How to Tap into Unused Potential for
Effortless High Performance

by Veronica Lim

One of the greatest challenges for any leader and CEO today is how to attract extraordinary talent and to bring that out in their people. We have all, at some stage, come across the bright talented individual, whom we know has great potential; and yet they seem to perform at less than their best. So how do you tap into their unused potential? How do you find that "switch" in them to unleash their full capacity and turn a soft issue into a hard tangible result?

The challenge is that no-one can tap into someone else's unused potential. The individual themself is the only person who can do this. Motivational talks and events can fire this up, but these are often short-lived, as nothing changes... unless something within the individual changes. To do this, you have to capture their imagination and ignite their spirit in a meaningful way for them.

"If you want to build a ship, do not start by cutting the wood and telling your people to get down to work. First, try to help your people discover their aspiration for freedom and the open sea, and later encourage them to carry out the work." (Antoine de Saint Exupery)

This is where you, the leader, can make a significant difference.

More than Meets the Eye

Think for a moment about the young child learning to walk. You can't make them walk, nor can you take the steps for them. The only thing that you can do is encourage and support them to do so, by creating the right environment for them to want to try and then to do so.

The same holds true for people. As a leader, if you want to bring out the talent in your people to create innovative and extraordinary results, you must create the environment that supports and encourages this.

And what specifically is that kind of environment? It is an environment - a culture - where people love to come to work, because it feels good. They feel good, because they are allowed to make mistakes and to learn, to be held accountable with clear boundaries, given the freedom to be themselves and recognised for the value that they bring to the company. It is a culture where work feels more like play because it has meaning and purpose to them personally, and they get to work with colleagues whom they both like and respect.

Does this seem like a tall order? The great news is that creating that environment starts with you. It comes from really understanding how to harness the power of your mind and then that of the people in your company.

The Power of Your Mind

Each and every one of us has three minds - our conscious, unconscious and superconscious minds respectively. The more we harness our three minds, the more effortless and extraordinary our results.

We are already very familiar with our conscious minds. It is the logical, analytical part of our mind with which we direct our thinking, pick our words, and deliberately make decisions and judgments, for example. It is deductive in the way that it thinks, and helps us to chunk things down into manageable sizes.

Our conscious mind likes to put a limit on our thinking by being critical in its assessment, because it can only handle between five to nine chunks of information at any one time. In this way, it can keep us from feeling stressed from juggling too many ideas and having too many plates spinning at any one time.

Our unconscious mind, on the other hand, has no limit to the amount of information that it can handle. It is highly creative in nature and is the part of our mind that comes up with ideas out of the blue. It is a powerful processor, working in the background below our level of awareness. Hence, we are "unconscious" of it for the most part.

Without our unconscious mind, we would have to consciously think about growing our hair, beating our hearts, remembering to breathe or digest our food, remembering how to drive or walk, and even our telephone number. Imagine if you had to keep all of these things in the forefront of your mind all of the time! Our unconscious mind epitomises effortless "thinking"; it's like thinking without thinking, and is the seat of our creativity and intuition.

Not only does it process effortlessly, it also stores everything we have ever come across or thought about. It is the storehouse of our memories, lessons learnt, knowledge, our thoughts, values and assumptions. Where our conscious mind communicates with words, our unconscious mind communicates with images and feelings.

Finally, our third mind - the superconscious mind.

Have you ever come across a person infused with meaning and purpose in what they do and say? They positively overflow with enthusiasm, an enthusiasm that is contagious.

We see it in people like Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, Howard Shultz, Nelson Mandela, Einstein, Steven Spielberg, Bob Geldof... and we notice that these individuals have a certain assuredness and knowing about them…a passion that infuses all who come into contact with them. They enjoy what they do, and are filled with enthusiasm and spirit. Results seem to happen for them as if by magic.

This part of our mind is spiritual in nature. It breathes energy and spirit into our ideas and what we do. It is where we create meaning and purpose, and it is the source of our inspiration.

And there then is the key. When we are inspired, when we feel moved to action, when we feel energised, when we are feeling spirited, what we feel is always some kind of positive emotion - be it feeling upbeat, expansive, happy, valued, proud, free…

Hence, the link to harnessing our superconscious mind is through the feelings of our unconscious mind, and by using conscious thought to focus and act on what it takes to ensure that we feel positive.

And that is the kind of environment that you as a leader must create if you want your people to come up with inspired ideas and take inspired action - an environment that supports and encourages, and has people feeling good about themselves and the people with whom they work. Then, like Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson et al, they ignite that spirit that allows them to create results as if by magic. Do you want your people to have that same inspired spirit that clearly benefits the bottom-line?

A Different Focus in the 21st Century

The downside is that society as we know it today and our educational system do not yet fully recognise the importance of our three minds. The current emphasis is placed squarely on the conscious mind - the mental element - our IQ. More recently, we have begun to recognise the importance of Emotional Intelligence - EQ - and through this, we have begun to tap into our unconscious mind. Even so, there are still many leaders who feel alienated and awkward about the concept of Emotional Intelligence.

As for our superconscious mind, the spiritual element - SQ - this is even less understood and feels even more alien a concept to many. But using our superconscious mind is less about ritualistic practices than it is about having a sense of connection, meaning and purpose that we easily and clearly recognise because is feels good.

The brushing aside of the emotional and spiritual aspects to business is changing, and rapidly. More and more, we are reading and hearing about successful and enlightened Chief Executives who now talk openly about all three spiritual, emotional and mental elements - spirit, hearts and minds. Why? Because they fully recognise the power that it brings to the success of their business and all in it.

Take Tim Sanders, ex-Yahoo senior executive and author of Love is the Killer App who says, "If you want to fix your future, start by fixing yourself. In the face of war and recession, what the business world needs is less greed -- and more love."

Then there is John McFarlane, CEO of ANZ Bank who puts it this way. "I have a personal view that this century will be much more spiritual and that humanity will matter more... In the corporation, if there is one word to capture that it is that we [Chief Executives] have to be the guardians of the soul of the organisation. We have to enrich the soul. It will have many windows on the world: customers, communities, staff, shareholders and leaders."

And management guru Tom Peters talks about the New Economy Business Degrees as no longer being the MBA, but the "Masters of Metaphysical Management" and being a "Doctor of Enthusiasm".

This is all relevant because "most executives have no idea how to add value to a market in the metaphysical world. But that is what the market will cry out for in the future. There is no lack of 'physical' products to choose between." (Jespe Kunde on the excellence of Nokia, Nike, Lego, Virgin et al, in his book Unique Now… or Never).

Imagine if you knew how. Tom Peters captures it well - become a "Doctor of Enthusiasm".

It's a simple concept - children know just how to do it without our having to teach them. And while the answer is simple, it may not necessarily be easy to begin with, as you start to change old ingrained habits and habitual ways of thinking. The good news is that it is more scientific in its application that you might think.

The Heart of High Performance

At the heart of it is how you and your people feel. Feelings are the feedback mechanism that tells you whether you are on track. If it feels good, then you are. If it doesn't, then your focus needs to change. That is it in its utmost simplicity.

What would your life and your results be like if you and your entire organisation were brimming with positive energy, humming from enjoyment and effortless high performance at work?

Could you even begin to create a vision of that in your organisation? All creation begins first in the mind, and if that fires your imagination and your spirit, here are 6 elements for making that vision a reality. They are non-linear in their nature, but systemically inter-dependent.

  1. Igniting the Spirit - Bringing out the Passion
    What is it that ignites your spirit? What is it that you stand for? What is your vision, your cause, your story? When you clearly know what that story is for you, it will bring deep meaning and purpose to the work that you do. Meaning and purpose are highly personal, and purpose, as an example, can be as seemingly basic as, "To live each day fully filled with enjoyment". Your company too will have its own story - its own cause and purpose - as an entity in its own right made up of the people within. What is it? Find your own story, then help your people find their own and to make the link between that and the company's story.

  2. Harnessing Strengths, Talents and Creativity
    Recognise the diversity there is in each person's strengths and help them to use those strengths in their jobs. Revolve their roles around who they are and the value that they bring, instead of trying to make them fit into it. Instead of getting people to try and plug their weaknesses and gaps, allow them to accept themselves for who and what they are. When you and they value their strengths, talents and creativity, they will step up and raise the bar. What's more, they feel good about themselves, they feel good at work, and they tell others about it. And if you encourage it, new ideas and new innovation will abound.

  3. Clearing Space
    Encourage openness, so that the culture of the organisation is talked about. What are the unspoken values? What are the unspoken assumptions about "the way things are around here"? Are they how you would like for it to be? Build trust and enable open communication to take place.

  4. Aligning Inner Thinking with Outer Results
    Having surfaced those old assumptions, values and beliefs - your inner thinking - consciously determine which ones you want to keep. Then replace those old unwarranted or unwanted assumptions, values and beliefs with a conscious way of thinking and being so that it aligns and supports individual and company goals. How will you and your people be when you are creating effortless results as if by magic?

  5. Creating Inspiring Relationships
    Where once we were in the Industrial Age, we moved swiftly into the Knowledge and Information Age. Now, with information readily available at our finger tips, we find ourselves in the Relationship Age. Relationships are the glue - the loyalty factor - between you, your customers, your people, your suppliers….This is what creates word of mouth viral marketing and reputation that you cannot buy.

  6. Leveraging Success
    Leveraging success is about living success - before, during and after the event. It is the process of getting there, holding positive expectations before the event, having fun and high energy performance during the event, and celebrating fully after the event. It is also about looking out for the opportunities, unlimited thinking and using the power of positive feelings for feedback in the moment and as a tool for managing towards ever higher and more rewarding performance and results.

Make A Conscious Choice

At the very nub of it, it's about your life - the quality of your life. In this new age of the 21st century, do you dare to find the new way of leading, by aligning and harnessing the gifts of all three elements of mind, so that your results have no choice but to spiral upwards beyond your current realm of possibility? Imagine a place brimming with high positive energy, where your results happen as if by magic, where you and your people get to come to work instead of having to come to work.

Other leaders are already doing this….from Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia to C William Pollard, Chairman of ServiceMaster. Will you join them?

Veronica Lim is an inspiring coach, author, speaker and seminar leader, and the Founder of Inner Thinking (, established in 1999. Her vision is for individuals to realise their worth, to unleash their own natural leadership and have the courage and freedom to be who they are as they live to their full potential; and for organisations to be thriving workplaces where people love to come to work and have time for both work and play. Contact Veronica on +44 (0) 20 7610 2073 or email veronica @ . All media enquiries to Sue Blake on ( +44 (0) 20 8891 2203 ) +44 (0) 7966 538108 : sue @ .

Many more articles in Creative Leadership in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2005 by Veronica Lim. All rights reserved.

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