One of the things that leaders are required to do is see the unseen. This expectation comes in many forms.
We’re expected to see a preferred future for the team/group/organization we lead.
We are expected to see the changing landscape in our industry – before it changes.
We are asked to see the outcome of potential strategies years before the final verdict can be rendered.
We’re expected to see the potential in people before that potential has been translated into performance.
This post is about this last item – how do we identify untapped potential in others? I’ll quickly say, I believe this is much more of an art than it is a science. And, like many of you, my best projection about somebody’s potential has not always come to fruition. However, regardless of the challenges, identifying potential in people is still part of our role. So, how do we do it well? Sometimes, you’ll just have a hunch – call it intuition. That’s not a bad thing, but I still believe there are signs we can look for that will give us clues to inform our intuition.
Excellence – Does the person execute their current responsibilities with excellence? The best predictor of future performance is past performance. Don’t expect a mediocre performer to get better if you give them more responsibility.
Capacity – Does the person have ample capacity to do their current role well? Do they have excess capacity? This may be a sign that they are ready for a bigger challenge.
Passion – Does the person demonstrate passion for their work? The organization? The people they currently lead? If you’re considering them for a leadership position, passion is even more critical.
Desire – Does the person have the desire to do more? Be more? Contribute more? To most leaders, this question seems odd. You may be thinking, “Doesn’t everyone want to do and be more?” No – this is not a universal trait. Some people are quite content to do what they are currently doing – they don’t want more.
Energy – If you’re considering giving a person a bigger challenge and more responsibility, you’ve got to have confidence that they have the personal energy and stamina to pull it off. At Chick-fil-A, we challenge our leaders to be “Fit to Lead.”
Seeing potential in someone and calling it out is one of the best parts of being a leader.[GLS_Shield]
What do you look for when you’re trying to see the untapped potential in someone?