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Saturday, July 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Do you feel overwhelmed, overworked and pushed to the max at work? Owing to the downsizings of recent years, pressure on remaining employees has markedly increased. Small wonder that people complain about stress, inability to get promoted or even to keep pace in their current job.

Bob Stearns, CEO of Powerful Potential in Wexford, counsels organizations and employees on how to maximize their collective and individual potential. He maintains that, despite the challenges of today's work environments, there are opportunities to advance our careers and maximize our potential, but he finds most people unwilling to step up to them. Ideally, Stearns says, there is an interdependence between employee and employer.

Consider this situation Stearns faced: A manufacturing company asked Stearns to help it to maximize its potential by identifying how to reduce output that did not meet quality standards. The company had been scrapping about 400 units a month for years, and someone in management decided it was time for a fresh approach.

Stearns went straight to the manufacturing floor and learned that no one had ever asked the workers' opinions. But now that they were being asked, they had answers. Initial changes based on the workers' recommendations yielded a 75 percent reduction in scrap. Then, an employee came forward unsolicited and offered another suggestion that led to the total elimination of scrap. These employees saved this company millions of dollars simply because the company created an environment conducive to full participation. The interdependence of the company's need for improving processes and the individual's need to contribute to the company's success led to a ramping up of potential for everyone.

Years ago, I heard someone say that organizations survive in spite of themselves. I chuckled, but as time goes by, I find myself repeating that comment more and more. Organizations are comprised of humans and, being human, we are flawed and imperfect. If you are frustrated about not being able to achieve your potential in your current organization, I suggest you take a hard look from two perspectives. First, consider if your organization is a place that allows your input, encourages you to engage and actively develops you through your daily responsibilities and through training and development. If not, you may want to move elsewhere.

But if your employer does offer ways to maximize your potential, you need to determine how well you are grabbing hold of whatever is at hand. Are you actively participating in meetings or just showing up? Are you pondering creative ways to solve a work problem while you are commuting or are you zoned out listening to Lady Gaga? Do you seek out ways to accumulate experiences in other departments in order to make yourself more valuable, or are you just holed up at your computer? See where the issue really lies and make appropriate career course decisions.

Chris Posti, president of Posti & Associates in Pittsburgh, is author of “The Shortest Distance between You and Your New Job.” Email questions to her at

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