Unleashing human potential

In graduate school while studying Industrial Organisational Psychology I focused on Talent Management. Not the type of talent management related directly to your talent pipeline or organisational needs on a large scale but the direct talent needs leaders have on their teams. The first area that I researched was motivation and its organisational significance as it relates to retention.

One of the most profound findings about motivation, that most of us already know from research and experience, is that to keep people engaged, satisfied, and to retain them we need to know them. McGregor’s (1994) Theory Y is that human potential can be unearthed if leaders delve deeper into providing guidance to employees, releasing potential, creating opportunities, removing obstacles, and encouraging growth. And a statistical reminder: The Hay Group (2002) identified that 73 percent of dissatisfied employees felt their organisation had no clear direction and that many employees leave their jobs because they are unhappy with their boss. And if you are not convinced yet, Daniel Pink synthesized loads of research from MIT, the London School of Economics and the Federal Reserve Bank into three areas that he calls mastery, autonomy, and purpose. I’ll bucket this all into one category, Unleashing Human Potential.

So, how do leaders unleash human potential and therefore keep people around longer (if they want to stay)? Even though you may have a simple answer for this, many leaders do not and find it difficult to get under the surface in an authentic genuine manner that is unobtrusive, and engages people on a visceral level.

Think about the characteristics of an iceberg. Most likely you are thinking its big and most of it is underwater or cannot be seen. You can use an iceberg as a metaphor for our people. On the surface you only see and hear behaviors, actions and appearance, which is not much. Below the surface are all the factors that inform what they do and say, which is a lot. The easiest thing leaders can do to better know them is inquire.

 Here are three conversation topics that can help get you started:

1) Passions or drivers (What gets them up in the morning?)

2) Talent and skill (What are they good at and what do they like to work on?)

3) Organisational alignment (Where do they see themselves fitting in the business as it grows and changes?)

If you, as the leader, get to know your people better, it helps set the tone that what your people do, say, and think matters. You learn what to pay attention to in order to more effectively unleash their human potential and hopefully keep them with your organisation!

Reid Templeton is a Consultant in Impact Americas.