“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside while still alive. Never surrender” -Tupac Shakur

How to Hire & Lead Your Team to Realize Their Potential — 5 Steps

Proximity to the problem matters more than proximity to the solution.

Managing a team is like balancing a budget — you set milestone dates, have quarterly updates, annual reviews, and make sure that your assets & equity outweigh your liabilities. Time consuming, and difficult to get right, but simple to understand.

Hiring & Leading a team to realize their potential is like crafting a marble statue from a block of marble — there is no date for completion, progress is relative, success is ambiguous, and it’s natural beauty must be balanced by its natural fragility.

If human potential is like a block of marble, then great leaders are closer to artists than accountants. An individual may have talent, or in this example, a pure & glowing piece of marble, but that does necessarily mean it will lead to a beautiful and moving piece of human achievement.

Coaches, Parents, Employers, Leaders — They are all like Michelangelo. It is their job to ask, ‘how can I turn this block of marble into something beautiful’.

That is, potential may sit within the individual but it is the leaders role to set it free from the unstructured periphery it resides.

So how do you hire for potential, and how to craft and develop your employees to realize their potential?

  1. Start by viewing the job you’re hiring for as a set of problems: Write down what the five short & long term problems are that you expect this role to face and solve. Why no more than 5? Because if an individual can’t remember what they’re trying to achieve off the top of their head they cannot prioritize effectively.
  2. Focus your candidate criteria & interview questions only on determining the candidates closeness to the problems that are important: IQ, EQ, university degree, previous salary, titles that convey proximity but not impact, do not create great fits for jobs on their own. How have the problems that you are trying to solve directly impacted the candidate and why does the candidate believe this experience makes them the right individual to solve these problems. That’s all that matters.
  3. Potential should not be judged, but uncovered: Target your interview questions to understand how their experience leads to their understanding of the problems facing this role. Be careful not to judge whether they have the technical skills to solve the problems you face in your role.
  4. Supporting individual success is not about helping individuals to be the best at what they do, it is about helping them to be the right fit for who they support: Just because somebody may never be the best at what they do, or the way the current market operates wouldn’t support what they are trying to achieve, does not mean they will not achieve success. A kid may never become an NBA star, and they never be the best player on any court they play on, but that does not mean they will not be the right player for their team on that court and eventually the right player for an NBA team. Success is relative to others, not absolute to oneself.
  5. Failure is only a negative when it doesn’t lead to change: So support employees to fail, to grow, to shrink, to adapt, to discover, to unravel, to be pieced back together again. Our imperfections become key identifiers of our unique understanding of self — and that understanding of self helps individuals discover their potential independent of their talent. So don’t critisize individuals for their imperfections and their short-comings, but help them to become self-aware of how these affect others, and how they can use thee experiences to support positive change.

Talent is absolute to the individual, but potential is relative to leadership.

Talent may make it easier for a leader to craft a beautiful marble statue, but it does not guarantee it’s success. To be a great leader, understand that you hold the tools to uncover the skills of those around you. Some pieces will have unique blemishes that require a more careful & creative approach, but it also provides an opportunity for great leaders to demonstrate their craft.

You can be a great leader.

Start by hiring for the right problems & appreciating the value of the right question as well as the right answer. Fairly quickly you will start to uncover the natural beauty of when potential, not just talent, is realised.

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