Discovering Potential

Often negative life events cause us to discover potential we did not know we had. I have a friend who became a single mother. She decided to go into real estate. Because she is organized and personable, she did well and soon she had her own small organization. In accomplishing this impressive outcome, she was discovering potential she did not know she had.

One day my wife gave her an audio copy of The Positive Organization. Two weeks later my phone rang. She asked if I had a few minutes. As she spoke, she became increasingly excited. She told me she listened to the entire book and she learned one new thing after another. I asked her what was most important. She said that she had never thought about the notion of having a positive culture and that when you have one the people give more of themselves and the organization will start to run itself.

She then told story after story of recently choosing to not do things herself. Each time a new effort was required, she asked herself how to make it a truly meaningful challenge for one of her people and how she could simultaneously provide support. In every case they had not only responded, they exceeded her expectations.

One example was the onboarding of a new person. She asked the person who was coming on if she would like to help improve and codify the onboarding process so it would help every new employee that came on in the future. The woman loved the idea of having such a lasting impact and threw herself into the effort.

As my friend told this and other stories, she conveyed a sense of awe. It was as if she was watching a rerun of surprising moments in her own life and she was discovering new lessons as she watched. What she was discovering was that potential she had realized in herself over the last few years could also be realized in the other people at work.

She told me she was now envisioning an entirely new kind of organization, one in which she did not have to monitor and control every detail. Instead she could share leadership and the people would more fully lead themselves. This is a discovery that few managers make. So they never aspire to what she was learning to imagine and pursue.

It was an impressive phone call. When she hung up, I noticed that I was emotionally affected. Her joy and gratitude were contagious. My mind began to race with new ideas. I could see potential everywhere.



  • In starting out, why and how did the realtor discover potential she did not think she had?
  • Why is it natural for people in authority to monitor and control employees?
  • Once she began to apply the book, she discovered potential in others. Why?
  • How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s