Archives For Potential Series


Globalization and rapidly changing technology continue to sweep the world. All organizations work across boundaries and  borders of one type or another and face significant challenges as they seek to reach and maintain market leadership.  Inherent in those challenges are often unrealized opportunities. One such opportunity, teams, offer a wealth of leverage to the discerning  leader. Our research repeatedly identifies the following advantages when teams are leveraged effectively:

–       Economies of scale and scope are realized

–       Effective learning & knowledge transfer takes place

–       Strategic capabilities are enhanced

–       More innovative products and services are developed

–       Better understanding of customers is achieved

–       Strong cultural intelligence fostering competitive advantage is accomplished

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This post is about you – as an organizational leader. Lifelong learning is a critical component of our personal and professional growth that we often seem to forget as we rise through the ranks. Unfortunately, as most of us become more senior within the organization, there is an undeniable challenge we face – facilitating our own ongoing growth and development. It becomes more and more difficult to identify growth opportunities, training, relevant readings, etc. and to deny the pull to remain stagnant – focusing on what we already know vs. the potential we have to know more. Perhaps most importantly, there is often a stealth sense of false complacency that emerges as a result of past success. However, the reality is that with the frequency and scale of change in global organizations, the leader that is not continually growing and changing with the environment may very well find that  s/he has been left behind at the last jumping off point.

Ultimately, you are responsible for your own personal development…and reaching your potential.  Many leaders let the business take priority over reaching their potential, or wait for the company to assume ownership of their development. Is this really what is most beneficial for you, and by default, the organizaion?  As leaders, it is easy to forget that it is far more effective to stretch ourselves, and thereby our organizations, than it is to settle for the status quo.  But how do you continually push yourself to think harder and go further? You can employ any number of self-help philosophies, but the reality is that you will probably not follow through – and if you do, they will typically not generate the results you hoped they would.

Finding and engaging a good mentor may be a critical success factor you are missing. Mentoring is a process about enabling and supporting your personal and professional growth. Organizational life can sometimes feel like climbing up the side of a mountain – as we struggle up the steep parts we are breathless, challenged, single-minded, and in need of support and sustenance. There may even be some moves we can not make without being tied to a partner. Mentoring can help with your changes in altitude, and enable you to get to higher ground – where you just may be able to see things from a different perspective. You will be able to see the mountains in the distance and new ways forward that were just not visible from your position below. Your mentor should facilitate a process that leads you to consider different perspectives, new ways of thinking, and deeper self-knowledge.

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In an ever-changing global marketplace, those who lead across boundaries and borders are increasingly required to become Extreme Team Captains – guiding the organization through unfamiliar and turbulent environments, while maximizing the functional, geographical, and cultural diversity of their teams.  In today’s multicultural, dynamic world, ensuring the continuous learning and growth of global leaders is critical to achieving high performance and sustainable growth in every organization.

With markets, suppliers, competitors, technology, and customers around the world constantly changing the rules of the game, traditional leadership models no longer work. Companies need leaders of exceptionally high caliber and quality, as they are a key component of the only true source of competitive advantage – people. But how do we create this Extreme Global LeaderTM? Is there the possibility of exceptional leadership that transcends accepted leadership characteristics to create a global leader that is emotionally, politically, and culturally intelligent?  How do these high-potential leaders evolve and become extreme? What is the most effective method of creating a transformational leader?

Last week we pondered potential and its source. If we look at the critical components of what we perceive to be potential (performance, emotional intelligence, motivation, and agility), is it possible to leverage potential through traditional training and/or coaching? Both are valuable tools for learning, but have entirely different purposes and outcomes.

The purpose of training is to teach:

  • skills
  • methods
  • theories
  • tactics
  • strategies

It is the process of disseminating information from the trainer to the leader. Training provides a pre-set curriculum and the trainer imparts what is important for the student to know. Trainers have subject matter expertise and an understanding of teaching methods that work well with adult learners. Training offers economies of scale so, even when customized, it is often less expensive than coaching for a comparable number of students. Because training is typically a one-time event with little to no reinforcement, the benefits may have a very short shelf life.

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Potential: What Is It?

January 21, 2011 — Leave a comment

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From a very young age, we all want to be considered as having potential, however potential is often an overused and ambiguous word. Potential… for what? It doesn’t mean a lot by itself, so what do we mean by potential? What is it? What does it look like?  How do we define it and make it more measurable and tangible? What is potential, really? Is it a possibility…a proposed capability for becoming something more? But what?  How does a leader reach their potential if it cannot clearly be defined? Can we ever really grasp our potential? If we do and we reach it… what then?

In some ways potential is a limiting descriptor because there is really no way of knowing if we have reached our potential. Most of us know of The Peter Principle… does our potential equate only to rising to our own level of incompetence? Personally, I hope not!

Potential is a complex concept and there is little agreement about what it actually means, so we need to start by breaking it down into some key components that are generally expected of people considered to have potential:

  • Performance: the consistent capability to exceed expectations in regards to the accomplishment of specific tasks measured against preset standards of accuracy, completeness, cost, and speed.
  • Emotional Intelligence: the ability, capacity, or skill to identify, assess, and control the emotions of self, others, and groups.
  • Motivation/ Ambition: the inspiration or driving force to succeed.
  • Agility: the cognitive bandwidth to learn from past experiences, seeing things in a broader context and quickly applying observations to new situations – applying life experience, noticing patterns, and deriving general guidelines that can be applied to new situations.

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Exceptional leaders convey a vision and, through their example, expand others’ view of what is possible – rather than what is not. They know their business, set high expectations across boundaries and borders, create a strong sense of community, and through effective team-building and mentoring – they get results.

Leaders demonstrate “how” to achieve results both in what they do, as well as in who they show themselves to be. It is no longer enough to have superior “technical” skills – people are looking for inspiration and accountability in their leaders. In terms of responsibilities, strong leaders emphasize the importance and priority of enhancing the skills and knowledge of the people in the organization, creating a common culture of expectations around the use of skills and knowledge, facilitating the ability of the organization to align in a productive way, and holding individuals accountable for their contributions to the collective results.

In addition, when great leaders act, they do so not only because their role demands it, but also because their own purpose, values, beliefs, and assumptions require it. Who they are, what they do, and how they do it is powerfully congruent and is leveraged for the good of the organization and the people within it. As a result, they are highly authentic, credible, and inspirational – which, in turn, motivates others to act genuinely and powerfully, as well.

Some people are born with a burning desire to succeed, some develop the desire to achieve greatness through life circumstance, and some people are okay with the status quo – they wake up every day and just let the world happen to them. The reality is that we need all types of people to function successfully, however in most successful global organizations there are a handful of extraordinary leaders who make all the difference – but there are also hundreds of ordinary leaders who are more concerned with meeting this years’ numbers than anything else. But what would happen if we could double that handful of “Extreme LeadersTM” in organizations?  Imagine the impact it would have on any business – not to mention partners and customers – if we could accurately identify those high potential leaders that are prepared to go above and beyond and develop them into Extreme LeadersTM that sustainably produce game-changing results.

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