The 5 characteristics of people who champion the development of their potential

By Geneviève Guité

This article is a summary of Episode #4 - Talent and Potential of my Bold Leadership podcast.

Those who know me know that I'm passionate about developing talent and potential. I believe in each individual's ability to develop, grow and achieve personal and professional fulfillment.

"Talent doesn't exist, talent is wanting to do something. »

It's one of my favorite quotes, and a bit of inspiration for the topics I'm going to talk about today.

But just because you're talented doesn't mean you'll develop your full potential.

To develop your potential, you have to want to do it.

So I want to explore with you 5 characteristics of people who are champions of developing their potential.

1 - They have a growth mentality

The growth mindset, developed by Dr. Carol Dweck in her book Mindset, explains how our state of mind influences our ability to develop, and that talent and skills are not the only elements that define our ability to develop our full potential.

For people with a fixed mindset, what talent or intelligence I have now defines my potential. The consequence is that they may plateau earlier and not reach their full potential.

For people with a growth mindset, what I learn (academically or in life in general) will define my potential and that intelligence can be developed.

They have a desire to learn and therefore a tendency:

  • Learn from criticism and feedback
  • A willingness to take on challenges and solve problems
  • To persevere in the face of setbacks and difficulties
  • To see effort and work as the path to mastery of the skill

As a result, they achieve a higher level of success, and are more likely to maximize their potential.

For people with a fixed mindset, immediate success without too much effort is important, which can prevent them from taking on challenges for fear of facing failure.

Society in general tends to value immediate, effortless success - after all, if you're talented, it should be easy.

Michael Jordan and the growth mindset

Dr. Dweck describes Michael Jordan as the perfect example of someone with a growth mindset. Little Michael, wasn't particularly gifted when he started playing basketball in high school: he was small and even the team coach thought he had no talent. Today, Michael Jordan is the greatest professional athlete of all time, and probably the one who worked the hardest to reach his level of excellence. A kid with a fixed mentality would probably have given up basketball.

Successful people have a special talent for turning life's difficulties into successes later in their careers. Failure doesn't define them.

What does a growth-minded leader or manager look like?

These managers are dedicated to the development of their employees and see talent as just the beginning of something. People with a growth mindset know that it takes time for potential to blossom.

In contrast, managers with a fixed mindset will recognize the talent they see today, and judge their employees as talented or not. They will offer very little coaching or development, and will keep their initial impression. This type of manager also tends to develop managers who will, in turn, have this type of mentality.

2 - They have GRIT

Grit, as described by Angela Duckworth in her book GRIT, The Power of Passion and perseverance, is the combination of passion, perseverance and guts. The ability not to give up when it's really hard.

What Angela Duckworth says is that talent, and being gifted, is not the only factor that defines potential.

She writes that we even have a bias, and let ourselves be distracted by talent, instead of looking at or evaluating other aspects such as Grit, which is a much better indicator of an individual's future potential.

People with Grit will perceive the failures, obstacles or difficulties they encounter as a source of learning. 

"I never lose. Either I win or I learn. »

3- They have GUTS

Athletes with GUTS have heart, courage, determination and guts.

And a talented athlete without GUTS has very little chance of becoming a great champion. Steve Prefontaine, who is arguably considered the greatest American long distance runner, had a reputation for having his heart in his belly and always pushing himself to the maximum of his abilities and many of his quotes are inspiring:

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift. »

And when you don't put in the effort, you always have an excuse when you don't succeed.

To have GUTS is to make the choice to be uncomfortable in order to give the best of ourselves. 

4- They're out of their comfort zone

You couldn't talk about developing potential without talking about getting out of your comfort zone.

I really like The Law of the Rubber Band, by John C. Maxwell in his book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth: Apply them and reach your full potential. A rubber band that is not taut is useless. It's the same for our development, if we stay in our comfort zone, we stagnate.

"Growth stops when you lose the tension between where you are and where you could be. »

The 4 zones

Zone 1 - The comfort zone 

It makes you feel safe and in control. People with a growth mentality are less tolerant of staying in this area. It takes Guts to dare to move to the next zone.

Zone 2 - The zone of fear

We lack confidence, we let ourselves be influenced by what others think and it's uncomfortable. It is this area that will hold fixed mentalities for fear of facing difficulties to overcome, and sometimes failure.

Zone 3 - The Learning Zone

We manage new challenges, develop new skills, expand our comfort zone (and the good news is that we never go back, unlike the rubber band). And it takes FREE to persist.

Zone 4 - The growth zone

You find meaning in what you're doing, you grow and define new goals, and the cycle starts all over again.

"The ability to withstand discomfort is a superpower. »
Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian

5 - They face the DIP

When you have Grit, GUTS, a growth mentality and you push yourself to the maximum of your abilities... it's going to happen that you'll end up in the DIP. 

I told you about my coaching certification journey in episode #1 of my podcast. Part of the certification pathway consists of 26 weeks of group learning, with supervision sessions, etc.

And every week, there's new material to read and listen to. In week #13, the module to listen to is called The DIP. We were warned that it would happen, some before, some a little later, but we'd all go through it.

I remember so much how I felt. I'd come to the conclusion that coaching wasn't for me after all, and that maybe I should think about moving on. I remember the enormous good that listening to this recording had on me at that very moment. Twenty minutes in which Karen Kimsey-House, co-founder of CTI, talks about DIP.

I wanted to check whether my memory was correct, or whether I'd romanticized my experience of seven years ago. But no! Listening to this recording again, I reconnected with the power of DIP.

The feeling of failure, of not being able to do it and of feeling momentarily, completely incompetent, is natural and essential to any profound learning process. We are in an area of great vulnerability. It's a tunnel, and we have to go through it.

We're in skill area #2 - I know what I don't know, and it's not comfortable at all, in fact, it's a difficult and confrontational experience.

And we can't develop our full potential if we don't put ourselves in this situation of great discomfort.

And what Karen Kimsey-House is telling us is that we need to familiarize ourselves with this discomfort in order to develop our resilience and continue to grow.

She asks us the following two questions:

  • What's in this place for me?
  • What's the value of learning?

Karen also talks about what to do when you're in the DIP:

  • Focus our attention on the meaning we give to this exercise
  • Showing compassion to ourselves
  • Demonstrate integrity and ask yourself whether you did what you were supposed to do and whether you prepared properly
  • Asking for help and support when things go wrong

Going through experiences like these, if we don't already have a growth mindset, can definitely help us develop it. If what we accomplish is part of something that makes sense to us, anything is possible.


As a leader, if we want to maximize our impact on the world around us, we need to develop our own potential to the full. For our role is also to train, coach, mentor and help those around us to develop theirs. And this process is essential to keep the leadership wheel turning. 

When we share our passion, our experiences, our mistakes and our successes, we continue to learn and broaden our horizons. And the whole process of sharing and transferring knowledge is, in itself, a process that takes us out of our comfort zone, because it requires heart, humility and vulnerability. Mentoring is the perfect example of the generosity and reciprocity of this kind of development process. 

The development of our potential is our life's work, and it is never finished. And don't forget, as John Maxwell puts it so well: "Growth stops when you lose the tension between where you are and where you could be".

See you soon!

You're a superhero

By Geneviève Guité

You're a Super Hero

Visualizing yourself as a superhero can be a powerful exercise.

I had the opportunity to receive an illustration of my avatar designed by one of our 2D artists in the office. The illustration, I must say, is very flattering and depicts me a bit like a superhero. And guess what? I really liked it. When I emailed it to my husband, he immediately replied: " Cool! So what's your superpower?"

The superhero: strength, talent and... vulnerability

Every superhero is unique and different. They are all endowed with great strengths and special talents, but they are also all vulnerable in one or more respects.

We all have something unique and powerful within us. We forget the simple things that are unique to who we are, that we do naturally and easily every day, and that are extraordinary when we look at them more closely.

Imagining yourself as a superhero is, of course, a way of reflecting on your superpowers, and a wonderful opportunity to work on your self-awareness. 

"Where would the merit be, if (super) heroes were never afraid?" Alphonse Daudet

Imagining ourselves as superheroes also means admitting that, like them, we're not perfect. Our superpowers and our vulnerability are like Yin and Yang, opposites and interdependent. Never forget that one can't exist without the other. 

Connect with your superpowers

What comes naturally to you and seems difficult to others? What is unique in your portfolio of talents? What is the combination of who you are and what you do that produces extraordinary results?

To help you think, here's a little exercise:

Go back in time to a moment when you were in full possession of your abilities, a moment when a thrill of satisfaction ran through you, inspiring unshakeable confidence in your abilities.

Answer these three questions:

1. What were you doing that gave you that great feeling of satisfaction?

2. What were the attributes of the person you were at that moment?

3. Describe the skills you had at that time?

The feeling you experienced during this short visualization is linked to your superpowers, and being able to identify and name them can help you maximize your ability to set yourself up for success. To use your superpowers is to tap into the unique strengths within us that give meaning to who we are as individuals. It's the perfect alignment between who we are, what we do and our core values.

As a coach, this is the kind of work I do with my clients. To help them create an alignment between who they are and what they do, and for that alignment to resonate and give meaning to what they want to achieve in their lives.

What kind of superhero are you? And what are your superpowers?

Groundhog Day Syndrome

By Geneviève Guité

February 2 is Groundhog Day, and of course it makes me think of the movie of the same name, where Phil Connors is stuck in time until he can make sense of his life. You see where I'm going with this? another great metaphor to explore!

Do you ever feel stuck in the same place, year after year? Do you feel that all the good things only happen to others while you're just getting by? Or recognize patterns in your life that make you unhappy?

These are the symptoms of Groundhog Day Syndrome.

Here are a few questions to get you started:

What do I feel I no longer have control over?

What do I tolerate that makes me unhappy?

What has made me dissatisfied in recent years?

What's been on my list of resolutions for a long time that just won't go away?

What was important to me that I dropped or abandoned?

What do I tend to blame on the people around me?

What keeps me so firmly anchored in my comfort zone?

A courageous decision

Every day, we make a multitude of small decisions that don't really seem to have any impact on our lives and our happiness, at least in the medium and long term. It's like the ordeal of a drop of water. A few drops have no impact, but over time it becomes unbearable.

One day we wake up and we're unhappy, and we don't really know why, because the process has quietly set in without us realizing it. Our daily decisions have led us to this increasingly uncomfortable place, which is nonetheless reassuring enough to prevent us from reacting. And the further we get into this state, the harder it is to imagine getting out, and the death spiral begins to spin faster and faster.

Taking one courageous decision at a time, no matter how small, and giving it the importance it deserves, can make all the difference. Expressing your point of view on something that's important to you, having a difficult conversation with a colleague, showing up for your training session despite being tired, not cracking up at the candy counter at the end of the day, putting aside your feelings of guilt and taking time for yourself, saying no, not letting others manage your agenda... these are all examples of decisions we make, or don't make, every day.

What would be different today if, in the past year, you had made a courageous decision every day?

Getting dizzy playing fireman

Many people tolerate the daily ordeal of the water droplet because they're afraid to step out of their comfort zone. All reasons are good, and the busier we are, the more we avoid facing reality.

It is never the right time to invest in developing new skills or to accept a sporting challenge that takes us out of our comfort zone, because we are far too busy at the office or too busy with life's daily routine. Putting out fires all day long doesn't leave much time for fire prevention. It's good for the ego to play fireman every day and above all, it makes us believe that our life has meaning... until the day of the groundhog.

I love Covey's matrix because it really helps us to clarify the daily pitfalls we tend to fall into. And, the biggest trap is not devoting enough time to the "Important and non-urgent" quadrant.

What would happen if I spent 10% of my time in quadrant number two? what would be on my To-Do List during those few hours a week?

The desire for immediate gratification

Why do you think it is so difficult to save for your RRSPs?

We still have an immediate need to fill and a new IPhone to buy. We are even having difficulty giving a wish list for Christmas, because if we want something, we buy it right away and without delay.

The desire for immediate satisfaction favours decisions in the short term, and in the short term we do not think about tomorrow. Without thinking about tomorrow, we don't save for retirement, we don't take care of our physical and mental health, we miss what is really important to us and our family, we sabotage our happiness, we lose our balance and our professional edge.


Dare to take action by making one decision after another, today, by measuring the immense impact they will have on your projects of tomorrow. And you will realize that momentum will build faster than you think!

Don't be a groundhog, and come out of your burrow to courageously explore what the world around you has to offer, you will be pleasantly surprised at the pleasure you will get from it!