A key responsibility for each and every leader is to get better; to be the best that they can be. In a recent article, Michael McKinney suggests many of us are not reaching our full potential. So how do we reach our full potential? How do we continuously get better at what we do? How do we know what it is we need to get better at? The Potential Principle may well provide us with the guidance we need to be the best we can be.
In his recent article titled, ‘The Potential Principle: How Good Could You be?’, McKinney reviews a book called The Potential Principle by Mark Sanborn. The Potential Principle focuses on how each and every one of us can become better. How we can reach our full potential. It is important to note at this time that The Potential Principle is not about being perfect – it is simply about being better.
The authors provide a potential matrix that organises a leader’s path toward better into four key areas - Performing, Learning, Reflecting, and Thinking. This model implies that improvement occurs as a result of the things leaders do, the things they think and the environment they operate in. They suggest that each leader’s path towards better starts by gaining an understanding of which of the four key areas the leader wants to be better at.
The four key areas that the Potential Matrix focuses on are:
- Performing: This quadrant is where most leaders spend most of their time. Leaders are constantly starting, and doing things that produce tangible results.
- Learning: The Learning quadrant involves leaders applying intentional curiosity to gain new information and form new ideas. The most effective leaders always make time for learning.
- Reflecting: I have recently spoken about the importance of reflection and Sanborn affirms this as a key principle for improvement. As he suggests, ‘the inner world informs the outer world’.
- Thinking: Leaders need to make time for focused thought – to “think about thinking” and to write down your thoughts to gain clarity by being able to go back and review your notes from past thinking sessions.
The Potential Principle also provides four tools that can help leaders get better and avoid complacency:
- Disruption: Leaders need to be proactive rather than reactive. They need to challenge their thoughts and behaviours to ensure they are continually leaning and improving.
- Focus/Re-Focus: The ability to remain focused. Leaders need to remain focused on the improvement they are seeking. They should not allow themselves to be distracted as this will only impede their journey to becoming better.
- Engage: Ultimately leaders are responsible for their own success, but inviting others to provide feedback creates a powerful coalition. Seek ideas, feedback and guidance from others to add leverage to everything you do.
- Expand: Think about what skills would make the most difference to your personal and professional improvement and direct your energies toward working on the one or two that stand out.
The Potential Principle provides some organised and actionable ideas that leaders can leverage to become better versions of themselves. By understanding the four key areas to concentrate on and by applying the four tools to maximise your improvement, you’ll be headed towards becoming the best you can be. As the great martial artist Bruce Lee said ‘There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them’.
So what is stopping you from getting started on your own path toward recognising your full potential?