even say nonsensical — things to communicate my points. Like, say, alliterating an entire paragraph just for kicks. For a hot minute there — a really hot minute if you’re into verbiage — I felt like the V for Vendetta guy in one of my favorite scenes of any movie, ever. If only I had a black bath towel to pin around my neck. Of course who I am is but the form following the function of what, and what I am is a man behind a blog. (See what I did there? If you’re a fan of the movie, you do. If you’re not a fan of the movie…well…never mind.)

In a post a while back, I mentioned that one of the components of a constructive culture was that people start to realize what they’re capable of. In other words, they start to realize their potential and push toward it. If I were talking nerdy to you, I’d say they self-actualize, but we’ll not go there. At least not today.

But from a practical perspective (sorry), what does that look like? There are times — and if you’ve been in leadership any amount of time you know exactly what I’m talking about — when you catch glimpses of someone’s potential. Flashes. Snapshots. Flickers.

So how do we go about helping people see their potential when they might not yet see it themselves?

1. Provide them ample opportunity to learn and grow.

What if Mr. Miyagi hadn’t taught Daniel-Son how to wax on and off? What if Morpheus hadn’t put Neo in positions to realize he was “the One”? What if Yoda had not challenged Luke Skywalker’s ability to decipher horribly-structured sentences? What if no one had given *you* opportunities to learn and grow? (As an aside, as part of a research project in grad school, I used the Matrix trilogy as the backdrop to cite Morpheus as an example of servant leadership in modern media, film, and culture. You should watch those films again from that perspective; it’s fascinating to watch Morpheus through that lens.)

Actively look for ways to provide others opportunities to learn & grow. #leadership Click To Tweet

2. Push them.

But not under the bus.

Challenge them. Help them stretch themselves. Just to be clear, though, you can challenge people without being a jerk. Think of “pushing” them more like motivating or inspiring them to go beyond what they may think they’re capable of initially.

3. Promote them.

I don’t mean promote as in nudging them higher up the ladder. Now, a note about ladder-climbing…

(Frankly, we need to start challenging the conception that that — climbing the ladder — should be the goal. This is one reason there are so many poor leaders higher up ladders than we can understand today. Some folks got really good at playing the games necessary to climb ladders because that was their goal for whatever reason — be it money, ego, or something else. The thing is, the skills required simply to climb the ladder are not the same skills required to lead well. Those are two different skill sets. That’s why the ones that play the games and step on people in order to climb the ladders are usually the ones who are terrible leaders once they get to the top of those ladders.)

Ok. Back to our regularly-scheduled point about helping people realize their potential by promoting them. I mean promote them as in putting them in positions to shine. Further still, put them in spots where they and others can see it happen.

4. Provide an environment within which they can be be themselves.

Nothing says “this company doesn’t really want you to realize your potential” like a company whose environment squelches any hint of individuality, uniqueness, and creativity. I mean, how can people realize their potential without being themselves? Find ways to humanize the workplace.

5. Point out their progress.

Sometimes they’ll be working so hard they won’t even realize just how far they’ve come.

Leaders encourage their teams by showing them how far they've come. #leadership Click To Tweet

This will be especially important during times when they’re discouraged. Oh hey, speaking of that…

6. Prop them up.

When people push themselves, sometimes they’re going to mess up. Like you and me, they’re not perfect, so be ready to come alongside them and offer encouragement when things aren’t going as well as they’d hoped.

7. Put them in positions to help others realize their potential.

They need to see that part of their potential is to serve others. *You see, every single person, in every single organization, has the potential to serve others.* That’s why I’m an advocate of building servant leadership concepts and ideas into any sort of development program. Sometimes the prescription for folks having a hard time seeing their potential is putting them in the position of helping others around them see their own potential.

Every person, in every organization, has the potential to serve others. #leadership #companyculture Click To Tweet

8. Patience is paramount.

Folks won’t always see things as quickly as we’d like them to. Remember, this thing isn’t about us. It’s about serving the people we’re privileged to lead. So we need to be patient.

What about it? What would you add to the list? (And no, they don’t have to start with the letter P.)

5 thoughts on “8 Points About People’s Potential

  • I think adding in to those would be conversations around accountability and clarity. It’s super helpful to have clear vision and expectations.

    Patience is a great one – it’s not going to happen over night – an investment is required.

    • Good ones, David. Thanks for adding them. Clarity’s one of those tricky ones because we often think we have it when we may not. Self-awareness is key.

  • Love the playfulness in your writing style – always great to have a smile on your face when reading ideas – am sure there’ll be some science on why that’s a good idea somewhere! Anyway, think your post is spot on – and adopting a coaching style where you believe they have all the answers seems to be important too. One the vision point asking questions to help people create their vision of the future and what’s really important to them can be great at helping them work out who they are to be authentic too…. In our busy world I wonder how many people haven’t allowed themselves time to think about who they really are and who they’d like to be…..

    • Thanks, Sasha. And I think you’re right — it’s important for people to really think about who they are and what they’re about, so to speak. They need to answer their person WHY question.

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