How to build human potential: fostering talent and energy

No matter how talented some one is unless they choose to behave in ways that enable success their capabilities add little value and their human potential is limited

Great results are achieved when capable, engaged people invest energy and behave in ways that enable success of the whole team, writes Karen Gately

The performance of your business is unquestionably linked to your leadership team’s ability to tap into human potential encapsulated in the talents, energy and approach of every team member.

Have you observed the incompetent genius at work? Most leaders I meet have dealt with the team member who has the technical knowledge, skills and experience needed and yet fails to perform in their role. While some lack necessary interpersonal skills others bring behaviours that undermine trust, respect and ultimately their ability to work as an effective member of a team.

The reality is no matter how talented some one is unless they choose to behave in ways that enable success their capabilities add little value. In short, ineffective behaviour and poorly developed interpersonal skills hold some people back from applying the full strength of their capabilities to achieving what your business needs them to.

“Developing talent is essential to any organisations ability to thrive”

Our behavioural choices are often a reflection of the strength of our spirit. Imagine your spirit is a balloon filled with positive energy. The strength of this positive energy reserve has a profound impact on how you think, feel and behave. When your spirit is energised you are entirely more likely to feel and be optimistic, determined, driven or courageous. Conversely when drained of positive energy thoughts and emotions that undermine success are likely to influence your choices.

Grow talent
Developing talent is essential to any organisations ability to thrive. The ultimate indicator of success is the ability to access capabilities from within your business when you need to. In other words having the knowledge, skills and experience needed to achieve your strategic objectives at every step along your organisations journey.

Beyond influencing success, providing people with the chance to learn and grow is crucial to keeping them with your business. Training and the opportunity to learn new things on the job are among the most commonly stated reasons people give for choosing to join, stay or leave an organisation. Send a strong signal to your people that you are interested in and committed to their development and advancement.

Grow your own talent
A ‘grow-your-own’ strategy is among the most effective ways to develop the capabilities your business needs. That is, focusing on supporting members of your organisation to gain the skills and experience they need to advance their careers with your business.  Start with your organisation’s strategic plan, identify capabilities that will enable success and competitiveness, and develop learning solutions to deliberately foster these competencies over time.

While of course it is at times necessary to hire people from outside of your business, a long term focused grow-your-own strategy will ultimately allow you to access key capabilities when needed. Future leaders aligned to your organisations culture and unique skill or industry knowledge can often best be developed internally. Critically, people who have ‘grown up’ in your business and been promoted because they are both capable and cultural ambassadors are those most likely to enable your business to thrive.

Create a learning culture
A strong culture of learning begins with the example leaders set. While HR play a critical role in identifying, designing and facilitating learning initiatives, direct report managers have the greatest influence on the extent to which people commit to learning. Leaders need to lead by example by placing high value on ongoing learning. Company policies and programs should encourage and support people to continue their studies. Leaders need to dedicate time and resources to training. Read further on the future of employee learning culture and the trends to consider in this space.

“Direct report managers have the greatest influence on the extent to which people commit to learning”

Create an environment where people feel not only safe to ask for help and guidance, but motivated to do so. When the people on your team want to learn from one another and seek out the support they need, the depth of their learning benefits. Allow room for mistakes but expect people to take ownership for learning from their experiences. Focus on the importance of ‘one team’ where every member is expected to be committed to the team’s success and share their knowledge with their colleagues.

Every leaders role
Expect every supervisor, up through the senior leadership team, understands the ‘must-have’ knowledge, skills and experience required to succeed in each role across their team. Only with this awareness will they be positioned to make effective decisions about learning and development priorities. It is every people manager’s job to understand which skills are mission critical and which, while valuable, are less likely to make a significant difference.

Encourage a balanced focus on development initiatives that address short-term needs with those focused on longer-term objectives. Balance focus between building technical, interpersonal, and personal capabilities. Expect every leader to take a hands-on approach to coaching their team. Guiding people to identify capabilities they need to improve and grow, creating opportunities for learning and providing feedback and advise along the way are vital roles every people manager needs to play.

Energise people
Among the most important ways leaders influence success is by energising their team’s spirit. Take some time to contemplate the impact your own team’s spirit is having on the choices people make and the reality that creates. Are people energised and choosing to strive, confront challenge and win? Are they choosing to behave successfully? Or is the lack of vitality some people feel likely to be causing them to avoid responsibility and minimise their contribution?

“Expect every leader to take a hands-on approach to coaching their team”

Energising influencers
Among the most powerful steps any leader can take to energise their team’s spirit include:

  1. Align people with their passions. Look for every opportunity to get people involved in the things they love doing.  Hire those who are interested in your industry and have a strong desire to do the job you have on offer. When people do jobs they love they are likely to gain energy from their work experiences.
  2. Create a compelling vision. Show people where the organisation is heading and why you want to get there. Understanding but fuels the organisation mission is crucial to help people feel connected to and inspired by it. Build a picture of purpose and optimism; help people to see why what you do matters and the role you need them to play.
  3. Inspire ambition. Aiming for average is unlikely to inspire many people to bring passion to their job. While it’s important to set realist and achievable goals, aiming high and showing people why you believe in their ability to succeed is unquestionably energising. When people are uncertain however they are likely to be daunted and drained by even the thought of the expectations you hold.
  4. Build great relationships. The quality of any relationship is likely to have a draining or energising impact on our spirit. Trust and respect are at the heart of success. People are more likely to be energised and strive to succeed when they feel both trusted and trust toward others. When they trust and respect the organisation they work for and the colleagues they spend time with, they are likely to give things a go and offer their ideas.
  5. Empower. While providing guidance and direction is important so too is empowering people to get on with doing their jobs. Empowering people, by allowing them to contribute to the full extent of their potential, is essential to having an energising influence. Give people the opportunity to influence the way their job is done and trust them to take full responsibility unless proven otherwise.

Last, but most certainly not least, ensure people are having fun doing what they do. Have you met the schoolteacher who doesn’t like kids? The HR professional who doesn’t like working with people? Unless people like their job they are unlikely to be energised by it and are entirely unlikely to thrive.  Create a fun and yet accountable workplace environment where people can laugh, be themselves and enjoy being rewarded for their contribution.

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