Potential - How To Use It

We get excited about potential. Our potential and that of those on our team. It is crazy exciting to think about what is possible. The future inspires us to dream big and hope for amaze-ball results. But potential does not equal performance. Too many people have real world results that fall short of their capabilities.  In my keynote “The Paradox of Potential” I discuss potential and how to use it. There is a spectrum of potential and knowing where you are is key to gaining more traction in your career.

“Potential Management” is a skill that few people are ever taught. We mistakenly think that knowledge is power, but knowledge is really just potential waiting for actions. Managers who see great possibilities in their team members have to get these employees to create a plan to execute on their opportunities.

You Are Capable

What are you capable of? For most of us it is more than we are seeing in our daily performance. When I work with people and ask them how they feel they are really doing in their careers, most will shrug and admit they are not achieving all they think the could. Most people, in my research survey, claim they could (and should) be doing more in relation to their potential and their performance.

Being capable and taking action are not necessarily the same thing. People site many reasons of what is holding them back, including:

  • Lack of focus
  • Worried what others think about them
  • Fear (of failure)
  • No goals or plans
  • Blaming their past
  • Stuck in a comfort zone
  • Procrastination
  • Negative influences in their life
  • Don’t have the right network / connections
  • Achieving their potential is not a priority

When we have excuses that we wear on our sleeves, and when we assign blame outside of self, we do not accountable to overcome any hardships. Add that to the unparalleled numbers of distractions we all encounter every day, it is amazing anyone gets anything done at all.

The Spectrum of Potential

Where anyone is at any point on this spectrum is determined by how much attention they are putting on reaching higher levels of performance. To achieve anything takes a plan and a decision to take action. It is also wrong to think you will ever reach your potential, as our opportunities should always be growing a changing. What you are capable of today will shift tomorrow as you get an advanced degree, add a technical certification, meet a new mentor, read a book, listen to a podcast, etc…

The spectrum of potential is always moving. What limits you can be overcome and the difficult can become easy.

This is where “Potential Management” becomes important. People must be clear as to what they can accomplish, but also what they want to do. Nobody can do it all. Identifying what you can do, and coupling that with your goals, is the first step to your future success.

How To Use Potential

When the whole team (maybe the whole company) gets focused on the potential of the individuals and of the whole group, they can begin to navigate the gap between potential and results. It takes work to get a plan completed that everyone understands and where each person has accountability.

Knowing what you are capable of, and then taking action, will bring more success. I have interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs who are achieving success. They are clear that potential is a roadmap, not a destination. You have to have clear goals if you expect to stay on track in a world full of distractions.

A few tactics to ensure success are to do the following:

  1. Take ownership of your life. Do not ever make excuses or point fingers at others. When something outside of your control happens be sure you are responding in a manner that leads you toward your goals. Wading in blame or self pity will not get you where you are going.
  2. Work past the fear. If you are scared, that is normal. Do the work anyway.
  3. Connect with people.  All opportunities come from people, so you have to network and build relationships.
  4. Accept that change happens. Yes, your cheese will get moved.  Pivot.
  5. Try new things. If you do the same things you will get the same results.
  6. Believe in yourself. If you do not believe you can achieve great things, then you can’t and wont.

Get Focused

Clearly identify your potential and make it the focus of your actions. It is hard to put your attention onto anything, as there are so many distractions.  I find that when I create lists and schedule time in my calendar to work on specific tasks, it is easier to get things done. Many people find meditation to be useful, but I struggle with this practice. My trick is exercise. When I go for a long fun (I consider 3 miles a long run) my mind can get focused on issues I need to tackle.

It is also helpful to have other people engaged in your efforts. Engage co-workers or peer group in your plans. Make sure you are open to their feedback, as their perceptions of your potential might be more realistic than your own (but also be cautious of those who are over critical of too positive).

Navigate your journey toward results with purpose. Be excited about your potential.


Thom Singer is a keynote speaker and professional master of ceremonies / emcee.  He is also the host of the entrepreneurs podcast, “Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do”.  www.ThomSinger.com