High potential is a phrase that is often used in professional environments and workplaces as a way to differentiate those whose approach to work stands out, versus those who simply work hard.
Yup, you read that right, high potential and working hard are not the same thing. You can work very hard, put in all the hours, almost kill yourself, and not be considered high potential.
That’s because high potential is a mindset, and while a lot of hard work happens when you have high potential, it is not the only tool you should use to make your work standout.
Here are three important mindsets that support your high potential.
These are but three hallmarks of the high potential mindset (there are many more).
High potential professionals are well-spoken, generous, smart and genuinely care about their organization and the people who count on it, while balancing all that with getting the right things done in the right ways.
Sound like anyone you know?
Yes, that sounds like you.
Leverage your full potential.
It’s spring. It has arrived where I live, which is a minor miracle given I live in Canada and the seasons don’t strictly follow the calendar. The windows are open to air out the house, and soon we’ll be looking at things from new perspectives…our decks and patios.
I love new perspectives.
I want to share something that always brings me new perspectives, an amazing journal called Brain Pickings by Maria Popova. I enjoy it because it makes me think in new and different ways about so many things, all connected to being a beautiful human.
In her last journal, Popova wrote about the relationship between freedom and fear, “… [we are] so habitually inclined toward the next moment … the parallel universe where anxiety dwells, where hope and fear for what might be eclipse what is, and where we cease to be free because we are no longer in the direct light of reality.”
In truth, we humans work very hard to control our future as a way of giving ourselves more freedom. With respect to work, who hasn’t been guilty of checking their e-mail on the weekend so they can get ahead (or at least know what to expect) on Monday?
Afterall, we’ve been taught that to be free we need to create options and choice for ourselves.
So, the weekend e-mail checking (and other coping mechanisms we use to create more “freedom”) is understandable, but at what cost?
Alan Watts wrote in his book The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety “…I fall straight into contradiction when I try to act and decide in order to be happy, when I make “being pleased” my future goal. For the more my actions are directed towards future pleasures, the more I am incapable of enjoying any pleasures at all.”
Which shows that, unexpectedly, the moment we make a decision out of fear, we have lost our freedom.
Let that sink in for a moment.
What is the alternative? To give ourselves permission to enjoy the here and now, and not worry so much about the future.
Put your work phone in a drawer.
Close your laptop.
Turn off your notifications.
Go outside in the fresh spring air and just be.
Monday will arrive, that is a certainty: there is enough time, and you have enough talent, to deal with what comes then. You have survived 100% of your toughest days (how's that for a fresh perspective).
Frederich Nietzsche once said “No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” Take the arrival of spring to fully own what working gives you: leisure time.
Enjoy today, it’s really all you control, and it’s everything you have right now.
Name something you know you are good at, AND you feel your employer sees too. If nothing comes to mind, you may be experiencing imposter syndrome.
Imposter syndrome includes feeling inadequate based on the belief you got where you are in your work and career by luck and don’t really deserve to be there.
In short, you have no meaningful connection to your talent or qualifications.
And you are not alone. A whopping 70% of people feel this way at some point in their career.
Which explains why there is enough of a “sample size” to see 5 distinct types of “imposters”. Dr. Valerie Young, author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, has defined them as:
See anyone you know?
There are many reasons for feeling like you don’t belong in your job, not all of them have to do with your workplace. It can start in childhood with parental expectations, or because you are facing new challenges (like pursuing higher education), people from marginalized groups are also at a higher risk for imposter syndrome.
What is clear is how it impacts your well-being. Feeling like a fraud leads to frustration, anxiety, depleted self-confidence, which can turn into depression and other long-term impacts to your health and welfare. Nonexistent coping strategies perpetuate imposter syndrome, and over time the effects to your self-esteem snowball until you don’t pursue promotion and opportunities to grow your expertise, or you expect perfection from yourself (constantly chasing it). The end result is you don’t feel you measure up because you set yourself up to never measure up.
There’s some good news, imposter syndrome isn’t a medical diagnosis, it is a mindset, which means there are things you can do right now to work with feelings of inadequacy so they don’t run the show.
Here are four strategies to recognize, and work with, imposter syndrome:
There will always be times when you think negatively of yourself or your performance at work. See what you can do to observe this thought, rather than believe it is accurate. Take a pause to see how that thought is sabotaging your self-esteem to recognize, and step away from, feelings of imposter syndrome.
Would you like to see an example? This is how I ditched imposter syndrome.
Psychological safety is a big concept, a media catch-phrase and the number one thing that sets high performing teams apart from all the rest.
Simply put, psychological safety is knowing you can suggest ideas, admit mistakes and take risks without reprisal from others at work.
Without it, you are spending large parts of the day figuring out what to say, and what not say. Sorting out who you can trust and who you can’t. Essentially, you are not able to express yourself at work, and that always has a cost to your well-being.
Psychologically unsafe workplaces come on a continuum; from toxic to simply exhausting. They make you question yourself, and wonder what steps you should be taking for your career and welfare.
First step? Figure out if you are working in a psychologically safe environment. This quick quiz is inspired by Amy Edmonson's Team Psychological Safety Assessment.
Using a scale of one (strongly disagree) to seven (strongly agree) rate your workplace experience on the following:
To find your result, add up your scores from questions 2, 3, and 5 for a subtotal.
Then, subtract your score on question 1 from 8 (i.e., if you gave yourself a score of 2 on this question, you subtract that from 8 for a final score of 6 for question 1) and do the same with your score on question 4.
Then add both of those numbers to the subtotal to get your final result.
So, what options do you have if you are in a psychologically unsafe team environment? There are many things in your power to create more safety for yourself and others at work.
Staying quiet about a psychologically unsafe working environment means things can’t change. Consider what the real risks are to your career in working in an environment where you have no voice. If you have concerns about the safety of speaking up on your team, what is the risk in bringing this up with your manager?
If things are truly toxic you may need to look for a new place to work, protecting your well-being. But before you leave (and from the safety of having that new job to go to), say something – it could be a game-changer for others.
Self-expression is a powerful part of being believable and connecting with other people at work and in life.
It’s most powerful when your words match your facial expression and body language.
As an example, do you trust someone else when they say “It’s fine”? It’s a phrase that has become the opposite of its dictionary meaning; “It’s fine” usually means it’s really not “fine”.
When someone says “It’s fine”, the unwritten social rule means stop talking about the topic, let the issue go. People who say “It’s fine” are often not believable as they have partially expressed an emotion, yet you can’t tell which one.
Do you see how saying something, while signalling it’s opposite, can keep you from being believable or safe to talk to?
Self-expression uses three areas of emotional intelligence. 1. Emotional expression is helping others know your feelings using words, facial expression and body language that all match. 2. Assertiveness is saying what you feel in a way that protects your rights without offending others. 3. Independence is to speak and act free from others' feelings, being able to plan and make decisions by yourself.
When used together, they make what you say more powerful, without upsetting anyone.
Here are three times when being clear about how you feel will make you more credible at work.
While self-expression is all about saying what you feel in a believable way (your words match your facial expression and body language), notice none of the statements use the word “feel” or “feelings”. Being clear doesn’t mean saying what you feel, it means connecting to what you feel and then communicating what you know to be true.
This is essential because your emotions help to highlight what is important to you and this other person, without getting personal or emotional.
That is the power of credibility.