Developing Unrealized Potential in Your Staff

I remember attending a workshop for managers presented by Stephen Covey when he asked the question “At what level are your staff resources being utilized?” He directed people to raise their hands if it was 95%, 80% and so on. Sadly, of the 800 plus people in attendance, very few could claim any substantial use of these resources. Covey made his point. It emphasized to me that really no-one (statistically speaking) believes that they are exploiting (in the good sense) the talents and possible contributions of their people. The tragedy here is that this is a lose-lose situation. People long to be a part of something that is significant, and companies want highly performing teams that produce results. This combination is not so common. I left wondering if it were really possible to attain such a lofty goal.

My study of the humanities over the years has convinced me that it is possible, when we both understand and know how to truly incent human beings, and actually put it into practice. The principles are actually very simple, yet it’s hard to obtain. Why? It’s because truth is apparent, but it’s not intuitive. I liken the task to be somewhat similar to training a Golden Retriever. When training a dog, you have to use positive incentives and stimulus that reinforces good behavior. If you want him to sit by the door and use your back yard for his bathroom, it will not help to beat him with a rolled up newspaper until he gets it right. One has to be patient, use treats and encouragement, to convert the animal into man’s best friend. People are much the same-they do not respond to, or appreciate being shamed, guilted or punished to perform well. If we can see clearly how it works in the animal world, then why is it so hard to do with humans?

The fact is, there are some professional practices and techniques that really work. After we adopted Bailey, our Golden Retriever, I took him to an obedience class and learned from the experts how to turn this beast into one of the most obedient and pleasant household pets. I could not have done it on my own. What I was taught made sense, but actually putting the principles into practice was tough.

To truly develop the unrealized potential of our staff, we must, as managers, use the following incentives:

  • Make them think. We call them out through discovery-based probing, by asking questions of them rather than giving them answers. It’s just like a college test. If we know we have to pass the test to graduate, we will study the material. No test I’ve ever taken began by giving me the answers. Telling bosses must convert their knowledge base into curious questioning that makes the staff member think. Once the manager finds good thinking, he must give that person a reward. It’s called encouragement.
  • Create a career path. True delegation is a staff development system. We should delegate primarily to develop the unrealized potential in our staff, versus working to just get stuff off our plates. The best way to do this is to employ levels of freedom for tasks we want to transition, then use the questioning process above to cultivate good judgment in them, which will translate into good decisions through repetition. Using a professional roles and responsibilities process works like a charm.
  • Provide stretch assignments. Using the battery of wholesome human incentives, as in athletic training, we build muscle and competency at one level, then “push” them to go further. When I first started to run as a way to stay healthy, I never imagined I could actually complete a marathon. Twenty two races later, I’ve learned to love the 26.2 course, and find it somewhat normal. We can all do much more than we think we can. We need a good coach (professional manager) to believe in us and encourage us along the way. It’s a process of cultivation that involves patience, time, and hard work. Only, they (our staff) have to do the hard work-the thinking, making judgments and the actual performing.

As mentioned above, to grow in academic prowess, as students we are provided materials (classroom training and books), but when it comes to applying that knowledge, we face tests. To review: the “tests” we provide our staff are in managerial questioning in the delegation and stretch request process-it develops unrealized potential. To short circuit that process, frustrate both boss and employee, and with shame hide rather than raise our hand at the next Stephen Covey like management seminar, just be a telling boss. High performing teams are cultivated over time; it’s a process that involves professional management skills and techniques focused on known human incentives. Does it make sense? Yes. Is it easy? No.

Coaching questions: Where might you being employing the “newspaper” therapy with your staff? How might you better incent them to be happy, loyal, performing employees? Write your answers in your journal.

Read more coaching principles from Dean Harbry on the Internal Innovations website.

Management Principle: System Irrationality

Today’s management term is geared toward team and corporate outcomes but imagine if we applied the principle below to our communities and to government at large? How would it change life around us?

The truth is most of the topics we discuss in this blog also apply to our families, neighborhoods, and most all other contexts of life. I hope you think beyond corporate as you contemplate today’s principle.

System Irrationality. System irrationalities reveal themselves when we think, plan and build processes one way, then get unexpected outcomes as a result. One clear and predictable example is the way in which we incentivize people. If we hope, for example, to engage directors who will develop next generation leaders through a deliberate mentoring approach as part of a succession process, but only incentivize them with financial reward for increasing business, then we shouldn’t be surprised when no leaders emerge to replace them. It’s human nature. We will reap what we reward. Imagine Navy Seals who are trained to guard and protect themselves only, when under attack. How effective will they be at achieving complex missions? They are rather shaped with engrained thinking to protect their companions first and worry about themselves last. They accomplish almost superhuman feats as a result.

As professional leaders, we can have access to similar results by utilizing the appropriate human incentives. When organizational leaders understand and employ the secrets of selflessness, true teamwork will occur that will have lasting, sustainable corporate impact.

Coaching questions: Where are you experiencing system irrationalities and getting less than desirable results? What inspirationally-based human incentives can you apply to cultivate hoped-for outcomes?

Read more coaching principles from Dean Harbry on the Internal Innovations website.

What is Your Employee Engagement Revenue Multiplier?

As a leader you are under constant pressure to produce increased revenues. You may wonder, what can I do differently that will get the results I have promised senior management?? If you are asking your sales team to make more calls and set more appointments, you are only looking at part of the solution.

The answer to this question requires you to move to the new behavioral economy.? You must engage your employees as unique individuals to bring out their highest level of commitment and enjoyment on the job.? And, you have to do something most of us dont like to do.take a deeper look at yourself.

Before you think this is too touchy, feely, let me give you some hard facts. Gallup Research shows businesses that emotionally engage employees will grow earnings 2.5 times faster than those who do not.

Then there are further research studies done at major financial services companies and retailers proved a straightforward dynamic in which employee behavior affected customer engagement, which in turn affected company financial performance.
DNA Talent Management
In the case of a large retailer research proved a mere 5% increase in employee engagement lead to a 1.3% increase in customer engagement leading to 0.5% more revenues. This translated to a huge increase in bottom line earnings for that company. In some industries the bottom line impact will be higher.

The results are even better for those companies that take steps to directly increase customer engagement with the potential to increase revenue by 23% or more per year. Increasing employee engagement should be your starting point to increase revenues and productivity.

Think about the $ impact to your business of increasing employee engagement.

How do you get started on the engagement process?? The first step is to get to know each of your team members at the inner level.? While you may be very intuitive and know your people through experiences, you must have an objective approach.? There are many discovery tools available to determine strengths, challenges, and motivators.? Use these tools for an in-depth dialogue with your employees to find out how best to communicate, what motivates them, top skills and how they apply them on their job.

Then help each team member apply their strengths to their job.? If you have a salesperson that is a relationship builder and their sales are down, you will de-motivate them by telling them to make more appointments.? The way to increase sales with this person is to have them cross-sell with current clients and ask for referrals.? Save the more appointments approach for your goal setter.

Finally, remember, focusing on employee engagement is not a one time meeting.? It is a daily, continual process.? Have the information in your CRM or employee management systems so that before every meeting with your employee, you review their strengths and struggles.? Help them meet their goals based on who they are, not a prescribed 10-step one size fits all sales system.

An engaged, committed sales team will be your ticket to sales success!

To learn more about the processes you can use to increase employee engagement, please visit or email

Management Principle: Human Incentive Systems

I hope your new year is off to a great start as we are all busy implementing new strategies and tactics. Collaboration, knowledge sharing, and teamwork are more critical than ever due to constrained resources. The difference between a good company and a great one is its people–providing the right human incentive systems is what ultimately creates a great company. I hope you enjoy this week’s principle.Human Incentive Systems

Human Incentive Systems. Professional leaders and managers thrive on large-scale initiatives that are carefully planned and well executed. To achieve anything of scale, we must leverage the thinking and output of others. Some mistakenly believe that if people are paid fairly, they will be motivated to do good work. Research suggests that pay will only guarantee an employee will show up for work. To motivate them to perform at higher levels, we must utilize a battery of human incentive systems that are nonfinancial in nature. Professional managers both understand and embrace this dynamic, and work successfully with diverse people using the human touch. They build strong managerial relationships, support their staff with discovery questioning to develop their thinking and judgment, and, even when correction is necessary, they do it in the employee’s best interest without getting emotionally hooked. While they are hard on principle they are typically soft on people–caring, but not sentimental–firm, but not harsh. Treating people as valued human beings ensures the best possible results.

Coaching questions: What non-financial human incentive systems do you currently have in place that builds staff loyalty and increases productivity? What could be done to go to the next level?

Read more coaching principles from Dean Harbry on the Internal Innovations website.