How to “Double Your Personal Capacity”: Five Important Questions

By Randy H. Nelson

I first heard this challenge from Ram Charan, a best-selling author and global advisor to top CEOs. When I heard him speak to a group of entrepreneurial leaders at a large convention, challenging us all to double our personal capacity every two to three years, my light bulb not only lit up, it has shined brightly since.

I was in the process of finishing the first book in my Decision Series for Entrepreneurs®, The Second Decision: the qualified entrepreneur, when Ram’s words hit home. My first career, as a Lieutenant on a Navy Nuclear Submarine, demanded that I become qualified prior to leading the submarine (and its 120+ crew) on behalf of the Captain. Makes sense, right? You would not want just anyone in that leader’s seat, would you?

Qualified: Having the necessary skill, experience, or knowledge to do a particular job or activity. Having the appropriate qualifications for an office, position, or task.

Doubling your personal capacity, in essence, means becoming qualified at a higher level in your current position and/or at the next level within the organization.

My favorite phrase is: “The growth of a company is limited by the growth of its leaders.” I use it in every speech I make, with every client I coach, and in every conversation I have with groups of leaders. Qualified leaders grow their leadership skills as fast as their organization is growing.

So how will you double your personal capacity? By becoming qualified, that’s how.

In the Navy, you never stop qualifying; there is always a higher level to achieve. I believe it should work the same way in the business world. Titles and promotions are not enough, you need to push yourself to continue to improve; that is what leaders do.

In what areas do you need to improve your knowledge and skills to position yourself to become the most capable leader you can be? What if you had to go before the Chairman of the Board and prove to them that you had the requisite knowledge to lead your organization for the next 2–3 years? Would you pass with flying colors?

Here are the five questions you must ask yourself in order to start doubling your capacity:

  1. What don’t you know that you absolutely need to know to do your job exceedingly well?
  2. What specifically can you learn to significantly improve your ability to develop other people/leaders over the next 2–3 years?
  3. What is the next role for you in the company, and what knowledge and skills do you need to have to succeed in that role, that you don’t have now?
  4. What are your top three improvement areas needed over the next 24 months, as expressed, not by you, but by a peer, a boss, or a 360 review process?
  5. What areas of running your organization are you not qualified in at all? On a submarine, we had to have knowledge of every aspect of the submarine to lead it, not just some.

The future is extremely bright for those who commit to doubling their personal capacity every two to three years. So ask yourself, where are you going in your career and what do you need to do to light the path there?


Randy H. Nelson is a serial entrepreneur, speaker, coach, former nuclear submarine officer, and author of The Second Decision with ForbesBooks. Learn more at randyhnelson.com.

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