On airplanes, in restaurants, in the newspaper and on television, I often hear people saying their businesses are not growing to their satisfaction or that they are not reaching their objectives. The explanations that follow consist of reasons like:
? It's the economy
I could go on, and so could you.I think that is all a bunch of hogwash.People (both those doing the talking, and those they are talking about) are not all they can be. The organization is not all it can be. Both have tremendous untapped potential sitting there, waiting to be recognized and tapped. Both have potential waiting to be unleashed.
Dictionary.com defines potential as "the inherent ability or capacity for growth, development, or coming into being, or something possessing the capacity for growth or development."
When we point to others and other factors as the cause to our problems (in business or any part of our life) we are missing the point. We hold many of the answers ourselves. Maybe not in this moment, but when we unleash our potential, we unleash talents, skills, perspectives and ideas that can help us solve the problems we face and (as no small side benefit) become more fulfilled in our lives. Simply stated, as caretakers of our own lives we are cheating ourselves if we don't do everything we can to unleash our potential - that innate ability within us waiting to be developed.
As leaders in organizations, our responsibility for unleashing potential is at least as great as it is for us personally. We are responsible for results, for meeting the needs of Customers, for helping and empowering people, and for generally doing the good things our organizations exist to do. If we aren't helping those around us unleash their potential, are we really doing our job?
You know the answer.
So the question isn't, are we doing all we can to unleash the tremendous potential that exists, but how do we do that?In very short form here are some of the key steps you can take to begin unleashing your potential or the potential in others. As you read these steps, think about it in both ways - both from the perspective of helping others and of helping yourself.
1. Believe. Tug McGraw, pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies said throughout an improbably run to a World Series Championship, "Ya Gotta Believe!" An entire team, and an entire city did, and the team went further and accomplished more that they initially believed they could. Tug helped that team unleash their potential, because he believed, and helped others believe too. If you don't believe your team has the ability to achieve or accomplish more, how likely are those accomplishments to occur?
2. Recognize. You can believe the potential is there and you can start by doing that on faith, but then you have to recognize exactly what is there. The specific mix of potentials that I possess is different than yours. The mix is different for everyone. Recognition helps us target the ways we can stretch and gives us clues about what to do in the steps that follow.
3. Expect. There are all sorts of studies that deal with expectation and how powerful it is. Want to do just one thing to help a team you work with improve? Really expect improvement. Let the team know that you have a positive expectation, based on your belief in them and the skills they possess. Act on this belief and this expectation. Let your behavior prove your words. You will be amazed at the change you will see, almost overnight. If we know this to be true with our expectations of others, while you are at it why not raise your expectations of yourself too?
4. Plan. You need a plan. Once you see potential and have higher expectations for it, you need a plan to help unleash that potential. That plan might include study, a mentor, courses, books, new habits, changes in environment and many other things. You will be able to build your plan based on your specific situation. Use this step to help others tailor a plan for themselves too.
5. Invest. You have to invest in the plan. The plan isn't enough. You must take action. Putting your plan into action requires investments in discipline, time and perhaps money. You can't unleash potential without some investment.
6. Effort. Sustained effort is required. Notice I said effort, not work. If you are moving towards your unique innate potentials it won't always be work, but it will take effort. You've heard it said "there is no free lunch." It is true for your potential. Yes the potential is inside you, but it takes effort to bring it out. You might ask is it worth it? Well, what is it worth to raise your self confidence? What is it worth to raise your skills? What is it worth to meet your objectives and goals? What is it worth to feel more fulfilled in your life? What is it worth to be happier? What is it worth to have greater earning potential? Continually moving towards your potential will give you all these things. My guess is it is worth the effort.
7. Patience. Sometimes you will make fast gains, other times the advancement may seem slow. Be patient. Be persistent. You are worth the wait. Help others and be patient with them. They are worth the wait as well.
8. New Targets. The master violinist, Jascha Heifetz said, "There is no top. There are always further heights to reach." So it is with our potential. Each of us (and each organization) is brimming with potential. When you recognize some potential skill or talent some and master it, the pool will still be full. When you have made the gains identified in your plan, go back to step one and with the great excitement of knowing that this process works, begin again.
This isn't a topic that can be covered this briefly - this is only a start. There are many facets to potential, both for us as individuals and for unleashing the potential in those around us. Right now, don't worry about that - just get started.
I encourage you to do at least three things with this information:
1. Think about the steps laid out above, and start believing in your own amazing potential.
© 2004, All Rights Reserved, Kevin Eikenberry. Kevin publishes Unleash Your Potential, a free weekly ezine designed to provide ideas, tools, techniques and inspiration to enhance your professional skills. Go to http://www.kevineikenberry.com/uypw/current.asp to read the current issue and subscribe. Kevin is also President of The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a learning consulting company that helps Clients reach their potential through a variety of training, consulting and speaking services. You may contact Kevin at toll free 888.LEARNER.
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