What Matters More: High-Potential or High-Performance?

One of our testimonials is quite simple. It was given some years ago by a UK Bank Manager, who became aware of her potential:

Moving Performance through music made me realise that I can do anything that I put my mind into, even if I have never done it before. Standing up on stage and singing was never my plus point, but it felt good when I actually did it.”

Since then we’ve travelled across the globe working with world-class musicians to facilitate change amongst senior executives, corporate teams, and influential business leaders. But it often comes back to this: potential or performance, what matters more?

Making Room for High-Potential

Performance is, by its very nature, highly visible. It’s something to be sought after, measured, sustained or repeated. And much of our work is focused on how to sustain high-performance.

But potential is hidden. So learning how to identify and empower those with high-potential within our teams is vital if we want them to become tomorrow’s high-performers.

Moving Performance creates experiences that take leaders outside of their familiar roles into an unfamiliar environment. We don’t teach leadership classes. For us, it’s about providing a unique space for individuals which brings to the forefront all the theory, learning and experiences they have already acquired but have not yet fully applied. Our role is to enable them to realise their potential. This facilitates fresh thinking and a new perspective and we’ve found music to be a powerful tool for that purpose.  

Why Potential Matters

For elite athletes or professional musicians, potential is overrated. World-class musicians are required to demonstrate what it means to perform at the highest level, under pressure, night after night. For every child prodigy who successfully develops their own career, there are many others who struggle to make that transition from potential to performance. And unless you can do that, you don’t get to play.

Many businesses operate in the same way.

High-performers are highly sought after. But once the benchmark has been set, it’s on them to sustain their performance consistently under similar pressures. However, they can become burnt-out and careless from flying too high without accountability or good management.

At the same time, in an organisation fixated only with the next success, those with potential are frequently overlooked. They aren’t returning any results, they don’t fit the mold or they aren’t self-promoting. But unless those with the potential to achieve more are developed and released, the business is reliant on its existing high-performers to the detriment of everyone else. And possibly the business itself.

Tapping That Potential

Maslow’s motivational theory on the hierarchy of needs identifies what it takes for us to thrive. With our basic physiological needs as the foundation, he proposed self-actualisation as the pinnacle, “to become everything that one is capable of becoming”.

Being in control of one’s destiny is perhaps the most obvious route to self-actualisation. Enabling employees to shape their individual goals and career development is the logical next step.

This creates an engaged workforce – where everyone is working within or towards their potential – which is a strategic priority for any growing business. Engaged employees mean lower absenteeism and higher turnover, boosting overall productivity.   

Each person’s potential extends well beyond his or her job description. And tapping that potential means recognizing how an employee’s unique set of beliefs, talents, goals, and life experiences drives his or her performance, personal success, and well-being.

Organizations have a valuable opportunity to transform their employees’ work experiences into ones that are fulfilling and motivating — and that allow workers to bring their best to work every day.” Gallup – Employee Engagement


So how do we harness that potential in our people and protect those performing at their peak from flying too close to the sun?

Learning How To Recognise High-Potential

As leaders, it’s about paying attention to those around you. It’s about recognising when someone is performing well in what they’re doing and when that seems natural to them.

However, this requires taking a step back to really see what’s going on. It means remaining objective in order to truly observe that individual and recognise the clues to their potential.

This takes time, and practice.

The reality for most senior leaders is that they have so many other responsibilities. This means their time and commitment to focus on their people is strained. And yet without the ability to coach their high-performers or identify those with high-potential, their role as leaders is limited to people management.

What most of us need is to something to challenge our thinking in order to change gear and move forward.

How We Do This

Moving Performance provides organisations with the opportunity to see things differently. This enables them to step out of their day-to-day challenges into a very unfamiliar situation, whilst recognising that the very same pressures and possibilities are at play there. It provokes questions like these –

  • Can a leader of a diverse team leverage the differences in their team?
  • How can they conduct the team in the moment, in preparation for the future?
  • When do we consciously coach ourselves to look at a person or situation from another perspective or through a different lens?

Through observing high-performing world-class musicians, leaders are able to experience for themselves the qualities that each can bring, the dynamics at work, and how they work together to deliver an exceptional performance. This can have a surprising but powerful impact on individuals and organisations leading to significant and necessary change.  

Identifying Today’s Potential to Empower Tomorrow’s Performers

The reality is that if we don’t identify those with high-potential from within our own teams, we all miss out. We end up shuffling the deck, as one high-performer moves from one company to the next. Whilst at the same time, our corporate cultures do nothing to mature or evolve. This leads to low morale, disengagement, and poor performance, with no leadership pipeline to prevent the inevitable impact of that.

However, we can learn how to identify and empower those with potential. This enables them to find meaning in what they do and to produce their best performance. It also creates an environment for high-performers to excel from a place of value, purpose and fulfilment. That leads to a culture of excellence which in turn attracts those who want to realise their potential too.