I have just spent an afternoon working on my book clarifying the story I want to tell on releasing peoples potential. Tomorrow I am also working on a values project with a very dear friend of mine so a number of thoughts have been swimming through my mind.
I am fascinated by the way people interact/understand themselves and others. I have been fortunate to work with some of the most talented people in the world in the fields of sport, business and government institutions. I have begun to see similarities with people, teams and organisations that push the limits of their potential on constant basis (“vurtus unum factum non est”, excellence is not a single act). They have a clear vision, they understand their start point, they operate in the pressure zone and they commit to an activity fully (more on this at a later date).
But what does pushing one’s potential actually mean and therefore what does success look like if you have pushed your potential?
I think it is important to be clear on what success/potential therefore looks, sounds and feels like for each individual, team or organisation. Success/potential are therefore very big words to consider in more depth.
Words can sometimes be like icebergs, we only see the top third. The two thirds that lie beneath the water have potentially significantly different meanings to each of us. We need to ensure that we are clear on what success means to ourselves, this helps us focus and realise when we have achieved the success we set out for.
Let’s consider the word Trustworthiness as an example, (which is also one of the words in my individual ethos statement). What does it mean to you? Think for a moment before moving on. To me it means that what I say, think, feel and do are the same thing. Now what does that actually mean to someone else listening to me use that word, what will they see to prove that I am trustworthy? For me, it means that if I say I am going to undertake something then I will do it exactly as I stated I would and deliver it to the highest standards. If I do not think I have the time to do something or I am not able to do it to the required standard then I will tell someone I am unable to do it (it does not mean I am perfect in this desire but it means that I am aware if I do not achieve it and I can take responsibility and do something about it). The most important thing is that I have clarified what the word means to me and others. There is no doubt about what the word means.
I recently spoke to a group of senior executives in an important public sector that were unable to accurately recall their group ethos/vision. They had actually agreed to their joint vision/statement only month’s earlier. They could not recall it because they did not believe in the vision that they had created (they therefore lacked focus), their idea of success was unclear and they were not willing to push themselves in order to reach their potential. This meant that a highly talented group of people would not push the boundries of thier potential as a team.
“We need to sack some of them, they have performed below an acceptable standard”,
“Jim is correct Floyd, we need to remove some of the leaders, they were diabolical, unprofessional and we are about to work with these individuals on a difficult task”.
These were just some of the comments made about a group of soldiers I was involved in training prior to them deploying for the very first time to a very difficult and dangerous area.
In the group of reserve soldiers there were bank managers, barristers, firemen, policemen, postmen etc. We had been working hard for three weeks of a five week pre-deployment training package and I had also been involved in training them up to a higher standard of soldiering over a period of 12 months prior to this trg package.
I believed that they were performing well and decided to leave them for a weekend to allow them to run their own trg for three days alongside my inner team (regular instructors). The exercise I asked them to undertake was low level and I had no doubt that they would perform well.
They did not, they made lots of mistakes and I was called back to the programme after the first 24hrs hours. I listened to the feedback from the instructors and indeed if everything was correct from their recall of events the entire team had performed well below an acceptable standard and one that I would not have tolerated had I been there.
The advice I was given from a number of different individuals was to sack people but I instinctively knew that this was not the correct way forward (although I did not fully understand why I instinctively knew what the correct thing to do was).
I decided that I had to rearrange certain members of the groups because they were not working well together and I knew that I had to motivate and install confidence in the individuals and teams to prepare them for the deployment ahead and ensure that we got back to a level of trust in one another capabilities as soon as possible.
My vision of what was needed was very clear and most importantly I knew that all of these people were capable of performing well if they believed in themselves and pushed their abilities a little further. However I now only had two weeks to undertake this and then send these groups to an extremely dangerous area with little external support for them if they got into difficulties.
I also knew that I was going against advice from close colleagues and friends. I told my inner team what I was going to do and they all disagreed with my approach but the most important element was that although they disagreed with my decision they trusted me and told me they would support my approach. I then went to speak with everyone in the team. There was not shouting or blaming just a statement of fact and an understanding of my disappointment in thier abilities (more of this on another occasion).
It is important in these situations to realise the potential of the people that you have in front of you and what you need to do for them to realise how talented they are. In this case their potential was to do a similar job to a regular group of soldiers in a hostile environment and achieve something that was completely outside their normal comfort zone.
This group had lost a little confidence in themselves and had lowered their performance level to drop to the lowest common denominator rather than maintain their performance at the highest level of their ability (I see this too often in many different organisations, “set the bar low and you will surely achieve it”).
So what is my conclusion? Performing to your potential in my opinion is being aware of yourself and reactions in a multitude of different scenarios so that you are flexible in thought and body to be able to perform to the best of your ability at any given moment in time (I may not control events around me but I can control how I react to the events). In effect you are able to work in the “eye of the storm” as well as being a human being and having the ability to care about your fellow man/woman and the environment. I would call this understanding the peaceful warrior’s code (I use the term warrior because you have to be prepared to fight for what you believe, this does not necessarily mean physically but mentally as well. The word peaceful is that you understand that not everyone is at the same level of development as one another and therefore we need to teach and lead people as well).
I finally understood why I knew what to do with team above when being taught about Carl Jung’s theories of human dynamics and interactions (more to follow).
In fact, truly reaching your potential is that you acquire the job title of being a human being who understands what the flow of life is actually about. That sometimes you have to fight for what you believe, sometimes you have to concede on what you currently believe, that you should constantly seek to learn new things and be FLEXIBLE of mind and body at all times.
The demands on society today are great. The world is changing very fast and we have many problems to deal with on global scale. Therefore the need to perform to our potential is even greater now than ever before, not only when faced with life changing moments but in normal everyday life. Nature is very unfair to those who do not evolve regardless of strength or power. Have a wonderful day………………………….
The team I took away were the first group since 1950 to undertake such a difficult task, they came back a strong group of men who worked hard for one another and received international plaudits on what they achieved. At the end of the tasks of my inner team shook my hand and said they would have these men alongside them at anytime in the future. A moment to celebrate people reaching their potential.