How well do you tap into the wisdom of your team and leverage their collective potential? Do you harness the skills, experience and insights of your group to enable the best possible outcomes for your business? Do people offer their ideas, debate well and make effective decisions together? Do teams across your business come together to achieve your vision?

Reflect for a moment on what more you can do to share knowledge, skills and experience across your business. What needs to change in order to more effectively tap into the full potential of your team and drive superior outcomes?

Understand Potential

Human potential is encapsulated in both the talent and energy people bring — that is, the capabilities they offer as well as the energy they are willing to invest in getting the job done. A team’s potential is reflected in the collective capabilities and spirit of the group.

How well potential is leveraged, and in turn the business value realised, is profoundly influenced by the way people choose to behave. Individual and group behaviour determines the extent to which talents and energy are applied effectively toward achieving important objectives.

Consider for a moment the individual I describe as the ‘incompetent genius’; they have deep technical knowledge and skill and yet fail to achieve due to poor or ineffective behaviour. Consider also groups of talented individuals whose failure to come together as a team has undermined success.

Value Collective Potential

The simple truth is, great results don’t come from individual contributions. They are achieved when people with the right capabilities come together and invest the energy needed to succeed.

Too often, organisations reward and recognise the performance of individuals with insufficient consideration given to their contribution to the team. A common example is the team member who is regarded as high performing despite the detrimental impact they have on the group. Just as common is the senior leader considered successful despite the poor example they set and influence they have on the culture and spirit of the organisation.

Set clear expectations that every member of the team matters to success. Expect also, irrespective of their position or seniority that people behave in the best interests of the business and team. Reward leaders who create a collaborative culture in which the collective intelligence and potential of the team is valued. Take steps to address behaviours that undermine the success of the group.

Manage Mindset

An individualist mindset is fatal to any organisation’s ability to leverage collective wisdom and potential. When people are largely if not solely focused on their own objectives, silos are created. When silos are created, communication breaks down, personal agendas dominate and closed-mindedness and defensive behaviour hold the group back from achieving the quality of outcomes they are capable of.

Leaders who operate in and encourage silos are typically motivated by personal achievement, measuring success on what they and the people they are directly responsible for are able to achieve. Team members focus on the tasks they are assigned and the goals they personally influence, failing to recognise the need to operate in the interests of the team and business as a whole.

Balance belief and humility, achievement and ambition

While its essential that people have confidence in themselves, one another and the organisation’s potential, so too is truthful insight into what needs to improve or is holding you back. Encourage regular honest self-reflection and critique. Encourage belief and pride as well as personal accountability for continuous improvement.

Recognise the stories commonly told across your business about past success or failure, and the impact they have on your team’s ability to thrive in the future. Inspire people to strive, to have ambition and belief. Recognise that while its important to stop and appreciate successes along the way, so too is remaining focused on what comes next on your journey to leverage and harness potential.

Explore, Challenge and Debate

While cooperation is great for harmony, healthy robust debate is essential for excellence. Teams who argue well, that is with intelligence and respect are those most likely to achieve great things. Being informed, considered, astute, open and challenging are essential to any group’s ability to make great decisions and ultimately win in a tough landscape of competition.

Create an environment in which people are expected to challenge themselves and one another. Expect that they avoid lazy thinking and question their beliefs, assumptions and ways of operating. Encourage people to have curiosity and fully explore possibilities. Enable innovation by ensuring fixed mindsets, political agendas and a lack of courage are challenged.

Start at the top

The single most important influencer of success is ownership from the top. The simple truth is unless you assume responsibility for building a culture in which the full potential of your team can be leveraged, its unlikely to happen. Demonstrate that you value diversity and people are more likely to be open to difference. Demonstrate that you value respectful challenge and debate, and people are more likely to do the same.

Focus on your senior leadership team. When members of the executive team recognise their duty is to the organisation as a whole, silos are unlikely to form or be tolerated. Expect senior leaders to place their first order of priority on being an effective member of the executive. Help them to understand that success of the leadership group is essential to ensuring that the collective potential of the team is harnessed.