Leadership and Main

Bettering Others and the World You Live In

Place vs Potential

place or potential

What is more important when selecting a team member, place or potential?  Think about it this way.  Place is where a person is currently AT, potential is where a person could GO.

I find this a regular dilemma in the process of selecting team members.  Does experience, i.e. where you are at, outweigh potential of where someone can go?  It is a critically important question to ask oneself. 

Selecting a Team

Your heart is pounding, beads of sweat appear on your face, hand on forehead, foot tapping, and clock ticking.  All eyes are on you, it’s your pick.  This single selection bearing down on you could make or break your eight-year-old recreation baseball season!  The league championship is at stake!

If you have been there before…you get it.  If not…don’t judge me! 

I have coached youth sports in some capacity for more than twenty-three years.  I have sat in many draft rooms and selected players, I have had to make difficult decisions on which kids to keep on a team, and have had to make harder decisions on who to cut.

Whether it is coaching or leadership, there is one question I constantly wrestle with.  Experience or potential…which one wins in the process of Building a Team?


Many coaches in those draft rooms preferred the tried and true method of player selection, where they were at.  They looked at the kid’s experience and took the safe bet.  Their teams got out of the gates quicker, experiencing more success early.  Their players were game ready day one.

Their teams were predictably good.  Solid from top to bottom, they were consistently competitive. 

In leadership, experience matters.  It can greatly accelerate getting to where you need to be faster.  It is a valuable resource to your organization and can fill gaps, quickly. 

On the flipside, experience can come with cynicism.  They have seen it and done it.  Experience knows how certain stories and scenarios end.  In some instances, it can be a wet blanket on a spark of creativity, it can smother a burning passion. 


I, however, tended to take a different approach.  Especially in the mid to late rounds, I would scour my list of rankings of the kids and look through my notes for one thing, “POT.”  That was an abbreviation for potential.  It was a reminder to myself that with a little work and patience, this kid could go further.

That potential may have been that they could run fast, but couldn’t hit a baseball.  But, if I could only teach them to make contact, their speed would present problems for the defense.  It may have been that they had a strong arm, it just wasn’t accurate.  But, if I could only teach them proper form and technique, they could pitch.

Our teams were unpredictably good.  We started off slow, developed the Fundamentals, and progressed as the season went on.  We sacrificed the short-term gates of experience to enjoy the fruits of long-term potential.  We were constantly competitive in the end.    

In leadership, going with potential over experience does carry risk.  Experience can be tried and true.  Potential doesn’t always pan out and can fail to provide a return on investment. 


So…which is it?  I think it depends.  Helpful guidance…right?  Circumstances dictate a lot.  So can the vision and strategy of the leader.  

Think about a Major League baseball team in the middle of a playoff hunt making a trade at the deadline.  They probably need a veteran player with experience.  They don’t have the time at the end of the season to wait for the player to develop into their potential. 

Think about a team in last place.  They generally start calling up some of their younger players from the minor leagues with potential.  Without a chance to make the playoffs, they have plenty of time to take a chance on potential.

For me, I am inclined to lean on potential.  It’s just the way I’m built as a leader.  When my instincts see potential, I tend to run towards it, not away from it.  I am fascinated by the potential of people. 

So…what works for you?  Is it situational?  Do you lean towards experience or potential?  Whatever your answer may be, remember this…bet on people.  Whether they are experienced or high potential.  Bet on people, invest in them, and love on them.       

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