The Silent Potential Performer
14Oct, 2019

The Silent Potential Performer 

Recent surveys have shown that over 30 % of employees in both manufacturing and service sectors experience the lack of opportunities to utilize their skills. And they have been trying their damndest to get themselves heard. Nothing can erode a sense of empowerment more than your opinions being ignored. The silent existence of skillful and valuable individuals in an organization doesn’t just create a toxic environment but something far worse, an ineffective unimaginative culture. No progress is possible if employees cannot be heard anywhere across the organization. Their contribution doesn’t always have to be a world changing idea. 

Once teams have gone down this road, even doling out great rewards to those infected by the inertia will not retrieve the disillusioned nor draw them back into the mainstream. The glaring truth is that managers listen to ideas and concepts that confirm what they already believe in; thus ignoring or brushing aside possible constructive contribution. Tragically it is the demonstration of cognitive dissonance at its best. 

Any effort to push or pull a department/organization out of this daily drudgery of mediocrity will be a one person effort. This form of “leadership” will become the role of the line manager and he is the fall guy if nothing moves.  No company or firm today can be run on the whims and fancies of an individual alone, even if he or she takes the lead from someone a notch higher in seniority. The truth is that growth must be the collective goal of an organization. So the objectives should be instilled in each and every employee, if possible with the same measure of commitment though that might be a bridge too far. Nevertheless, it must be a combined, joint effort, so that success comes in multiplicity, the organization, the managers and the employees feel the progress. 

Failure to understand this basic of principles causes organizations to stagnate or grow at below industry standards relying purely on the strength and capacity of an individual.  

 The making of a destructive manager: 

  1. Develops a coterie of two or more individuals.
  2. Discuss all issues only with them
  3. Never has larger departmental meetings even just to brain storm
  4. Never stops to listen to an idea from junior or peer
  5. Says “good idea” and walks away never to return to the subject again.

However one cannot lay the blame for such circumstances at the feet of the line manager alone. After all the bad habits of the organization leadership gets emulated faster than they will ever understand. Soon there is a group of people with the same working habits, not necessarily good ones. There are ways to break the deadlock, but it begins at the top. When leadership recognises the need for change, change has a chance to make itself felt. 

Less than 2 % of people have any type of formal education in the art of listening. Stephen R Covey author of The 7 Habits of highly effective people once said that “people listen with the intent to reply.”  In other words, while they hear the other person, they are not actually listening to what is being said. It is for this reason organizations should put in place systems that will automatically throw up comments, ideas and recognition of special contribution. This will take away the onus of a huge people responsibility that lies on a single pair of shoulders and keep the whole organiszation in step with individual contributions. 

Such tools are important for an organization to create an inclusive environment that will allow for people to express themselves without the management relying on a few leaders to provide that feed, so important, feedback.  It should be a system that is equipped with tools that will allow a more democratic process of exchange of ideas, be able to throw up work done by individuals and also have the ability to capture comments, recommendations and ‘likes’ of peers, interdepartmental colleagues as well as team leaders across the organization. Only just a system can ensure a level playing field and management can actually pin point ‘contributors’ and take cognizance of potential talent. Being in such a position, middle and senior management with the active participation of HR, are then equipped to plan career paths for potential high performers. It is a researched fact that encouraging growth from within the organization makes far more financial sense than scouting for talent in the market place. A ready supply of talent from within the organization only requires to be identified, they already exist. Moreover these employees know the culture, traditions and purpose of the business and as such need little or no training when they step up to a new position of responsibility. 

Besides putting in place a system that helps in the above mentioned process, it is always wise for team leaders and line managers to be constantly equipped with the knowledge of emotional quotient of human interaction. The HR community is increasingly becoming aware of the dire need to educate team leaders in this area of human interaction.                                                  

 Below is a classic example of some of the areas that need special attention among managers;             

 5 ways to make people feel important 

  1. Always address a person by his/her name.
  2. Say thank you or whatever form of appreciation when necessary.
  3. Listen more talk less.
  4. Focus on them and less about yourself.
  5. Show sincere interest.


Poor interpersonal skills can cost the organization serious money and more significantly, unnecessary judgmental errors. The line manager is the one who should understand a team member’s individual strengths, weaknesses, skills and so should be capable of navigating the labyrinth decision making processes. Failure in this key area will result in wasted opportunities. Like the HR is not to be treated as the “Administration or Personnel” Department of the organization, a line manager’s focus cannot solely be on the welfare of his individual team members. It is therefore extremely important for Line Managers to be fitted out with tools that assist them to keep one eye on individuals while not losing focus of the department/team’s business goals and objectives. 

An easy to use software that provides for an open single platform view of a global yet micro view of the team and the individual will provide that all needed multipurpose tool kit to allow the line manager perform to the best of his/her abilities.  

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