How to Help Your Team Intentionally Release Their Potential

By David Lazarenko written about 7 months ago

My purpose is potentionality. It is what drives my organization, my passion for helping clients, and my promise to everyone on my team. Yes, it's a funny, made-up word, but it holds all the meaning in the world to me and my fellow Think Shifters.

To clarify, potentionality is a commitment to intentionally release the potential in myself, my clients, my team and my company.

It is based on the belief that every one of these has the potential to improve, to be better and to achieve more, and it hinges on the idea that improvement has to start with the decision to be intentional about making a change. It is not a difficult concept to grasp but a profound driver for the actions I take everyday, including the professional development of my team.

Since adopting this purpose a few years ago, I started using and developing management tools that could help my team intentionally release their potential. One of my favorite tools is the 30/60/3/6/9 plan. Much like potentionality, the 30/60/3/6/9 is not some amazingly deep philosophical tool, it isn't even new for that matter, but used correctly, it has proven to be a fantastic motivator for driving intentional behavior.

To better understand the tool, it helps to know how it came to life. It started when I used to conduct 30/60/90 day planning sessions with my team members. I found that the majority of these turned into detailed “To Do” lists that focused more on completing assigned projects or fulfilling duties of their role. It wasn’t that these weren’t beneficial for workload and time management, but they did little to set goals or plans for personal progression (the real pursuit of potential).

So, I added the 6/9 month component to the above plans, as I believed (and have now seen) that true personal progression could take place within that window. However, while I was now seeing a bigger picture, I made the mistake of initially approaching the new version in the same manner as the 30/60/90 day plan, by starting at the beginning. Unfortunately, this didn’t generate much better results as my team members and I ended up spending so much time going through the inevitably long “To Do” lists of the first 30-60 days that we barely touched on the new components.

So, I decided to flip the process and start at the end instead.

I also added a few other elements and parameters and the change was amazing. While I still continue to refine the process, here are the basic tips and tricks:

1. Keep It Realistic

For every session I hold, I ask the person to come prepared with no more than three different goals for month nine. This isn’t a means of keeping the session short, it is to keep it realistic as what I’ve seen is that true personal development goals take time and effort to achieve so you can’t try to tackle too many at once.

2. Make It Real

This may sound simple or even obvious, but it is critical that, in every session, I start by getting my team member to describe their “end state.” This is not just a written goal on a page, but a clearly defined picture of their future. In many cases we visualize their end state through exercises like “It is Monday, May 31st, nine months from today. It is a sunny spring day and you are almost literally skipping to work because you are so excited about the week ahead. What does that week look like?” The addition of the date, day of the week and even the season (or special occasion) is also very important to the 30/60/3/6 as it helps to add even more reality to the plan. I’ve found that a team member saying they will complete something “in 90 days” carries much less weight then them saying they will complete something “before their birthday on the 21st of October.”

3. Create Milestones

Once the goals have been clarified and the touch of realism has been applied, I then work backwards with my team member to map out key milestones that need to occur (e.g. training, client transitions, taking on new types of work, etc.) and ultimately whittle them down to tangible tasks that need to start today. We go through the process for each goal and challenge assumptions along the way. For example, for one team member in sales, their goal was to land a large client in nine months. When setting the milestones, they underestimated the average time to close the sale for a large client, and, through challenging the assumptions, realized that they had to start landing solid leads in the next 30 days (something they originally believed they had lots of time to accomplish).

4. Capture, Share and Review

At Think Shift, we are fortunate to have large whiteboard painted walls in nearly every office and meeting room, which I use for every session. Whether it is on a whiteboard, large video screen or even a flip chart pad, it is important to map out the entire time horizon for both of us to see and write on accordingly. I then get the team member to capture the filled in time horizon at the end of the meeting and send it back to me (and their direct manager) in a stand-alone document that becomes the basis for all follow-up one-on-ones and check-up sessions going forward.

Whether you have embraced a commitment to potentionality or not, if you are responsible for the development and personal progression of others in your organization, I encourage you to give the 30/60/3/6/9 plan a try. I also encourage you to make it your own by adding your own elements and tweaking mine. Ultimately, it needs to feel genuine to you and your team member or else it will become something it shouldn't be, just another management tool. Good luck!


In his Working Wisdom series, David Lazarenko shares insights and inspiration gathered throughout his 15-year agency career. Through real-life examples and an analysis of industry trends, he offers up practical advice and actionable strategies for marketers.