5 Ways Leaders Can Tap Into Their Employees’ Full Potential

Wasted potential, it’s how most companies lose growth opportunities and operational and service improvements. It happens when leaders fail to tap into people’s potential. One way they do this is when they fail to recognize that some people have other skills and talents, not just hiring someone to follow a pre-determined process.

Imagine the following scenario, you have a business that sells flowers. You recently hired someone who was previously a cast member at Disneyland. You hire this person to help with order fulfillment, which includes activities finding the components required for the order and putting the flower arrangement together. Remember, this person was a former cast member at Disneyland. He or she has experience in delivering a memorable customer experience, which could highly benefit your business.

Yet, you don’t tap into that knowledge and experience because you just want them to do the job you hired him/her for. And this is where you lose opportunities to improve your business!

This is just a very simple example that happens across all types of businesses, big and small. When someone is good at following a pre-determined process doesn’t mean they’re talented; it means they’re redundant. It doesn’t take talent to follow a pre-determined process; it takes talent to create a better process.

Why do business leaders fail to tap into their employee’s full range of skills and talent? Because most businesses aren’t looking for fresh thinking, they’re looking for more of the same thinking.

And, more of the same thinking will get you the same results.

Bring and recognize fresh thinking in your organization

Companies like Google, Pixar, and Apple, hire people with diverse backgrounds from all walks of life because they understand that diversity breeds creativity and innovation. Those that don’t understand this principle waste potential; and they waste talent.

Different people bring different knowledge bases, experiences, and perspectives to the table. Having people from different backgrounds or being able to access them means that different ideas and perspectives will enrich and deepen the process of innovation.

As a business leader, you want to have access to diverse people. You want to be able to force perspectives. Each different perspective provides a source of ideas. The idea is to challenge ideas and stretch thinking. What can the manager of a five-star hotel learn from a zoo? What can an emergency room doctor learn from working in a fast-food restaurant?

Bringing in different perspectives is how you tap into fresh thinking; and, recognize that you have fresh thinking in your organization,

Innovation is as much about attitude and perspective as it is about process. So you deliberately block innovation when you fail to consider people’s perspectives.

How can businesses discover employee’s skills?

Here are 5 ways business leaders can tap into their employees’ full range of skills, talents, and perspectives:

  • Skill Audits
    • Description: Periodically assess and catalog the skills and talents of employees.
    • Action: Use tools like skills inventory software or conduct personal interviews to understand hidden talents and skills not currently utilized.
  • Cross-functional Teams:
    • Description: Form teams with members from different departments or functions to foster diverse thinking.
    • Action: Create project groups that require a mix of skills from marketing, sales, tech, HR, etc.
  • Encourage Side Projects
    • Description: Allow employees to work on projects outside their primary role, which can lead to innovation and uncover hidden talents.
    • Action: Google’s “20% Time” is a famous example where employees can spend 20% of their time on side projects.
  • Celebrate Unique Talents
    • Description: Encourage employees to share and demonstrate their unique talents, even if they’re not directly related to their job.
    • Action: Host talent shows, “hobby days”, or special interest group sessions.
  • Encourage Constructive Dissent
    • Description: Create a culture where employees feel safe to voice dissenting opinions or alternative viewpoints.
    • Action: During meetings, encourage “devil’s advocate” perspectives and reward constructive feedback.

Bottom line: As a business leader, it’s your job to bring out your employee’s full potential. First, you need to create the environment for this to happen. Second, get to know your people beyond the skills you hired them for.