In the early days of the internet, Joe, founded a pioneering yellow-pages company to integrate directory listings with mapping technology. He managed to secure backing from a venture-capital firm who evaluated all the existing executives on their potential for guiding the future of the company. Joe, they felt didn’t have the makeup for leadership, having never displayed leadership in his high school or college life. They determined he lacked the potential to set the future vision and to build the right team around him.
Frustrated with this diminished position and believing the investors didn’t see much of a future for him, Joe waited for the company to be acquired. He left to start his own financial-services company.
“Joe” is a pseudonym. His real name is Elon. That yellow-pages company was acquired by Compaq for $307 million. The financial-services company, X.com, became better known as PayPal and sold to eBay for $15 billion. His reinvention of the automobile industry (Tesla), his re invigoration of the space industry (SpaceX), as well as his counter intuitive alarm-sounding of the dangers of AI all appear to contradict those earlier appraisals, that Elon Musk doesn’t have potential.
Nine Lies About Work shares, “Evidence for the existence of general potential is nonexistent. Instead the evidence points in exactly the opposite direction. We know that each person’s brain grows by adding more synaptic connections, that each person’s synaptic pattern is unique, and that therefore each person’s brain grows uniquely.”
- The ability to learn exists in us all,
- It shows up differently in each of us, and
- While we can all get better at anything, none of us will ever be able to rewire our brains to excel at everything.
Low potential “explicitly stamps large numbers of people with a “less than” branding, derived not from a measure of current performance but from a rater’s hopelessly unreliable rating of a thing that isn’t a thing.”
Potential is a one-sided evaluation. Momentum is an ongoing conversation. Momentum, on the other hand, represents the opposite of “up-or-out” thinking. And it’s the best concept to address one of the key survey items that measure engagement and performance: “In my work, I am always challenged to grow.”
Teams are where we live, and team leaders can make or break that experience for us. Rather than investing in systems and processes to provide a fallback in case our managers are found wanting, Nine Lies About Work feel it’s far better to invest in helping our team leaders do what we need them to, by:
- Getting rid of ratings of “potential,”
- Teaching team leaders what we know about human growth, and
- Prompting them to discuss careers with their people in terms of momentum—in terms of who each team member is, and in terms of how fast each is moving through the world.
He asked them to imagine their dream job, splitting them into pairs to search LinkedIn for the jobs closely matching their ideal. With their partner they narrowed the list to one or two roles they found most exciting. Then he asked them to analyze their jobs for their skills experiences and qualifications and compare them to those they already had in order to figure out the new ones they wanted.
“I think there’s a lot of energy within our teams that isn’t being used, and I have a lot of people who, given the right circumstances, the right engagements, the right customer—whatever it is, we can find what enables them to share that energy, to bring it out.”
“It changed the conversation,” he said, “from how we could get another job outside, to how we could build our practice to be the best professionals we could be—to deliver better service internally, but also to build up our transferable skills.”
- Stage 1: Disciplined People
- Stage 2: Disciplined Thought
- Stage 3: Disciplined Action
- Stage 4: Build Greatness
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Next Blog – Lie #8 Work-life balance matters most
The assumption pervading our working world is that “work is bad” and “life is good,” and therefore work-life balance matters most. Next blog we explore the TRUTH: Love-in-work matters most (Because that’s what work is really for.)