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3 Ways to Unlock Your Employees' Potential

One of the greatest resources in corporate Canada is openly and unnecessarily going to waste. It’s not money, it’s not hydro-electricity and no, it’s not printer ink. It’s potential. These dynamic and multifaceted humans that work on your team may very well be, wait-for-it, good at more than just one thing. They’re not just sales-people. They could be a painting-golfing-analytical-with-a-side-of-novelist sales person. And marketers aren’t just marketers. They could be a behind-the-scenes mathematician or the founder of the next Snapchat. People are ripe with possibilities and potential. And as a leader, it’s your job to maximize on each team member’s individual potential. Here’s 3 simple ways to do that from the top:

1. Say “I Don’t Know”

Leaders are often expected to have it all, know it all, and be walking encyclopedias of constant wisdom about their industry/market/product. But the reality is even leaders like Mark Zuckerberg don’t know everything. Saying “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” at meetings should not be a stamp of failure but should instead be an encouraged part of your regimen. It opens up the floor for those thoughts and ideas that your team have been mentally wrestling with (or mentally rehearsing) to go public. It pulls them out of their “I’m listening to good ideas” mode into an “I’m collaborating with good ideas” mentality. When you pass the conch, it puts the onus on your employees to get creative with solutions and ideas, and it encourages potential to be discovered. You never know what hides in the silence of a boardroom — but it could be the next best idea (or even the next Facebook).

2. Ask About Spare Time

That colleague that’s in sales but writes in his spare time? That graphic designer that does coding classes on her weekends? These are entire skill sets going unused at work simply because they don’t fall under the umbrella of that person’s technical job description. Use the full span of your employees’ potential by asking these simple words: What do you enjoy doing on your free time? Find out what they fill their schedule with on their weekends and introduce what you can of that at work; if they love doing those activities in their spare time they will certainly love doing it while getting paid for it. If some of their top endorsements on LinkedIn are for skills not mentioned in their job description, that’s a strong indication that their potential is not being reached within the four walls at work. So next time, get that sales guy to write up the content for your next presentation or brochure. Call on that graphic designer the next time your website crashes (and can’t be solved by the typical ‘Have you tried restarting it?’). Ensuring potential is used will benefit both team and leader alike.

3. Stretch High Performers

Has someone been hitting every target consistently for the past 6 months? Could they do it with just a pinky and their eyes closed? Meet the high performers who are desperately awaiting a challenge and a use of their potential. If effort is no longer needed, if they receive multiple hi-fives at the end of every quarter, if their name is ALWAYS on the “wins” board, then there’s a serious lack of full talent being used. We’re not insinuating that they’re not working hard, it’s just that their work may be a little easy. As a leader, it’s your job to identify when your employees simply aren’t being stretched, challenged, or fully utilized. If the goals are easily achievable, make SMART goals that are more difficult. If the quotas (and the targets) are constantly being hit, sit down over a coffee and realign the bulls-eye.

Lindsay Feitsma

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