When I was asked to summarise what my corporate life stood for, after looking through my career graph, I said its about “Making a difference”. I love the whole process of unlocking potential. It’s a gift that you are able to spot potential and then it becomes a responsibility that you help the person live upto that potential. Many organizations have the performance-potential nine blocker grid, the famous grid developed at GE by Jack Welch and copied widely across. The grid is just that – part subjective and part objective assessment of a professional. The challenge is what parameters do you use to evaluate potential. Performance is relatively simpler, since there are always some metrics and some folks to compare against, but potential is the tricky one.
I use two yardsticks always and it has usually kept me on the right path – one is the values that the person brings to the table, two is the willingness to take ownership. Without the basic right values, it doesn’t matter if the person has a Mensa level IQ or a Hercules’ physical prowess – failure is guaranteed and the organization that they will build will have a very weak foundation. The only two values that I look for are integrity and fairness – integrity that is not the glib talk about “walk the talk” but someone who is totally aligned within himself/herself. Someone who doesn’t make false promises, is willing to backup his/her claims with actual work/data and someone who won’t take credit for work not done by them… Even if it means failing.
I read this nice fable long long back about how when asked to reduce the Torah to one sentence, the Master said “Never do unto others what you would not have others do unto you” and that is the essence of fairness.
The willingness to take ownership is important since it brings a very different level of involvement – the long term thinking, planning for succession, the big picture view, accountability, letting the buck stop with you – all these come by when a person is willing to take ownership.
This may be very rudimentary but what is needed is calibration on what each organization defines as potential, otherwise the Performance-potential grid will be a wasted exercise. I don’t see a lot of calibration on this – the whole activity gets reduced to a tick in the box. And when you overlay the other complexity of mapping the potential to what is required in the role, it leads to mixed results. As you look around organizations and the leaders, if you see dissonance between the role and ability, or culture and strategy, chances are that there have been no calibrations of the kind I mention above.
Yesterday was special for me as two people that I have had the pleasure of knowing for a long time, displayed their unlocked potential during a leadership meeting. Rohit Malik, from the “Vadamecum” mornings to hearing you articulate the goals of your department so well, it has been a privilege to see the growth. Rohit Sharma, your hidden eloquence finally came out in the open, your genuinity and sincerity just shone through. I sat there feeling so proud and so happy, another special corporate moment got added to my list :):) thanks for the privilege of watching a transformation unfold.