By Rory Vaden
I study successful people for a living. I’m fascinated by what makes them tick, and the behaviors and habits that drive them to achieve great things while the rest of us settle for mediocrity. I use the insights gained over the years to help other people become more successful, and have learned that the best things you can do to facilitate someone else’s success go beyond addressing their skills, behaviors, habits, and mindsets. Unleashing potential in others is about three things:
See Them for Who They Can Become
When I was in college, I joined the Southwestern Company, one of the world’s most intensive training programs on success for young people. Southwestern recruits college students to sell educational books during their summer break. It’s an opportunity to make money, but it’s also an invaluable primer in how to develop a self-disciplined work and life ethic. During my time recruiting students to sell at Southwestern, one student who made a particularly strong impression on me was a young woman named Lara. From the first time we talked, she seemed to have an incredible potential for growth locked inside her, which for some reason had not yet come out. When she heard about the details of our summer program, she immediately knew that it was what she needed to do. Not for the money, but for her confidence. Everyone in the room could see the spark and feel the energy and the passion that had been ignited inside her.
I’ll never forget the next day when Lara cried as she described to me how her family had told her no. She was crying because her friends told her “it wasn’t a good idea.” Most of all, she was crying because she didn’t have enough confidence to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she could participate in the program and be successful.
At some point during that conversation, one of our other young managers came by and said, “Lara! You can do this. You know you can work hard, and if you do that, then you’ll win. You are the kind of person who has what it takes to make this happen.”
Eight months later we were with Lara in Mexico on the free trip that she had won from having a successful first summer. Lara made some money, learned some valuable life skills, and met some new friends, but most of all, she developed within herself a legitimate confidence from being able to do things that others weren’t willing to do. Sparked by a validating compliment at just the right moment, Lara had liberated her potential.
If you’re trying to unleash potential in your organization—whether with a specific person or an entire team—your conviction can easily become their conviction. And paying someone the compliment of their life not only makes you both feel terrific, but also allows you to ignite a spark that can unleash a potential they never knew was there.
Hold People Accountable
Many people would like to be held accountable to what is best for them, yet it can be hard to do that when nobody wants to be criticized—or to offer criticism to others. Once a person sees their potential, the most effective way to encourage lasting change is to remove our own judgments and feelings and simply commit to reminding the person of who they said they wanted to be. The danger is that we sometimes come across as though we’ve got something figured out that they don’t, that they have made some kind of mistake, or that we are right and they are wrong.
In our experience working with clients one on one, we see consistently that what they want is a partner, not a persecutor. An effective accountability partner is someone who attacks the problem that is being dealt with, while supporting the person who is trying to make the change. We do this by saying things like:
Also, keep in mind that there are three ways to get people to take action. The first is to ask them to do it. The second is to force them to do it. And the third is to help them recognize for themselves why it’s in their best interest to take a certain course of action. If you can master the delicate balance of holding people accountable without holding them hostage, you will have dramatically increased your ability to facilitate change
Walk the Walk
In the movie, Liar Liar, Jim Carrey’s character finds out that not only does he have to tell the truth, but he also can’t ask questions when he knows the answer is going to be a lie. That is similar to the relationship of your word to what you ask of others. Being able to do what you say you’re going to do isn’t enough; you have to also not be willing to ask people to do things you wouldn’t do. Mastering this principle is critical to bringing out greatness in others in a way that is both sustainable and full of integrity.
Excerpt from “TAKE THE STAIRS: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success” by Rory Vaden (Perigee). For more information, visit http://www.TakeTheStairsBook.com
Rory Vaden, M.B.A., is co-founder of Southwestern Consulting (http://www.southwesternconsulting.com/Southwestern-Consulting.aspx), a self-discipline strategist and keynote speaker, and author of New York Times bestseller Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success (Perigee).