Walking through Botanic Gardens, I noticed two unusual sculptures created from waste material. Made from old electrical items, they highlighted as a society how disposable things have become. Rather than getting things fixed we just dump them and replace them with something new. It got me thinking there are so many things today that we are just wasting, and although some of them we can buy new, others we will never be able to replace.

The fashion industry has come under criticism for its quick cheap clothing, and the food industry for the amount that’s wasted. I’m sure over the festive season, lots of people overindulged, buying too much food and having to throw it out. The festive season is naturally a time when we indulge with our family and friends and according to the Guardian we throw away “£64 million of food on Christmas day” which is a huge waste.

Then there’s the waste of things we can never replace. Reading the recent tributes to all-star basketball player Kobe Bryant reminds us the most precious commodity we have is our time. You can’t buy more time no matter how much money you have. The amount of time wasted in meetings that are either not needed or totally unproductive. They don’t finish on time, or people come unprepared and read the material when sitting there. It makes no sense. Or the amount of time spent on reading emails. I made a controversial statement last year, asking would business be more effective without emails. I’ve seen so many times emails sent that copy in far too many people or being used to communicate a message that is totally lost in translation. Then there’s the hours wasted when people return from holidays to have to trawl through hundreds of emails, a lot of which may not even be relevant to them. Cutting down the number of emails sent, preventing the time wasted and people could focus on being productive and really adding value to a business.

Although I get frustrated with any waste, I’m passionate about the potential people have, and making sure we don’t waste it. Like time, the waste of potential can’t be replaced, so it’s crucial to understand why this happens.

Psychologically people place a higher value on things that already belong to them, based on the endowment effect. Maybe that’s why potential is so readily wasted, as people don’t realise the full potential they have. I believe people not achieving their full potential, is one of the biggest wastes of our time. In a recent article Richard Branson said he “often imagined a world where everyone was driven and supported to fulfil their potential – and the impact this could have on the world.”
So why are we wasting something so important that can never be replaced?

Fear of Failure

Firstly, our fear of failure or making a mistake. A voice inside our head telling us we can’t or shouldn’t do things. What if we fail or look stupid? Who are we to think we could achieve that? The good news is you’re not on your own, or going crazy, everyone has this little voice at some point. I have witnessed the only difference between people who achieve their potential and those who don’t is how they manage this inner voice to help or hinder them.

A little encouragement goes a long way

We all have around 70 to 80 thousand thoughts per day, and on average 85% of these are negative. In my experience, a little encouragement has a great impact on others. To achieve your potential, it’s crucial to recognise your achievements, and what you’ve done well. I’ve seen so many times, people go to the negative about themselves easier. This drip feeds into the subconscious and has a phenomenal impact on holding people back from achieving their potential. When leading teams focus on people’s motivations, what they love, their strengths and keep reminding them. I’m not talking about completely ignoring when a job isn’t done properly, or mistakes happen. These need to be dealt with constructively with the team, and lessons learnt to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Be yourself

As Oscar Wilde has said, “Be yourself as everyone else is taken.” My experience when people begin their leadership journey, they can often try to be someone else they have experienced before them. I totally agree we should all have mentors and people to look up to and learn from. But your authenticity, confidence and self-belief will come through much stronger when you just be yourself. This will ensure you achieve your full potential.

Achieving your potential comes with growing pains

This is one that sounds so simple but can be difficult. I’m often asked, there must be some people who breeze through life, achieve their full potential and never doubt themselves. My answer is, if you want to be successful you will have to continuously develop and grow, which means being uncomfortable and not as confident as you would be when you’re good at something. The alternative is to stay the same and comfortable but wasting the potential and opportunities you could achieve.

Learn from achievements & mistakes

Henry Ford famously said, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” Although I agree, I believe we’re missing a huge opportunity to learn from our successes. Too often we achieve our goals and move quickly to the next with no reflection. In contrast, we analyse mistakes in detail, properly evaluating what we’d do differently the next time.

Know what your good at and why

Author Steve Chandler said, “it’s not enough to know you’re good, you really need to know why you’re good.” But how many people really do this? Leaders do this with their business, a SWOT analysis, what is their USP as a business, how do they win against competition. But in my experience people don’t tend to do it enough about themselves. To achieve your potential, you need to know what your good at and why your good at it. As a leader you’ve a responsibility to pass this knowledge and learning on to your team to ensure this potential isn’t wasted.

Never underestimate the potential that lies within you

Nelson Mandela famously said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” I’m in such a fortunate position to coach amazing senior leaders, and I’m blown away by the potential in each of them. I believe people can achieve anything they think is possible. Helping these leaders go from good to great achieving their full potential and doing things they once believed may not be possible, is such a privilege.