The 5 characteristics of people who are champions of developing 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 am passionate about developing talent and potential. I believe in the ability of each individual to develop, grow and achieve personal and professional fulfillment.

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

It's one of my favourite quotes and it's kind of inspired the topics I'm going to talk about today.

But just because you have talent doesn't mean you're going to 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 mentality, what I have as talent or intelligence now, defines my potential. The consequence is that they may peak earlier and not reach their full potential.

For people with a growth mentality, what I will 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:

  • Learning from criticism and feedback
  • A willingness to face challenges and solve problems
  • To persist in the face of setbacks and difficulties
  • Seeing 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 mentality, immediate success without too much effort is important, which may prevent them from taking on challenges for fear of 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 mentality

Dr. Dweck describes Michael Jordan as the perfect example of someone with a growing mentality. Little Michael wasn't particularly gifted when he started playing basketball in high school: he was small and even the team's coach didn't think he had any talent. Michael Jordan is now the greatest professional athlete of all time, and has probably worked the hardest to reach his level of excellence. A child with a fixed mentality would probably have given up basketball.

Successful people have a special talent for turning life's difficulties into success later in their careers. Failure does not define them.

What does a leader or manager with a growth mentality 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 mentality know that it takes time for potential to flourish.

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 retain 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 do, you grow and set 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 is 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, for some before, for others a little later, but we would all go through it.

I remember so much about how I felt. I had come to the point where I thought that finally coaching wasn't for me and that maybe I should think about moving on. I remember how much good listening to that recording did for me at that moment. Twenty minutes where Karen Kimsey-House, the co-founder of CTI, talks about the DIP.

I wanted to validate if my memory was good, or if I had romanticized my experience of seven years ago. Well, I didn't! As I listened to that recording, I reconnected with the power of the 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 become familiar 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 is the value of this learning?

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

  • Focusing our attention on the meaning we give to this exercise
  • Showing compassion for ourselves
  • Demonstrate integrity and ask yourself if you did what you had to do and if you were well prepared.
  • Asking for help and support when things go wrong

Going through experiences like this, if we don't already have a growing spirit, can definitely help us to 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 must develop our own potential to the fullest. For our role is also to train, coach, mentor and help the people around us to develop theirs. And this process is essential to keep the wheel of leadership turning. 

When we share our passion, our experiences, our mistakes and our successes, we continue to learn and expand our horizons. And this 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 a 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!