Are they buying what you’re selling? If they’re quitting, probably not.

“I don’t think they can offer the kind of opportunities I’m looking for.”

What just happened there? A decision just got made in a room someone wasn’t in. The thing is, this time, the decision-maker was the employee and not the employer. I have a brilliant leader who’s about to lose a talented member of her team. And is she losing her because of an absence of opportunities? No. She’s losing her because the kind of work the employee wants to do and the kind of work the manager wants her to do aren’t the same.

This situation is the most common scenario I see when working with leaders. They sincerely believe that they’re “empowering people” and creating excellent opportunities to learn and grow left and right. And yet, the high-potential candidate still quits, or worse, still seems unhappy when given the new opportunity.

I’m going to unpack some more of this story as I can see your head shaking and the thought bubble above your head saying, “Oh, this can’t be me. I know how to empower my team.” You might, but before you lose another person, let’s make sure.

We’re going to start by giving this high potential employee a name. Meet Sarah. Sarah is a Sr. Manager in a large organization with numerous roles in the team. You’ve promoted her multiple times. Her most recent promotion happened because she discovered a part of the organization that wasn’t maximizing its potential. After experimenting and beta testing her hypothesis, she pitched the idea to her manager along with a strategy to bring the concept to fruition. The resulting project has had a significant impact on the organization. Sarah now has multiple people reporting to her, and their combined contribution is key to the larger team’s success. Sarah’s manager needs her to lead her team and continue to deliver on its promise. Her manager sees opportunities for Sarah. They include increasing her group’s size, and when the next re-org happens, she’s planning on giving Sarah more direct-report responsibilities. Sarah is just the kind of manager the team needs. When asked, Sarah’s manager described Sarah as a humanizer, a fixer, and a producer. She wants to empower Sarah to become the leader she knows she has the potential to be.

Sarah sounds pretty great, doesn’t she?
It also sounds like Sarah’s manager has great plans for her.

Tiny problem.

If you ask Sarah who she is, while being a humanist and fixer is important to her, primarily she considers herself a potentialist, producer, and commercializer. There’s nothing Sarah loves more than finding innovative opportunities to impact the business and figuring out how to take these ideas from inception to existence. She thrives in the new and the never-been-done-before.

What Sarah’s manager thinks Sarah wants and what Sarah actually wants are different. And we didn’t unwrap the conversation I had with Sarah about her ambitions for the future.

Now I can hear some of you saying, “I don’t get it. Sarah’s manager wanted to promote her and give her more leadership opportunities. Doesn’t Sarah want that? Isn’t a better title more important for her long-term career prospects?”

Sarah didn’t want that. Sarah’s long-term career prospects don’t include having lots of people report to her. While what she’s called is important to her, what she’s known for creating is more important.

POTENTIALISM – it goes both ways. Your manager chooses you because of their perception of your potential, and you get to chose where you want to explore your potential.

Sarah’s not the only one who was out of synch with her manager. We asked over 200 people last year what words they would use to describe themselves. We also asked their managers what they would say.

They were never the same.

Did everyone, like Sarah, choose to find a new role in a different department more suited to who they were?

No. Some decided to have a conversation with their manager and get alignment on their potential. In doing so, both manager and employee are, I hear, more engaged and excited about the future. Some realized they had no idea who they wanted to be, so they are on an odyssey to figure that out. Some even admitted that the potential their manager saw in them created a better future.

In every circumstance, alignment on both sides regarding an individual’s potential meant a more engaged, empowered, curious, impactful team member.

We’re “selling” subscriptions to our future time to our employers, to our customers, to our investors. The Future You – are you selling what you want to sell?

PS. I know, not a surprise. We will be covering this particular topic on the “What do you do if your story isn’t working? How to change the narrative.” show. If you think who you are and what your manager is “buying” from you are two different things, this is the show for you. Or if you’re out looking for a job and people don’t seem to be getting it, it’s a similar problem with a different customer.
Don’t forget, if you stick around after the show, we have Magic Time with me, where you can share your unique situation and get some tips on how to manifest the Future You.