Playing At The Top of Your Capacity With Cristina and Alex

Playing At The Top of Your Capacity With Cristina and Alex

On today’s podcast Uncover The Human Cristina and Alex discuss the difference between potential and capacity. Everyone can have the potential to do something however, if you are not at full capacity you are more likely to not succeed at your full expectations. If we think about leadership, as far as potential and capacity. Leaders are there to increase the capacity of their teams. They're there to make sure that distractions are removed, things can be delivered, and to increase everyone’s capacity in order to meet their team’s full capacity. Your potential as a person is much less important than your capacity. 

Credits: Raechel Sherwood for Original Score Composition.

YouTube Channel: Uncover The Human







Alex Cullimore: Welcome to Uncover the Human where every conversation revolves around enhancing all the connections in our lives,

Cristina Amigoni: Whether that's with our families, coworkers, or even ourselves.

Alex Cullimore: When we can be our authentic selves, magic happens.

Cristina Amigoni: This is Cristina Amigoni.

Alex Cullimore: This is Alex Cullimore. Let's dive in.

“Authenticity means freedom.”

“Authenticity means going with your gut.”

“Authenticity is bringing 100% of yourself not just the parts you think people want to see, but all of you.”

“Being authentic means that you have integrity to yourself.”

“It's the way our intuition is whispering something deep-rooted and true.”

“Authenticity is when you truly know yourself. You remember and connect to who you were before others told you who you should be.”

“It's transparency, relatability. No frills. No makeup. Just being.”

Alex Cullimore: Well, hello, and welcome back to this episode of Uncover the Human. It is just Cristina and I here today, living it, solo. The solo duo.

Cristina Amigoni: Actually, talking about that we’re just being –

Alex Cullimore: Anyway, it's just us today.

Cristina Amigoni: It’s not just us.

Alex Cullimore: It's never just us.

Cristina Amigoni: It's never just us.

Alex Cullimore: You are the third party.

Cristina Amigoni: And our podcast producers, and our marketing specialists.

Alex Cullimore: I mean, add a lot of qualifiers to my sentence. It's just us on the recording today. We're the only voices you will likely hear until ghosts invade the Michigan's.

Cristina Amigoni: Yes, it's us on the podcast, no guests. And we are going to talk about a post that Alex actually put out today, which is going to be a few weeks before this one goes out. But it's good.

Alex Cullimore: This is actually kind of a funny tie in, because as you can tell, our mental state is maybe not at full capacity and that's one of the things we wanted to talk about. We wanted to talk about the difference between potential and capacity. So, this was defined in a book I was reading recently. It was Bruce Schneider's Energy Leadership and working with the seven levels of energy on the energy leadership index. And he talks about the difference between a person's potential and their capacity. A person's potential is all of the things they can do and they have the ability to do. The capacity is you're in the moment, how much of that potential is actually available to you. A sports analogy would be something like, yeah, you could be a great athlete, but if your ACL is torn, that's going to reduce your capacity to deliver your athleticism. So, you may have massive potential, but you only have so much capacity available at any given time. So, while this podcast has potential, our mental capacity is that 80%, apparently. So, this will be our 80% gig.

Cristina Amigoni: Well, a good thing, it's going to be short. But it's really important reminder to keep in mind, clearly. God, I think –

Alex Cullimore: We’ve just dropped to 70.

Cristina Amigoni: I know. But it's really important because there's an ad that maybe other people see on LinkedIn that keeps popping up for me from a company that honestly, I don't really know what they do. But the ad itself, it's really truthful. Because it talks about how we wouldn't wait to charge our cell phones when it goes down to 5% capacity. And yet, we expect ourselves as humans and other humans to be operating and not recharging until they're down to 5%.

Alex Cullimore: Yeah, and we often treat like recharging as this thing that you do, so you can get back to 100% of your work. But recharging is something you do for life. I mean, you are a person who has certainly plenty of potential. But at any given time, you only have so much capacity. So, what can you do to keep that capacity up both for yourself, your work, whatever you want to dedicate that to, but you only have so much energy available to you at any given time.

Cristina Amigoni: It's tied into so many things in the workplace. Because one of the big gender diversity issues is that typically, and by using typically, I degeneralized it, but it's generalized enough. Typically, men are promoted because of their potential. Women are promoted based on the perceived capacity, which explains why there's some ungodly number of centuries that we have to wait for gender equity to be happening in the workplace.

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. I can't remember what the current trajectory was in like 180 years or something. Melinda Gates has a good review of it. But if we work at the current pace, basically, we're waiting, maybe, something for actual gender parity.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, I think there's a better chance that dinosaurs will come back by then, then gender parity. But that's the thing is like, why do we do that? Why is that the bias that we promote for potential when it comes to a certain gender and for perceived capacity? Also, because capacity changes all you know in different moments. So, perceived capacity of the moment for others.

Alex Cullimore: That's a great point. That's a perfect example of using potential versus capacity. And I think it's fought on both sides. I mean, yet that generally will benefit men for being promoted, and they'll get other opportunities and salaries or whatever because of that, that will definitely lean that way. But you also then have a bunch of people who’ve been promoted that may not be able to deliver on that potential that you decided that was there. And that's still also, that's even perceived potential at that point. Because if you're never going to deliver on that, if you're constantly operating at 10% capacity, but you have huge potential, then you being given more responsibilities is going to hurt everybody. So, not only are you potentially missing out, because you're judging women by their perceived capacity, you're also kind of screwing over the whole organization, if you throw a bunch of people out there, because you think there's high potential that they will never actually reach.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. Think about the leadership promotion. Well, and again, leadership is a big word, because leadership is an act, not a noun. It's an action. It's the journey, not the title. So, think about people that are promoted to management positions, and in charge of others. Most of the times, it's done because of potential, which is not bad. It's just it's not enough. Perceived potential and potential is very subjective. And, as we've talked about, millions of times before, a great individual contributor does not equal a great manager, or a leader. Sometimes, rarely, sometimes it can. But it's not an automatic thing.

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. This is a little bit reductive version of leadership that I'm about to define. But if we think about leadership, as far as potential and capacity, leaders are there to increase the capacity of their teams. They're there to make sure that blockers are removed, to make sure that things can be delivered, that everything that can happen to the team can meet their own capacity, and increase the capacity is there. So, your potential as a person is much less important than your capacity to increase other people's capacity. The second you become a leader, that's now your job. You're there to make sure the team can work, not to make sure they do work, just to specify. You’re not there to go breathe down their necks and task manage, you're there to ensure that their capacity is high enough to get there. And that requires meeting people wherever they're at. I mean, you're going to have days where you've got some issues going on in your personal life, or whatever that is going to affect the workplace, as we always say. You're the same person at work and at home. So, you don't get to just severance those away, Rachel, by the way, go see that.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. There’s a show about that?

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. Great show, about separating work and life. It's good thriller, on Apple TV. So, I assume they will sponsor our podcast now that I've mentioned it. But because of that, your capacity might be diminished because of something you're carrying from your personal life. And as a leader, you're there to help protect for that. You can't just have demand full potential at all times. Nobody can meet their full potential at all times. So, help people with their capacity and that's now your job, not just you have high potential as an individual contributor.

Cristina Amigoni: Indeed. So, if we were to dissect the potential and capacity pieces, we would look at defining them, I would say. What's your definition of potential? And what's your definition of capacity? Is your definition of capacity, somebody that gives 110%? First of all, there's a math problem to resolve there, nobody can actually give –

Alex Cullimore: Stretch reality.

Cristina Amigoni: And also, it’s back to, do you expect your cell phone to do 110% all the time without recharging? So, why are you expecting that from humans? Why are we expecting it from ourselves? Because it's not just others in us, it's ourselves.

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. We're going to have so much shame and guilt internally for like, just not showing up as well as I know that I can. I know I can do better. And that's probably true at all times, we probably can do better than we're doing every single moment of the day, you can probably do better. So maybe it's okay to let go of the expectation that you should be doing better at all times. Maybe it's okay to make that your new accepted reality that, yeah, I could do better and I will strive to improve and I'm happy to strive for excellence in general. But it would be unrealistic to believe we can do that all the time.

Cristina Amigoni: Well, it's a huge component to be able to have self-compassion around that. It’s, I would say, necessary in order to have compassion for others. If we are berating ourselves for not being able to give 110%, becoming superheroes and not being able to do at all times, and we do struggle with accepting that of ourselves, there is no way that we are accepting that of others. There's no way we're not judging them. There's no way we're not expecting the impossible. There's no way that's not going to show up in the way we interact with them, in how we evaluate them, and how we promote them.

Alex Cullimore: I think saying that phrase, “expecting the impossible”, is like the number one way to drive psychological safety right out of your team. It's knowing everything. It’s impossible, and you're still expecting it. That's going to be a real tough go. And it brings up like, you want to give 110% and there's lots of articles and we’ll happily promote the idea that like, you do have to get out of your comfort zone to grow. You do have to push yourself beyond what you think you can really do to learn how to do whatever you're trying to approach and do and that's great. It's not saying you shouldn't stress, you shouldn't try. It’s saying that, you should also know when you've hit your capacity, or there's something else influencing your capacity, you're just not going to be able to show up as much as you would like in X arena today. If you can allow for that and yourself, you can then allow for that a lot easier, and other people and that will make everybody's life a little bit easier, because you're not expected to be 110%, and then just feeling guilty to the times when inevitably, you will not be able to do that.

Cristina Amigoni: Very true. One of the pieces to incorporate, maybe, is to actually check and ask, like, what if part of that psychological safety is to actually allow for people to not show up at 100%? And making sure that they know that by checking. I love Brené Brown’s where are we today? Check in with a team. It's like, “Well, I've got 50%. I didn't sleep last night.” Actually, I'll probably have 10 if I didn't sleep last night. So, I'm operating at 250% over what I think it could without sleeping last night.

Alex Cullimore: I’m overestimating that capacity, girl.

Cristina Amigoni: We've had times when we used to do that with a team and we should probably do that little bit more. But we used to do them as a team, and on some days, especially when it was crunch time, when things were very stressful in society, in our lives, in work, it was like, “Okay, let's check in with the team. We've got four members, and everybody's at 15%.” Again, if we do some math, it means as a team, we're not even getting to 100. Great. Since we have the luxury of not saving lives for a living, then let's figure out how to change the expectations of what needs to be done today or this week, to match the team's capacity, as opposed to expect the team to increase their capacity through super gummies.

Alex Cullimore: Mario mushrooms, I believe.

Cristina Amigoni: Some external thing.

Alex Cullimore: I'm glad you brought up the lifesaving piece too. Because if you think about it, I truly desperately want my surgeon to be honest about their capacity before they cut into me. Please, if you're going to be performing surgery on me and you're at a 30%, please reschedule.

Cristina Amigoni: Please don’t.

Alex Cullimore: Please tag someone else in. Which brings up the importance of having this understanding even in life saving capacities. Yeah, with your team, you can't have to 100%, then know what you can do in the corporate world, maybe you just, okay, well, maybe that means little changes in deadlines. Maybe that means we wait until we have some more capacity to get to the harder pieces of this project or whatever you have to rearrange. But also, please do that in the life saving fields, because you are saving lives.

Cristina Amigoni: Yes, definitely. And approach it as it that's not a judgment. It's okay for one person to say I'm a 10 and the next one to say at 80. Then again, this is not a performance review. We’re not gauging what's going on. If it does turn out that there is less capacity than expected or less capacity than we would accept, which again debatable, from someone, then get to the core of that. What is causing that or maybe they're in the wrong role. Maybe there's something major happening in their family life or outside of work. Maybe they needed leave. Maybe they're not in their working genius. Maybe they're under working frustration. So, do you actually know what could potentially put someone in the environment to give the capacity they have and reach their potential.

Alex Cullimore: And that leads us on another reading this morning. She posted about vulnerability and leadership, and I think leaders have the ability to lead by example on this one. Go in there and when you are feeling 60%, 10%. Let them know why. Let them know that that's okay. Give them the example that I expect this to be okay. Even if I am the leader, I'm not here to show up and lie to you all and tell you I'm at 100% every day. I want you to be honest, because I don't want to frustrate the team.

Cristina Amigoni: Take the team down. I mean, that's a huge thing. Because now it's all about hiding the truth and pretending to be at a level that we're not, and then hiding mistakes. I mean, there's so many. There's an avalanche of problems that come out from just not being truthful.

Alex Cullimore: And imagine if you didn't do the investigation you're just talking about. If you didn't figure out why that capacity is trapped. I mean, is the person in the wrong role? I think people get very squiffy about these things. They're like, “Well, I'll just have people coming in and lying and saying they’re at 20%, not doing a lot of work.” But that's a pretty easy trend to find for one. And second, like the thing that we always go back to, if you can't trust your team, why did you hire them?

Cristina Amigoni: And promote them?

Alex Cullimore: Yes. If you can't trust them about like doing the work, and they're bought in, you've got a different problem altogether than the person coming in and taking advantage of your system to estimate capacity.

Cristina Amigoni: Exactly. So many things there. Just understanding the human piece. It's understanding, okay, everything is subjective. So again, like if I have an idea of potential, where am I getting that idea from? Is it wishful thinking? Because I need someone to actually be operating at the potential I want them to, so that I can delegate?

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. What are the consequences when you don't match that up? When you don't match up your capacity and your delivery? I stepped into this one earlier this week, I was just not at full capacity and I had a coach call. It's part of the coaching program we're going through and I had to go do some coaching and be evaluated. I knew from hours before, this wasn't the day for it and I didn't really want to reschedule. And it showed the evaluation wasn't great that day. But these are the damages you do see to yourself and your work if you aren't honest about the capacity, because I can do much better than that, in general. And if I’m actually honest with myself, I know that I have higher capacity, or I have a higher potential than that. I also had lower capacity and knew that at some level that day, but I just took no corrective actions. And so, I walked right into the swinging bat, that was now on me. Knowing these things and allowing them, you can save yourself and set expectations for yourself and others a lot easier, and make sure that it is a little bit more understandable. And that way, you're not constantly stressing about like, “Oh, I'm really not feeling good about whatever is happening in my life today.” But I am showing up to work and I have to like make sure that I keep on a happy face this whole time. At that point, now you're spending so much energy just keeping that face up. You're not going to get the work done either way.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, I think posts today actually mentioned that too, is it's not really about good or bad. It's not a judgement. It's more about the self-awareness and then the sharing and awareness of the team, is more about what drains you and what energizes you. Again, not good nor bad. It's what drains you and energizes you, which goes back to, if you're always at 10% capacity, because the work you're doing drains you, that's a conversation to have. As a leader or somebody with the title, that's the conversation to have. It's not, why aren't you performing? According to whom performing? Who sets that standard? And is that standard, the right standard for this person in this role?

Alex Cullimore: It’s that quote that is at least attributed to Einstein. I don't know if it was actually his but I think, if you judge a goldfish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its life thinking it's dumb. You put the wrong metric out there. It's going to be difficult to measure up to that. And capacity is really important to understand for that reason. Because what if you are drained, because you're just not in a role that's helping you at all? You can't really perform well at this. This isn't, like you're saying earlier, in your zone of genius. This isn't something that you can deliver on and it will inevitably drain you. Now, you're going to be at 10% capacity, and who is that helping? It's not helping the person experiencing it. It's not helping the team. It doesn't mean that person is like worthless individual who has no potential, and that's why it's important to separate potential and capacity. Your capacity may be very low for what work you're doing. Your potential could be very high in a totally different arena, and you can increase that capacity moving towards that.

Cristina Amigoni: So, what do you think when hiring someone or adding someone to the team or staffing a team or any of those, what's the balance of potential and capacity and making that decision easier? Or at least not easier, but as much as more intelligent?

Alex Cullimore: That's a good question. I think it's easy to say that like as a baseline, you'd want somebody with decently high potential for whatever role you're hiring for. You want them to have that. But I think to be able to evaluate some amount of capacity, you probably want to ask questions around some self-awareness, right? Understand how well do you know when you show up. How well do you work with others? The things that are the day to day interactions on the job that would be impacted if you don't have self-awareness and understanding of your own capacity. I think it'd be hard to sell even myself on the idea of like finding somebody who is low potential, but meets that potential every day. Is that growth? Do they have the potential to do more? Or is that fine? I guess, it really depends, in that case, somewhat on the role.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, I would agree. Definitely depends on the role and there definitely needs to be that. It's not just about potential and it's not just about capacity. So, having to find that balance. It's too easy to fill a seat, just check the box and not really do it from a human perspective. It's not just about a person in a role, it's about the right person in the right role, and the right environment around them.

Alex Cullimore: You hire somebody to like run communications between departments, but they hate talking to people and communicating, it's going to be a hard time. You can't just throw that person into that role. It's not going to be successful for you. And yes, you'll have somebody technically in that seat, but the function is still isn't getting done, or at least getting done to its potential. And then now, we're in like, a discussion about the potential of the role itself.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. And what's being created to make sure that the potential of the role is realistic.

Alex Cullimore: Yes.

Cristina Amigoni: Because again, like every role has a potential. But is the environment actually there to support that potential? Or is it just a vision, an idea?

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. And what if you find somebody who has way higher potential and capacity than the role? Is that person is ready to do take on something, are you ready to receive that? Are you ready to help them grow? Can you go play that capacity somewhere else, because if not, they'll probably go find it somewhere else. They'll find somewhere else to be.

Cristina Amigoni: I would say that's the sign of a really good leader, human leader, is that the leader recognizes that the person is in a role that's way below the capacity and potential of the person in it.

Alex Cullimore: Yeah, and not being threatened by that, just needed knowing that that's the right thing to do to move that person.

Cristina Amigoni: Exactly.

Alex Cullimore: You've talked a while back about the idea that like if a flower doesn't grow, you don't yell at it for not growing. Your change its environment, like you water it more, you put it in a sun, whatever, take it out of the sun, whatever is not functioning. So, think about that. Every seed has the potential to become a tree or a flower or a bush, whatever it is, that has the potential, so why don't they all reach that?

Cristina Amigoni: Because they live in my house. There is no potential for growth of seeds in my house, and it’s 100%, because of the environment.

Alex Cullimore: Exhibit A. The plant graveyard that is Cristina’s house, apparently. But that’s exactly it. They have the potential, but the capacity is not going to be there, because the water, the sunlight, the person watching for that, apparently.

Cristina Amigoni: Exactly. The responsible party is definitely dropping the ball, and has no knowledge whatsoever on how to do, what to do with the ball when they pick it up. There are a couple of plants that actually survived. They have now survived, I think they're like a year and a half, and I have no idea. That's awesome, why they're still alive.

Alex Cullimore: That's a high potential plant, and we couldn't recognize.

Cristina Amigoni: I know. It’s a high potential plant that has high capacity of surviving on its own, with very little cautious care.

Alex Cullimore: It figured out its own capacity, and that's the plant you want to keep around.

Cristina Amigoni: That's an individual contributor that definitely deserves stars. It does not depend on anybody else and it just continues to grow.

Alex Cullimore: I'm not knocking the power of metaphors here. But it is a little funny that our company is about humanizing things and then we make a lot of comparisons to plants and machines.

Cristina Amigoni: Well, maybe our clients should answer this question more than us. But we do much better with humans, let's just say that. I can help a human grow. I can help a pet grow in my house. Plants, now. That’s just not going to happen.

Alex Cullimore: The animal to the plant kingdom, there’s translation barrier there.

Cristina Amigoni: It's a communication issue.

Alex Cullimore: We're literally breathing different gases at this point. But an example of how we need each other. So, that goes back to our other podcasts about needing each other in an ecosystem.

Cristina Amigoni: Yes, exactly. It is an ecosystem. And think about for yourself and for your team, what's the potential? What's the expected potential? What's expected capacity? And where does reality fall? How do you find out? How do you check in with your team? And again, not once. This is not a medal winning competition. It's not about getting the medal and being done. It's every day, every time.

Alex Cullimore: It's a practice.

Cristina Amigoni: Go through the judgment. You are going to have judgment. You are going to feel disappointment. You are going to want to snap but then recognize that and be like, “Oh wait, do I ever not have 100% capacity? I kind of do, like the other day. So maybe I can be a little more gracious and patient.”

Alex Cullimore: Think about it, that for your team and yourself too. If you can accept like, “Hey, today I'm at 60% capacity.” But if we try and force 100% out at 60%, you've basically incurred a 40% debt on the next day. I mean, the next day, you're going to be more tired because basically you spent a lot of energy trying to force something that couldn't quite get to there. Whereas if you can live with, “Hey, you know what today, it’s going to be 60%. I wish I could get more, but this is just where I'm at.” Save that energy for the next day when you're like, “Man, I'm glad I reserved that.” And now you can play whatever catch up you need to play, if you're feeling like you're falling behind. You feel like there's guilt there. You can either incur more and more debt over time to yourself and your team, or you can be honest, and help yourself live much more sustainably and have a much happier and much more fruitful, long term outlook.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, and it's probably very similar to sleep. So, one of the things that I've read recently is the fact that if you sleep, let's say four hours tonight, you don't actually get that energy and time and recovery back by sleeping 12 the next night. It actually takes multiple days of resting to recover from the loss on the first night. It's the same thing for capacity. If I am at 60 today, and I try to give 100%, it's not a 40% debt, that's just the next day. I don't have no idea how long it's going to take to recover from that debt.

Alex Cullimore: And if you gave yourself just to save the present day, you could go back into maybe the next day, you do feel like 100%. Now, you can access that. Instead of having that debt, you now have to pay from the previous days. Maybe you had 100% capacity, you can now only live 80% of that the next day, or whatever it is, whatever the conversion rate may be. It probably just depends on how drained you are by what. But it's an interesting concept, because you can long term burn out your team or you can go through the judgments, take the hit, think about the disappointment, and allow yourself to have a different choice. So that long term, you're still all playing at the top of your capacity more than your potential.

Cristina Amigoni: Definitely. I would say go out, self-evaluate, communicate, be vulnerable. Be the first one to say, “I'm at 20 today. Where's everybody else?”

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. And unlike, the experience it will be for everybody where it is an ongoing practice, this podcast can wrap up, we can put a little star on it.

Cristina Amigoni: Yes.

Alex Cullimore: We did reach the finish line on this one.

Cristina Amigoni: I know. There is a finish line or so we think.

Alex Cullimore: To be continued.

Cristina Amigoni: Yes, in our heads, in our own conversations.

Alex Cullimore: Until next time. Thanks, everybody, for listening.

Cristina Amigoni: Thank you for listening.

Cristina Amigoni: Thank you for listening to Uncover the Human, a Siamo podcast. 

Alex Cullimore: Special thanks to our podcast operations wizard, Jake Lara; and our score creator, Rachel Sherwood. 

Cristina Amigoni: If you have enjoyed this episode, please share, review and subscribe. You can find our episodes wherever you listen to podcasts. 

Alex Cullimore: We would love to hear from you with feedback, topic ideas or questions. You can reach us at podcast, or at our website,, LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook. We Are Siamo is spelled W-E A-R-E S-I-A-M-O.

Cristina Amigoni: Until next time, listen to yourself, listen to others and always uncover the human.