Power Your Potential //

Are you aware of the danger of boxes in the corporate world?

You see, boxes have always been a big part of my life. Starting right back in my early childhood.

In the 80’s and 90’s my parents ran a packing business so many of my childhood memories involve being surrounded by cardboard boxes. I don’t mean the odd box here and there. I’m talking about HUNDREDS of boxes.

Hundreds of cardboard boxes filled with playing pieces from all the different Waddingtons games. I’m talking monopoly houses and hotels, Cluedo pawns, Escape from Atlantis pieces, Subbuteo players, Blockbusters pieces, you name the Waddingtons game, we had millions of the pieces from it.

Now close your eyes and imagine a large cardboard box filled with MILLIONS of tiny green monopoly houses. Imagine how heavy that would be. Now multiply that by ten, twenty, thirty! We literally lived in a house with cardboard boxes full of playing pieces stacked floor to the ceiling. It was my parents’ job to pack the little green monopoly houses into packs of 32 and the slightly bigger red monopoly hotels into packs of 12, repack them into the cardboard boxes they came out of and then deliver them back to the depot. This involved employing half of the local neighbourhood and having people regularly collecting and returning boxes. It was also an awesome way for my friends and I to be able to earn extra pocket money if we wanted too as well!

Fast forward to the early ‘naughties’ and my early career post University. Instead of living in a house full of cardboard boxes, I was regularly visiting packaging plants & recycling centres because my job back then was buying cardboard boxes for manufacturers that I worked from from steel, to food to pharmaceuticals. This was at a time before on-line shopping which meant most people I spoke to about my job didn’t tend to know much about cardboard boxes.

Not like me, who had immersed myself in the world of cardboard boxes and had become quite a geek when it came to tensile strength, paper grades and different flutes. I absolutely loved going to see how the boxes were made. Just when I thought I knew what a lot of boxes were from being a child, this really paled into insignificance compared to the number of boxes I went on to see in the corrugated plants.

Now you’re probably wondering where I am going with this and you’d be right to ask.

When I reflect back on my life long experiences with boxes I can see dangers that had not been that apparent to me at that time.

For example being able to inadvertently pack your younger siblings up into a cardboard box, seal the top and surround it with other boxes.

But that is not the kind of danger I want to raise awareness of with you.

I want to raise awareness of the potentially more harmful boxes that I came across in the latter part of my career.

I am talking about the virtual boxes that people get put into. Boxes that give people a label. A label like how much potential you are seen to have.

You see, it was being told I’d reached my potential at work that put a rocket up my backside to sort out my career.

Nobody puts Rachel Power in a box (said in the voice of ‘nobody puts Baby in a corner’ from Dirty Dancing)

Now I’m not going to go into an argument about the benefits versus the disadvantages of the 9-box talent grid. There are many articles that you can find on that topic if you do a google search.

What I am going to strongly argue though is that putting someone in a box and saying they don’t have high potential is not a great move if this doesn’t come with suitable context when communicated to the individual in question.

So, this is a shout out to anyone that has not been classified into one of the high performance / high potential boxes in the 9 box talent grid.


In fact, if you have not been classified as high-performance / high-potential it’s quite likely

  1. You’re not visible enough with the people that are doing the classifications so you may want to work on that if you want to progress in the job you’re currently in

  2. You’re not in the right job for you so you’re not playing to your strengths, or operating in line with your values and / or interests so you many want to stop and reassess your current position (that was where I was)

  3. You have some other issues going on in your life that are preventing you from being your best self at work so you may need to seek help for this

It does not mean you’re “rubbish”, “not good enough” or “worthless”

I repeat, it does not mean you’re “rubbish”, “not good enough” or “worthless”

It just means that an assessment of the workforce has been done by the leadership team using a simple tool so they take stock of their most important asset — their people and assess what plans are required to manage them.

It does not mean that you are beholden to whatever plans they have in store to manage you if you’ve not been classed as a high-performance / high potential.

On reflection, being told I’d reached my potential was the best thing that could have happened to me. I am now so fulfilled by helping others that have spent all their time at work working really hard but not taking the time to reflect on what they are working hard for. What success looks like for them. What kind of life they really want.

You can take action if you choose to. It’s your life. It’s your career.