Greatest Evidence of Potential in a Team Member

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Is there any way to determine the long term potential of someone early in their career? Based on your workshop, I assume the answer is “no,” although I am hoping the answer is “yes.”


Your assumption is correct, a manager’s pursuit of the crystal ball related to a person’s potential is misguided. But your interest in long term potential is absolutely necessary for every manager-once-removed. While the manager is most often focused on productivity, the manager-once-removed must spend time thinking about the long term health of the entire team, and that includes the potential in individual players.

Stephen Clement taught me to remember, “It’s all about the work.” Focus on the work. If you want to see a team member’s potential, look at their work. Work output related to the task assignment will reveal hard evidence of potential.

Does the team member exhibit any of these characteristics.

  • All work is completed on time and within the quality spec of the task?
  • The team member appears to take minor problems and challenges in stride?
  • The team member recognizes larger problems quickly and reports possible solutions along with the problem?
  • The team member appropriately experiments with task elements and work sequence that produces effective changes in processes?
  • The team member volunteers for tasks beyond their current role?
  • The team member remains appropriately optimistic in the face of minor setbacks of task difficulty, and describes the learning that occurs from a failed task?

The greatest evidence of potential is evidence of potential.

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