Developing High Potentials

Today’s topic is how to grow your high potentials. This is an area that I am excited about, because it has such an impact on a business, not only in the future, but also right now. Having been a high potential for much of my career, and having reached a top spot in my profession, I have personal knowledge, interest and passion around this topic. And, having been responsible for the development of hundreds of high potentials, I’ve got a little bit of experience as well. This is a topic that could really take a long time. There could be a whole course that I teach about this, and someday there might be, but today, I will give you some quick pointers.

  1. Identify your high potentials. Make sure that you know who your real high potentials are. High performance does not necessarily equal high potential. I’ve seen this mistake over and over and over again. The reality is that most high performers are high performers because they are in their wheelhouse. They’re really good at performing at that level and doing what they’re good at. When you’re trying to determine who is going to be a high potential, performance is only a part of it. You should also be looking for people that master things quickly and have an appetite for more. High potentials will also be the ones that have interpersonal relationship strengths, big picture perspectives, and a make it happen, results oriented mindset.
  2. Ask them what they want. Be open about it and ask that they be open with you. Development planning should be a dialogue. It should be between both people, open, transparent, talking about what is needed by the organization and what is desired by the high potential.
  3. Invest more in your high potentials. I’ve seen many times in my career where leaders will basically have this need or this desire to give everybody the same exact amount of developmental resources, money and time. They want to treat everybody equal because they think it’s a fair thing to do. That is absolutely not what you should do when it comes to developing your people and especially developing high potentials. Think of your developmental resources the same as you would any other corporate resource. Spend it where you will get the most return.
  4. Help high potentials identify their blind spots. This is a great spot for coaching whether it be by their leader, others in the organization, or outside coaches. High potentials, by definition, have a lot of strengths. But they also have blind spots. As a leader you can and should shine a light on these blind spots and help your high potentials identify them and keep their career on track.
  5. Get your senior executives involved. This is great for aligning the high potential with the direction of the company. Another benefit is that it provides visibility. It allows a high potential to interact with senior leaders to understand what they’re looking for, what it takes, and just what the whole situation is like. Also, it helps senior leaders and senior executives get to know the high potential. They’re going to be playing a big role in the advancement and development of that high potential. So, having that visibility is very important.
  6. Get your high potentials out of their box. Get them out of that job box area and expose them to bigger things—the department, the company, and even outside the organization and industry. Let them see what’s out there so they can then take those perspectives and apply it to their own situations.
  7. Let them take risks. Make sure you stretch them. You want high potentials willing to put themselves out there and take chances. Don’t set them up for catastrophic failure, but by all means challenge them, push them and allow them to fail and learn.

High potentials can be a real differentiator for your business. They can make a difference not only in the future, not only with succession plans, but they can make a real impact on your business right now. So put some investment in your high potentials and you will set yourself up for success both now and later.