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How Leaders Unlock Potential in Teams

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Leaders are faced with unlocking the potential in the people that they lead and motivating the individual is a key part of this process. Motivation is not something that is done to an individual as they already posses it. What a leader does, to benefit the whole team, is to release, or unlock, it. Here are seven ways leaders unlock potential in people.

1. Leaders share their vision and values. Vision is what the team aspires to. Some visions may not ever be reachable, yet by their very existence they inspire, excite and motivate people to turn them into a reality. Where the vision comes from, however, is less important than whether team members fully share the vision. Where does vision come from? Essentially it comes from what you value or care strongly about. Values, then, are the foundation of the vision. Normally you would have only a few values. Each person can usually identify and describe them in their own words. They are not necessarily the same as mission statements, slogans or taglines written on walls or bulletin boards. As a leader, it is important that you regularly restate the team values and display them by your own actions. Leaders should also ask team members to keep producing examples of how they are turning values into reality.

2. Leaders value people. People will work very hard for a leader because they feel you value them as a person. You do this by treating each person with respect and by persisting in demanding that this is how team members treat one another as well.

3. Leaders Give Recognition. Research has shown that organizations seldom give enough recognition to their people. All too often people feel that they are taken for granted and that there is insufficient feedback about their efforts. Recognition does not always have to be in the form of a promotion or pay raise. Your team needs clear signs of appreciation and this can easily and simply be done by saying "thank you," a small gift, public praise, a party, etc.

4. Leaders are Creative. Creativity is one of the most powerful means a leader has of unlocking your team's full potential and infusing them with new energy. You can foster creativity by being open to new possibilities, new connections, new methods and surprising solutions. To use everyone in the team to their maximum potential, they need to be stretched as human beings. This does not mean setting impossible goals as much as it does expecting the most of each person on the team. To expect the most, you need to know each persons talents. You can learn about members of the team through formal assessment procedures, asking the person, asking others, trial and error in the workplace and so forth. The range of your team's talent will likely astound you. Have fun uncovering the team's talents.

5. Leaders Inspire Special Effort. Interestingly, people will do extraordinary work for some leaders and not for others. This happens when people see their own interests linked with the leader and he/she wants to achieve. When you call for team effort, remember that people respond to facts and emotion. Both are essential. Facts will start the process of convincing your team that heroic effort is needed. Make sure you prepare the facts carefully since they must stand up to the team's scrutiny. Emotion is another vital ingredient. You need to appeal to people's feeling, not just their logical, rational, parts. Facts alone will seldom tap a team's hidden energy and commitment. Watch for signs in the team to indicate that people are making special effort and immediately reinforce this by offering approval and recognition.

6. Leaders Do It Their Way. Leaders need to develop a method and adopt a style that suits them. Then, when you need a special effort from the team, this is the moment to show them your real leadership style. Inspiring people is not as easy as it sounds. It starts with you, sharing with them what inspires you. If are committed to what you want, people will respond to your inspiration, energy and vision. If you really believe in your vision, and exude energy and passion about it, the team will also share in that effort with you and feel your passion. Conversely, negativity will also breed negative thoughts from your team. Remember that each team member will internally respond with a "what's in it for me?" approach. Discover what each person on the team wants and you will have the key to unlocking their potential and sustaining that special effort you need.

Your qualities as a leader will attract people to consider making the heroic effort you want or need. They may be drawn to your passion, your humanity, energy, integrity or commitment. They may admire and fear your determination to make something happen, but it is the human qualities you share that will gain their respect and commitment.

Publishing Rights: You have permission to publish this article electronically, in print, in your ebook or on your website, free of charge, as long as the author's information and web link are included at the bottom of the article and the article is not changed, modified or altered in any way. The web link should be active when the article is reprinted on a web site or in an email. The author would appreciate an email indicating you wish to post this article to a website, and the link to where it is posted. Copyright 2005, Michele Webb. All Rights Reserved.

The author owns her own website and is a member of a number of organizations for women Netpreneurs and business owners and lives in Las Vegas, Nevada USA with her two dogs. You can contact Michele at or visit her website at:

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