Future Version of People

See the future version of people, and determine how you can help them achieve that version

Have you ever had an experience where a teammate shares some professional news that changes the way that you perceive them? Maybe they're heading to a new company, or leaving to found one. Or going to travel the world. Or write a book. Something you didn't expect.

It's easy to get used to the status quo — to assume the people around you are going to be doing what they're doing for...well, ever. That's obviously not the case, but when you see them in the same role, or the same meeting, day-after-day, it's easy to slip in to that mindset.

There's a small mental shift I've come across that has changed the way I think about working on teams, managing people, and mentoring others.

I've started to assume that the person that I'm working with are on the brink of being the best at what they do. I try to see the futureversion of people.

For people I'm close with, I ask what that means for them. But even for folks that you work with tangentially, you can still see their future versions. If they're a PM/engineer/design, imagine in a few years they'll have built wildly successful products. If they're an marketer or sales, they may be a CMO at a Fortune500 company or end the year as the top sales rep.

Why is this helpful?

  • It provides perspective - regardless of the specific situation at hand, it provides me with a broader perspective for who this person might one day become.

  • Makes you appreciate their complexity - we're all the protagonist in our own stories. But think about the times where you felt like someone really believed in you or gave you a chance when you didn't think you'd earned it. It's empowering, and those expectations can help people to grow in ways they didn't think were possible.

  • It overrides cognitive bias - whether we know it or not, we all have cognitive biases and unspoken power dynamics in the workplace. Assuming people are on the path to be the greatest can help overcome those biases.

  • It challenges me to help - what's the path to make this assumption true? what does this person need to get there, and how can I help provide that?

I've been lucky work with a really talented teams, so this assumption is often actually the case. But even if it turns out not to be the case, everyone's better off when you give people the benefit of the doubt.

See the future version of people, and see what you can do to help them get there.