Business Growth & Strategy

Are you really reaching your full potential?

Full Potential Group founder Carole Gaskell has been fascinated by business from a very young age. Brought up with entrepreneur parents, a business and marketing degree seemed inevitable. 

After a variety of London-based roles she worked her way up a publishing startup to MD. “The business scaled fast”, she says. “I opened up businesses in the US, Australia and elsewhere and travelled a lot. But I came to the realisation that I wanted to give something back.”

Carole subsequently trained as a counsellor. While it was a step in the right direction, she realised it wasn’t quite for her. “I wanted to be more proactive, I wanted to push people forward”, she says. “While I’m hugely empathetic I’m also impatient, so I didn’t really feel I was cut out to be a counsellor”. 

In the US, in the late 80s/early 90s, she discovered coaching. “I was invited out for dinner with a guy from an agency I was working with and their business coach and I remember thinking, wow, what an amazing job!”

She retrained as a coach, sold her business to the BBC and set up her own coaching and consultancy business. A client mentioned her firm in a Daily Telegraph article and business boomed, resulting in an increase in clients as well as a two-book publishing deal. 

Since then, she’s written two further books and has an incredible goal: to help three million people unlock their potential between now and 2028. 

So, how can you reach your full potential? 

We caught up with Carole to find out. 

Missed Carole’s webinar? You can find the full recording here.

“One of the most important skills for a leader”

“Coaching is a really hot topic”, says Carole. However, she’s also quick to point out that there is a time and a place for it. 

“It’s like selecting the right gear in a car”, she explains. “You wouldn’t just drive around in first gear all the time. You wouldn’t coach all the time. But coaching is a fundamental part of any leader’s repertoire because ultimately you’re unlocking the potential and performance of the people around you”. 

Coaching, she says, is one of the most important skills for any leader looking to scale and grow their business. “No leader can do things by themselves. As your business grows you’ll need incredibly competent and motivated people around you: people who will often know more than you about their subject areas.”

It means that as a business grows, its leader increasingly becomes less of an expert in certain functions – which can feel daunting. Coaching, says Carole, is the only way to both unlock the potential in new people and truly understand what is going on in your business. 

However, when it comes to improving performance there are traps that many business leaders fall into. 

What are the common traps business leaders face?

Assumption, says Carole, is one of the biggest ways in which leaders slip up. “It’s easy to assume that everyone is like you and to treat people in the way you expect to be treated”, she explains. “In reality, as we all know, everyone is different. Part of being a great leader is recognising the value of every single person but also recognising their personality types and motivators – really valuing that diversity in your team so you can bring out the greatness in everyone to make your business amazing.”

Carole’s webinar included discussion around the colours of personalities: a means of quickly getting a sense of who someone on your team is and how they are likely to behave. 

“Someone who is Cool Blue typically has a preference for being logical, structured and well thought through”, she says. “Someone who is Sunshine Yellow is the opposite: they’re quite ‘big picture’ thinking, very persuasive, have loads of great ideas and tend to wear their heart on their sleeve.”

She describes a situation where a CEO may be Sunshine Yellow with plenty of great ideas for the business but has a team of Cool Blues who may feel that the CEO is failing to furnish them with enough detail that they know what they need to do. Learning to recognise personalities and motivators, says Carole, can have a significant impact on the growth of your business. 

Another trap that leaders can fall into, says Carole – especially during periods of rapid growth – is assuming that everyone is telepathic: that they know exactly what you’re thinking as a leader. “Particularly with hybrid working increasing since the pandemic, we as leaders need to be really clear on expectations”, she says. “We need to be clear about what we want and hold people to account – as well as holding that balance between being incredibly supportive of people and caring for their wellbeing, as well as challenging them.”

The third trap is doing the wrong work. “We don’t really mean to, but we can end up micromanaging people or getting involved in things that aren’t strategically adding value to the business”, Carole explains. Instead, leaders need to encourage and train team members to step up to take on more of the tactical work so that they themselves can focus on the bigger picture. 

“When you’re coaching people, you’re getting them to step up”, she says. “You’re being clear about what they need to do, but you’re also giving them space and being non-directive so they can work out how to do it best.”

Three fundamental skills

For an organisation to fulfil its potential and deliver against its strategy, every single person in the business needs to grow. A leader’s role is not to grow every individual, but instead to develop their direct reports with this growth cascading down through the business. 

There are three fundamental skills – which most leaders do every single day but don’t do often enough – that should be included in this cascade. 

The first? Asking the right questions: “questions that laser down right into the source of the issue so they can come up with a solution.”

The second is active listening. “We think we listen but we interrupt”, Carole says. “We start making assumptions – we start advising and jumping in, and therefore we’re not growing somebody.” In the webinar, she introduced the concept of listening on three levels: not only to a person’s words but also to their emotions and intuitions. 

Once you have asked a great question and actively listened, the third skill you need to employ is reflecting back. “A lot of leaders don’t do this”, highlights Carole. “They think, why do I need to repeat back what the person said?”

Returning a summary of the conversation not only checks understanding and expectations but also allows you to ask the next, better question to help grow that person further. 

Believe in your people

Carole ends with one important piece of advice. “You can practise all the skills in the world”, she says. “But if you don’t have what I call a full potential mindset – if you don’t see the potential in your people – you’re wasting your time.”

Every single leader, she says, must look at their people and see what potential they have, both individually and collectively. “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves”, said the great Thomas Edison. Carole agrees. “Our role as leaders is to believe in people and to help them astound you every single day. Building confidence and self-belief through your full potential mindset is one of the biggest impacts a leader can have on their people.”

Enjoy Carole’s webinar in full here.

Category: Business Growth & Strategy


About the Author: Vistage UK Staff

Vistage is the world’s largest executive coaching organisation for small and medium sized businesses.
For more than 60 years we’ve been helping MDs, CEOs, business owners and key executives solve their toughest challenges

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