Let's look at a few things first. I came across this story in Forbes last night. It was about the world's happiest countries. In the article I saw the following quote about american entrepreneurialism:
"Alan McCormick, a managing director at Legatum, points out that the U.S. remains the envy of the world when it comes to entrepreneurialism, pointing out that during the recession year of 2009, Americans created 558,000 new businesses each month. That's 27,000 more per month than in 2008 and 60,000 more per month than in 2007."
Now, if there are that many people starting out as a entrepreneur, there has to be a way to tap into this resource where they are, right now. These people are not going out and starting businesses that they have no experience in. I'm sure there are a few that are starting out in a new area, mostly though, it is where they have already worked and gained experience. Mr. McCormick then went on to say this about entrepreneurial societies:
"Over the last three decades, new startups have accounted for nearly all of the increased employment in the American private sector. Entrepreneurial societies raise levels of expectation and produce a culture in which human potential is released, healthy risk-taking is encouraged, and where the fledgling business ideas of today become the global-selling products of tomorrow."
Here are someways, we can use, to unleash our people's untapped potential:
- Raise levels of expectations: Look around you, there are people that are not being challenged in their current roles. Find ways to increase their participation and increase expectations. People will jump how ever high you've set the bar, so raise it up a few notches. Let them see that status quo will not work. The punch in and get a paycheck will not be excepted either. Include them in a new project or solicit their input on what they think needs improved and how they would do it, then let them improve it. Get creative, get out of your comfort zone as a leader and try new approaches. Most people want to be entrepreneurs because they want freedom. So give it to them with higher expectations.
- Produce a culture in which human potential is released: Build a culture of trust with your people, encourage and reward them for coming up with new ideas. Don't always shoot them down. Let them help you create more efficient ways of working. When your people know that you trust them and you start letting them spread their wings, they will soar.
- Encourage healthy risk-taking: This is an area where most leaders cringe. Don't be afraid to go out into new territory. Blaze a new path, get out of the, "This is the way we've always done things" mode. Encourage your people to come up with bold new ways to work and be efficient at what they do. Brain storm with your people and then utilize the best ideas. Once you show people that you will take their suggestions and implement them. It will encourage others to follow.
- Solicit new ideas from our people: It's simple, ask them. Encourage real communication and feedback. People will respond to this. Find a way to say, "Yes" to their ideas. Companies spend millions of dollars on contractors and outside resources to find new ideas. You have a huge resource at your finger tips, from the people who work in your area of expertise. Use it.
- Take action: Now that you have all of these awesome ideas, take action on them. Don't let them sit in your inbox or on your desk. Forward them up the chain and let your people know that you are taking action on their ideas and suggestions.
As leaders, we have to establish trust first before any of this will work. If your people don't trust you, they will not be receptive to any of this. The other thing to remember, if you are taking all of the credit for these new ideas, they will revolt on you and shut down. Give credit where credit is due, let your people shine. You will keep your retention high and keep good people from leaving.
In what other ways can we unleash our people's potential?