Why you should invest in high potentials
Many mid-market companies struggle to identify their future leaders. When the future is uncertain, companies focus on what they do know—the people within their company that have taken on more responsibility and hit performance targets, the High Potentials. By prioritizing resources towards those who are naturally high-potential achievers, mid-market companies ensure a pipeline for leadership talent. It also encourages others of a proven pathway for advancement within the company.
Identifying High Potentials Who Can Lead
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, the authors provide a model for predicting leadership potential that is not based on past achievements but rather on observable, measurable behaviors. They identified three markers that have been shown to predict an individual’s ability to grow and handle increased complexity. Therefore, when you are looking at your high potentials, focus on these three areas when assessing leadership potential:
- Cognitive Quotient—considers book smarts, practical smarts, and commercial instinct. Look for individuals who demonstrate an ability to solve the right problem. Are they able to reflect and look at the problem from different perspectives? Have they anticipated the unexpected?
- Drive Quotient–measures one’s motivation and work ethic and, perhaps more importantly, how they use their energy to develop and leverage others. Use stretch opportunities to test people in new ways. Do they proactively seek feedback on what they need to learn and how to do it?
- Emotional Quotient—examines an individual’s EQ on self-awareness, getting along with others, and reading a room. It also looks at how effectively individuals negotiate outcomes or deliver bad news with empathy. Are they good at understanding what makes another person react in a certain way? How good are they at speaking to another person’s needs?
Nurturing High Potentials
Successful mid-market companies understand the importance of providing mentorships and coaching to their employees, especially their high potentials. Doing so creates a continuous learning and growth culture that helps employees reach their full potential.
Mentorships provide employees with valuable insights and guidance from experienced professionals in their field; coaching helps employees identify areas for improvement and develop strategies to overcome obstacles.
Mentorships and coaching can also give employees a sense of accountability and ownership of their progress. Companies can foster a more engaged and motivated workforce by empowering employees to take charge of their career development.
However, there are differences between these two approaches. Coaching is where the individual shows structured support to develop awareness and find their own solutions. The intent is for the coach to ask questions and discover solutions. On the other hand, mentoring is meant to give individual directions and instruction with the intent to provide solutions to problems.
Retaining High Potentials
Keeping high potentials engaged and challenged is a must for any organization aiming to keep its top talent. These employees are driven, ambitious, and always looking for ways to grow and develop. Working in a stagnant environment with no room for growth or new challenges will quickly lead them to look elsewhere for better opportunities.
Therefore, employers must provide high potentials with continuous development opportunities, stretch assignments, new responsibilities, and projects requiring them to step outside their comfort zone. By doing so, the company shows they care about their employees’ career development and are invested in their long-term success.