• Chris Smith

Remember ESP?

Do you remember a time when people claimed to have been able to bend silverware with their special, almost super-powerful brains? I imagine kids maybe believed in such gimmicks more so than adults. Adults of a certain age might remember a time when those kids wanted to have “ESP.” Kids could claim to have this power when they had either A) surreptitiously and already known something, B) taken a wild-ass, lucky guess, C) told a 'liar liar pants on fire fib. If people really had such a superpower, chances are good that I would not have had to look up the terms for which the acronym actually stood. By the way, it stands for Extrasensory Perception. And as adults we know that people don’t actually have superpowers… or do they?


Let’s consider for a moment that people really could have ESP? We often discuss leaders in the workplace struggling to find the right balance between operational requirements and aspirational behaviors. Like the chicken and egg, do we prioritize results to allow for a remarkable people experience, or to we prioritize a remarkable people experience to enable outcomes. Here’s what we do know - it is incredibly difficult for an individual to do anything effectively without passion. Unless you are one of the few, the lucky, there's a reason you call your work 'work' and your play 'play', and I would suspect, beyond the financial rewards, you have a lot more passion about the latter.

What if we could close that gap? What if you could have a ‘superpower’ that helped to Empower, Strengthen, and Protect people and the innate passion they might have for achieving outcomes?

What if leaders could use this modern ESP as a strategy for good in the workplace? And what if outcomes resulting from ESP could approach something as impactful as having Extrasensory Perception. Here are three ways I believe leaders can harness ESP as a superpower to achieve extraordinary outcomes in business:

  • Empower. Leaders who empower put people first. They are savvy about finding ways to deliver the employee work experience in a way that hat prioritizes the employee over the work. This is about trust and investment. They help employees lean into their own experience. They find ways for those employees to take the wheel and in doing so the employee finds ways of supporting the business in a manner that is consistent with their own passions and interests.

  • Strengthen. Leaders who strengthen recognize that their own successes are based on the capacity for employees to execute ideas. These leaders prioritize increasing that capacity rather than achieving the results or outputs. They further recognize that each task is an opportunity to improve and innovate, and those incremental steps create even more valuable members of the team and the organization.

  • Protect. Leaders who protect understand that employees are people who come in and out of the workplace, exposed to all of the problems that society has to offer. These leaders not only treat employees with respect, they treat them as people - not assets or resources. But most of all, leaders protect people by overseeing the instantiation of sensible measures appropriate feedback. Leaders who can't appreciate failure will usually struggle here.


People perform at their very best when they feel safe. And people feel safe when their leaders Empower, Strengthen, and Protect them. If you have ever worked for a leader that has empowered, strengthened, and protected you, then you’re likely to know that this version of ESP is indeed a superpower, and you don’t need Extrasensory Perception to figure it out.


If you are a leader, I can’t advocate strongly enough for Empowering, Strengthening, and Protecting people. While this approach may not be the more efficient path to delivering immediate output-based results, ESP leadership is a smart and healthy investment. ESP is leading for the sustainable long game; leading the development of a team that will learn to succeed over time based upon sensible, outcome-based goals, the achievement of which is almost exclusively within the control of the team; and leading to create the type of team with which high-performing will want to be associated. Wouldn’t it be fun to revisit being that kid with ESP? You can be a real, modern-day superhero, and you wouldn’t even have to run into a phone booth. And if you’re a young leader, you also want have to ask somebody my age what a “phone booth” even is.




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