Shine a Light on Untapped Potential in Your Business

Written by Josephine Palermo, Doctor of Culture and Co-Creator Higher Spaces

light bulbs in a row

Everyone loves free stuff. Most business owners don’t even know they have free resources at your fingertips! Untapped potential sits in your business cycles; your sales cycles; the relationships you have with your suppliers and partners; and your customers. There’s untapped potential in the ways in which your staff engage with your business. That’s like having money in the bank you don’t know you have! So what you want to do is actually shine the light on that potential? There are six areas of your business you should leveraging. The first one is, and these aren’t in order, is the way in which you plan, and think about the horizons in your business. Involving your team in strategic execution can energise them and your business. Your staff will have more of a real stake in your business because of it. What you end up with is people around you who are as excited about the future of your business as you are.

How you build culture

The second area to investigate is how you build culture in your business and think about your team. Are you building a culture that’s geared for high performance, where people work in high performance teams? Culture is built on the beliefs you and your staff have about the company, the assumptions they make, and behaviours that lead from these assumptions. This relates to the ways in which individual values align to the company’s values. It also relates to how the work gets done in the organisation, and how people talk about the work they do. Lastly and most importantly, it relates to how people speak about the company and the meaning they derive from being a part of it.

The third area relates to your customers and the way in which you think about them. Do you have a real love for your customers? Do you include your customers in your decision making and in your planning? Do you understand their needs and track their experiences? Do you test your ideas and assumptions with real customers? Some organisations who take this seriously invite their customers to strategic planning sessions.


The fourth other area of untapped potential is your leadership. How do you lead? Do you show shared leadership in your organisation? Are you giving people the ability to take some of that leadership on as well? Can you delegate responsibility comfortably without feeling like you’re losing control? Are you authentic and personal in your leadership? Are you developing leadership in others?


The fifth dimension is in your processes: that’s your business and your sales cycles. What’s the flow like in your business? Is it clunky? Are staff and customers having to go through complicated or long journeys to find out about you or transact with you? Are you too hard to deal with? Do your processes flow or are customers and your staff frustrated by them. Customers will rate you against the experience they are receiving from other providers, and this is not limited to your industry. Customers will rate their experience and service with you against giants like Amazon. So you need to design your processes from the customer’s rather than your own perspective. There are tools like Customer Journey Maps that can help you understand an ideal customer experience. When you have beautiful customer-focused design, you’re leveraging untapped potential.


The sixth domain to release untapped potential is in innovation. It relates to the ways in which you manage digitisation. I call that digital everything. Are you automating repeatable processes? Do you have a cloud platform that manages your business? Are you thinking about scale? It’s essential and critical to release this flow in your business. All six areas I’ve mentioned are potential sources of untapped resources. Don’t feel overwhelmed. I don’t recommend you apply changes to all these domains at once. Shine the light on the one area where the smallest change will make the biggest impact. And pursue changes there before moving to the next domain. If you release even 10% of the potential in these domains, you’re going to be more geared for growth than you currently are. But I guarantee you will release 30% or more. That’s 30% more time and flow in your business, and increased engagement in your staff who will boss it like you do.

A Case Study

I’ve used untapped potential many times in my careers. A good example comes to mind because it helps me explain what I mean by resources at your fingertips that you’re not using. As a senior manager leading change for Telstra Operations I ran a leadership development program for the 450 senior managers across the organisation.

I wanted to do was give those leaders a bit of an experience of what it means to work in a different way, to work in a more collaborative and agile way. (Agile Methods is another topic which I’ll write about soon). I wanted to give them an experience of a hackathon. A hackathon is an event where people come together in a competitive (but fun and collaborative) environment and they usually have to build something. They have to do it quickly and rely on teamwork. I created an experience where there’s a lot of energy in the room and people are fighting against the clock. They’re working with people in a team that they haven’t met before, but they get to know each other quickly because they’re under pressure.

I went to one of my partners, a cloud platform provider, and asked, ‘can you help me run this hackathon?’ And they said, ‘sure’. We used their business intelligence software because that’s what we wanted the teams to solve problems around in a short amount of time.

My industry partner provided the secure Wi-Fi environment, and threw in bonus marketing materials They gave me 50 of their staff on the day to help run the hackathon. I got all of that but then now had another problem. I needed some internal staff to be part of the hackathon to coach every team, and we had a hundred teams. Suddenly I needed 100 Telstra employees to help me with this hackathon. That required two weeks of their time in training. And then they had to come for the day to be part of the event.

The other thing I had against me was I only had two weeks to recruit them. Everyone around me said it’s impossible, you can’t do it. Again I didn’t have money to pay for people and I didn’t have money to release them from their projects. So what was I going to do?

I put my feelers out to my networks. I sold it as something really amazing that they would be part of. I told them I would support them. I told them I already had an industry partner who was supporting us. It was tense for awhile, but just in that second week of recruitment, I got 100 people. I got  exactly 100 people, no more or less! I had no fat to play with. Go forward in time. We had an incredibly successful event. We still talk about it amongst the team as the best thing we’ve ever done. It was epic! It was successful because I released the potential in my team, the wider team, my virtual team , and larger network. And then I leveraged and released potential with our supplier. Up to that date the supplier had been dealing with Telstra in a very transactional way. The relationship was not great. Working on this project released us for a moment from the minutiae of SLAs and we basked in a larger shared vision together. We both benefited, and still do. There are many other examples, and they all make me smile as the highlights in my career. It’s when we shine the brightest and achieve the most. I hope you’re thinking about ways to shine your light right now.


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