American psychologist Abraham Maslow famously stated: “If the environment is right people will grow straight and beautiful, actualizing the extraordinary potential they have inherited. Musicians must make music, poets must write and artists must paint…what a man can be he must be…to become everything he is capable of becoming.” And while psychologists and behavioral scientists have debated Maslow’s theory on the Hierarchy of Needs, one thing has remained a constant, and that is the belief that all human beings do in fact have unlimited potential. Potential to do extraordinary things, make a difference and live a life that matters. This being said, many of those same psychologists and behavioral scientists also agree that much of the extraordinary potential that exists in all of us is largely untapped. In his book “Betterness” Umair Haque makes a strong statement to this end by saying “the greatest waste in history is squandering the full richness of untapped human potential”. The question we should be asking ourselves as leaders is what part of this do we own?
So what are we doing to ensure the extraordinary potential of our associates gets actualized; that they are in fact living their lives meaningfully well?Are we being intentional about our environments and not just in the physical sense by clearly articulating our organizations’ mission and purpose, and the values, principles and beliefs that support both the difference we want to make in the world and business strategies and outcomes we wish to execute on? Are we seeking to understand clearly the intersection of each of our associates’ passion, purpose and competencies to align who they are with what they do and where they do it ensuring that they become the best version of themselves? Or conversely, have we put the proverbial round peg in a square hole however can’t seem to find the time and inclination (or is it courage) to have the necessary conversations to right the wrong?
Today, many companies (and leaders) are starting to get on board as organizations all around the world are beginning to think about the difference they want to make. And while the benefits are clear from a corporate social responsibility perspective, leaders are beginning to understand the need to better articulate who they are, what they do and why they do it, and find associates who fundamentally share in the company’s values, principles, beliefs and purpose. The shared space ensures higher levels of authenticity for leaders and associates alike. It cultivates environments where individuals can live, lead and work in alignment with their own personal core values, principles, beliefs and purpose and become everything they are capable of becoming. And over time, it minimizes structures that may be full of “round pegs in square holes” where engagement and subsequent performance are far from peak.
In “Betterness” Haque goes on to write: “The bigger picture of twenty-first-century competition is richer, more nuanced and complex. Companies are beginning to be judged against a whole new set of criteria by customers, governments, communities, employees and investors. They are already saying, so you made a profit. Yawn. Did you actually have an impact? Did what you do have a positive, lasting consequence that was meaningful in human terms.” And the impact we are referring to is one that taps in to and ignites the extraordinary potential of human beings, initiating the exponential effect of lives lived meaningfully well. An impact that activates the doing good (making a difference) and doing well (making money) cycle in organizations that is shaping up to be the most sought after culture for the next gen workforce.