Unlocking Potential Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: Unlocking Potential is a guide that will help you as a leader make a difference in people’s lives in the long run by learning how to coach people in a way that brings to light their greatest strengths and capabilities.

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In high-school science class I remember learning about potential energy. It was the power that rockets, for example, stored within, waiting to be unleashed. The force that would make a rocket go had to have a spark to get it going. Once it did, the potential energy released its power to make the rocket fly. 

Similarly, you have potential to achieve great things, reaching new heights in your work. But the difficulty is finding and unlocking that stored energy. You want to make use of it, but you just don’t know how. And if you’re a manager, you may find it even harder to solve this problem in your team members. 

What you need is a coach. And the secrets of great coaching are what Michael Simpson’s Unlocking Potential: 7 Coaching Skills That Transform Individuals, Teams, and Organizations will give you. The seven skills of coaching to unlock potential are: 

  • Trust
  • Potential
  • Commitment
  • Execution
  • Character & Competence
  • Challenging paradigms
  • Self-feedback

Let’s learn a little more about some of these ways to bring out the best in yourself and your team!

Here are the 3 most powerful lessons this book taught me:

  1. The first principles of effective coaching center around trust and potential. 
  2. You can encourage commitment by asking the right questions and help others execute effectively with the principle of flow.
  3. Asking a team member what feedback they’d give to someone in their situation brings out the best advice for them to follow.

Are you ready to inspire your people to reach their full potential? Let’s get going!

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Lesson 1: Build trust and unlock potential as your first steps when coaching someone.

If someone who you didn’t trust started giving you advice, would you listen to them? Of course not! I remember recently a leader I had no faith in tried to give me advice. Not only was it awkward, it also fell on deaf ears. In contrast, recently I’ve enjoyed working with mentors that I knew I could trust. With their help, my happiness and success have reached new heights. 

To make a difference in anybody’s life, they must trust you. And the only true way to get that is by being completely honest with people. When you have the power of confidence in your team, it fosters healthy communication. This happens because it allows people to feel more free to be open with one another. 

Next comes a principle that is a large component of this book, and that’s potential. When coaching, you need to believe that everyone has the power to learn, grow, and become better. 

This type of faith in a person can help light a fire within them that they didn’t know was there. To develop this skill, practice listening to understand other’s paradigms. When you know what they believe in, you can help them move past whatever is holding them back.

Lesson 2: Help your people learn the art of flow and ask the right questions to encourage commitment.

Motivation is difficult to maintain over the time it takes to achieve a goal. But when we fully commit, that desire to work hard becomes more consistent. So how do you help the people you’re coaching stay motivated and committed? The answer goes back to the hallmark of coaching, which is asking questions and actively listening

Try asking “what actions and goals are crucial for you to reach professionally and personally?” Or you might try “how badly do you want to make an impact on the world?” Gauge daily progress by using the question “do you seek to grow your skills each day?” Take time to think of your own questions to help your specific clients commit to their goals. 

After a pledge to action the next step is execution. To invite action towards your people’s goals, change your vision of your own role as their coach. Don’t view your job as pushing or pulling them to your idea of fulfillment. Instead, seek to make sure that you take the client where they want to go. 

The best way to do this is to help them figure out what will get them into the flow state. What work makes them feel completely absorbed in body, mind, and soul? Helping them get into this state as often as possible is how you will help your clients get the most done. This will make them happier, which will also lead to more success!

Lesson 3: The best ideas for people to help themselves come when you ask them to give advice to someone in their situation.

If you want to really improve in life, don’t just welcome feedback, seek it. As a coach, you are particularly well-positioned to offer advice. But to help people the most you need to get out of the way and help people help themselves. The best way to do this is to ask people to give feedback to themselves.

You might ask them something like “what’s good about what you’ve just accomplished?” or “what do you think you could improve on?” Rather than just letting them hear what you have to say, giving others a chance to reflect helps them take accountability. The ownership they get from this will make them more likely to take action on what they say. 

When it is time for you to offer evaluations, however, make sure to prepare your client to receive it well. The advice of a coach has the power to lead to change, but it can be hard for people to receive. 

Most of us associate feedback with negative feelings. To combat this, center your advice on people’s strengths and talents. Ask them what they think their greatest strengths are, or how they think they can better focus on them. When you approach your interaction from the positive in this way you energize both yourself and the person you’re coaching.

Unlocking Potential Review

Unlocking Potential is a great read that I really enjoyed. I particularly liked how it’s helpful both to push people to action and also get the coach out of the way so people can succeed on their own. The book did a great job of outlining the importance of identifying individuals innate strengths and asking the right questions to help them improve.

Who would I recommend the Unlocking Potential summary to?

The 37-year-old executive coach who wants to become even better at helping their clients succeed, the 26-year-old beginner coach who is looking for a path to success, and anyone who is a leader in any capacity.

Last Updated on August 23, 2022

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Luke Rowley

With over 450 summaries that he contributed to Four Minute Books, first as a part-time writer, then as our full-time Managing Editor until late 2021, Luke is our second-most prolific writer. He's also a professional, licensed engineer, working in the solar industry. Next to his day job, he also runs Goal Engineering, a website dedicated to achieving your goals with a unique, 4-4-4 system. Luke is also a husband, father, 75 Hard finisher, and lover of the outdoors. He lives in Utah with his wife and 3 kids.