#potential part 1

It’s an oft used word this.

Especially in my chosen professional field of people and development.

Photo by Arthur Ogleznev on Unsplash

We’ve seen psychometric instruments attempt to measure people’s potential.

We’ve had management decreeing others’ potential.

They’re all flawed. They’re all chasing a dream. They’re all failing to really say what potential is. Even this dictionary definition below feels somewhat bland to how exciting and amazing potential really is in people.

Let me talk to you through this post about Taylor.

Taylor is a graduate of Business from a South-West University in England. Who, through a fascination in business (based on her families small enterprise endeavours) found her way into the business world as an Executive Assistant in a financial services organisation helping people with investments for the everyday person. Not a rich 1% hedge fund agent, a pensions and savings advisor to help people’s money of limited means, work better for them.

Taylor then moved to other industries ending up in retail as the Executive Support for a busy senior leader.

And that’s where I came across her. Being close to the client I worked with, I got to know Taylor. I saw an efficient, competent, committed, friendly and very capable young woman. We worked together as Taylor had the ability to connect me to who I needed to be connected to. And as we worked together I saw something — potential. Could I label what it was? Not really. I could just see elements in Taylor’s way that led me to believe she had MUCH more to offer in the work she did.

Taylor was a humble individual. She was comfortable in doing her best every minute of every day. Taylor didn’t waste time, yet she knew the need to be social, generous, helpful, guiding others. So she was popular but she wasn’t an ego-led individual at all. As a result, I think she was overlooked. And then I could see what could happen: her potential would never be realised, truly and fully.

What potential though? I really didn’t know.

I wanted to help Taylor. I wanted to be a ‘growth accelerator’ an ‘impact enhancer’ and give Taylor the full stack choice of what and who and where she wanted to be. Only of course, on her terms.

Why? Not necessarily because of Taylor herself.

Because I am unhappy with wasted potential even though I don’t know what that potential is. This ethereal life-force and often undefinable power source in people to take on the challenges of the world of work and life itself.

But what about Taylor’s own needs? Surely she has a say about how much of her potential is there, being used and under-utilised/exposed?

Of course, Taylor has the overall say in what she does and how much she dreams and architects her way to whatever success she feels is right for her.

And yet, we all have blind-spots about our potential. We can’t always see or even know what we’re capable of, enjoy doing most and what brings us to life. Sometimes until we find it through chance, experiment, circumstances and discovery. Sometimes because others see it in us.

I had a leader once who saw where I was likely to add the most value to a huge programme of digitally-enabled change. I was his ‘Stakeholder Manager’ and built relationships, created communication and engagement practices, built and shared stories and narrative and became that storyteller to some of the most senior and influential people in and around the organisation.

I didn’t know I had that in me.

I had a teacher once who, at the end of a class on English, would invite me to stand at the front of the class and improvise a story. Based on a topic she gave and characters some of the class gave. I did it. I can’t recall any of them, I didn’t know I had that in me.

Richard and Miss Brown clearly saw that in me and had faith in me to deliver.

How did they know? I hadn’t — to my knowledge — demonstrated those qualities or abilities.

It’s like that with Taylor. She hasn’t yet realised things that I see in her.

So here’s Taylor’s story of 2020-2022.

Since becoming part of a small, but ambitious enterprise, Taylor had gradually assimilated her sense of what it was all about. A mission, an ethos and way of being. Co-creating her role with the founder of the enterprise, Taylor had started to take on more, expand her portfolio of tasks and projects and was already proving to be a really useful member of the team. Her sociability within the team denoted her as a quietly efficient and popular member of the team for reliability and application.

Gradually, more creativity options appeared in her check-ins with the founder. They jointly expanded, gently, the range of what Taylor was doing.

And then, one chance exchange about processes, and workflow, allocation, measurement and performance, it hit her and her founder — we needed someone to hold this space for this growing team.

And it was a turning point. Because as an agent of flow, Taylor had found her niche.

During the early part of 2021, Taylor really took the enterprise’s data to a new level. This team of willing but occasionally misdirected individuals suddenly had such optimised focus on their performance, work, distribution, peaks, troughs and complexities, they revelled in their newfound efficiency ALL because of Taylor’s attention to detail, analysing, reporting and systems built.

As Taylor headed into this next phase, Taylor and her COO ‘productised’ the work she’d done with the team and made it part of the enterprise’s offer to the world. This micro-enterprise was suddenly not only talked about because of its humanised and super-efficient way of working, but it also offered consulting and advice, tools and platforms, open-source communities and research into The Heart and Soul of people, performance and analytics.

Into early 2022, and Taylor started the spin-out venture — H-Cubed — <Heart-led; Humanly-inspired; Hyper-performance> which was the talk of the business world for the newly reimagined enterprises who put people and planet before profit.

Taylor’s venture won Business Start-Up of the year at the end of 2022 as part of the World Economic Forum’s ‘Ones to Watch’ and was featured in Forbes, Harvard Business Review and the Guardian.

Taylor knew none of this would happen as a result of her potential. Nor did her founder colleague. It emerged. In discussion.

What Taylor’s founder sensed was more she could do. They had no clue about what it was. Taylor expressed some interests and they worked it up, together. The founder’s feeling that Taylor had more than she was aware of was a part of that, sure. But it was Taylor who shaped it and unlocked that potential. Self-directed, self-determined and self-made.

Potential therefore is a gift to watch out for.

So I’ll leave you with this:

Who spotted and unlocked YOUR potential?

When have you shared and helped others YOU SEE with untapped potential?

And collectively, how have you crafted potential into actualisation that leaves people more fulfilled, comforted and flourishing in their world?

This will be the first in a multi-part series of potential in people through stories of past, present and a future yet to unfold. No-one will be harmed or forced into complying with this version of the future: It’s merely an illustration of what is possible from someone else’s perspective on them.

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Perry Timms

CEO PTHR |2x TEDx speaker | Author: Transformational HR + The Energized Workplace | HR Most Influential Thinker 2017–2021 | Soulboy + Northampton Town fan