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Recognize the potential from mistakes

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

During drug trials for a children’s vasodilator, or blood pressure medicine, lab researchers noticed that the children in the trials were unexpectedly growing hair all over their bodies. It was a side effect of the drug, and the effect was reversed as soon as the children went off the drug.

Photos of the children circulated inside the company running the trials. Someone hinted that perhaps the company would use the active ingredient as a cure for baldness in adults.

“Ridiculous,” said employees, who laughed openly at the suggestion. But someone persisted with the idea until a product, called Rogaine, became a reality.

The story points to two leadership qualities: the ability to recognize potential and to have courage, even during adversity.

How to use those same qualities with the people you lead:

  • Spend time with a struggling em­­ployee who has potential. Do you see the potential in an employee who has made mistakes? Ask him questions and invest in listening. Help him overcome the current situation.
  • Ask, “How can I help you be successful?” Find the gold in someone by altering their work in a way that draws out their strengths.
  • Champion them to the naysayers. Now, stick up for that golden employee. Let people know about the positives and potential you’ve seen.

— Adapted from “There May be Potential in Those Mistakes," Mary Jo Asmus, Aspire.

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