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9 Min Read

Unlocking Hidden Potential in Your Organization as a People Leader

Sarah McTate

Think back to physics class for a moment.

Remember the difference between kinetic and potential energy? Something like an explosion is an example of kinetic energy. A drawn bowstring, with an arrow aimed at a target, is potential energy. With the right input, all that potential energy turns into kinetic energy, and great things—like hitting the bullseye—can happen. Your organization is full of potential which, like the energy of the same name, you can channel into some amazing growth.

I’m Sarah McTate, Director of People and Culture at TurboTenant, and I recently discussed this on the HR Superstars Podcast. Here’s how you can turn that hidden potential into your most valuable resource!

Where to find hidden potential

In the quest to unlock hidden potential, it’s crucial to cast a wide net. Potential isn’t confined to specific roles or departments; it exists in every aspect of the organization. At TurboTenant, we believe this wholeheartedly, guided by our core values encapsulated in our #BeBetter Virtues. These virtues serve as our compass, leading us to uncover potential in unexpected places.

For example, are there opportunities to unlock potential in how your department works? Maybe some processes have been the same for ages, but your spidey senses tell you something better is right around the corner. What about your leadership? What can be tweaked incrementally over time? While it’s common to look at the top of the org chart for potential, some of the most powerful changes can come from other nooks and crannies.

Are your values designed to unlock potential?

At TurboTenant, our ethos revolves around personal and organizational growth, encapsulated in our #BeBetter Virtues. We believe each individual should strive to improve themselves and others daily. Our first virtue is “Unlock Potential”, and through our Be Better Conversations, we empower one another and foster growth in all aspects of our lives.

A Be Better Conversation is like a miniature version of a performance review. Alongside our ongoing feedback discussions that occur spontaneously or during scheduled check-ins and 1-on-1s, we carve out intentional time between review cycles for these meaningful conversations with a goal of making sure there aren’t any surprises during performance reviews. Here, we explore growth opportunities and address areas where individuals seek guidance and coaching. Rather than solely adhering to organizational benchmarks and metrics, we use these conversations as an opportunity to delve deep to support employees in mapping out and monitoring their personal journey. These conversations play a pivotal role in unlocking their potential and igniting the passion and drive needed to bring their aspirations to life.

That’s what #bebetter means for us. It’s about bringing that same energy to everything we do. That does wonders for finding and capitalizing on potential.

5 ways to unlock potential in your organization

Unlocking potential isn’t a one-size-fits-all endeavor. It requires a multifaceted approach tailored to the unique needs of your organization. Here are some ways to locate and unlock the potential in all corners of your organization.

Be crystal clear on your commander’s intent

Does your organization struggle to keep everyone aligned? It’s one thing to share your strategy at an all-hands meeting, but how do you get teams on target the rest of the time? Either your planning gets caught up in the minutiae and no one can really follow it or it’s so vague it can be hard for individual collaborators to feel like they’re contributing.

That’s where our concept of “commander’s intent” comes in.

The term comes from the military, which is a massive, complex organization. It’s the type of organization where plans change the moment you encounter the enemy. While you may not have a literal enemy, when plans change – it’s easy to forget the main goal. So, how do military leaders stay aligned when things go wrong? They refer back to the commander’s intent or the intended outcome of a military operation. The commander lays out what they’re trying to achieve and why, and every other leader uses this when they have a big decision to make.

At TurboTenant we use the commander’s intent in strategic planning, but we also use it with individual contributors to help them match their day-to-day work with our broader goals. In our check-ins, we encourage people to ask themselves how they contributed to the commander’s intent each week. It makes a massive difference in feeling purpose in your work each day and it’s a forcing function that reinforces the commander’s intent every single week.

Central to our efforts is clarity of purpose. By articulating our highest-level goals—the commander’s intent—we provide a clear trajectory for individual contributions. Every task, every project is imbued with purpose, driving us toward collective success.

Reframe conflicts as catalysts for growth

When you read the word “conflict” do you think of it as a positive or a negative thing? If you’re in HR, you know that potential for positive change comes with conflict, but that’s not the case for everyone. For most, conflict is something with a negative connotation. It brings up uncomfortable emotions, dysregulates people, and is often avoided. But conflict can be looked at as a gift, bringing important issues to light to be solved and made better. It can expose clashes in work styles or gaps in processes that can be accommodated for, optimized, or fixed.

Long story short: there’s massive potential in conflict.

As people responsible for giving employees everything they need to perform at their best, we can turn conflict into a growth opportunity instead of something to fear. We can—and should—help everyone see the potential gifts in conflict and understand that conflict doesn’t have to feel unsafe here.

Break down silos

Silos, or isolated departments or teams that operate independently from one another, can create barriers to communication, inhibit knowledge sharing, and hinder innovation. To truly unlock the full potential of our teams, we must actively dismantle these barriers and cultivate cross-functional partnerships.

At TurboTenant, we recognize that collaboration is the cornerstone of success. Rather than working in isolation, we encourage teams to reach across perceived departmental and hierarchical boundaries, leveraging diverse perspectives and expertise to tackle complex challenges. We do this in practice by having every single team member perform 4 hours of customer support time per quarter, which allows them to have a much deeper understanding of our users’ needs. By fostering a culture of collaboration, we create an environment where ideas flow freely, innovation thrives, and individuals feel empowered to contribute their unique talents.

This allows us to unleash the collective potential of our organization and everyone in it, to drive transformative change and propel our organization towards its goals.

Prioritize mental fitness

Our commitment to unlocking potential extends beyond professional growth to encompass mental fitness. 

At TurboTenant, we participate in Positive Intelligence which is a 7 week mental fitness program developed by Shirzad Chamine of Stanford. The program teaches tools to build 3 muscles responsible for mental fitness The three muscles are the saboteur interceptor muscle, the self-command muscle and the sage muscle. 

Think about it: if you want to get strong at the gym, you have to go to the gym more than once. You can’t just go once and then all of a sudden be able to lift all the weights. You have to build your muscles over time. This program treats mental fitness the same way. It not only helps employees get the insights, but also build the muscle — the mental muscle — to become mentally fit. 

Over time with use of this language and tools, data shows an increase in all emotional intelligence competencies. Regardless of the data, we are seeing this in real time play out with our team. This means we’re unlocking the potential of our team through self-awareness and co-creation!

Build up your managers

Unless you have eyes and ears everywhere, there’s one key element to identifying and capitalizing on potential you can’t ignore: building up your managers. There’s a reason why 65% of employees would forgo a raise to see their manager fired.

Managers play a dual role in the transformation of potential into growth. They don’t just help their teams find and capitalize on their own potential; they have potential themselves.

At TurboTenant, we invest time into helping managers unlock their potential as well. By supporting managers to become more self-aware and more approachable, their team members come to them with growth questions, are more honest in their check-ins, and know that their manager has their back. So we’re helping managers find their own potential to become their team’s #1 supporter while relying on them to help us spot contributors who have the potential to do some really amazing things.

For example, people managers leverage 15Five check-ins to include questions that are tailored specifically to an individual team member’s unique growth trajectory. This tool and the questions within it, spark reflective and action-oriented conversations between Managers and team members. 

Turn potential into exponential growth

There is likely untapped potential in all corners of your organization — not just in the individuals within your teams, but also in your processes and leadership strategies. The first step of tapping into that potential is knowing it exists. So how can you get curious and always keep an eye out for where there may be dormant potential just waiting to be discovered?

This curiosity and drive to unlock potential will benefit everyone. Individual contributors will become more effective and purposeful in their work, managers will evolve into invaluable mentors and guides for their teams, and an overall culture of empowerment will take root. This empowerment, combined with a shared vision and purpose, can propel the organization to previously unimaginable heights.

The possibilities are limitless—what will you achieve when you unlock the full potential of your organization?

About the Author

Sarah McTate is the Director of People & Culture at TurboTenant, an all-in-one software for landlords to self-manage their rental properties. She is passionate about creating programs, systems, and frameworks that support the humans at TurboTenant to #BeBetter at work and in their lives each day.